Friday, August 24, 2007

playing kiss covers, beautiful and stoned

** update, monday 8/27...

good review of the show here. i'll agree with most of it save for the comment about sky blue sky bieng kind of sterile. yeah, it's mellow and precise, but it's a beautiful record. everytime i listen i hear new things in the playing and arranging that i didn't notice before. i'll agree that played live the band added some dynamic range to the sky blue sky songs, but that's the point -- i don't want to see a band recreate the studio versions when they play live.

in any event, a great show. they're such a solid band, full of amazing musicians playing songs that are superbly written and imaginatively arranged. the greek is a wonderful venue...clean sight-lines, good sound. it's quite a sight to see the lights reflecting off of the tree canpoy behind the crowd.

*****
Wilco! Tonight! Hooray!

...doing "Heavy Metal Drummer" at Bonnaroo...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

you cast a long shadow and that is your testament

yes, i did just post about joe strummer last week. but it's his birthday today (he'd have been 55), so why not. from streetcore, the last mescaleros album..."coma girl"...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

she's got a new spell

the beginning of a new relationship can be such a roller coaster of emotions. you meet someone special and the chemistry and attraction can be an overwhelming rush...conflicting parts of your brain and heart (and yes, other organs) are sending simultaneous signals to "speed up!!" and "slow down!!". you want the "speed up" instincts to take over because there's no endorphin rush like what romance can give you, apologies to runners and adrenaline junkies out there who swear by the runner's high or the thrill of hurtling down a mountain on skis or a bike.

at the same time, especially if you've been through a few relationships, you want to be able to take time and take stock and make sure it's right. you don't want to get in too far and too quickly for fear of getting hurt (again). however, too much taking stock and too much caution dulls the rush. and you can't really experience the thrills of romance if you aren't willing to risk the hurt. so goes the internal dynamic, at least for us overly-analytical types. and especially for us overly-analytical types who also happen to be pisces...ruled by both rationality and emotion, by both the head and the heart.

then there's the interpersonal dynamic, the process of getting to know the other person. that's also terrain filled with the rush of exploration and the pause to make sure everything is as perfect as can be. you want to always be putting your best foot forward, not putting your foot in your mouth. you want to make sure you're reading signals correctly and responding appropriately, while at the same time signaling what you want and hoping that's taken the right way. you want to show off your best qualities and mute the less desirable traits (and let's be honest, we're all imperfect). you want to be both accommodating to the other person's desires and at the same time you have to be able to speak up when there's something that you're not totally happy with. it's a delicate dance for sure, but the best way is to just be yourself and be confident that if you've worked on making yourself into a good person that those qualities will shine through and that you'll be loved for those qualities.

it's complex and complicated and layered. it's exhilarating and a bit nerve-wracking. you as much want to dive into the deep end as you want to tip-toe in via the shallow end.

but in the end it's worth it, so says this unabashed romantic. at the moment i'm feeling as alive and on edge as i have in a while, but in a good way. there's something at hand that's worth making sure blossoms. i'm shedding the internal caution and hyper-rationality that marked my behavior in my last relationship and letting the moment take over, and it feels good.

Monday, August 13, 2007

they say the stars can’t see their rays, nor can they count their numbered days

sunday i finally got around to watching "let's rock again" a documentary about joe strummer and his last band, the mescaleros. shot in 2001 and 2002, it follows joe and the band as they tour japan and the united states. strummer passed away not long after the japanese tour and the recording of a final mescaleros record, streetcore.

preview clip here...


we see joe and the band on the road promoting their second record, global a go-go. in japan he is greeted backstage and on the street by people positively verklempt at meeting a true music legend. i know i'd have had a hard time not being a gushing idiot had i had the chance to met him.

we also see something remarkable -- a completely unaffected and blase joe, doing a cold call to a south jersey radio station to promote the album and the show in atlantic city. we see joe on the a.c boardwalk trying to drum up business for the show. we see joe sitting on the street and just hanging out with some kids who are presumably no older than his own kids...just chatting with them about music as if in fact they are his kids. joe *fucking* strummer doing what neophyte artists do to get noticed. that should serve as an object lesson to any artist who thinks he's too big to interact with the hoi polloi.

i'm not too much affected by celebrity death and misadventure. paris hilton in jail means nothing to me. however, i was upset when kurt cobain killed himself...though i sometimes wonder if he -- or rather his legacy -- like james dean and marilyn monroe, was better served by dying young.

with joe, though...his sudden death, at a point in his life where he was still making good music, still passionate about his work...any time i hear his voice i get a little sad. in fact, i stumbled on this clip for his version of bob marley's "redemption song" recently...

it affects me every time i watch it...i'll cop to getting a bit misty-eyed (and it's playing now as i finish this post, and well, let's say the room's a bit dusty). check out the comments, especially the oldest ones. you can see what strummer and his music meant to people. and this comment by zeke7777 speaks to the scenes i mentioned in "let's rock again" where joe is tirelessly promoting his show and the record -- "joe strummer was never bigger than his smallest fan."

joe was a true original, a true punk in the sense of living his values, even if the values cost him material goods. the clash really were for a while "the only band that really matters", because their music was so infused with politics and passion. joe never wavered from that combination. check out the voice-over that starts the clip. that was joe...idealism and passion, not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve.

so hard to choose between conceit and rock

the music spigot's been on full blast lately...lots of shows seen and yet to see, lots of records to get...

saturday kp and i headed to amoeba in the haight for an in-store by john vanderslice. like the national and spoon (see below) vanderslice is a guy who for some reason i just hadn't gotten into yet, despite the fact that his music is right in line with what i tend to like. after his set, during which he was warm, engaging and fun, i think i'll pay a bit more attention.

thursday was my friend sadie's band, invisible cities. awesome indie pop, moving from upbeat and charming to moody to arty to straight out rocking. the new album should be a good one.

the last time i saw yo la tengo was most likely back in the early 1990s. yeah, a long time ago. seeing them again at the kusf birthday show brought back memories of my indie rock college days. they were in good form, opening with a cover of the ramones' "sheena is a punk rocker", part of a set-long tribute to the year 1977. they also slipped in a fleetwood mac song, as well as jonathan richman's "roadrunner" among their own songs. all that and the bass player looked a bit like ricky from "better off dead".

two bands that i'm surprisingly late to the party on are spoon and the national. spoon i saw last year open for death cab for cutie. seeing them live i came away liking them more than i had just from hearing some songs now and again on kexp. for whatever reason not enough to buy any records, but enough to open my mind. then hearing some tracks off of ga ga ga ga ga something clicked and i bought the last few albums. got-damn if girls can tell isn't as good as the hype. likewise with the newest record. seriously, where have i been the last 6 years or so on these guys, huh?

kexp has been playing the national for a while, and again, like with vanderslice and spoon, i'd dig them on the radio but for whatever reason didn't move on it. then i went to see them play along with the broken west a month or so ago, and as i noted, i was blown away. i've been playing boxer and alligator almost non-stop as of late.

and upcoming? well this week is patti smith for sure, and possibly the magic numbers and then detroit cobras. not to mention wilco the week after next!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

listen, do you want to know a secret, do you promise not to tell?

