Sunday, December 30, 2007

My 42 Favorite Albums of 07 - Part One, Or: Random Thoughts and Bullet Points

List City, Man!

2007 was a good year for music. I'm nearly 80% positive that that's a true statement. Since I've been without a home computer for over a year now, I've gotten back into the habit of listening to CDs on actual stereo systems and boom boxes. It's been rather pleasant. Unlike last year, I didn't go through quite so many random downloading phases, so this year's list is a little more focused. Downloading is scarce for a brother without a computer, but that doesn't mean I failed to gorge myself on new tunes.

Now the reason I'm only 80% positive that 2007 was a good for music is this: Lots of "good" music sucked. There were some albums that were just plain unlistenable (I'm talking to you Wilco, Josh Ritter and Rilo Kiley!). Others were major disappointments: Over the Rhine went from "sophisticated" to "boring" on Trumpet Child, a fine line to be sure, but one they've skated triumphantly for some time now. And who would have thought Avey Tare & Kría Brekkan, the half-voices and half-brains behind Animal Collective and Múm, could thud so hard? Even when reversed back to normal, Pullhair Rubeye wasn't much to listen to. And Modest Mouse's big team-up with Johnny Marr? Not quite as middling as Good News for People Who Love Bad News, but that's not saying much.

One last note before we get into the grime: There were a few albums I completely ignored this year. This happens on an annual basis, really, and shouldn't be taken the wrong way. Some albums I need to just wait until the right time to hear and appreciate. So you won't see Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface, M.I.A., Beirut, White Stripes, Lucinda Williams or Kayne West on this list. Maybe next year, I guess. We'll see. Now, on with the show.

42. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity: What more is there to say about Deerhoof? This: They are basically all that's left of anything resembling punk rock these days. In fact, they're actually too punk for punk rock. Cereal.

41. Dirty Projectors - Rise Above: Dave Longstreth has never really been a favorite of mine, and neither has Black Flag, but this album has legs, people. It's got legs and it knows how to use them.

40. Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted: Girl pop is back! At least in the UK. They really are much hipper than us.

39. The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism: This album would have been in my top ten four years ago -- mellow, sweet sounds of country-ish/folk with occasionally off the wall subject matter. Like Whiskeytown fronted by a younger, happier version of Tom Waits. Sort of. I don't know. It's nice, I guess.

38. The Fiery Furnaces - Widow City: Will Fiery Furnaces ever release another album that makes me giddy all over for days at a time? Widow City is good times, but it's not hella good times, and that my friend, makes all the difference.

37. Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War: Maybe it is trite indie-pop for late 20-somethings, but I don't care dammit! Duets on almost every song! Sweet, suite serenades! Good for late, over-caffeinated nights while driving through New Jersey! Suck it, Pitchfork!

36. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala: I only downloaded this cause Ryan Schreiber told me to. I'm such a hypocrite. It's actually quite excellent. I should've ranked it higher. Sorry, Jens.

35. St. Vincent - Marry Me: Annie Clark is the new Karen O, only clever. So clever. "Jesus Saves, I Spend" is my fourth favorite single of the year. Also, she's the prettiest girl in indie pop at any given time. Like now. Or now. Maybe not now. But now. Yes, now.

34. The Bees - Octopus: The Bees play old-timey music, but not that old-timey, more like 66-72 old-timey. So not really old-timey at all, actually. I like it, though.

33. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation: The winner of the most fractured album of the year award, a field recording of dissociative identity disorder to the tune of country/folk/jazz/jam/fuzz/rock. That means nothing to me, either. Good night.

32. James Blackshaw - The Cloud of Unknowing: Yes! The prettiest album of 2007 that doesn't have lyrics! Take that you electro-ambient fiends! Acoustic guitar arrangements can rock your face off and lull you to sleep!

31. Shannon Wright - Let In The Light: Shannon Wright is like Tori Amos if Tori Amos were punk. Or good, for that matter. Oh crap. I just plagiarized myself.

30. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block: I was burning "Young Folks" on my May 2007 mix waaaaaay before it became the theme song for Sears/JC Penney/Target/Wal-Mart! And now everyone hates it! But not me! I don't watch commercials! Internet-television rocks!

29. The Go! Team - Proof of Youth: Maybe not as fun as Thunder, Lightning, Strike, but neither is Vermont. And I'm still here. So I guess that says something.

28. Frontier Folk Nebraska - The Devil's Tree EP: I have no idea when this EP came out, so maybe it doesn't even fit here. Do you like dusty folk? Do you like folk, Dusty? Do you like folk that no one else has heard of? Ever? Then go here. You too, can be as cool as me. Try it today!

27. Caribou - Andorra: Caribou lights fires in me that I never knew existed. It's sunny music for late nights. Where have you been all my life? To the north!

26. Feist - The Reminder: I liked "Mushuboom", but this takes the cake. Yes, cake. Go to Leslie Ann Feist. She is yours and you are hers! Her banner over us is love!

25. The New Pornographers - Challengers: Okay, this album possibly sucked. But when you think of it as a follow up to The Slow Wonder, you might really start to like it. I mean it. Burn the drum slowly. See where it goes. What have you got to lose?

24. Battles - Mirrored: Is this math rock? Post-rock? Prog rock? Well, your mom is prog rock. Oh crap. Now I'm plagiarizing internet trolls.

23. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver: When I first heard this album, I thought, meh. I think my heart wasn't calibrated correctly. Were the batteries out? Then "Time to Get Away" became my second favorite single of the year. This album is the boss hog, sister. The. Boss. Hog.

22. The National - Boxer: I keep telling everyone I know -- these guys write the songs that U2 wish they still had in their brains, but don't, because they made Rattle and Hum and all heaven and earth came crashing down in the terribleness that was 1988. It's not like Boxer's all signature delay; and Matt Berninger sounds nothing like Bono. But still, U2 are sooo jealous of these guys. Because this album sounds great. And moving. And cathartic. And oh, you know, relevant.

21. Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings: "WHAM City" is my single of the year. Dan Deacon is my golden elephant of shiny, flickery, jump-up-and-down happiness. I don't understand half his electro-beat stuff, but that's okay. We're still prominent friends.

20. Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon: Disappointing? At times. Unfocused? Oh, yes. But I'm sofa king retarded for DB. "Seahorse" might just be my most favoritest moment of his career so far. Careen! Yes, Karen, you have a phone call.

19. Taken By Trees - Open Field: From the voice of the Concretes, only more Glasgow. Quiet and pretty as all get out. And better than I'm giving it credit for here.

18. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam: You rock, rock! I took a nap one night when I could have seen them live. I don't regret it. I regurgitate it.

17. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog: If I didn't have to skip the first two tracks every time I put this one in the CD player, it could've have been a top 10 contender. Sam Beam has stolen my heart and hidden it under Joanna Newsom's couch. Gross.

16. Múm - Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy: Another album that grew on me after a while. Sure, it's nothing like Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK, but don't sweat it. Just go with the flow. Hey, Flow! These guys are with you! Thanks!

15. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha: I listened to this album way more than I should have. I kind of hate it now. But for most of 2007, it was one of my favs. Andrew Bird is such a nice, young boy. Good mannered. Excellent whistler. Enjoys his tea bitter and his women bitterer.

14. Patty Griffin - Children Running Through: Seeing her live was kind of terrible, but only because I was the only person who looked like me at the theatre. I never knew she had so many old, old fans. One of my true, true loves, even if my fellow Fatty Pans (thanks Liz!) are all collecting Social Security checks.

