Friday, March 31, 2006

marrakesh express

As a travel destination, Morocco has always been "on the list", but then it's a pretty long and indiscriminate list as I'm up for going anywhere. There isn't a part of the world I'm not interested in seeing. Heck, I'd love to see Baghdad...just not in the near future. That said, Morocco has long been one of the more appealing possibilities...just never in, say, the Top 5 at any particular moment.

Reading this article in The Atlantic, though, has vaulted Morocco, particularly the Atlantic coast areas that Tayler writes about, to near the top. Sure, Casablanca, no wait, this Casablanca and Marrakesh would be great. I love urban travel, meandering thru cities, seeing the sights.

But something about the way Tayler describes the people, sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the outlying areas makes me want to spend about 2 weeks getting lost along the coast, hanging out with easy-going locals, eating freshly caught fish that's grilled up and served with lemon and a baguette. Apparently there's good surfing in Morroco as well.

I'd also like to get to Egypt soon, particularly while I still have my own personal tour guide living there. Tunisia might be a nice stop along the way to Morocco. At least according to tour guide. Hopefully my having a Danish passport won't be an issue by then.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

saxophone started blowing me down, i was buried in sound...

stuck in my head....

Wilco -- Handshake Drugs live version from Kicking Television. John Stirrat's bass playing on that track is just killing me.

Voxtrot -- Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives

Almendra...traditional old school Cuban salsa song.

nothing like the sun

today's eclipse, from the sf chronicle, via reuters.

Monday, March 27, 2006

departure lounge

(bumped and updated with picture and links)

thanks to free interweb service, live (**) blogging from mccarren airport in vegas. 9:40pm...i should be in the air now, on a flight from vegas to sfo. but no, thanks to a maintenence issue the flight i was supposed to be on out of phoenix was cancelled. not delayed, cancelled. quick work got me booked on the next set of connections, meaning a 1:20am arrival. meaning i should get home in the 2am range.


...the scene at sfo, around 1:45am...

bleh. on top of that, the constant din of the slots at the center of the circular gate area is annoying to say the least. not only that, america west has seemingly oversold every flight today (including this one about to take us to sfo), so it's hard to be nimble with options. and the boarding areas have been insanely crowded.

at least the wedding was fun (a bit too much fun maybe). how can you not like a wedding with a low key and casual ceremony, good bbq ribs and chicken, good beer, a bluegrass duo, abundant pez, croquet, whiffle ball, an "after-party" (responsible for a bit of the "too much" for lots of folks, evidently), and a cactus league baseball outing (a's-rockies, featuring a homer by frank thomas in his a's debut *plus* an appreance by jose mesa for the rockies) the next day? all that and seeing folks i hadn't seen in way too long. so flight delays be damned, it was well worth the trip.

** well, not technically live. blogger seems to be having trouble publishing posts. so this is posted at 2:30am, as I finally get home.

ps -- apparently there was a mini-me sighting in the terminal. i'm not normally good with celeb spotting, but he's someone i reckon i would recognize had i been party to the sighting.

(update...monday 8:30am...somehow i made it into work despite not getting to bed until 3am. can't vouch that i'll be all that productive today, but i'm here)

eaten by her own dinner

given my current bleary-eyed state i doubt i'll make it to the porchlight reading tonight, which is a shame. the theme is kitchen confidential, and the stories will center on life in the restaurant biz, which is how i spent my college (and some post-college) years.

my new favorite band name

Martian Memo to God...music's not half bad either.

Friday, March 24, 2006

can't get there from here

First impression of Phoenix? Driving north on 51 to get from the airport to the hotel, it was impossible to exit the highway. The first three exit ramps were all closed for some sort of road work...new paint for the lines maybe. There was no action, just highway patrol cars at the first two, and a DOT truck at the last. You figure they could have done every other one, so that all the exiting traffic wouldn't have gotten off at the first available and jammed things up. You would have thought that, but you'd be wrong.

Also, Phoenix reminds me of SW Dade county (FL). Flat (well, the valley part, obviously not the mountains around the city), lots of traffic and strip-malls and 4-way intersections. Bleh suburban blight.