** update...August 13 -- almost a week later and still no response to an email I sent to Sen. Feinstein's office. Shameful. I did get an unsolicited email fron Sen. Boxer about her sponsoring of legislation to prevent illegal spyware downloads. I'd like to know from Sen. Boxer how she could let her colleague vote for a bill with more pernicious spying capabilities than any software.

I can't begin to describe how disappointed I am in Democrats on Capitol Hill for capitulating to the fear-mongering and pressure from the Bush administration and passing a truly excereble piece of legislation, the update of FISA legislation. Twelve Senate Democrats, including one of my Senators, Dianne Feinstein, voted for it. Shame on you. Forty-one House Democrats voted for it (thankfully NOT my Rep. Nancy Pelosi). Shame on the 41 of you. Glenn Greenwald does his usualy masterful job of explaining why this is bad, so I won't rehash. Suffice to say that the party has control of Congress and thus the upper-hand in crafting legislation that would safeguard civil liberties without weakening security. All they had to do was pass that legislation and either let the GOP filibuster it or let Bush veto it and turn the "weak on national security" argument against them. As is the Dems now get painted as weaklings who bowed to pressure when things got heavy. It's like they forgot that they *won* in the fall precisely because people are fed up with current GOP policy in just about everything.

The legislation sunsets in 6 months. One can only hope that Congressional Democrats will grow a spine between now and then.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

and you know when i'm down to my socks what time it is...it's business time

got-damn, but flight of the conchords is just about the funniest thing on tv right now. this is but one of the many reasons why...

Monday, July 23, 2007

all the faces that we used to know, gone from the places that we used to go


last week i was in miami for the first time since i left more than two years ago. the trip was one day's worth of work (well, 3 hours) and a few days of play. luckily my friend karen still lives there in her beachfront apartment, so i had an awesome crashpad.

walking around the university where i used to work and the neighborhood where i used to live, i was overcome by these odd feelings that were somewhat nostalgic and something else that i can't put my finger on. something a bit more complicated. it took me the better part of monday to figure out what was going on.

i left miami in such a hurry that at the time my only thoughts and emotions were of relief -- getting a better paying job at a university where the leadership wasn't dysfunctional, and moving to a part of the country that i knew would be a better fit for me. it was a month from the date of the offer until i pulled my car out of the driveway of my building and headed north and then west. i had no time to really reflect and process the move, it was all a flurry of finishing work, packing and goodbye lunches and dinners.

being back there after two years brought on a rush of emotions and thoughts to which i hadn't given much attention. it was a mix, some of familiar annoyance, thanks to the experience at the rental car counter in miami beach...the car jockeys taking 20 minutes to get my car after i'd finished the paperwork -- a reminder that half the people working in the customer service industry view their customers as annoyances. a similar experience at the versailles airport coffee stand bookended the trip, as the lady who took my order pretty much sneered at my gringo face.

but at my old workplace i had feelings more complicated than nostalgia...there was plenty of "what-if" mixed up in my head. what if i'd made it work better, published as i should have, gotten my personal life settled...would i have been happy, made better progress to tenure? maybe, or maybe not as the experiences of other friends made clear. one guy who published like a fiend is leaving, landing at a tenured gig in southern california. two other friends, who became a couple, are going to leave as she inexplicably did not get tenure and he may but they're both so disenchanted now it's a certainty they're gone.


this isn't to say i was unhappy. i do have an affection for my time here. i had a great apartment five blocks from the ocean and near lots of restaurants, bars, shops. the job was fine enough and my life had no serious complications or problems. after four years it became home, complete with favorite hang-out spots. all in all, it wasn't that bad. not that i'd want to go back and live there -- for me it's the quintessential "great place to visit but wouldn't want to live there" kinda place. sometimes it just takes a detached eye to notice the good things you didn't see at the time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

me, i've never seen dallas from a dc9

i've got two trips already scheduled this fall, both in november. one is to louisville for a conference. getting from the bay area to louisville is a bit of a chore and the connections are mostly atlanta or dallas. nothing through chicago that matches my schedule. even delta doesn't swing me through salt lake, which would make sense. it is, though (for now), less expensive than i imagine, around $300 +/-.

next is to philadelphia over thanksgiving weekend. my folks will be home for that holiday and it also turns out to be the weekend of my high school reunion. but that means traveling over the thanksgiving weekend, the 7th circle of hell for air travel...well, at least for people like me who love to travel but have developed a great antipathy for the process of air travel. and to make matters worse, since it's peak time, the prices are nuts...it's a $500-$600 ticket no matter what i do.

teleportation can't come soon enough for me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

we expected something, something better than before, we expected something more

my friend linh is moving to china for a year, so we had a bon voyage meal at farina. it's fairly new, in a very striking building on 18th st in the mission. after a little mix-up with their liquor license, they were open at full steam. and so we went...

*sigh*...there really is so much to like. the staff are very friendly. when i called for a reservation, i was *called back* within a few minutes after leaving a message. and got a table for 2 for a friday at 7:30 on just 6 days notice. excellent.

on arriving, the hostess greeted us warmly and took us right to the table. our server, kate, was attentive and all smiles the whole time. the decor is very cool...neo-modern with some classic italian cucina touches. sitting in the dining room you get sweeping views of 18th st from the wall-sized widows. though it needs some sound baffling...it was way too loud...all that wood and brick...there's not much to absorb all the talking.

for better or worse though, what matters as much as anything in a restaurant is the food, and farina has a way to go, especially given the prices. i've got no problem spending $60/per person on this kind of meal (more bistro vs high end) , but it's gotta be much better than what we got.

overall things were too oily. as a general suggestion i'd say to the chef "ok, the amount of oil you want to drizzle over the salmon atop golden tomato? or on the anchovy? cut it by at least half. the amount of oil you put on the pizzeta? cut by half." and so on. i had a homemade ravioli stuffed with eggplant that was tasty enough, but again *swimming* in oil. it also took a while for the first course to come out, and by a while i mean longer than it should.

so i really hope they get the food tightened up because otherwise there's a lot to like about the place. the kind of place you'd like to see succeed, if only to make it easier to get a table at delfina.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

pack it up or throw it away, nothing goes in storage

for no particular reason other than a change of scenery, i've been thinking about moving. it's not that i don't like my apartment...i do. the building's well maintained and the propery management company are fairly responsive to maintenance requests. the apartment itself is good sized and the view is fantastic. the parking on my street is probably as good as i can get in sf. and as i've mentioned, i love living next to dolores park.

so why leave? well, again, change of scenery. lately there's been a rush of apartments in nob hill. sadly most are tiny, though a couple have promise. i have no idea if living in that neighborhood will be better or worse than where i am now. i know parking will be atrocious, and there'll be more fog, so less sunlight. the rent at a couple of places is lower as well...right now i'm definitely paying for the view.

mostly though, it's restlessness. a part of me gets antsy after too long in any specific situation. and since i really don't want to leave san francisco, what better way to satisfy my urge to roam than to just move to a different neighborhood?

whether that's enough to justify giving up a good apartment in what's right now probably the most desired neighborhood in the city, one that's close to some friends, places i like to go and my single favorite spot in the city...i don't know.