13. The National Lights - The Dead Will Walk, Dear: Oh, jeez. Seriously, the prettiest quiet album of the year. No kidding. If not for Sonya Cotten, I wouldn't be able to stand it anymore (another album I overplayed this summer). But whenever she chimes in on these sunny songs of murder, rape and mayhem, I go all melty.

12. Pharoahe Monch - Desire: I missed alot of hip-hop this year, but not Monch's return. Well-worth it? Well answer me this, what hath God wrought. That's right: "Body Baby." I can't believe this isn't everyone's album of the year. Including my own. We're all bastards!

11. Menomena - Friend and Foe: This is the closest thing I'll ever get to jam-bandiness, outside of the Akron/Family's New Age Love-fests. But if all jam bands jammed liked Menomena, who aren't really a jam band at all, then the world (especially Vermont, oh God Vermont!) would be a much better place. I'm not kidding. People listen to crappy music around here. It's kind of depressing.


Ha! You didn't think I was going to give you the whole list today, did you? Never! I need time to recollect my thoughts, and collect album art work, and call my physician. Albums one through ten will have to wait. No flipping!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

But is it a Nor'easter?

Folks this week have been all aflutter with news of a major storm that finally hit Rutland early this morning, though it's nearly done as I type this. The buzz word here in Vermont has been, of course, Nor'easter, a word that didn't enter my vocabulary until I read Carry On, Mr. Bowditch a few years back. But seeing as how simple Vermont folk are, like myself, hopeless landlubbers, I really don't know if they're using the term correctly. So what is this? A big winter storm or an actual nor'easter?

Using a Google News search doesn't clear things up. Like my Vermont friends, the local press and wire services seem to love a buzz word like nor'easter, whether they actually know how to define one or not. Lots of press articles about the "nor'easter," but little mention of what makes a nor'easter or why this storm should be called one. Yes, it's quite the storm. But it's the same storm that hit the Plains and Midwest earlier this week. But we wouldn't call a foot of snow over Kansas a nor'easter now, would we?

So is a nor'easter just a hella big storm that hits the Northeast US? Well, no. Big storms happen a few times a year, but not every one gets labeled a nor'easter. If we can trust Wikipedia, and I for one, really think we can within reason, then a nor'easter "describes a low pressure area whose center of rotation is just off the East Coast and whose leading winds in the left forward quadrant rotate onto land from the northeast." Aha! We've found it! Of course!

But wait a tic, I didn't understand that either. Let's try again. A nor'easter is a low pressure area, kind of like a hurricane or other large storm system. But unlike a hurricane, nor'easters feed off cold air. From Wikipedia again: "Nor'easters thrive on the converging air masses; that is, the polar cold air mass and the warmer ocean water of the Gulf Stream."

So for a storm to be a nor'easter, it has to be a two-parter. Part one is cold polar air, which is what a low front or storm system picks up when it breezes through Vermont. The storms that just blew through the Midwest are doing just that, bringing in loads of cold, Arctic air as they pass from West to East. Part two, however, is warm ocean water from the south, specifically the Gulf Stream. So do we have that?

I have no effin' idea.

According to the Weather Channel, I don't think so. For two reasons. One, the weather maps don't show a mass of warm air coming up from the south. Now, there's got to be some warm air off the North Atlantic Coast because of the Gulf Stream. But according to the radar (and of course, I could be terribly wrong), there isn't anything out of the ordinary. But the second reason is probably the best reason: there's no mention of a nor'easter on the Weather Channel's website. Not that these guys are the final word on weather, but if they ain't, then who is?

So if this isn't a nor'easter, why do people keep calling it one? Lundlubbing ignorance, I guess. I bet merchant marines and coastal fishermen up and down New England just hate it when the White Plains Journal (just to pick on one of many) calls every big snow storm a nor'easter. Typical, they mutter.

What's ironic is, there may be an actual nor'easter in our sights within the next few days. The remains of Tropical Storm Olga are menacing parts of Florida as we speak. Should that mass of warm, ocean air find its way up the Coast, we could very likely have that Part Two we were looking for earlier. Who knows, maybe that's what all the rumors this week were about. Maybe we all just got confused and jumped the gun by 48 hours. Cold arctic air? Check. Warm Gulf mass? We'll see.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Times Are Here Again!

A Health Plan for Wal-Mart: Less Stinginess (NY Times)

So Wal-Mart's finally starting to play the health care game. According to the Times, the Big Blue Box is "offering better coverage to a greater number of workers." In light of Wal-Mart's slowed growth in North America, it makes sense to give in from time to time, and spend that political capital on appealing to consumers who might not usually shop at their stores.

How Wal-Mart sold the new policy to the Old Guard within its own Home Office was through logic and sound economic sense -- taking care of your workers increases productivity and shrinks turnover:

If workers “are healthy, they will do a better job at work, they’ll be more productive, they’ll be happier, nicer to our customers,” Ms. Dillman said, all of which results in less absenteeism and turnover, a longstanding problem in retailing.

It might seem like a pretty big duh to most reasonable people, but you have to remember that Wal-Mart is steeped in a certain type of southern, small-town, social culture, where two-parent families are still the norm, and moms take part-time jobs at Wal-Mart while dads bring home the bacon (and the family's health insurance) through other full-time positions. It takes a lot of persistence to change the culture of Wal-Mart. And finally, that persistence seems to be paying off.

Wal-Mart’s insurance still pales in comparison to that offered by Costco, considered the gold standard in retailing because an employee pays just a few hundred dollars a year for generous individual coverage. But Wal-Mart is catching up to retailers like Home Depot and has in some ways surpassed Target, which makes part-timers wait two years to qualify for coverage.

And that's saying something. Target, with its upscale products and trendy store fronts, always seemed to dodge the bullet that other box stores like Wal-Mart and K-Mart couldn't. Expect Target to follow suite, otherwise they might see a bit more of the wrath that unions and worker's rights groups have been targeting towards Wal-Mart.

My favorite line from the article:

The New York Times disclosed a company memorandum proposing ways to reduce health care spending by....discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart. One suggestion would have required cashiers to gather carts as exercise.

Yes! Now I realize why I had to fill in for the stock boys so often as a cashier! They were looking out for my health!

One reason for expanding health coverage to its workers that's only briefly alluded to in the article is that Wal-Mart might be interested in selling health care to its customers, too; and will likely penny pinch, scrimp and save in doing so. Remember this, if any one organization could single-handedly bring down the cost of health care for American citizens, it's Wal-Mart.

“If you really turned Wal-Mart loose and had Wal-Mart against the health care providers,” Mr. Nichols, the health economist, said, “it would be a fair fight.”

Watch out, Hillary and Obama. There's a new sheriff in town.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hulu Or Bust!

What is Hulu?

I'm not quite sure yet, but this much I do know: I've been invited to be a beta tester! Maybe they're giving these out like free candy -- I don't know. But it sure does feel special to be testing products for absolutely free so that I can save Corporate American some of their hard-earned money!

For those of you who think the interwebs are still just for email and geocities, Hulu is a new video venture between NBC/Universal and FOX News Corp. There's been quite a bit of buzz over the last couple of months about just what Hulu would be. A corporate YouTube for user-generated content? Or perhaps a new video downloading site to rival iTunes or Unbox?