(update)...seems that it was a protest against legislation that would impose severe crackdowns on illegal immigrants that was most likely responsible for the shut-down of the exits.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

i'll follow you into the dark

A few weeks ago I wrote about a few Oscar nominated movies that sent Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer into a tizzy. I finally got to see one of them, Paradise Now, which Krauthammer called a "sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers". The film centers on Khaled and Said, two friends living in the West Bank town of Nablus, tapped to go on a mission to Tel Aviv.

Contrary to Krauthammer's assertion (and as proof that he probably didn't see the film) it's far from a sympathtic portrayal of the Palestinian resistance movement and the use of suicide bombing as an effective means of insurgency. It shows the human side of an action that most of us only experience the end result of via news outlets. Paradise Now brings to life not only the bombers, but the people they leave behind.

The film certainly has harsh things to say about how the Israelis treat West Bank Palestinians. It by no means, however, shows the resistance as a pure endeavor. The men leading the cells, those who send young men off to die, are not given a flattering portrayal -- Jamal in particular comes off as a cross between a smarmy and manipulative televangelist and used-car salesman...feeding his recruits an ersatz spirituality dressed up in promises of rewards in heaven. He is, thanks to one very effective shot, cast almost as a Judas to the cause of Palestinian self-rule.

Taken apart from its specific context, the film is as much about the fine line between conviction and doubt. In context it gives voice to those left behind, showing them to wish more that their loved ones were still with them rather than having willfully died and killed for a cause. The two lead actors, particularly Kais Nashef who plays Said, are riveting. The dialogue never gets too maudlin and the preachiness is kept to a minimum. Worth a spot high up on your netflix queue. Up next for me is The War Within, which covers similar ground but set in the context of a planned attack in New York City.

goin' to the chapel...again

tomorrow i'm heading to a wedding in arizona. then another is coming this memorial day weekend back home. that'll make 9 weddings (well, 8 plus a post-wedding party that was a couple months after a private family service) since memorial day weekend 2004. four of those weddings happened between march and august of 2005. in 2 of the 9 i was the officiant ("ordained" by the universal life church) for friends...it's pretty cool, officiating for people you know and love. that's a lot of nuptial bliss i've been witness to lately.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

wow

click to see it bigger and better.


(thanks, ian)

the people that you meet in your neighborhood

from doing a bit of sleuthing, i'm pretty sure that i live around the corner from a (now demolished) cottage where japhy ryder lived in the dharma bums. or in real life, where kerouac crashed with ginsburg. my roommate is also pretty sure that our place is in one of the neighborhoods where david eggers lived with his brother in a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. and a friend of mine claims to have stayed in the house where benjamin braddock lived (with mr. roper as his landlord..well, not mr. roper per se, but normal fell) while chasing down elaine in the graduate.

and then there's david lodge's book changing places, which despite the fictional name for the town is definitely set here, with the school as the obvious setting.

why mention all of this? there's really no point except useless triviality and the need for me to spend a few minutes thinking of something other than this work-related analytical problem which is kicking my ass and withering my ego.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

finest worksong

good god, it's these kind of work hours why i didn't go the "normal" route (law, for instance**), the kind a kid raised in a middle-class suburban home should go into. i'm not built for this 60-hour/week stuff. but so it is this week, even though it's more or less a four-day work week what with me off to phoenix friday for a wedding (though i will be working on the planes, in the aiports (change-over in vegas). but the next 5-6 weeks looks to be hellacious (i'll bet you thought i was gonna say "hella"). even if i had a ticket to the new pornographers/belle & sebastian show tonight, it would be iffy that i could actually be there. bah.

** ps - though i'd probably be good at being a lawyer...i'd make lots more money, but i'd also look about 20 years older than i am and be even more a curmudgeon than i am. maybe even have morphed into total miserable prickdom. so yeah, no lawyering for me.

pps -- i'd like to note, that my use of post-scripts is in no way related to the fact that i've read and liked stuff by david foster wallace or david eggers. i just tend to tangentialize (and use parentheses), kinda like them, sometimes like tom robbins.

nervous and shakey...