**update...10pm, wednesday...

ok, after having seen 4 places between taylor & mason and washington and pine (1 saturday, 1 sunday and 2 today [including one with an unbelieveably smug woman from a property mgt. company], seeing what parking is like at various times (horrible), seeing small places that while nice, are smaller than mine and no view...eh. no need to move. my place may be a bit overpriced but all things considered i have it good. the grass really is greener on my side of the fence.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

do you really love me?


sitting here on july 4, watching the last hour of the devil and daniel johnston. it's a moving account of a man wrestling with some serious demons. but the most disturbing thing to me is that while a few people in the new york & austin scenes seemed sincerely interested in helping johnston with his music and art, there was a "freak show waiting to happen" vibe going on at the live shows chronicled in the film. makes me wonder how many people were there almost hoping to see him melt down.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

spend your summer thinking 'bout the apple...

a while back i had a girlfriend whose dad was fond of saying on july 4th that "summer's over". while i'm not that fatalistic about what the day means, i am a bit amazed that the year is alredy half over. seriously, i feel like just last week was new year's day, and the other day was my birthday. so wha the hell have i been doing the last few months? besides drowning in work, that is.

first, there's been music. lots.

a few weeks ago i finally got around to watching the robyn hitchcock documentary "sex, food, death... & insects" shown on sundance. it's mostly the story of how his new band the venus 3 came together. it was also a view into his artistic process, one that includes both stellar musicianship and songwriting ability and an unmatched gift for improvisation.

i've spent a small fortune on cds and shows lately, mostly to good results (the less said about the disappointing voxtrot show the better). this last week the national/broken west show made me a happy man. i knew going in that i'd like the broken west. their record i can't go on i'll go on is near the top of my list so far for the year. their show was a bit more subdued than i thought it would be and at the start they looked like they'd just woken from a nap. but they finished strong and overall were good. kexp(**) plays the national quite often, but i hadn't yet gotten any of their records. so while i was more or less familiar with them, i wasn't totally sure what to expect. what we got was quite good -- layered guitars, keys and violin that made the slow songs rich and haunting.

upcoming shows include band of horses this week at gamh (if i can find tix on craigslist), and in august an incredible run that includes yo la tengo, patti smith, magic numbers, detroit cobras, and wilco. not to mention the new pornographers in september.

beyond that, it's been trips to pt. reyes, getting my knee healthy so i can get out and play soccer again (and shed some of the love handles i've built up while less active), and this last week getting over a nasty summer cold. no vacation this year (well, there was a plan to go to hawaii, but the break-up scotched that {oh yeah, so that's meant more dating...which is both fun and tiring}). with 80,000 miles in the bank at united and the saving of vacation time, that means a three-week trip very far away is possible next summer. at the moment southeast asia is high on my list, but i'm also intrigued by the idea of spain, portugal and a trek along the north coast of morocco. so many possibilities...

so yeah, summer's hardly over. still much more to do.


** (i should add as an aside that the possibility that stations like kexp might be forced out of netcasting thanks to the stupid and shortsighted decision by the copyright royalty board to increase royalty rates on internet broadcasts. i don't argue that performers should be compensated, but the fact is without the increase in listeners garnered by web radio, many artists wouldn't get as much attention and as a result sell as many records. the riaa and naras {of which i'm a voting member} are only seeing the issue as affecting the big webcasters like yahoo...the real impact will be felt down the line at the more shoestring budget stations, including many college stations. hopefully congress will pass legislation to make the crb's increase a bit more fair to low-budget operators who may serve a decent-sized audience but do not generate much profit, if any.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

i get good advice from the advertising world

during the last few months i've seen commercials featuring songs from bands that i'd never have guessed would be selling their music. there was the feelies in a volvo commercial, and mates of state who actually appear in a wireless phone commercial while for the actor plays. what really blew me away was hearing a brand new wilco song, sky blue sky in a vw commercial. the record's just out.

the trend started when vw used nike drake's pink moon in a commercial some years back. that seemed to make it safe for left-of-the-dial music to be used to sell things. i'm not as purist as lots of folks in this trouser press discussion, and i certainly don't begrudge the right of anyone to use their music as they see fit. it's more just, well, surprise at who i'm hearing, even wilco, who've got a fairly high profile. some of these aren't exactly mainstream artists.

this site seems to be a fairly decent source of information for finding out the name of that song/artists you heard in a commmercial but couldn't quite place.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

shameless self-promotion

thanks to sfist for picking this shot...

...to represent monday may 28th's day around the bay post.

the carnaval parade was indeed a great opportunity for pictures. more later, when they're organized. for now, a few up on the flickr page.

***update...and on the tuesday may 29 round up as well..

Sunday, May 27, 2007

anarchy for sale

thursday night i ended up at the jello biafra spoken word endurance fest at gamh. for well over 2 and a half hours (!), biafra talked and talked and talked almost non-stop. he started with a few original poetry/prose pieces including a biting "die for oil suckers" which was what the title suggests.

biafra spent most of the night ranting about the current political situation, firing not only on bush but on "corporate democrats". by virtue of the dems wimping out on the war funding bill that day, biafra had good fodder for the performance. sadly he spent less time on that and the gonzales/d.o.j issues and too uch time rehashing stuff that frankly the audience should have or did already know. much of it sounded like things he's talked about many times, and much of it was dated. memo to jello...give your audience a bit more credit for being up on current events. we don't come to get a rehash of current events but for some original commentary by a guy known for cutting to the quick.

and in the height of bougie irony, mike and i drove up and found a parking spot right in front of gamh...him driving his late model audi sedan. like the man once sang...all the young punks, new boots and contracts...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

we will laugh and talk about the village green.