Well the answer is here....Sort of. I'll let you know as soon as I know. All I can right now is, there's not a whole lot of content yet. And I'm tired. Give me 24 hours, then we'll talk. Until then, I remain everybody's favorite corporate lackey. Good day, sir!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Time To Get Paid

Picketing as Infotainment (In the Days of Web 2.0)

As of 12 hours ago (give or take) the Writer's Guild of America has been on strike. But what the hell does that mean? TV Squad gives a nice overview of how it might affect your television viewing habits. First, say goodbye to new episodes of Late Night television this week. Scripted shows, on the other hand, have enough scripts stockpiled to last until January. However, if the last WGA strike is any indication (it lasted 22 weeks), that might not be enough of a head start for your favorite shows.

The film industry is safe for the time being, with most of the summer blockbusters in either production or post. However, as Cinematical points out, even with the stockpile of scripts in Hollywood, the writers won't be available for rewrites. For X-Men XVII, or whatever the hell is coming out this summer, that's not such a big deal. But it could hurt the Oscar candidates considerably. Should the strike last for a while, who knows what we'll see in theaters come next fall/winter.

The big difference between this strike and the last one in 1988 is, of course, the internet. Even the impetus of this strike, writing residuals for DVD sales and internet downloads, are very Brave New World. And unlike in '88, there is a real and immediate way for fans to keep in constant contact and interaction with fellow fans and even writers. So far, Blog City looks to be overwhelmingly in the corner of writers. 20 years ago, there wasn't this connection between creative types and viewers. But in a Web 2.0 era full of Joss Whedons and Kevin Smiths, consumers of television and film are more apt to side with content creators (especially those with a visible web presense) rather than content distributors (like NBC or Universal).

Just as the web has revolutionized how we consume our content, it's also transforming (albeit, quite slowly) the political process behind how these shows are made. It's one thing for the Writer's Guild to stand up to the "big, bad studios" for their creative rights. But it's another thing entirely for studios to take on both writers and viewers, creators and consumers. Remember, for many viewers, these Studio Suits are the same guys who canceled Freaks and Geeks, Firefly and Jericho. There's no lost love there. If the studios can't bargain quietly (and in good faith), expect things to get real ugly, real soon.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

When Brands Collide

Brady and Manning Meet in Battle of the Brands (NY Times)

Just hours away from the big Colts-Patriots game, and with all the hoopla surrounding these teams, it keeps coming down to two players -- Manning vs. Brady. Which is just how their respective sponsors would have it.

So are you a Peyton Man or a Brady Man? MasterCard and Sprint? Or Stetson cologne and ridiculously expensive watches? The last watch I bought was $8.97 at Wal-Mart, so you probably already know whose camp I fall into.

For as good as Brady is, he just seems a little too good. A little too rugged. A little too pretty. And, at least in his advertising persona, a little too devoid of anything resembling a sense of humor.

Honestly, how can you even begin to like him when he does this shit? Either he's a complete tool-bag, or one of the most ironically hilarious guys on the planet. And I get the feeling this cowboy doesn't do irony.

Manning, on the other hand, has got funny coming out the wazoo. In that old test of a presidential candidate's relatability, he's the guy you'd rather have a beer with. And, unlike Mr. Stetson up there, he refuses to take himself seriously.

Come on. It's not even a contest. So I guess it's no coincidence that the closest thing I have to a watch nowadays is my phone, courtesy of Sprint mobile. Thanks, Peyton. And thank you, Corporate America, for targeting my humor and my wallet so deliberately. Your check is in the mail.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hello and Good Riddance

Further Thoughts on Baseball.

  • Was that really a World Series? Four straight years of boring baseball to wrap things up. Three sweeps and a five game series. And to rub salt in the wound, it was the Sawks. I rooted for them last time, just to get rid of the damned curse. But they seemed like lovable underdogs then. Now, they're just as Evil as the Yankees -- minus the warm fuzzies I get from being a Yankees fan since the days of my youth. And without those childhood fuzzies....they really just make me want to throw up real bad.

  • So Joe Girardi is in, and Don Mattingly is out. As much as it pains me to admit it (I'd follow Donnie Baseball to the ends of the earth), Girardi is the right guy, both for the immediate future and for the long term prospects of the Yankees. Joe Torre was never a baseball genius, he just knew how to manage a ballclub full of New York-sized egos. And he knew how to do it well. However, he never quite got the hang of how to handle a bullpen (Rivera was a gimme); And he's had difficulty plugging younger players into the All-Star Yankee teams of the past few seasons. (Though the blame in that respect also weighs heavily on the Yankee front office.) Girardi's past experience as a big league catcher, and as the manager of a young Florida Marlins club, ought to serve him well.

  • As rumors fly about Torre accepting a job in Dodger-land (he's from Brooklyn originally, as are the Boys in Blue), Grady Little quits and Mattingly muses about following Torre wherever he ends up next. I like this scenario: For one, there's not much to root for the in NL right now, and the Dodgers have been my No. 2 team in the Senior Circuit (after the Brewers) since the first meeting of The Society of Young Gentlemen for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series. In fact, a Torre-led Dodger club would only serve to further public support for S.Y.G.Y.D.W.S. In addition, Mattingly eventually deserves a shot at managing a team, and having him coach for a club not named the New York Yankees can only help his chances in the future. Let's see this happen.

  • A-Rod is a douche. I defended this guy last year, when all of New York was eating him alive, but the timing of his announcement and his failure to even entertain an offer from the Yankees before he hit the free agent market is an all-time low for a Yankee great. (At least, as far as free-agency is concerned. Guys like Bernie and Donnie retired rather than play for another organization. Caveat though -- A-Rod can still hit.) And considering Mike Lowell's performance in the post-season this year, maybe we'd be better off with him at the hot corner anyway.

  • Speaking of....Yes, Mike Lowell is a free agent. Yes, he's a product of the Yankees farm system. Yes, the Yankees need a third baseman. No, he will not replace A-Rod's bat over the course of 162 games next year. Yes, he can actually hit in October. This (and a boatload of pitching) is just what the Yanks need.

  • Geoff Jenkins is done as a Brewer. It makes sense -- you don't pick up a $9 mil option on a guy who hits 21 HRs and bats .255 -- but it's still hard to see a Brewer vet like Jenkins go. Yet with guys like Tony Gywnn, Jr. waiting in the wings....2008 ought to be an exciting year for the Brew Crew.

  • And finally, Dusty Baker just might kill the Reds pitching staff....and any chance they have a returning to the post-season. Note to Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey: learn to say "no" to this guy before he ruins your respective careers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stephen Colbert and Nacho Cheese Goodness

Did you hear? Stephen Colbert is running for President...but only in South Carolina. However, his campaign is already running afoul of the law and the dirty dirty lawyers who have no sense of humor whatsoever. What downers!

Watch Colbert parse the legalese, all the while telling funny jokes. Warning! Possible Blackberry commercials ahead! This ain't YouTube, folks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just in time for Halloween!

It's all over Blog City! Harry Potter is Jesus and Dumbledoor likes dudes!

Blog City was abuzz this week with news from J.K. Rowling's world book tour. Firstly, she finally came clean about how the Potter Boy was basically a Christ-figure, and that she'd been hesitant to point out the parallels for fear of giving away the end to Book 7. Oops, spoiler alert! Harry dies! Harry comes back to life! Harry marries the Weasley girl! Just like Jesus!