...(honk if you remember the del fuegos)...

that's not the issue, though...the 3 recent quakes are --

a 3.7 followed 4 minutes later by a 2.7 then 90 seconds after by 1.4.

it's probably time i get my quake kits together for the house and car.

** update at 2:40pm...a bunch of small aftershocks in the 2.0 to 2.3 range...as active a day as we've had since i've been here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

the birth of the cool

"two days, that's the industry standard"...

"laugh all you want, but if you call too soon you can scare off a nice baby who's ready to party."

"I know I shouldn't have called, I mean, my friends said I should wait two days."

god bless swingers. what a fun movie. like comfort food, can be watched over and over (even for me, considering that i was once dumped right after watching it with a gf) and it produced some memorable (albeit now dated) catch-phrases. it launched vince vaughn and gives jon favreau something to talk about during "dinner for five" (is there a show where he doesn't reference something from the movie?).

it's also, as far as i'm concerned, one of the many things responsible for the death of level-headed dating in this country.

for all the moaning over concepts like "s/he's just not that into you" we lose sight of the fact that there are plenty of times when he or she is that into you and perhaps thanks to the socially conditioned push to search for the bigger and better thing or perhaps thanks to the idea that its uncool to just let go and go with the moment we let good opportunities pass us by. good opportunities to be happy.

it's silly to worry about acting on the feeling after a great first or second date. it's just silly to have what you do after a great date judged by some standard of "cool" or other crazy misconceptions that wanting to again and often see someone who excites you is considered "clingy" or "needy". sorry, but this is a load of crap.

when something feels good right away there's a reason it does. so you go with that feeling...you don't pull back. you don't worry.

because just once is all that it will take.

of course, dating and romance shouldn't really be all that level-headed. i should know as well as anyone.

for the better part of the last two years i've playing it cool. assiduously avoiding even the tiniest bit of vulnberability. all it got me was a bunch of first and sometimes second dates, a few half-stabs at relationships and the odd meaningless "thing". and it's left me feeling cold inside.

so now with things settled that i know i'll be living here for a while, i took a risk. i let a crush in on the chance that it would take root -- the payoff when that happens can be a wild rush. it was one of those things that wasn't just an "it would be nice if it worked out" kind of thing**, but rather a "this should work out" kind of thing. you know, a bowled over and wow kind of thing. the "dare to be great situation" i've been looking for.

sadly (and surprisingly), no go. it was the first time in a while i got seriously bummed at something not taking. but all it cost was a couple of days in a fog, nothing that a good brunch in the city sunday morning and then a soccer game (tie notwithstanding) that afternoon couldn't help to lift. the upside is i'm feeling more alive than i have in a while. sure, the move out to the bay area was somewhat of a rush, but not like this. that was more the logisitcal rush, and the possibilities of a great new job and living out here. this crush rush was pretty good while it was in full flow. and even the come-down has had my senses tingling.

so despite a bump in the road i've resolved that it's better to let the vulnerability in, to just go with the crush. the being guarded, the attitude of "bah, other fish in the sea"? no. i'm too much the romantic to go back to that. letting the crush in, acting on the impulse of a good thing, not pulling back for fear of breaking some assinine rule...that's the way to go.

because to get that phenomenal rush again, just once is all that it will take.

**ps...the "it would be nice if it worked out" kinds of things are great...more often than not good relationships aren't based on immediate "wow", but take a few dates and some sorting out. which is the subject of another ramble about snap judgements, probably coming soon.

wind your spring

three cheers for the vernal equinox...

Friday, March 17, 2006

greetings to the new brunette

Or rather, new blog face. It was time. I needed a change. This is sleeker, not as green (not that there's anything wrong with green). Not as busy. Sleek and simple is the new black.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

wrong 'em boyo

Ugh. Now I know why Annie Proulx was peeved and Ang Lee was disappointed that Crash was voted Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain.

Ugh. It's not just that I really liked Brokeback. Crash is just...horrible. The first 30 minutes were enough for me (though my roommate is presently sticking it out). Maybe it's the distracted and somewhat agitated mood I'm in, but....ugh. Not a likeable character so far, and...well...as others have said...ugh. Shite.