Though I am an avowed urbanite who loves living in a city environment, I also loves me my green space. Over the years I've been lucky enough (not by accident) to have lived within easy walking distance of awesome parks. Right now I live a block away from Dolores Park, a lovely piece of green with an amazing view.

It's a place with lots of opportunity for some good people watching and photography, something I try to take advantage of regularly. There's almost always something happening, like this past weekend when the Loyd Family Players showed up for an impromptu (for us) afternoon concert and stroll through the park....


My morning commute starts with a walk through the park to BART, and even at the early hour of 6:50am (yes, oy) there's a handful of folks taking their dogs out for a romp. Sometimes there's a fitness bootcamp group doing situps, pushups or some stretching. Very quickly I began to recognize the regulars for that time of day...I like the consistency of seeing familiar faces, especially that early in the morning...helps one to feel community, even before sunrise. And of course, the walk home is great -- on sunny days during the months where the sun sets well after the end of the work day, the park is filled with people, often with their dogs.

Community is a central part of Dolores Park, whether it's thousands gathering to watch the World Cup final or for a Cinco de Mayo festival or to see the San Francisco Mime Troupe or for Film Night in the Park or just to hang out with dogs and friends.







Another wonderful downtown green space is Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. I was lucky enough to live around the corner from it for a couple of years, and within a short walk for a few other years. I spent many a weekend day there, reading, napping, people-watching...it's my favorite spot in the city.

So I was pleased to find on Netflix a documentary about the park, Rittenhouse Square: A Year in the Life of an American Park. It's not bad, though seems to focus too much on girl-watching in the park, almost getting into dirty-old-man territory...it had an uncomfortable leering quality to it (I went to college with one of the associate producers, I wonder if I should write and tell him). That aside it also highlighted one of the best things about the park, the musicians who use it as practice and performance space. I think the people who've decided to cave into a small cadre of uptight nimbys who moved to the park without a clue as to what makes it great and now crack down on busking and playing need to watch the film to understand how vital a role music plays in the life of Rittenhouse Square.

It's these urban and downtown green spaces that add to city life, provide for a wonderful counterpoint to the fast pace and the concrete and steel that mostly defines being in a city.

**Update...the Chronicle gets into the act, singing the praises of Dolores Park.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

whatever happened to my rock and roll

if you're in need of new music suggestions and don't have time to comb through the excellent mp3 blogs like gorilla vs bear, my old kentucky blog and others i've listed to the right, the podcasts from kexp, kcrw and salon are awesome.

kexp, subject of frequent raves from me, has probably the best podcast lineup of any radio station or otherwise music-centered, web-based enterprise i can think of. there's a song-of-the day feature, a live set archive and others.

santa monica's kcrw has long been known for an excellent variety of programming, especially when it comes to music. in the stone age (pre-web, podcasts, etc) you could find vinyl and then cd releases of in-studio sessions, often by the artists in question as a b-side or extra track to a single. like kexp they have a bunch of podcasts, though with much more variety, given that they don't just do music (note the links to lots of npr podcasts). the today's top tune podcast is as strong as kexp's, and thankfully there's not much, if any, overlap.

the salon audiofile song of the day is another eclectic source, and somehow, magically, there's almost no overlap with kcrw and kexp.

Monday, May 14, 2007

i took out a loan for my patient soul

to say that the last month or two have been crazy is actually understating the case. work was super busy, but that was expected, not only because of the workflow cycle but because the analyst who works for me was on maternity leave. it took up most of my mental energy -- the rest of my time i almost felt like i was on auto-pilot. beyond that, however, it's been a period of personal ups and downs (and now downs again), friends getting married, some minor knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, a weekend at the ballpark (hey, the phillies were in town), some good live music...you name it. seems like just yesterday i was in tahoe, learning how to downhill ski.

and now, finally, the pace slows. only somewhat, though. the personal ups and downs shift a bit to down, as jp & i are done. if i were a better diarist i could write something worth reading that does the relationship justice and resonates beyond my own sphere the way good diary writing does (c.f. david sedaris, etc). as with any relationship i come away having learned something about myself, where i am right now, my capacity to open up, how i am received, etc. and now, beyond the emotional fallout, i've gotta find an emergency foster home for ernie, and then find an apartment where i can keep him. san francisco landlords are in the main surprisingly not pet friendly. it's a shame, as i have a great apartment with a great view and on one of the few streets in san francisco where parking isn't a total and complete soul-sucking pain-in-the-ass. oh well.

there has been plenty of good lately, though...a decent show by fountains of wayne, and i was there only 4 days removed from the knee surgery, though probably not the best thing to stand for a couple of hours. i hate to say that i'm dissappointed in the new record...doesn't grab me the way the last few have -- they can make a cute video with demetri martin, but it doesn't take away from the fact that "someone to love" is a mail-it-in song by their standards -- there's a few good songs on the record, but overall...bleh. last week was black rebel motorcycle club..good show, and i love the new record. upcoming is voxtrot (though sadly playing *the same night* as the hold steady. what's worse is the bands play game and slim's respectively -- the "sister clubs" should have tried to stagger the shows. having seen the hold steady twice in two years, i'll probably opt for voxtrot. it's a shame there even has to be a choice.

in other good good good music news, there's a new wilco record out! it's more mellow than i'm used to from them, and they've taken the jam-bandesque ethos they adotpted while on the last tour and put it to record. still, the songwriting is top-notch and i love that the band continues to follow their own muse as it takes them.

so now...onward. it's too late to put together any kind of summer adventure trip, may have to wait until fall. or next summer. asia, i think. so this will be the summer of little adventures. and of moving. ugh.

Monday, April 09, 2007

say it ain't so

from the program of the conference i'm attending...

<...> Communication & Outreach Committee (closed meeting)

alright then.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

you'll never change you're no better than the weather

thursday as i was walking home from bart, the sunshine of the day very quickly gave way to a heavy fog, the first one we'd had in a while. call me crazy but on nights like this, when a thick and heavy fog steamrolls across the city, i feel very lucky to live here. yeah, i love a sunny day, but there's something darkly romantic about the fog, and when it blankets what's arguably the most beautiful city in the country, well...i may shiver a bit from the chill wind, but it's worth it for the way it adds an extra something to my step.

that said, the weather i'm facing this week in chicago is seriously cold. colder than what a foggy night in san francisco will bring. cold as in snow was falling early this morning. cold as in my plan to go to the cubs game on wednesday ain' gonna happen if it means sitting for 2-3 hours in 40-degree weather.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

i filled the whole front page with the catchiest words i could find

like all good dopey slackers i'm a regular daily show viewer. like most people, what i love about the show is that underneath the snark and satire are real nuggets of truth. it's possible that since the famous cnn moment the show's been a bit too taken with itself, but it's always worth watching. and yes, stewart was unfair to the dems in the run up to the 2006 midterm elections by harping on the false theme that the democrats had no plan for governing. maybe it was stewart's attempt to show that his satire can cross party lines. usually, however, there's a pretty solid factual basis for the snark.