And secondly (also, apparently just like Jesus), Albus Dumbledore is very much gay. Just when she might finally have the evangelicals on her side, Rowling springs this on 'em. I don't know how much Dumbledore's sexual preference really matters, other than to say that his character was terribly miscast in the films now. Yes, Sir Ian McKellen, you were robbed.

You were robbed!

The End

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

21 of 22

They might have the worst color scheme in Major League Baseball, but by-God, the Colorado Rockies are going to the World Series. And to think: there was mid-season talk of trading this guy.

Now let's go Tribe!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Compromise and moderation are like lima beans....

On why the far Left (and the far Right, for that matter) doesn't understand how a representative democracy actually works:

Liberal Base Proves Trying to Democrats (NY Times)

“There is a tendency in American politics for the people who feel most passionately about an issue, particularly ones that focus on a single issue, to be unrealistic in what a democratic political system can deliver,” Mr. Frank said, “and that can be self-defeating.”

Permanent change is nearly always incremental. If the 2oth Century has taught us anything, it's that revolutions don't always have staying power. Instead, take an inch, take an inch, take an inch. Though the inches might be few and far between, pretty soon, you'll get to where you're going.

Maybe it's not perfect, but what would you rather have? Guillotines?

Monday, October 08, 2007

It's like that plane ride back home from Seattle...

12 Years

That's a long time for a ball club to stick with one manager. Especially if you're the manager of the New York Yankees. It's hard to believe it was 12 years ago that Buck Showalter lost his job when Randy Johnson pitched three scoreless innings in relief on two days rest, allowing the Mariners to beat the Yanks in 11. Tonight was a completely different situation, but still, everyone realizes that it's the end of an era, just like they did 12 years ago on that plane ride back from Seattle. 1995 was the end of the Mattingly era for the Yanks. And now 2007 looks to be the end of the Torre era.

It's a big deal that the Yankees clawed back from a terrible first half. They were the only playoff team this year who made also made the playoffs last season. Seven new playoff teams. A different World Series winner every year for the last seven. And we're guaranteed an 8th this year, too. In light of that, the fact that the Bombers made the playoffs every year under Torre's 12 year term -- playing in 6 World Series, and winning 4 of them -- is an amazing run. But after being bounced from the first round in three straight series, and without a Worlds Series win since 2000, Steinbrenner's new-found patience has finally worn thin. Averaging 98 wins a season over 12 years just doesn't cut it in New York.

Changes come.

"This has been a great 12 years, whatever the hell happens from here on out," Torre said after the loss. "I'll look back on these 12 years with great pleasures based on the fact I'm a kid who had never been to the World Series ... to have been in six World Series, I can tell you it never gets old."

"The 12 years just felt like they were 10 minutes long, to be honest with you."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sweeney Todd

Have you seen this?

Tim Burton is basically teh hotness, and not just because he's married to Helena Bonham Carter.

Though that definitely helps.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Chicago: "Saul Bellow is a rascist!"

Bellow's remarks on race haunt legacy in Hyde Park (Chicago Tribune)

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle refuses to name a city-something after the very much dead Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago author, and declines to tell the Trib why.

Somewhere on Lake Michigan, Sufjan Stevens is crying himself to sleep.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Future Is Now

ABC News Expands Foreign Bureaus (Washington Post)

Due to an explosion in hand-held digital technology, ABC News is opening seven new news bureaus overseas, to be staffed by only a single person equipped with a DV camera and laptop. The reporter/producers will shoot and edit their own pieces, with long-distance help from ABC News offices, sending in their work via broadband or satellite connections from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

While this type of reporting has become a staple of blogs and independent journalists, it's the first I've heard of one of the major American news-broadcasters joining the fray. And it's good news, too. It used to be a given that a network's news division wasn't going to make much money -- the Big Three (ABC, NBC and CBS) reported anyway because of a strange marriage of journalistic integrity and network branding. The thought was that if people tuned into your nightly news program, they might stick around for Prime Time, too. In recent years, though, this model has been scrapped for a new one emphasizing cost cutting and increased national coverage (at the expense of foreign news bureaus). These seven new bureaus, while tiny in comparison to the old models, are exactly the shot in the arm that Network News needs. Foreign correspondence shouldn't be sacrificed to the bottom line; it needs be streamlined and brought into the 21st Century. Digital technology allows just that.

And it's better than the alternative: Reporting only in the "hot spots" where there is a sizable American interest (i.e., Europe, Israel, Iraq, etc.) while virtually ignoring the rest of the world -- if, for nothing else, to know something about other nations before we invade them.

Just kidding. Sort of.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

From General George Washington's orders bringing about the Cessation of Hostilities between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain -- Friday, April 18, 1783:

Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this steubendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Indipendency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.
The United States of America, that great Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions, except if you really are poor and oppressed (and from Mexico):

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vermont Public Radio Is Getting Better Every Day

Meets Requirements Satisfactorily

After something of a rant last winter about how much I hated Vermont Public Radio, I've been slowly getting acclimated to an NPR that plays loads and loads of classical music every day. I wasn't very happy making the transition from Chicago Public Radio to VPR, but after a while you just sort of get used it. And Walter Parker is the man, so that helps.

Yet little by little, VPR has been adding programs (or sometimes programmes!) that I enjoy. One night last June I noticed that the World was broadcast every night after Marketplace. O Joy!* Then came news that VPR would be splitting its Classical Network into a separate entity. Starting tomorrow VPR will feature news programs from 9am-3pm -- and that's not all! They've also added American Routes on Saturday nights!**

I'd like to think they saw my blog and took my advice and that I'm pretty much all powerful and awesome to behold in my glory and strength and wisdom and honor forever and ever until the Day of the LORD or Ragnarok or whichever comes first. But let's face it, I'm not and they didn't. Or at least I don't think so from their press release.

VPR didn't follow all my instructions, however. Day to Day is on the new schedule (O Alex Chadwick! How I love you so!) As is BBC Newshour. (Damn fine journalists, those Lobsterbacks!) But no To the Point. (Warren Olney, I'll tie a yellow ribbon for you!) Instead, we've got WBUR's On Point, which I'm not exactly wild about. But when the latter program is from Boston and the former is from California, it makes sense, East Coast Bias and all. KCWR gets no love from the Green Mountain State. Sorry, Nic Harcourt.

Furthermore, This American Life is still not airing in its natural Friday night home, which is just plain immoral. And still no Tavis Smiley Show on the weekends. The Rutland Herald is reporting that all 17 Afro-Americans in Vermont are up in arms. Just kidding. They don't care, either.

All in all, it's a nice improvement, though somewhat sad. For the near future I won't have access to VPR Classical in Rutland unless I purchase a digital receiver (fat chance of that on an AmeriCorps budget), which means no more Peter Fox Smith and Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. And like I said, Walter Parker is the man. Though apparently, he loves music more than journalism. Some days, though, I don't blame him.

*Though now that summer hours are over, and I'm back to Noon-7:30 hours at work, it hasn't been quite so joyous.
**Though maybe they did that ages ago. I'm usually out doing something at that time; though that something is usually no more anti-social and boring and unproductive as listening to the radio all by myself on a Saturday night, so don't think I'm Joe Camel or Marty McFly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jokey McJokepants

From the Onion, Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8

Probably the funniest line comes from the (fake) mouth of EIC Ryan Schreiber: "In the end, though music can be brilliant at times, the whole medium comes off as derivative of Pavement."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Chasing 61

With Alex Rodriguez on a tear lately, it looks as though he's got his sights set on the Yankee's club HR record of 61 set by Roger Maris. And it brings up an interesting question: with all the unknowns surrounding Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and steroids, would A-Rod hitting 62 home runs this season mean something as far as the record books are concerned?