"bold" move by stanford...what's next?

Since I do sometimes take work time to make quick posts about non-work-related issues, thought I'd discuss something professionally related...

Seems that Stanford University has decided to not charge tuition to students from families with income less than $45,000, and to reduce the family contribution for students in the $45K-60K range. Tuition at Stanford is almost $33,000, and total cost of attendance is about $47,000, counting room, board, books and other expenses. Low-income students will still be required to pay room and board and their own personal expenses. The move eliminates the up-to $2,600 contribution that low-income families were expected to pay towards tuition and reduces by half the average $3,800 contribution from the next income bracket.

The new policy is designed to broaden the economic diversity mix of Stanford's undergrad population, hopefully by encouraging low-income but talented students to apply, where the fear is now they are scared away by the high cost of attendance. It's the next big move in a series of events that began in the late 1990s when Princeton changed its approach to aid, replacing loans with grants for middle-income students. Since then many expensive colleges and universities have followed suit, hoping to quell the criticism they get for tuition increases that have far outstripped the rate of inflation.

In the end, this move by Stanford is a very inexpensive statement -- first it's expected to cost them no more than $3 million a year, chump change considering that they sit on an endowment valued at $12.2 billion (yes, billion). As former Stanford President Donald Kennedy noted a while back, it's "unenviable" to look so rich yet always be begging for money in major fundraising campaigns. Second, they most likely won't be admitting more new freshman than the roughly 2,900 they take in each year, nor will they be lowering admissions standards to any significant degree -- it will still be a very competitive admit pool. This move may spur an increase in applications and enrollments from very talented lower income students, maybe not. It will certainly make them more competitive in the race to enroll more low-income underrepresented minority students.

The key question is of course, will anyone follow suit? Harvard's endowment is twice that of Stanford's. In 1997, Time reporter Erik Larson asked why the University of Pennsylvania couldn't provide free tuition with an endowment valued then at over $1 billion. This is a fair question, which has underneath it the basic question of whether higher education is a right or a privilege.

Related to all this, the folks at The Institute for College Access and Success have a database available that contains information on loan usage across campuses. Worth a look if you're interested in the issue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

mixing pop and politics he asks me what the use is

Poking around the Billy Bragg site while writing the last post I was reminded of this song, and reading the lyrics I'm struck that despite being written 20 years ago and for a country an ocean away, it's perfect for today, especially in the context of the Russ Feingold's censure resolution. Something about which you can do your part, by taking five minutes and contacting your Senator and urge that they support the resolution.

Ideology
When one voice rules the nation
Just because they're on top of the pile
Doesn't mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists
They must declare their interests
But not their company cars
Is there more to a seat in parliament
Than sitting on your arse
And the best of all this bad bunch
Are shouting to be heard
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

Outside the patient millions
Who put them into power
Expect a little more back for their taxes
Like school books, beds in hospitals
And peace in our bloody time
All they get is old men grinding axes
Who've built their private fortunes
On the things they can rely
The courts, the secret handshake
The Stock Exchange and the old school tie
For God and Queen and Country
All things they justify
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

God bless the civil service
The nations saving grace
While we expect democracy
They're laughing in our face
And although our cries get louder
Their laughter gets louder still
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

way over yonder in the minor key

Billy Bragg, tonight on Conan.

Watch, you should.

And if he comes to your town, go see him. Sadly, nothing in the Bay Area on this leg.

And wow...this new box set moves right to the top of my wishlist.

And also, if you're not sure about Billy, free mp3 downloads of 'The Price Of Oil', 'Must I Paint You A Picture?' and 'Take Down The Union Jack (Remix)'.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

double happiness

a long overdue travel expense check came today, meaning a trip to the bank, meaning on the way back stopping by the brazil fresh squeeze cafe for lunch. mmm...crunchy chicken salad sandwich.

holi moli

This looks like a fun time.