so it was disappointing to see how, on the march 27 show, stewart took on the congressional debate over funding for iraq. somehow stewart let stand the g.o.p. talking point that the dems deliberately loaded the bill with pork. no, most of the spending in the bill was catch-up funding because the outgoing 109th congress couldn't see fit to pass the necessary spending bills.

and also? why would any self-respecting talk show have dennis miller on anymore? he may be a friend of stewart's but at this point he's become a loathsome, misogynist, unfunny jerk whose stock in trade has become grade-school insults of democrat politicians. his march 27 daily show appearance was particularly awful. i know stewart has to pander to the guests a bit, but he's never been afraid to call guests on their own bullshit. too bad he didn't puncture miller's bullshit balloon. at least he and colbert took some nice shots at miller during the bump between the shows (video not available right now).

Friday, March 16, 2007

this boy's exhausted

(updated, monday march 19)...ok, maybe not so much. thankfully all is well and i've recovered my gem. funny how that made for my best night of sleep in a week.

****
so after 7 months i think i might be single again ('m honestly not sure...i mean, i hope not though i guess, if you don't know, then you are), and sadly it's not of my choosing. no details here as i'm not about laying that much bare. suffice to say that it's something i thought could be worked out, as working things out is part of any relationship if you really want the relationship to last.

obviously the main reason i'm sad is because i thought i'd found someone who i clicked with on enough levels -- tempermentally, activity-wise, politically, and so forth -- that it would go a long way. and that's tough to do as the years pass. for those of us past the age of 35, there's an aphorism about dating:
single people over 35 are like parking spaces -- the best ones are almost always taken and most of the rest are handicapped.
i thought i'd gotten exceedingly lucky and found a gem of an untaken space.

so now i not only don't have the hard-to-find gem, but i've got to start circling the block again. trouble is, i don't know that i've got it in me right now. i'm not sure that i can face another round of first-dates, some blind, some not. yeah, there's a certain rush to it, but it can also get soul-crushing real quick.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

why john edwards? because...

i was on his bandwagon early, even in the face of hillary and obama mania.

there were good reasons initially --

* his work on poverty, work that was more than a campaign slogan but an actual effort.

* the tone of his current campaign, which has stressed action and doing, rather than calculated talking.

and then he stuck behind his blogging team when the wingnut-driven storm blew up. the women eventually resigned, but edwards did stand behind them and refused to fire them.

and now, this...

in the wake of assinine comments about homosexuality by joint chiefs chair gen. peter pace, hillary and obama each refused to repudiate the sentiment behind the comments. the gutless wonders wouldn't say right off what should have been said.

edwards, though, said the right thing.

right now he's the sleeper candidate who, even though he announced first, lags behind obama and hillary in the polls. but polls now don't mean a thing. and while hillary and obama snipe at each other and play it safe to the point of seeming to lack conviction about anything but getting the nomination, edwards is out there saying what he means, standing for something, most all of it good.

a ticket of him with obama as the vice presidential nominee will be a formidable one against what looks to be a weak and pandering gop field.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

today is a birthday, they're smoking cigars

i'm not one to use birthdays as any major milestone from which to take stock of life, and this won't be any different. though i will note that thinking back to a few years ago, i was at a job which i knew i wanted to leave and in a city in which i didn't particularly want to live. now, those things are much better. oh, and this isn't a troll for b-day wishes.

on any given birthday you might wonder if it's a beatles kind of birthday, or a smiths or blur kind of birthday, a replacements kind of birthday, a fugazi type of birthday or maybe a cracker type of birthday. i went with the sugarcubes. for no apparent reason other than that song's lyrics are as oblique as i'm feeling about this particular one.

sure, life in general is good, though thanks to an unexpected and unpleasant event over the weekend things could be better. and to quote westerberg, i do kinda wish that "there weren't quite as many candles that {I} had to blow". but life is ok, if for no other reason that i'm in good health (creaky knees notwithstanding), living in a beautiful city, doing good work in a job i love, playing some soccer, learning some improv and acting, and after a couple of years out here i've built up a fairly decent social network. so setbacks aside, things could be much worse. i know how good i have it.

so yeah, today's the day. i'll make of it what it is.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

call me "king of the mountain"

so back in december i had my first ever time on skis, a nice cross country session up in tahoe. this past weekend jp & i were able to (thanks to a work thing that fell through) go to tahoe again for the weekend, and this time i tried downhill.

we stayed in the town of truckee...
...at the truckee hotel, and skiied at northstar. the hotel was rustic. take away the electronic appliances in the room and i'll bet the feel was very much like late 19th/early 20th century. the room had a sink, but toilet and bath facilities were shared. and the stairs? very steep. but it was clean, comfortable, right downtown and close to the mountain. traffic up was a bit heavy around sacramento, so even a 2:30pm departure meant a 7pm arrival.

saturday morning we headed to northstar. jp rented skis from the good people at tahoe dave's, while i'd get it at northstar as it was included in the lesson. the rental operation at northstar was incredible -- you walk in and fill out some info at the computer -- height, eight, skiing level, etc. after getting the form printed you get boots, skis and poles in fairly short order. a very well oiled machine.

the conditions, i'm told, were optimal -- cool temps in the high 30s and with no wind. there'd been lots of snow lately, somewhat calming the fears of a totally dry winter.

in addition to it being a busy weekend (thanks to the great conditions) northstar was also hosting a van's snowboarding competition. free rockstar energy drinks for everyone! if it weren't that i was there to ski and not spectate, i would have taken lots of pics. as it is, all i've got is this empty half-pipe...


jp's been skiing since she was about 9 years old, so she took the morning to do some more challenging runs, including some black diamonds. meanwhile, i was in an adult beginners class lead by a very nice grandfatherly guy named bob hill. he was kind, patient and funny. he led us through some very basic stuff, progressing to some turns out of a snowplow. for those of us who have been on bicycles, turning means sometimes a heavy lean in the direction you turn. imagine my surprise at the counterintuitiveness of the ski turn, which means you lean in the opposite direction that you want to go.

anyway, i got the hang of the basics and did ok on the wimpiest of the bunny slopes. after lunch we tried the next level of easy runs...
...i did ok, pretty much snowplowing the whole way down, but never falling, doing a few small turns and feeling pretty good about it. so after a few runs there, we tried the next level up.


oh boy.