As far as the official MLB records go, no it won't. Until Major League baseball can prove that Bonds and Co. were juicing, those records still stand. But in the hearts and minds of some fans, A-Rod reaching 61 in a post-steroids era does mean something. To a lot of people, should he pass Maris, it would be the first "clean" break of the single season home run record. And in a way, that's fitting, because Maris was chasing another Yankee in that magical 1961 season, as was Mickey Mantle. We forget that Mantle was battling Maris all season long, and ended up with just six dingers shy of 60 himself.

New York Yankees Single Season Home Run Records

  • Roger Maris 61 - 1961
  • Babe Ruth 60 - 1927
  • Babe Ruth 59 - 1921
  • Babe Ruth 54 - 1920
  • Babe Ruth 54 - 1928
  • Mickey Mantle 54 - 1961
  • Mickey Mantle 52 -1956
  • Alex Rodriguez 52 - 2007 (as of 9/10)
  • Babe Ruth 49 -1930
  • Lou Gehrig 49 -1936
  • Lou Gehrig 49 -1934
That's rare company for A-Rod; and maybe how it should be. If anyone's going to hit 61+ in the Post-Steroids Era, it might as well be a Yankee.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Kimmel Breaks It Down

Via TVSquad, Jimmy Kimmel explains what Miss Teen South Carolina actually meant.

Like such as.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A New Look!

Well, it's not exactly a new template, but it was just as time consuming. There is more to be done, for sure. But I need a break. Knowing next to nothing about HTML and Photoshop makes for fun afternoons, let me tell you!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I want a new template.

And how.

I'm thinking of switching to Wordpress as well. Blogger's templates are a little tired. Also, I need a new computer, too. Maybe that should be my first priority.

Essays that are in the works, but that I haven't had the time or inclination to get them out of my head and/or off loose sheets of notebook paper and into the blogosphere:

1. Real-time thoughts on Deathly Hallows, or Potter-Notes taken on the fly.
2. A full-scale review of my last blog post after reading Deathly Hallows.
3. A short essay on how Ron Weasley is a totally worthless fictional character, and ought to be a Muggle, which he pretty much is anyways.
4. Thoughts on how rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers brings far less guilt then rooting for the Chicago Cubs.
5. Thoughts on the Bourne movies and how kick-ass they are, especially in comparison to any number of James Bond flicks.
6. All sorts of thoughts on good/recent albums by Spoon, Los Campesinos!, St. Vincent, Casey Dienel, Frontier Folk Nebraska, James Yorkston and the Atheletes, Bowerbirds, Bunky, Uncle Earl, The National, The Innocence Mission, Smoosh and The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. Maybe I'll save those for the Bag Blog.
7. Even more thoughts, this time on how the House of Representatives is lame -- way lamer than the Senate.
8. Tons of YouTube clips that I've bookmarked since like, forever.

Until then, I'm just going to keep surfing people's music profiles on Last.Fm. Which is the new YouTube these days, in my awesome opinion; and if you can't handle that, then find another blog. One with a much better template.

They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhhh!

Do you like turtles? This kid does.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Exit Stage Left

Things still aren't going well in Iraq. While I still believe that we have an obligation to the people of Iraq to clean up the mess we've made, it's time to start asking the hard questions about withdrawal. The NY Times has a piece today with five tough questions we have to answer before we can think of a staged exit. Leaving won't be pretty if things don't get better soon. A complete withdrawal will take months. Casualties will increase sharply as we fight our way out. Over 100,000 Iraqi contractors who having been working for the U.S. will either have to be evacuated and relocated, or left to fend for themselves. Billions of dollars of ammunition and fuel would have to be left behind in a quick withdrawal, further fodder for a broiling civil war. And finally, a massive withdrawal could be the greatest logistical problem the U.S. military has ever seen. No one knows how much it will cost shipping the rest of our personal and equipment back to the States in case of a swift exit. There's nothing easy about a decision to withdraw from Iraq. In fact, the President's "stay-the-course" strategy might be the easier short-term decision. Knowing him, I wouldn't expect President Bush to deal with any of these questions during the remainder of his term.

Our next president will have his/her work cut out for them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bronx Blogs

My new favorite Yankee blog:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Vengeance and Harry Potter

Its only a couple of hours before Deathly Hallows hits the stores...and I already have a beef. Actually, it's been stewing for about two years now. Alright, J.K., let's have at it.

Book 6 has been sitting on the floor next to my bed for about six weeks now, collecting dust. I figured I'd pop it open sometime before the 20th and get myself ready for book 7. But there it sits. Where's the excitement I had for books 5 and 6? Where's the animal rabidity I unearthed ripping through books 1-4? I've been wondering some about that and doing some thinking.

And this is what I thought. This series rests on one central fact -- Harry wants revenge. In the first three books, Harry and his clan were so enamored with wonder and discovery that the vengeance aspect of the series took a back seat. At their core, these Potter books are about exploration -- discovery of self and wonder of world. All throughout volumes 1-5 it was clear that these books were wonderful examples of sacrifice and love.

But somewhere along the line, things changed. Book 5 was the first in the series I read as it came out. I loved it. But Sirius Black's death near the end introduced a new tone to the series, or perhaps more accurately, brought to light a shadowy undercurrent that had been running through the books all along. For Harry to "win", he needed vengeance. He needed revenge against Voldemort for killing his parents, his uncle and many others. With the death of Dumbledoor in book 6, this need for vengeance only became more acute. By the end of Half-Blood Prince, the only avenue left for Harry was to leave school and focus his efforts on ending Voldemort once and for all.

And there's my worry. That the Potter books, such a miraculous example of sacrificial love, are going to degenerate into a simple quest for vengeance. Did Harry's parents die to give Harry life? Or did they sacrifice themselves simply because Harry was the only one who could defeat (and kill) Voldemort? And what's the distinction?

When using Harry's mother (and her sacrifice) as an example of Christ's sacrificial love, the answer leans towards the former. But if Harry's quest for redemption can only succeed through the application of vengeance, the whole "Christian defense" of the Potter books crumbles. Imagine if Christ died so that his followers would rise up in revenge against a hypocritical religious establishment and a secular political order. What if his death had nothing to do with forgiveness or remission, and was simply the first spark in a long war for retribution through the application of violence and war?

If that sounds absurd, then the potential for a violent book 7 should scare us. Some of Christ's followers no doubt would have wanted to return violence for violence in response to Christ's death, just as Harry wishes violence upon Voldemort. But the problem they struggled with is the problem we all deal with on a daily basis (and more acutely since 9/11). Namely, that vengeance is not Christian. The concept of revenge should be as foreign to the Christ-follower as greed or adultery. And the thirst for it is anathema to the spirit of the Christian faith.

Love your enemies. Pray for them. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Bust most importantly:

Vengeance is mine, thus saith the LORD.

That's not to say that old Voldey deserves a pat on the back and a big bowl of ice cream. While vengeance is God's, justice is something the Christian should be supremely concerned with. Not only justice for the poor and oppressed, but justice upon those who abuse their wealth and power. Justice is to be served on both the oppressors and the oppressed. Thieves, warmongers and murderers deserve justice, too.