(thanks, saurav)

Monday, March 13, 2006

i say temple, you say owls

Sadness but no surprise at hearing that Temple men's basketball coach John Chaney has decided to retire. He's 74 years old and has coached with such intensity for so long, he looks worn down. I went to Temple for undergrad, and Chaney has been Temple basketball for a long, long time. It'll be hard to imagine anyone else on the sidelines.

I didn't like how he sometimes overplayed the race card, especially in response to the NCAA trying to raise academic standards, but I admired his efforts to find guys who needed college for a leg up on the social mobility ladder, and then instill into them discipline and work ethic via 6am practices and staying on them about school. He helped lots of guys who likely would have not othewise have had a shot to go to a decent college (or might have gone to a place like Cincinnati and get used by Bob Huggins), and lots of these students earned a degree.

malenga! (possible sopranos spoiler)

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who said "holy shit!!" at the end of the Sopranos last night (spoilers in the linked stories...don't read if you don't want to know just yet). Interesting that they had no previews for next week.

Oh, and I found at least one death pool/betting site. I'm sure there are more.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

another rainy day, trapped inside with the train set

sunday round up...

In the middle of a massive flickr upload of a bunch of old stuff that was residing at fotolog (it looks to be a rainy day, and the soccer game was cancelled, so might as well get to one thing I've been putting off). The overall flickr interface and experience is much better. Seeing the South America photos brings back good memories of the trip.

Wow was Joe Biden ever awful on Meet the Press this morning. Normally he's an annoying over-bloviating windbag, but today he was strident and off his game. Didn't look at the camera or at Russert, mostly looked down, stumbled over his words. He stands no chance at the Dem nomination in 2008, and would be a horrible candidate in a general election. He always comes off as too angry. I don't understand why he's running. Meanwhile George Allen kept making me think of Seinfeld character David Puddy.

Went to a reading last night at Edinburgh Castle. Short story by Daniel Handler -- or as more people know him, Lemony Snicket (and Handler looks nothing like I imagined) -- and a dramatic adaptation of a Gus Van Zandt story. Preceded by wine and cheese at Hotel Biron.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

walking in l.a.

Some photos of downtown Los Angeles, from the March 3-5 trip mentioned recently.

I have this odd fascination with Frank Gehry. He's cleary very bold and inventive but some of his buildings, particularly the business school at Case Western University, seem so out of place for their surroundings. You can see the Case Western building from way atop the cemetery where Harding is buried...your eyes can't avoid it as it dominates the staid Cleveland scenery. The Experience Music Project building in Seattle works a bit better, situated as it is next to the Space Needle.

The Disney Concert Hall fits in perfectly to its place. It is LA, so the bold and borderline absurd are to be expected. And this building is bold. My words can't do it justice, so for more info you should go to this interesting look at the design at Arcspace.

dysfunction junction

Finally got around to seeing Capote last night, and for discussion purposes it's a good complement to The Squid and the Whale which I saw a couple of weeks ago. Both center on insufferably egotistical New York-based writers, albeit one with a bit more notoriety and success than the other. Both Jeff Daniels's Bernard Berkman and Truman Capote are real people, the Berkman character fictional but apparently not too far removed from the real-life father of Squid writer and director Noah Brumbach (who wrote The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which also deals heavily with paternal-filial relations and egomaniac creative types.

There's not a scene in Squid which isn't uncomfortable to watch. From the screwed up family dynamic that's set up in the first scene on the tennis court, to the pretension and smug stupidity of Berkman and his eldest son, to the mom's philandering, to the youngest son's acting out with alcohol and masturbation (and speaking of uncomfortable, the acts are portrayed fairly graphically, which is cringe-worthy as the kid {played by Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates's son Owen) is all of about 10 years old..how do you direct that without self-consciousness)...the film is one big trip to the therapist's couch for Brumbauch, and entire skeletons are hauled out of the closet for the audience to examine. Plenty of films have dealt with divorce, and many from the point-of-view of the kids...none that I remember have done so in a way that either sparks instant recognition for anyone who's been through some messy family stuff or provides a "there but for the grace of god" moment for people who grew up in happy families. And speaking of child stars, or at least former ones now grown up...Anna Paquin plays a grad student who sleeps with the elder Berkman while she teases his son. Anna Paquin, the little girl from The Piano. When did she grow up?