the first run out i somehow got us so far to one side that i think we ended up on an intermediate trail filled with lots of boarders. there were a few steep drops and some narrow chutes. i made it all the way down, falling more than a few times. by the end of the run my heart was racing and i was sweating more than i thought possible on a cold winter day. still, i wanted more...

so we went back, but this time making sure to cut to the right parts of the trail. there was more falling, some major speed that i didn't think i could control. but we got in a few good runs and despite a few falls, most of which were on purpose (thankfully playing goalie in soccer has helped me learn how to fall sideways) i didn't break or sprain or tear anything. the last run was the village trail, in lieu of the gondola. i was nice and leisurely, a great way to end the day.

well actually, the best end to the day came at the bar, with a few margaritas and some calamari. no lie, i was still all amped up on adrenaline as we sat down. it took a drink or two and some plain old sitting to calm down. it was a good amped up, though. a physical *and* mental tiredness that comes from total exertion and concentration for a long period of time.

some random observations...who decided it was a good idea to tell snowboarders that it was ok to sit in the middle of trails -- dude, if you fall down, either get up and keep moving. if you're hurt, call for help. if you're waiting for slower friends to catch up, get the hell out of the middle of the trail. and who decided it was a good idea to make cellphone calls at the end of a trail, right in the middle of gates that people are trying to use to get to the lifts or the lodge.

all in all, a great day. i don't know that i'll ski enough to get as good as jp, but i'd like to get to the point where i can paralell and turn without snowplowing. and i need to learn the "hockey stop" or spray stop. it looks cooler than the "snowplow and fall stop" i do now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

gimme ten seconds, i'll think of something to say

of note of late...

* i'm liking the band the broken west. chalk up another great find from kexp, who have given the band lots of spins lately. the kexp fund drive is upcoming. it's a great station that deserves your ears and your dollars.

* speaking of music, apples in stereo hit the independent soon, and i'm happy about that. sadly i'll miss the long winters at the independent, as i'm in a wedding that night. well, not just in a wedding, but officiating it -- i'm a "minister" in the universal life church. nothing else to it (for me) but that i'm legal to perform wedding ceremonies and sign a marriage license. it's an odd experience, being thisclose while a couple says their vows. very touching to be asked. back to the long winters, at least i did see them at du nord in october, so i don't feel too bad, despite that they give good show. (yes, i meant to drop the 'a').

* not just sad, but borderline tragic (if i may be allowed some melodrama) is that due to being in chicago for an academic conference, i'm going to miss robyn hitchcock at slims. his show last year was very good, and like billy bragg, robyn's someone i don't mind seeing again and again and again. via netflix, i have storefront hitchock right now, and while good, just isn't the same.

* my camera was busted for a while, the lens wouldn't extend. after a few viagra sending it to the canon repair facility for an under-warranty fix, it's back and good as new. and just in time, as it got in some good work during president's day weekend. sunday we went to the sap tennis open finals, with relative unknowns (well, to me) andy murray and ivo karlovic playing what turned out to be a very tense and even match. two sets went to tiebreak. murray's a quick-footed player who relies on speed and precise shot placement. karlovic is a 6'10" booming server who makes too many unforced errors that his wins on service cover up. if he gets the rest of his game a bit more solid, he'll win a few tournaments.

monday we did a nice trek on the trails around muir beach, heading (waaaaay) down to pirate's cove. a good hike followed by some beer and split pea with mint soup at the pelican. we had the good furtune (dumb luck?) to have gotten going early and thus not caught up in the traffic hold ups that probably resulted from the tour of california bike race stage going from sausalito to santa rosa that day. as we were driving to muir we could see folks claiming space to watch the race go by.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

you've been undressed by a man with a mind like the gutter press

there's been a bit of a tempest in a teapot in the political blogosphere centering on the john edwards campaign and his hiring of amanda marcotte and erin mcewen, bloggers from pendagon and shakespeare's sister (respectively). like many bloggers (me included) their language has been at times, eh, colorful. saucy, you might say.

the right-wing noise machine, in an attempt to smear edwards, has focused its atttention on the hirings, demanding that edwards fire them. to his credit, edwards stood up and said no, and apparently reversed a decision to let go marcotte and mcewen.

the most striking thing about the reaction of the right-wing bloggers and advocates like michelle malkin and william donohoe (head of a conservative catholic group) is that those chattering the loudest represet some of the worst in hateful speech on tv, radio and the internet. glenn greenwald has led the way in documenting how vile these people can be. i linked to but one post of many that greenwald's done on the subject. digby (in the post linked above) and media matters has also covered the issue pretty well. (update, 2/9, 8:06am...the ohio for john edwards blog culls a bunch of donohue's greatest hits as collected by media matters) in addition to the hypocrisy, greenwald, digby and media matters challenge the press to do a bit of their own research, to not simply take the word of right that the only the left are screeching madmen. google's a helluva tool, man.

this also brings up the issue of the maturation of the blogosphere, political and otherwise. i think this may represent a change in the calculations of some bloggers and how they deal with profanity. i wonder if there might be a toning down of the profanity by some bloggers who see a stint on a presidential or other high profile campaign as a part of their future. since i don't hold those aspirations i take a few more liberties. but only when it serves a purpose. this isn't some prudist crusade, as a trip through my own writings will show.

i do believe, however, that higher profile bloggers and diarists who post to daily kos ought to take a moment and think about whether the profanity hurts or helps the argument. blogs are sometimes read by people a work -- a huge headline with FUCK in it tends to jump off a screen. political blogs can be great tools for high school civics teachers to use to provide examples of how public participation in poliical discourse has changed over time, from the hyde park soapbox to the philadelphia publik houses to the internet. do we really want to be party to inculcating kids into a world of political discourse that's even more shrill and nasty than the heated partisanship of 19th century newspapers?

in other words, just because you can do it doesn't mean you have to. there is some honor in the high road, and you can make your point just as effectively.

lastly, what to do about the immeidate situation of the hypocrisy and smear tactics of the right wing hate machine? well, in the same way that it's best to knock down the schoolyard bully and to punch a shark in the nose, edwards and the rest of the dems in the race and the netroots writ large need to launch a sustained attack on the right-wing hate mongers -- from broadcasters like limbaugh and hannity to pundits like coulter and bloggers like malikn and reynolds. the left needs to frame the story to the mainstream media that these people are not purveyors or arbiters of civil discourse but are in fact a large part of the problem. arguably, it's limbaugh who started filling the cesspool - remember that he made his bones with a barrage of anti-liberal and anti-clinton screeds.

whenever edwards is asked about it he ought to respond with a comment to the effect that reporters should spend some time reading powerline, malkin, lgf, instapundit, etc. his bloggers should regularly post links to blogs that document the hypocrisy, and they should do their own digging as well. each of the dem candidates should echo this strategy until the mainstream media finally begins to show the petty haters for what they are.