And that's where the arguments start. That's where the trouble lies. Can violence be used as a means towards justice? Unjust states have been violently overthrown with both great and terrible results. But as Christ-followers we have to ask if it's ever worth it? Can the ends justify the means?

But now we're way off topic. Because justice is not vengeance. These are two very different concepts, with very different outcomes. Is justice served if Harry kills Voldemort? Perhaps. Most certainly, vengeance is served. Yet there's this inescapable idea that we can't have both. In dispensing justice, it's difficult for the aggrieved party to accurately mete out a suitable punishment, because in most cases, it's difficult for them to be rational adjudicators of justice. Ideally, judges are meant to be impartial arbiters of confiscation, correction and reparation. Maybe that's not entirely possible, but it's important to strive for it, and the aggrieved will have the hardest of times doing so.

Justice restores things to their proper order and balance. That's its purpose, and it's a righteous concept. Vengeance, while not its stark opposite, is still diametrically opposed to justice. It is the (irrational?) use of force in a state of rage to punish a wrong with an even greater wrong. It does not concern itself with restoration or recompense. Only revenge.

And that's the difference. The world of Harry Potter began in the last days of the roaring 90s. But it ends in a post-9/11 world, where we ask questions like "what is justice?" and "what is vengeance?" on a daily basis.

I hope book 7 has Harry deal with these issues in a frank and startling way. I hope he wrestles with what it means to kill or be killed in his final confrontation with Voldemort. War is hell. There's death and blood and guts and vomit. When you move from restorative justice to singular vengeance, you have to deal with the consequences in all their muddy glory.

And in my heart of hearts, I hope there's way for Harry to restore things to their rightful place without resorting to vengeance. It's the difference between a Mel Gibson war movie and Terrence Malik one. There ought to be a struggle in Harry Potter, as he grows from an adolescent into a young man, and deals with how far he's willing to go in his quest to restore the right things to their proper places.

But I fear that won't happen. Miss Rowling has been leading us down this vengeful path for two books now (maybe more), and I fear it's simply too late to turn back. There were signs in books 4 and 5, but we had invested so much in the character by that time, that it was hard to recognize the warning signs. It wasn't until halfway through book 6 that I finally realized where this was going. It all ends in revenge. It all ends in a final confrontation, where Harry will have the opportunity to seek vengeance upon those who have wronged him. And most likely, he will succeed.

But what then? In reality, life doesn't end after book 7. It doesn't end at age 18. In reality, killing killers doesn't bring resolution, it just eliminates the danger of them killing again. In reality, bombs dropped in Afghanistan fail to bring closure to a grieving nation. Instead, they bring even greater violence, leaving oppression and corruption and unrelenting guilt in their wake.

But Harry (most likely) will never have to deal with that. Because his life ends, whether he dies or not, on July 21st. He'll never have to come to grips with the fact that he's ended the lives of other human people, actual human beings, and that their deaths will never bring back his parents, or his friends, or his mentor. No one will have to deal with the aftermath, six years later, because that portion of his life will never be written.

What kind of message is that? Mission Accomplished? Not one of self-sacrifice and unfailing love, but one of hatred and rage and ignorance. Because in Harry's world, there are no long-term consequences for his actions. There's no long term anythings.

And the sad thing is, we know that's bullshit. It's just simply not true. We see it for the lie it is every night we watch the news, or open the paper, or surf the internet. There are always consequences. There is rarely closure.

And there is always more violence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tardy Report Cards

On thinking about television without actually writing about it until its too late.

Sure, May Sweeps were ages ago. And those Spring Finales can hardly be remembered. But I've got something to say dammit, and it'll be said. Because this is a blog. And it's been anything but topical lately. So why mess with success?

1. CBS -- I watched nothing on this network during prime time, yet since it and PBS are the only channels I can actually get at home on my bunny ears, I have developed something of an embittered affinity for Craig Ferguson. While his interviewing style needs loads of polish, and his musical guests are way too West Coast, his monologue is probably the tightest in all of late-nite TV. And he has all those funny noises. Man, I love funny noises.

Letter Grade: C- / Ferguson carries this network.

2. FOX -- I miss the X-Files. I tried getting through season 3 of 24 on DVD for a second time this past winter. I failed again. Miserably, too. Plus, they black out all the good baseball games on Saturday afternoon when I try watching them on Bastards.

Grade: F / Someone reunite Bob Costas with baseball.

3. CW -- Someday, I'll catch up on season 3 of Veronica Mars. I can't say I was too sad to hear it was canned, though. Buffy was all downhill after 3 seasons, so at least VM won't have to go through that. And they finally canceled Seventh Heaven, too!

Grade: D+ / I give it two more years, tops.

4. NBC -- Who would have though that NBC could have stolen my heart so madly and deeply this past year. Friday Night Lights literally blew me away. I can't say enough about this show. It's damn good TV; most likely the best drama on television, cable or no. Heroes, however, sort of limped to an inauspicious ending. Sylar is still alive? Who cares? If it weren't for Hiro and Super-Jess, I don't think I'd be interested in season 2. Studio 60, on the other hand, finished up its run (during June, no less) on the upswing. Kind of. I got the feeling Aaron Sorkin just kind of threw caution to the wind and pulled out every TV cliche possible for the last four eps. In spite of all the ridiculous melodrama, this cast really acted their asses off, and Sorkin tied things up quite nicely in the end, giving his lame-duck series the kind of farewell that he couldn't with the West Wing. On top of all that, NBC threw a bunch of really good "quirky" series onto the wall to see what stuck: 30 Rock? Success! Andy Barker, P.I. and Raines? No one watched but me! Brilliant!

Grade: B+ / Friday Night Lights moves to Friday nights! It was nice knowing you.

5. ABC -- More shows that didn't make it regardless of how quality they were -- Knights of Prosperity and Day Break just couldn't take the network heat. Day Break because no one who loved Lost gave it a chance (even though it blew 2/3 of Lost season 3 out of the water); and Knights because ABC doesn't know how to market half-hour comedies. Good job, suits! Then there was Lost. Some good, some bad. After a terrible start, my faith was nearly restored in this series -- until the last couple of episodes. If Locke had actually died, I would have given up on this show completely. More on that tomorrow, because this post is long enough already.

Grade: B- / Let's Rob Ray Romano. Wouldn't you have watched that show?

Overall Grade: C+ / Too many good shows got buried.

My Life's Overall Pathetic-ness Grade: A- / Only because I don't watch CSI Miami.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cat Chases Bear Up Tree: A One-Act Play

This pic may be a year old, but if you ain't seen it, it's new to you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

O Griff! O Junior! O Fleeting Youth! Run not softly back to my warm-waiting bosom!

Barry Bonds is at 749, just six shy of Hank Aaron's mark, and once again most Americans don't really care. (Though you wouldn't know it from watching Sports Center.) Aaron has repeated that he's not going to bother attending any games once Bonds nears his mark. And Bud Selig has repeated an many occasions that he's unsure whether he'll be in the park when Bonds breaks the record. On one hand, it almost sounds like Aaron is a little bitter that Bonds is going to break his 755. But in light of the BALCO affair and the black cloud that hovers over Bonds because of it, it's hard to blame Aaron. Selig doesn't have a good excuse, however. If he's not going to actively prosecute Bonds for breaking any rules, he has no reason to stay away as Bonds nears the record. Bonds is either a cheater or he isn't. Selig, especially as commissioner, can't have it both ways. (It might be a moot point 15 years from now, however, as both Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols could pass Bonds if they stay healthy for their careers, but that's a big IF for a major league ballplayer.)