The real-life Truman Capote doesn't come off very well. He's portrayed as a self-absorbed drama-queen who uses Perry Smith (and to a lesser extent Richard Hickock) to write "In Cold Blood". At first his affection for Smith is apparently genuine, as he thinks Smith and he are both cut from the same cloth, and Smith just had the worse luck and made the poor choices to be weak and a criminal. The worm turns when Capote realizes that Smith is as much using him to get access to lawyers and beat the rap when it's obvious that Smith and Hickock are guilty. A fantastic juxtaposition is the scene where Capote is basking in the adulation from a well-received public reading from the unfinished book while Smith sees a fellow death-row inmate be walked into the hanging warehouse and later wheeled out on a back-hoe, one arm hanging off the lip of the well. Each sees his future played out, the consequences of the murder taking their lives in starkly different directions. In the end Capote can't wait for Smith and Hickock to meet the hangman so that he can finish his book. The depth of Capote's self-absorption comes when longtime friend Harper Lee is celebrating her own success, the film premiere of "To Kill a Mockingbird". Capote can't even be bothered to offer her sincere congratulations, preferring to wallow in his own martini-induced miasma of self-pity, churlishly lamenting that the stays of execution are preventing him from being done with the book.

Regarding the Oscar-worthiness of Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance...well, it's always hard to be totally objective after the fact. I mean, I'm watching it knowing he won, how can that not affect my own view? Three of the nominees for Best Actor were for roles where the actors portrayed real people who had plenty of visual evidence left as to their mannerisms. While it's certainly a challenge to portray a real person regardless whether the actor interprets or imitates, I thought Heath Ledger's performance was all the more amazing because he had to create his character out of whole cloth. And his character was much more complex than Joaquin Phoenix's Johnny Cash or PHS's Truman Capote.

Friday, March 10, 2006

the waiting is the hardest part

HBO, Sunday, 9pm...our long national nightmare of waiting will be over. Someone, somewhere, has gotta be running an on-line Sopranos death pool, right?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

wait a minute honey, gonna add it up

Randomalia...

A few weeks ago I went to see The Adventures of Cunning and Guile, a series of dance duets by Chris Black and Ken James, and featuring art by Lark Pien. Very inventive and fun. staged in the galleries of the Cartoon Art Museum, which is worth a visit on its own.

We had a power outage last night. That in and of itself isn't weird. What was odd was that I woke up about 10 seconds before the lights went out at 2am. My eyes just snapped open, looked around, I heard the dull thud of the power stopping, and then my alarm clock went dead. Took about 45 minutes to get back to sleep. I awoke just before the electricity came back on at 6am, though it's hard to think of that as unusual since that's when I wake up every day during the week. Still, I woke up about 2 seconds before the power came back. Eyes just snapped open, and "bam", on came the juice.

Soccer season starts up again this weekend, weather permitting. The "learn to play keeper somewhat competently" experiment continues. It's a fun new challenge, and it's less wear and tear on the acl-replaced left knee.

Some good live music coming this way in the next few weeks, including various Noise Pop shows, the New Pornographers & Belle and Sebastian together on one bill, Rhett Miller, and just for the hell of it, AC/DShe, an all-girl AC/DC cover band.

Finally, did you ever have that feeling you were on the verge? That after some time treading water you were about to hit the rapids for a wild and fun ride? The last week or so, I haven't been able to shake that feeling. I'm not exactly sure why, but I can't wait to find out.

up on the catwalk, follow-up

Three cheers for Chloe Dao winning this season of Project Runway. I missed Daniel's collection, but saw Chloe's and Santino's. All through Chloe's I was thinking "wow", and all through Santino's I was thinking "that's, uh, nice". And again, me, not a fashion guy.

Anyway, to make up for two days running of fashion-related reality tv posts, I'll spend the next few days on baseball (the Phillies are going to suck this season) and soccer (I can't wait for the World Cup this summer) and beer and monster trucks and guns and chewing tobacco and other manly pursuits. Except that I don't really dig on anything in that list after beer.

more cowbell

I went on a musical binge last week, and caught up with some things I'd wanted to get. Mostly catch-up of not-so-new stuff...