remember, mccarthy went on and on until someone finally questioned his decency and showed him to be a naked emperor. it's time to disrobe the emperors of hate and hypocrisy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

vehicular douchebaggery

i've about had it. people, please....when the light is red, you shouldn't be going through the intersection. i don't know if i'm just getting more sensitive to it or if it's a real phenomenon, but as of late i notice more and more people in san francisco running red lights and exhibiting general vehicular douchebaggery.

cases in point...

today, right before 6pm, corner of 18th & dolores. a bunch of cars are lined up to turn left from dolores onto 18th. at the yellow a couple sneak through -- understandable. one guy in a silver something or other (4-door sedan of some sort) hesitates for a moment and then plows through a full 5 seconds *after* the light changed to red. again...before he goes through he hesitates. people, when it comes to going through a red traffic light, if you have to think about for even a split-micro-second? don't fucking go through the light.

not five minutes later i'm crossing church street at the steps by the bridge over the muni tracks, at the 19th st. stop sign. car goes through and i stride into the intersection, because it's a stop sign, right? the next car will stop and see me, no worries, right? of course not. the driver did stop, but clearly not for a long enough time, and clearly didn't look to the right. i almost got plowed. to be fair, i wasn't at the crosswalk, but about 8 feet in front of it. and it was getting dark and i wa wearing a dark jacket and dark pants. but still...people...look carefully before proceeding through a stop sign. that and the red light thing are basic drivers ed stuff.

and it's not just these examples. not a day goes by that i don't see a couple of people going through red lights. shit's getting out of hand in what i thought was a town where some basic civility was more the rule. last august the chronicle noted a "scary surge in traffic deaths". recently, there has been some press about the problem with market & octavia mainly drivers making an illegal right turn from market to the freeway on-ramp at octavia.

beyond better enforcement, what's the solution? cameras at intersections? bleh. more police presence? eh. how about people just don't be dicks behind the wheel.

Friday, January 26, 2007

run the money changers out of the temple

wow. the us senate isn't normally a place for firebrand speeches and high drama. sure, there's been a caning (though by an interloper from the house), and in the last congress harry reid shut the place down in a canny move, but usually it serves as a venue for measured and polite debate.

which makes this speech by ted kennedy this week such a spine-tingling event. the hairs on the back of my neck were standing at attention when he hit the money quote, accusing republicans in the senate of having disdain for the working poor (check the reactions of the woman sitting behind kennedy's left).

he was a bit uneven on meet the press last sunday (maybe it was too early for him?), but damn, the speech on the minimum wage was all populist hellfire and brimstone. i can only hope that other democrats take note and get some spitfire and spine.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

it reminds me of the movies marty made about new york

as i mentioned a while back, i saw and loved martin scorcese's latest film, the departed.

in this piece in the washington post, stephen hunter speculates that scorcese might win a best director oscar for the departed, but that he doesn't really deserve it for this film, and that if he does win it'll essentially be a career award given under the guise of honoring work on the one film. hunter calls "the departed" the "least scorcesesque" of his films, that it seems like an homage made by a grad student film-maker.

hunter's first reason that it's not scorcesesque? well, it's not set in new york. seriously. that makes it not a marty movie. location. and also? well...
...it's not set among the Italian American Mafia subculture, and its characters seem by far a cooler lot than Scorsese's typical crew of hotheads and sociopath outsiders who yearn to belong and start killing when they don't. Nor does it have the hypnotic intensity that Scorsese brings to his typical film, that sense of hyper-realism that takes on a nightmarish clarity. It doesn't have Scorsese's old friend and collaborator Robert De Niro (who was off making his own film, "The Good Shepherd"), thus vacating a fat old-guy role for Jack Nicholson, who brought a different and distinctly non-Scorsese tone to the piece.
ok, where to start?

as a parallel example, i'll note that one of my favorte u2 records is zooropa. it is their most un-u2sque record, one reason why i love it so much (not that i don't love the band). they claimed pop would be a departure, but it was a tepid attempt at not being u2 and it ended up being a tepid u2 record. zooropa was just them making a record -- it didn't seem like they were thinking about being or not being u2.

what does this have to do with this review of the departed? well, hunter misses the point about what makes the film so good. it is precisely because scorecese doesn't wallow in stock scorcese-isms that the film works. it's a tight and unnerving story about lies and betrayal and people not being true to themselves, themes that scorcese has gone back to time and time again. i don't agree that it's as clean and striaght-up as hunter claims. moreoever, i defy you to find another director who could have taken the story (adapted from a korean film, infernal affairs) and made it as tense. who else could have gotten such fantastic performances from leonardo dicaprio and matt damon? yes, nicholson was not like de niro would have been in the role of frank costello, and what's wrong with that? why does hunter assume that scorecese must have de niro as his lead heavy? why can't scorcese move beyond being scorcese and bring different actors into his orbit?

does the departed deserve an oscar? well, the director's guild nominees are usually a good place to look at for the director's oscar, and for the dga award scorcese is up against the directors of babel, little miss sunshine, the queen and dreamgirls. i can't imagine that in a field so diverse (assuming the oscar list is similar) that a scorcese win would be thought of as cheap. maybe it is a career nod, but it's well deserved for the film in and of itself.

what i get from hunter's review is that he so much likes the scorcese of taxi driver and goodfellas that he can't accept that scorcese can make a good gangester movie without falling back on personal cliche. like the u2 who made zooropa didn't seem to be trying to be u2, the scorcese who made the departed seemed unconcerned with being scorcese. he just wanted to make a very good, tense gangster film. and he did.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

you've got a head full of traffic, you're a siren's song

a few random thoughts...

ok, so 4th & 10 you go for it, but 4th & 15 you punt? WTF? you're down 27-24 with under 2 minutes to go...andy reid, don't you remember 4th & 26?

peter o'toole's interview on the daily show recently (pt. I, pt. II), was, well, odd. he was either out of it or totally having fun with jon stewart.

much better was the hold steady on letterman. got-damn that's a great fucking band.

oh, and also? during the bush interview on 60 minutes sunday, nice of correspondent scott pelley to use the gop semi-slur "democrat" when it should be "democratic" (when referring to the political party). a moment of lazy journalistic toolery in an otherwise decently aggressive interview.

what am i looking forward to this week? colbert and o'reilly on each other's show thursday night. i'm looking forward to seeing o'reilly squirm and pretend to like it.

finally, a word to comcast. and i say this not just as a subscriber, but as a stockholder. look, guys...i get it that you offer phone service as well as cable and broadband. but do you have to send me a mailer every friggin' week? i see the commercials more often than erectile dysfunction ads. and though i'll grant that the el moolah comcast ad is pretty funny, it's more the mailer issue -- how about you send a few less mailers and either lower my rates or pay out a dividend?