In the shadow of Bonds' feat, though, a few other ball players have been lost in the home run shuffle. Sammy Sosa, embroiled in his own steroids controversy, just passed the 600 mark, becoming only the fifth player to do so, and drastically improving his Hall of Fame chances. Ken Griffey Jr., in yet another resurgent year, is nearing 600. And Frank Thomas, who fell off the face of the planet for a number of years, is just one short of 500.

As these guys near the end of their careers, something else nears its end in the baseball world, at least according to me. These are the players I came up with as a baseball fan. I'm nearing my 20th year as more than a casual fan of baseball, something that began with the 1988 NLCS which pitted the Mets against the Dodgers. My first clear baseball memory was Kirk Gibson's pinch hit home run in Game 1 of that series, as the underdog Dodgers upset a powerful Mets ball-club. From there on I gravitated towards New York clubs like the Mets and the Yankees, and even a former NY team in the Giants. Guys like Will Clark, Howard Johnson and Don Mattingly quickly became my favorite ball players. And the Yankees, lovable losers at the time, somehow become my favorite team.

Those guys have long since retired, so it's Thomas and Griffey and Sosa whom I remember best, seeing as how their careers have coincided with my love for the game. And it's sad to see these guys nearing the end. I wouldn't be surprised if Sosa called it quits after this year, now that he's reached 600. Thomas may have another year left in him, but that's yet to be seen. Griffey, who still looks 20-something, seems to have a couple more years to go, especially now that he's ready to leave Cincinnati for a playoff contender. Guy wants a ring, and who can blame him for that?

But when they leave the game, I feel like I become, by default, one of the "old-timers," a weird thought for a 27 year old. Glavine, Biggio, Clemens,'s hard to say how many games these guys have left. And when they're gone, a year or two from now, I will have been a fan of this game for a complete generation -- 20 years. The guys I grew up watching have been almost completely replaced by a new crop of players. That's not to say I don't like A-Rod and Jeter and company -- they're great ball players. But I distinctly remember when they came up into the the league. I can't say that about Sosa or Clemens. And it's different because of that, even though I can't really explain it. I remember being all of 16 years old, and calling guys like Jeter and Posada "kids." That takes an old soul. But now, when those "kids" are nearing the end of their careers, what do you call young guys like Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun?

I guess what I'm getting at is that all loves eventually mellow out at some point. There was a time there, near the end of the steroids era and in the midst of the Yankees dynasty, when I stopped caring about baseball. Luckily, that didn't last. But this renewed love for the game is different than it used to be. It's more grounded in history and poetry, economics and and a willingness to lose three hours to a game in which very little, and everything in the world, happens. It's not quite as passionate, but it doesn't need to be. I'm committed to this game now. I'm committed to it in the same way I'm committed to other great American inventions like Bluegrass, Walk Whitman and Wisconsin Cheddar. It's part of me. And I'm happier for it.

It's alot of fun to be a fan once again, an old-timer now, who sneers at the young pups who prefer the NFL or the NBA (or, God forbid, NASCAR). Basbeall is as much America as Harry Truman or Mark Twain. No matter who it is out there on the diamond, I'm always going to have a piece of my heart out there.

It's honestly about as romantic a game as you'll ever see. And the older I get, the more I realize just how perfect it really is.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

We Are All Sufjan Stevens

Thanks to the Internets, it's alot easier to hear about new tunes. And to actually hear them, too. Case in point, the music of Mr. Sufjan Stevens. He's been awful quiet since The Avalanche was released last summer, yet slowly but surely, new songs are trickling out -- even if they aren't necessarily from a new Sufjan album, states related or non.

First, a song from A Tribute to Joni Mitchell, which was released in April. Mr. Stevens covers Ms. Mitchell's "A Free Man in Paris," of which I have no prior knowledge, seeing as my infatuation with her began and ended very quickly, over a matter of days, and never recovered. Pitchfork has been streaming it for weeks now, but in case you missed it, here it is:

It's classic, big-band Sufjan, or at least recently classic, big-band Sufjan, which is how most people know him anyways.

However, not-so-classic Sufjan is right around the corner, on an upcoming compilation from McSweeney's The Believer. Stevens has flashed rock cred in the past, but this new track, "In The Words Of The Governor," really gets the blood pumping unlike anything else in his back catalog. Be prepared for a surprise if you like the pretty Sufjan best, courtesy of Stereogum (follow the link for a stream of the cut).

And finally, back to pretty Sufjan, and a video (from blogotheque and dailymotiom) of the man himself covering The Innocence Mission's gorgeous "Lakes of Canada" from their album Birds Of My Neighborhood. Banjo? Check. Shyness? Check. Rooftop performance? Check. Ah, who cares which Sufjan you like best. The man is just plain good at what he does, however it is he does it.

So there you go, true believers. Maybe one of these days we'll see another 50 States album. Or maybe a Seven Swans-ish rock-your-face-off fest. I couldn't care less what it is, as long as it's sooner rather than later. Much sooner.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I seen her, ages ago, and lived to tell the tale.

Last month I took a little trip to Northampton, Mass to see little a singer-songwriter named Patty Griffin. And behold, everything that I saw was good.

So Patty was basically her bad self all night long. I've got to say (this being the first time I'd seen her in concert) I had built this show up in my mind more than a person ought to. But Miss Griffin hit one out of the park that night. Except for the first two songs (a French lullaby and a guitarless "torch" tune that I was unfamiliar with), it was a night of day dreams come true.

Patty without her guitar at the beginning was a bit disconcerting, for both the audience and Miss Griffin. She was doing some uncomfortable hand gesturing/dancing that you see women twice her age trying during that concert by The Tokens that PBS kept showing during Pledge Week. But once she strapped on that guitar....good Lord. Songs from all over the place came out -- Living with Ghosts, Flaming Red, 1000 Kisses, Impossible Dream, Children Running Through -- even some love from Silver Bell. My stomach nearly flew out my mouth when she started playing the chords to Truth #2, I kid you not.

The only drawback was how much the damn show actually cost. $30 bucks for a ticket? This is the reason I liked Chicago so much. $14 for Joanna Newsom and The Handsome Family. $12 for Sufjan Stevens. $8 (yeah, $8!) for Damien Jurado. But I guess you can get away with that when most of your audience are Baby-Boomers. And oh how those Boomers showed up that night! I was surprised by how few people my age were there. Except for the nice lesbian couple I sat by, there was no one in my section who was within 10 years of me. Good golly, Miss Griffin. But what can you do?

All in all, a very good night of music. Even if it looked more like a Simon & Garfunkel show that it ought to have. But those tunes! O my those tunes!

Photo courtesy of Rick Harris' photostream. Don't be mad, Rick. I'm real poor. Pity me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'll Take Korean Ghost Stories Over Sawyer In A Cage Any Day Of The Week

So I finally got around to watching last week's Lost this evening, and I have to say how impressed I am with the episodes that have aired since the show came back from hiatus. Last Wednesday's ep was no exception. Not only did we get a meaty Desmond flashback, we also had our first glimpse at a Brian K. Vaughan (co)-penned episode on Lost. From the cold open's argument over the coolness of Flash vs. Superman, I had a suspicion, later confirmed during the credits, that BKV had a hand in writing this gem -- the offhanded jokes about "who's your favorite Other" and having to play ping-pong every 108 minutes were especially funny.