Johnny Cash -- At Folsom Prison: I've heard the highlights before, but the show in it's entirety is incredible. Cash is warm, funny and engaging with inmates in a Caifornia prison known for being a very hard place to do hard time. Periodic interruptions from a prison official to call inmates to see visitors remind the listener where the show is taking place. The set is full of songs about men who are in prison or should be, and Cash is often laughing in the middle of these very somber stories, probably as reaction to how his audience is responding to him putting their own experiences to song. It's especially jarring in "25 Minutes To Go", a run-down of a condemned man's last half-hour, including his watching the gallows being tested and his last meal of beans.

Wilco -- Kicking Television: Live in Chicago: Wilco have become the latest band, to me anyway, to have inherited the old Clash designation as the only band that matters. Jeff Tweedy's moved from being a No Depression hero to a pop experimentalist. I've always been impressed with his willingness to take chances, to take his songcraft beyond the alt-country scene and mix some Stax-Volt soul, Beatle-esque pop and Brian Wilson-like imagination. Kicking Television documents a few live shows taped in Chicago, and captures the band pushing the songs in all directions. To see them at work, put the film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart in your Netflix queue. While not as riveting as the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, it's worth a watch if you're a fan.

The Strokes -- First Impressions of Earth: An improvement from the last record, and a slight departure in sound. Gone is the distortion on the vocals, and in fact they're farther up in the mix this time, perhaps owing to Julian Casablancas finding out that he can actually sing (though it's a bit hard to take him seriously when he sings in his trust-fund baby world-weary voice that "I don't want to be judgemental"). They're not afraid to try different things, moving away from merely trying to repeat themselves and actually taking their sound and doing something new with it. From having seen them live a few years back I realized that drummer Fabrizio Moretti and Albert Hammond Jr. were the musical heart and soul of the band -- the best players, and the focal point for the songs. But on this record, bassist Nikolai Fraiture takes a great leap forward. His playing is very inventive, driving the songs like he hadn't before.

Belle & Sebastian -- The Life Pursuit: A while back, my friend Kieran tried to get me into Belle and Sebastian, but for whatever reason, it didn't take. A bit too fey for my tastes I guess, but I could recognize that there were some good songs there. The Life Pursuit has a fuller sound than previous B&S, and (to me, anyway) better suits the songs. Have only spun through it once, so need more time, but it's quite a good pop record. One listen to "Another Sunny Day" and it'll be stuck in your head for days.

Still to be listened to...

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals -- Jacksonville City Nights
Franz Ferdinand -- You Could Have It So Much Better
Sigur Rós -- Takk...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

up on the catwalk, and you dress in waistcoats

So who wins Project Runway tonight? I'll admit to being sucked in, NTTAWWT. Actually, thanks to my roommates, this year I got kinda sucked into some fashion-related reality tv...I also ended up caring a bit about America's Next Top Model. But then...sometimes...I'm weak. I can't help it. I'm a man.

Anyway, Santino's certainly been the kind of character that a reality show needs in order to be memorable. As to whether he's as good a designer as the others...well, I'm not a fashionista. But if you go by likability (all things being equal in talent up to this point) then you've gotta root for Chloe or Daniel. Too bad Nick didn't make it. Seems to be a truly likeable person, as much as you can tell from the forced nature of a show like this.

And here...become one of Santino's myspace buddies.

Oh, and here...someone with much more invested in it than me.

i wanna be your dog

now this is an awesome dog...born without two front legs, yet still gets around...

(link opens video...thanks to gr)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

in for a penny, in for a pound

First, if you aren't listening to KEXP, you should be. Second, if you do listen but haven't pledged to KEXP, you should support the station. Fund drive's going on now. Hurry hurry -- give your dough, get your swag.

why did you build me up, buttercup?

Poor Bud Selig. All he wanted to do was stage a multinational baseball extravaganza. It's bad enough that lots of stars didn't buy into the idea, were discouraged from playing by team management, were hurt, or were worried about getting hurt before the season, and thus aren't playing.

