Friday, September 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The BFL Draft is a marathon, it's not a sprint. And since I have been trying to lose some weight, and there are 90 calories in a Miller Lite (vs 270 in a Sierra Nevada), Miller Lite is coming to the party. It's just like water anyway.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Here's an article that says 10% of our medical spending is going for our obese fellow Americans. Talk about waste in the system!
Let's take two people. I'll be one of them. I am 33 years old, I weigh 215 pounds, and I don't smoke. The guy next to me is 33 years old, weighs 350 pounds, smokes two packs of Marlboro Reds a day and drinks nothing more than coffee and Mountain Dew. If this person and I went to get life insurance, the other guy would have to pay nearly TRIPLE what I would pay for the same amount of coverage (those who have bought life insurance know what I am talking about). Let me put that in simple terms: over the 20 year span of our life insurance policy, my friendly co-worker is 3 times more likely to die than I am. But if this other person and I participate in our employer provided health insurance program, we would pay exactly the same amount per month, and we would have the same co-pays and deductibles. Does it seem reasonable to assume that we will consume the same amount of health services? NO. Then why do we pay the same amount?
I am NOT in favor of genetic screening for disease and pricing health plans that way. That's not fair - you cannot control the genes you were born with. But you can control what you eat, what you smoke and what you drink. I think it is reasonable to ask people to pay for the choices they make. I also think that if my coworker's out of pocket expense what three to four times what mine was, a lot of people out there would stop consuming all the bad things that are making them fat.
Who knows, we could probably pay for health insurance for all the kids in this country with the savings. But I guess that makes me a socialist.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Like the rest of the mainstream media, I think the debate about the healthcare system in this country is too complex to think and write about, so I am going to move onto something quite a bit simpler - a black man getting arrested by a white cop.
I'm not a constitutional scholar, but I have watched a lot of Law and Order. I have also read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The racial element of this situation is what is getting most people excited, and I think it is unfortunate that that particular angle is framing the debate about Gates' arrest. As details are released, and each side tells and retells their story, what is becoming clear is that neither Professor Gates nor the arresting officer distinguished themselves during this incident. Did the Cambridge Police act "stupidly" as President Obama described? I don't know, but the facts seem to indicate that the Cambridge Police acted unconstitutionally, which is a far more serious matter.
Did the police have probable cause to ask Gates for his drivers license? Yes. However, the moment that the police confirmed that Gates was in his own home, their probable cause to ask Gates more questions evaporated. The police, under the constitution, should have said, "Good bye, sir." And that is all. It's not up to the police to decide if they can search our houses. Without a properly executed search warrant, it is ILLEGAL for them to search our "persons, houses, papers and effects". Whatever complaints and belligerence Gates demonstrated during the incident is completely irrelevant. ESPECIALLY after the police determined Gates was, in fact, in his own home.
Reports indicate that the officer asked Gates if he (the officer) could look around Gates' house. Gates said no. The right to not be searched or detained without cause is fundamental in our country, and is one of the cornerstones of the freedom we have here. The reaction of many right wingers out there is laughable. You may be familiar with this quote:
Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice.
None other than famous bleeding heart lefty BARRY GOLDWATER said that at the 1964 Republican National Convention. But now, some 45 years later, anyone expressing that kind of sentiment is laughed off as a wingnut liberal. Well I have grown tired of that attitude.
Reports have also indicated that Gates was agitated at the time, and was yelling at the cops who were there. Ask yourself this question: If you are ever arrested and handcuffed on the porch of your own home for "disorderly conduct" and the only people you were disturbing were the officers who were arresting you - arresting you illegally in your mind - don't you think you would be upset too? Don't you think that your friends would later say that the police had acted "stupidly" in such a case?
Liberty is being challenged in this country. The arrest of Professor Gates in his own home for "disorderly conduct" should be all the evidence you need to see that.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Andy and Joanna met Nicole and I there about 15 minutes before the show started. I was pretty excited, and I hoped that Joanna and Andy would be treated to an excellent performance. They were going out on a limb, spending $50 a ticket to see a band they didn't know much about. My reputation was on the line a bit, but I was confident.
What did I think of the show? Nicole demanded to take my picture two songs into the set. Click on this and see if you think I was having a good time: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=528161&l=362291cdf9&id=1418517246
Nicole was raving afterwards as well. If you aren't familiar with The Hold Steady, the set list they played would be an excellent introduction:
Hot Soft Light
Sequestered In Memphis
Don’t Let Me Explode
Multitude of Casualties
Lord, I’m Discouraged
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
How a Resurrection Really Feels
Stuck Between Stations
I was amazed at how close we were - I'm not the kind of guy who is willing to push up through a crowd, so I usually just watch from where ever I get to when I walk in. But we had a great view, and the weather could not have been better. I've seen crowds that were into shows before, but everyone I saw there was absolutely THRILLED to be where they were. Honestly, the encore was so great that I would pay another $50 to get a concert DVD if they put it on sale today.