Whether BKV wrote them or not, it's nice to know that the writers of Lost don't take their jobs too seriously; it's a treat for fans that the characters on the show seem recognize the absurdity that is their life on the island. Jin's ghost story on the beach and Sawyer stealing one of Bernard's tapes (he is alive!) were fun digressions, too. I think I can say, without any reservations, that Lost is back on track after a disastrous fall kick-off. I'm hooked again. And not out of some begrudged, misplaced loyalty. This show is good once more. Hear, ye. Hear, ye. Rejoice. Rejoice.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Blusic II: Friday Night Lights

This show has got the goods. Last fall, when I was in full TV overload, Friday Night Lights was just one of a number of impressive pilots offered by NBC. These days, however, it's one of only two or three shows I've stuck with through the entire 06-07 season. Studio 60 sort of fizzled and imploded on its way to a slow, painful death. Heroes got bogged down by a lack of zip and interesting characterization. Kidnapped....well, I'm not sure what the hell happened there. How long did it even last -- three episodes? But FNL. It just kept getting better and better.

One of my favorite parts of the show -- besides the acting and the writing and the camera-work and the attention to small detail and the acting (again) -- is the music. I try to forget how often craptastic music has laid low some of my favorite shows (J.J. Abrams choice of 75% absolute shite in the background and foreground and montages of Alias quickly springs to mind). But Friday Night Lights must have some smart people in their music licensing department. Over the course of 20 episodes so far, we've heard music from Explosions in the Sky, Iron & Wine, Spoon, Jose Gonzalez, TV on the Radio, Heartless Bastards, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, the Old 97s, the Go! Team, Whiskeytown, a Daniel Johnston cover, Camera Obscura, Beulah, Broken Social Scene and the Stooges. Even appearances by Justin Timberlake and TobyMac (yes, that TobyMac) seemed to fit seamlessly into the fabric of the show. And I'll say it again, yes that TobyMac.

It helps, that a show this good doesn't distract by employing a terrible soundtrack. It makes the acting and the writing and the camera-work and the attention to small detail and the acting (again) all the more powerful and moving. That I enjoy this show, and that I enjoy Iron & Wine, and that this show enjoys Iron & Wine, sort of brings everything to a harmonious full circle. Yes, that's cheesy. But it's also transcendent. And it's what elevates Friday Night Lights head and shoulders above most of the schlock on TV these days.

And it's just one of the elements that make Friday Night Lights the best hour of television you'll find, this week, last week, and all season long. Keep your fingers crossed for a second season, because if any freshmen show deserves a year two, it's FNL.

*Screencap courtesy of Friday Night Lights Online.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


The talk of the town.

Oh music, my music. I basically love your friggin' guts. Nuts and guts. Gutters, too. Music is best that can be listened to in gutters, or by gutters, or behind shutters, or in closets.

I used to have this really great closet in Michigan. I kept all kinds of stuff in it. Baseball cards. Comic books. Hats. Old G.I. Joes. Free pens and pencils. Milk crates. Lots of other stuff, too.

But not music. That went on the dresser. All of it on the dresser. I don't have a dresser anymore. I lost that dresser. I lost my computer, too, and all 20,000 songs along with it. Except I have the computer in a box in my apartment. I can't say the same for the dresser. But at least with the computer-in-a-box, I can set things to rest on it. My dresser is firewood now. Or maybe worse. Maybe it's still sitting in my old room in Wisconsin, empty and sad and lonely and confused why it didn't move with me or David or my parents. I'm sorry dresser. I'm sorry computer. If it makes you feel any better, you have not been replaced.

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. Music. Andy tagged me. Music-tagged me. Web-tagged me. Blog-bagged me. On this fake computer (not the Potter boy, mind you, but a PC) I use at work, there are some 2381 songs from which to choose from. Here are the rules:

1. scan through your itunes or cd library. refamiliarize yourself with the nooks and crannies of your musical options.
2. identify five categories — genres, if you will — of music. these should be as obscure and finely-articulated as you’d like. feel free to use modifiers liberally.
3. nominate — select, really — a “perfect song” for each category. include a link for each song to something (the amazon page for the CD, or the artist’s website, or whatever).
4. ideally, some of the songs will be nominally obscure, or, at least, not completely mainstream and overplayed. no need to tell us all about songs we all know!

So here are five, five songs I like, five songs I lurve. Five songs for campfires and fireflies and flying with wings as eagles. Take that Chris Tomlin! I would kill you at writing worship songs! I know some Coldplay! I know some U2! I owned the first Delirious LP before any of the others! I knew Hungry back when it was a Vineyard secret! I have not only built a treehouse, but the Holy Ghost parties there with John Wimber all the time!

Note: Like Andy, I will use my terribly-tagged iTunes genres. Which is exactly how I like my genre tags in the first place.

1. Taken from Alt.Pop, Long Lost Brother from Over the Rhine's Ohio. (How else do you categorize Karen and Linford?) This song literally got me through my Montana year like hell on hind's feet. Thought you'd be further along by now? Believe brother, down to the letter. OtR stripped down to their post-Good-Dog-Bad-Dog-era basics, all piano and slide guitar glory. Glory! Someone get me a puddin' pop!

2. Taken from Folk, We All Know from Devendra Banhart's Nino Rojo. Smiles to faces, faces to arses, arses to animals, dancing so. Like I said, this is why DB brings smiles to my faces, and makes my clavicles shakeses. He is like smiling. He is smiling. Issa, Queen of the snake people couldn't have said it better. Play that ticker-tape-guitar! It's a parade at the end of the world! It's the earth's end and time is like nothing! It's only track 3! Error! Error! Cannot compute!

3. Taken from Hip-Hop, The Only One from Ghetto Pop Life by Danger Mouse & Jemini. Boom-di-yada! Up in the facility! The faculty can't take it! My faculties can't task it! Multitask? Like a miracle! Break this down. Take this down. Jemini and his friend D-A-N-G-E-R-M-O-U-S-E! Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Wreck yourself before you let yourself never hear this towering tune. Leave this page right now. Install Soulseek. Download this song. Checkmate.

4. Taken from Indie, Bros by Panda Bear from Person Pitch. Like OtR, I don't know what to call this. Better than blood pumping through my veins seemed a bit much. So many repetitions! So many sweet harmonies! So many sallow sounds! Sounds Familiar? Like family? Biking across Europe? Hiking across Sudan? Su-don't! Listen to this instead! Bristle with thistle! Shamrock with Panda Bamrock! Again and again and again and again. Do not forget. Again and again and again and again. Rinse. Repeat. Again and again and again and again. Twice daily, after flossing, and before bed. Or always. The eternal flame of the Seven Wood Club shines for really long periods of time!

5. Taken from Young God (because I believe it really is a genre unto itself) Dylan, Pt. 2 by Akron/Family & The Angels of Light, from their self-titled sort-of split cd. Lots of freaky guitar! Lot of creaky vocals! Lots of ru-ru-rillie-a-ru! I found what I'm looking for boys! This freaking song! This reeking song! Blonde on blonde on blonde on blonde! Bound for Singapore! Round the ring once more! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I hear Jesus and the Angels calling me home! Pedro just swore! Now that's more like it!


p.s. I tag Jake and Paco. Jake because he downloaded alot of new music and needs to share his opinions. And Paco because he never writes full blogs on the Haven.