But now the World Baseball Classic is about to be overshadowed by the mother of all steroid stories.

Two San Francisco Chronicle writers, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, have a book coming out, with an excerpt running this week in Sports Illustrated. They claim that Barry Bonds, fueled by jealousy and resentment over Mark McGwire's home-run heroics, has knowingly been taking steroids since 1998.

It's going to totally blow the WBC out of the water, be the big story as the regular season starts, and will make a complete circus of the Giants' season.

Can't wait for opening day!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

for a honky-tonkin' good time....

...50 cent haircut.

saw them saturday night at the knitting factory in hollywood (thanks to the band and pam for the guest listing). lots of fun...power-pop chord changes over rockabilly/honky-tonk rhythms and songs about lost love, found love, drinking, politics and life.

the other band on the bill, sacred cowboys, features w. earl brown (from deadwood and there's something about mary {franks and beans!}). good players, but overall a sound too derivative of lynyrd skynrd. though i gotta say, the keyboard/banjo player guy was pretty cool. the most genuinely rock-and-roll guy in the band.

Friday, March 03, 2006

krauthammer takes on hollywood

Charles Krauthammer often comes across as your nutty cranky uncle -- writes and says things that make you laugh and shake your head at the same time. But usually he's tilting at hefty windmills, things that are important, even if he spouts utter nonsense about those things.

His column today takes on Hollywood in general, and the movie Syriana in particular. His main point is that the Oscars this year are doing a disservice to America by honoring the evils of the Middle East. He starts out with:

Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign-language film is "Paradise Now," a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is "Munich," a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday's fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism.

But until you see "Syriana," nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.

I think Krauthammer needs to have his perspective changed on the nature and purpose of art.

First, from everything I've read Paradise Now is not so much sympathetic as it is trying to tell the story from both sides. Art is supposed to make us rethink our world. It's ok if we come away from a piece with the same position on an issue – at the very least that work should inform us and also challenge us to see the entire picture, not just a narrow point of view. An even-handed approach doesn't mean that people will come away thinking suicide bombing is ok, but would it be that bad if the film at lest shed some light on what drives people to such extreme action? Would it kill the average American to see this point of view, even if he doesn't come away agreeing with it?

Same with Munich. Again, I haven't seen (my movie-going was sadly limited this year), but every review of the film I've seen (and this is corroborated by friends who've seen it) notes that one of Spielberg's main points was to show the psychological and emotional cost to the Israeli Mossad agents as they hunt down the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the massacre of the Isaeli Olympic athletes in 1972. I don't see how that makes the original act sympathetic, but hey, crazy Uncle Chuck's on a roll, why derail it?

Finally, he calls Syriana's creators anti-America. All because they essentially tell a fictionalized story of the interdependence between our reliance on Middle Eastern oil and a foreign policy that thus must support unsavory regimes. This isn't self-flagellating fiction, it's reality -- c.f. Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.

Krauthammer outlines the plot, and then drops the dime:


What is grotesque about this moment of plot clarity is that the overwhelmingly obvious critique of actual U.S. policy in the real Middle East today concerns America's excess of Wilsonian idealism in trying to find and promote -- against a tide of tyranny, intolerance and fanaticism -- local leaders like the Good Prince.


Hey Uncle Chuck -- some of those intolerant, fanatical tyrants? We've been propping them up for a while. But don't let facts get in the way of a boilerplate conservative rant against liberal Hollywood.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

glenn greenwald

Greenwald has fast become my favorite long-form political blogger. His two posts this week on the NSA scandal, the first a rundown of new info and the second an astute analysis of the Gonzales letter to Congress are very compelling reads, especially the dressing down of Gonzales.

If you're not reading him, you should be.

forget the panda...can we get a moose?

please? please? the norweigans are depending on us!

(thanks, kathy)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

shake me, all night long

A couple of quakes rolled through today, a 2.8 followed by a 3.4 10 minutes later.

I'm still new enough to the area that I don't take the smaller ones in stride. After a few years I'm sure it'll take a 6.0 to make me dive under my desk.