To make an awesome night even better, as we walked back with all the other people leaving the concert, we walk past Eli's, and wouldn't you know it, an outside table for 4 was there waiting for us. I mean, there is NO WAY that happens right? Between Basilica, Green Day and the Twins, I estimate there were 9 billion people downtown on Saturday, and there's a table just sitting there waiting for us.
A special THANKS to Joanna and Andy for joining us - those guys took a risk, and I was happy to see them having a good time. Your Hold Steady compilation CDs will be burned and ready for you the next time I see you!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The smoker itself needs to be off the ground a bit so that there can be some air flow. There were lots of choices of course, including actual terra cotta pot stand things, but that seemed a little classy for me. I found these bricks for $0.49 each - which was good because by the time I got this the point where I was going to buy these, I was way over budget. And they match the pots pretty well, too.
Then I remembered that since there would be wood burning, it might be a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby.
That's the bottom half of the smoker, put on the bricks. See, this is not rocket science here. The terra cotta pots are the 16" size, which I picked because of the grill that fit inside best. Also, they were a little more than I thought they would be, around $22 each.
That's a $10 burner I got at Walgreen's. The best reason to go with bigger pots would be that the burner would probably fit inside better. This is a 1000 watt model, which is the minimum that is going to provide enough heat. If there was a 1500 watt one, I would have used it. As you can see, I ran the cord out of the bottom hole of the pot.
That's some wood in a heavy duty pie pan on top of the burner. You can't use those flimsy metal pie tins, as they will likely melt, which could wreck your whole thing. Plus - yuck, I don't think you want to eat that stuff. So I knew I had to have a pretty heavy duty pie tin. The wood you see there is Wild Cherry wood, which is nothing special really, I got a bag of it from the Co-op for $10. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH WOOD ON THAT PAN IN THIS PICTURE. I realized later that piling the wood on was a much better idea. It was hard getting it to be hot enough otherwise.
Then I put the grill on (after I turned the burner on of course). The fit was perfect, which is why I had decide on this size of pot. That's actually the bottom grill from a full size Weber, the one that the coals are normally placed on. It could not have fit in the smoker better.
The last pieces were to put the other terra cotta pot on top, and plug the whole with the thermometer. That's a simple replacement thermometer, and it has a short stem on it. I don't think it is the most accurate reading possible, but it looks cool and it does cover the top hole. Although at $9, it was a little steep.
Feel the love. You know that feeling when you can't stop thinking about something for weeks and then you finally make it happen? That's the smile I get on my face when that happens to me. It was cool.
Now this is where things did get a little dicey. I had three overall concerns before I began this project:
- Don't burn the house down.
- Don't give myself a third degree burn playing with this stuff.
- Make sure the smoker is not too hot, thereby defeating the purpose of the slow-cooked barbecue.
It turns out that the biggest problem I encountered was none of the above. I actually hard a hard time getting the whole thing hot enough to cook on. I had no interest in giving my family salmonella poisoning, so I had planned on pre-heating the smoker to make sure that it could get hot enough, BEFORE I put any food on the grill.
Much to my amazement, the thermometer on the grill seemed to be stuck around 175 degrees (I was looking for at least 225). I turned up the burner all the way, and then Nicole suggested I put more wood on, which was a great idea. I put a nice tower of wood on there, and then things got going. But the thermometer never registered above 200.
It was definitely hotter than that in the grill, which was very good news. I had always figured that it would be hottest at the top of the smoker, but I am almost 100% certain that it was much hotter lower in the smoker, closer to the grill. The bottom terra cotta pot was very hot to the touch, and when I finally put some wings on to give it a try, they sizzled, so I knew it was working.
Now, on to the meat:
I started with wings because they are cheap, and would provide some measure of instant satisfaction since they would be cooked in about an hour. I marinated these is beer, Dr. Pepper and Louisiana Hot Sauce most of the day. It was a very thin marinade, which I wanted because I didn't want lots of stuff dripping down onto the wood. These were on the smoker for around an hour, and then I slapped the on the grill for a couple minutes to finish them.
I thought they were awesome. Others likes them too, but not as much. But you could almost taste the cherry from the smoking wood - it was very cool, and very satisfying to know that the smoker was indeed hot enough to got for something bigger.
That is a 4 pound organic, free range chicken I got from the co-op. I love these chickens because they are cheap and very versatile. It's like a blank canvas - or something like that.
Anyway, I butterflied the chicken which was really fun, but not for the faint of heart. I wish I had had some surgical gloves - in fact, I might just buy a box because more and more I think it is a good idea to handle your meat that way.
After butterflying the bird, I did something I had never done before - I brined it. I made my brine in a small, clean cooler that I had. It was a mixture of water, salt, and molasses. There are about a million different brine recipes out there. I didn't want to cook my brine, because I didn't have time to wait for it to cool back down. It seems to me that if you aren't going to cook the brine, there isn't much point in putting a bunch of spices in it. Plus I was planning on using a rub for the chicken anyway, so no big deal.