Friday, January 12, 2007

one hand on this wily comet

huh...right here, in the san francisco early evening sky...a comet! (via sfist)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

no one gives it to you. you have to take it.

finally got around to seeing the departed, and wow...just wow. it's been a while since a film left me speechless upon leaving the theatre, but this one did.

it's tough to write too much without giving anything away, so i'll just say that leonardo dicaprio gives his best performance ever. he was great in basketball diaries and very good in catch me if you can. but here he's grown up and finally can carry off an adult role convincingly, without looking like a kid trying to play adult. the rest of the main cast -- matt damon, martin sheen and alec bldwin are very good, and jack nicholson is, well, jack nicholson.

scorcese makes great gangster films, and this is among his best.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

done is good, but done well is so much fucking better

indeed i took in the stephen malkmus show at bimbos. he and the jicks were very good. i didn't ever get to see pavement so this would have to do (well, until they get back for the reuinion tour in 5 or so years...hey, if sebadoh can, right?). anyway, with new drummer janet weiss of the late great sleater-kinney they played a good set, mixed it up from his solo records, expanded some arrangements, got into some extended jamming. still, there was something kind of detached...hard to put my finger on it. good show, it just didn't grab me the way i had expected it to. maybe it was the tuning issues that made it so that between just about every song there was a long tuning break? it was apparently the first night of a west coast tour...i'm sure by a few shows in the music and the tech stuff will all be going smoothly. and hopefully malkmus will shave off the god-awful pornstache.

but for real? the surprise of the night was st. vincent. i haven't heard of annie clark, but from the first note i was hooked. it doesn't hurt that she has the whole winsome indie waif thing going, but that's not what it's all about. she's an inventive guitar player and has a unique voice that borrows a bit from both bjork and billie holiday, among other places. first three songs were devestating -- she sang about paris burning, offing an unfaithful lover and begging a guy to marry her. it was as captivated as i've been by an opening band/artist that i'd never heard of. check out the songs on the myspace page, read her blog, read what gorilla vs. bear has to say about her here and here and here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

later on i'm gonna turn the heat to 10

the place to be tonight? bimbo's 365, for stephen malkmus.

the place to be sunday? my living room at 1pm for the eagles-giants playoff game. e!a!g!l!e!s! eagles!

in between? not sure. it's suppsed to be sunny (though a bit chilly) this weekend, so maybe a hike. but for indoor time i've got the office (british version) special show, aired after series 2 from netflix.

there's also a book i need to finish reading and then get a review written. and a couple of paper proposals.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

yeah i'm calm, yeah i'm kicking television

my television vices are few. staples in the tv diet, beyond baseball, soccer, hockey and football are movies (netflix, ifc, sundance or hbo {when i subscribe}), and just a handful of shows -- meet the press, daily show, colbert report, pardon the interruption, and the sopranos (the reason i'll pick up hbo). over the years i've had things come and go...seinfeld of course (but not friends) went the long haul, from beginning to end, same with nypd blue (when on his game, bochco could write with real verve). i came a bit late to west wing but when i got it i loved it (ditto re: sorkin and writing).

some things are more ephemeral -- lost lost me after the first season. for a while i was with survivor, but the bloom wore off that rose in fall of 2005. i did watch the amazing race this past season -- mostly it's because jp's into it (gotta be a good boyfriend) but it was worth watching on its own, if only to laugh at rob and kimberly and imagine what that household will be like in 15 years.

anyway, every year i check stuff out, to see if anything is worth the investment. this year i went with studio 60 on the sunset strip (i'm a sorkin fan, you know), 30 rock (tina fey and tracy morgan were the best thing about snl save for will ferrell) and friday night lights (not sure why).

studio 60 and 30 rock are each set behind the scenes of late night sketch comedy shows, but that's where the similarity pretty much ends. 30 rock is actually set at nbc, and studio 60 at a fictional network. studio 60 is a one-hour drama, 30 rock a 30 minute sitcom. studio 60 is shot all dark and shadowy and takes itself seriously, 30 rock is bright and shiny and farcical.

initially studio 60 disappointed me. it was a show about a comedy and it wasn't funny. the characters took themselves waaaaay too seriously. but i stuck with it because well, sorkin usually delivers, from sports night to a few good men to west wing. after 4 or 5 episodes in it hit a good stride -- things are a bit lighter and sorkin's started to draw out the characters a bit more, and they're getting to be likeable. though matthew perry has pretty much put chandler behind him playing matt albie, it's hard not to look at and hear bradley whitford and not see/hear josh lyman -- his danny tripp character here is too close in style and the organizational hierarchy to the west wing senior staffer lyman. there are trademark sorkinisms -- the "walking and talking", the fast-paced and specifically timed screwball comedy dialogue, the male buddy tandem (jed &leo:josh & sam:danny & matt:simon & tom {d.l. hughley and nate corddry}). i hope nbc gives it some room to breathe and grow. though west wing was good almost immediately, it was the second season where it really took off and absent sorkin's drug meltdown who knows...the 4th and 5th seasons might have been better.

30 rock is sharp and funny. tina fey can act just well enough for the character (c.f. jerry seinfeld), tracy morgan is hysterical and alec baldwin is fantastic. there are throw-away lines that kill...it's sometimes a bit obvious but it works. give some credit to exec producer lorne michaels for skewering his own golden goose.

friday night lights looks like a one-season wonder for me. the first episode was fun -- in a football crazy texas town a high school football team with big expectations loses its star qb and pulls out a stirring last-minute victory. the football scenes are very well done and realistic, kyle chandler is very good as the head coach, connie britton is not just hot but plays a great coach's wife. but the team has pulled out three improbable last minute wins and the scenarios are already heading into "hit me over the head" obvious territory. it's fun and fluff and melodrama but it's going to get old very fast. then there's the big problem with doing a show about high school sports -- the kids do have to move on with their lives. so you can't get too attached to the student characters. new ones may come, but you know some character situations will either get recycled or outlandish. i'll also lay even money that either/or/both the coach and wife end up with an infidelity thing that resolves with everyting more or less ok. there's already lots of drinking, lots of sex...there'll be a student death soon (hell, there was a paralysis in the first episode). i'm in the middle of the buzz bisinger book that inspired the show (the town and characters are not at all like in the book - all it shares is that it's set in west texas and revolves around high school football) and the film (starring billy bob thornton as the coach) is high up in my netflix queue. but the show goes soon.

this is already long, so i'll save disucssion of the office and comparisons between the brit and us versions for another time.