I put the chicken in the cooler with the brine and a bag of ice to keep it cool and hold the chicken down. I brined for somewhere between 6 and 8 hours. I guess you aren't supposed to go too long, because your meat will turn to mush. Once the time was up, I took the meat out and rinsed it thoroughly, then dried it before applying my rub.
I have made my own rub before, from a recipe of course, and I really like to do it. Now that I can get bulk spices from the co-op, it's way cheaper to make your own rub. After you make a couple of rubs, you realize that SALT is the main ingredient in rubs. Since I had already brined this meat, I made my rub without salt this time.
Rub it up , and then I got it on the smoker. At this point, I was running up against the clock a little. The while process had already taken longer than I wanted it to, and the family wasn't going to wait until 10 pm to eat. So after 2 hours on the smoker, I took it off and finished it on the grill. When I put the meat thermometer in the chicken, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was already up to 140 degrees, on its way to 165. I figure another hour on the smoker would have done it. But it only took 15 more minutes on the grill.
That's the finished bird right there. From that point, I took all the skin off, and then tore all the meat off the bones. We cut the meat up and used it for sandwiches. They were crazy good at the time, but the surprising thing was that they were even smokier the next day! And Nicole's Mom absolutely LOVED the meat we brought over for her. I don't even think she was just being nice.
I will absolutely be smoking away some more! It wasn't THAT hard, and the food was really good, and it isn't something you have every day. I still want to do the pork butt from the original tv show I saw that gave me this idea, but beef brisket and ribs are totally going to be good on there as well.
It was an excellent experience, it totally worked, and other than needing a shower and new clothes when I was done (stinky stinky smoke and meat!), we all got through it unscathed.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
First of all, it will be VERY easy for Republicans to run for office in 2010. All they have to do in each individual race is discuss the evils of single party rule in America. It will be easy for the GOP to raise money, and it will be easier for them to win toss-up races. So Democrats should expect to lose some seats in the next election, which will undoubtedly be portrayed by the mass-media as a referendum on President Obama's first two years in office, even though the election will have nothing to do with that (they like to write the easy stories).
Second of all, sometimes I think I am the last liberal out there who thinks that two-party rule is actually a good thing for America. I don't want either party to have complete control of the government, and with 60 votes in the Senate, that's what we would have. The primary reason for this is that I don't trust Democrats in Congress anymore than I trust Republicans. Us regular folks like to think that our Congressional leaders are doing what they think is best for the country, but in reality, they are doing whatever is best for them personally, financially, professionally. There is no better example of this than Sen. Specter.
Why did Sen. Specter switch parties? Because he realized over the years that his views were more in line with the Democrats than the Republicans? This man was elected as part of the Reagan Revolution. In order for us to believe that Specter's philosophy is now more closely aligned with Democratic philosophy than it is with Republican philosophy, you would also have to believe that if Reagan were alive today, that he too would be considering a change in party. If you want to know how crazy THAT is, ask your Republican friends if they think Reagan would be a Democrat today. I recommend doing this over the phone, or in a room without sharp objects.
You could argue that the Republican Party of today has moved to the Right, and that there are several litmus tests that they put candidates through, and if candidates don't pass those tests, well, tough luck. But be careful - I don't hear about a lot of Pro-Life Democrats out there, and Sen. Nelson (D - Nebraska) is already getting called out by Democrats for not towing the party line and worshipping Obama and everything his administration does. Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans of playing that game.
The ONLY reason that Sen. Specter is becoming a Democrat is because if he didn't, he would lose his seat in the next election. There's no way he wins a Republican primary in PA. Apparently, Specter believes that he is entitled to his seat, and be damned anyone who wants VOTE him out of office. He's been serving in the Senate so long, that even if the people who helped elect him in the past don't want him to serve anymore, in Specter's world, it's not up to them anymore. Think about how truly anti-democratic that really is.
If you want further evidence of Specter's cynical view of our political system, look no further than his recent comments regarding the Senate race in Minnesota between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. Sen. Specter said he wants Coleman to win. Why would he want that? Because Specter's philosophy and Coleman's are closely aligned? Then why did Specter switch parties? Because Coleman is Jewish? Nope, Franken is too. It turns out that Specter doesn't want Coleman to win, he wants Franken to win. Here's the link: http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/2009/05/06/specter/index.html?source=refresh
And the quote:
"In the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates. I'm ordinarily pretty correct in what I say. I've made a career of being precise. I conclusively misspoke."
I have to get used to my new teammates. In other words, I support Franken, not because I think he own fairly, or because his philosophy is in line with mine. I support Franken because I am now on his team. That's all it is to these leaders - especially the ones who have made it their job in life to be Senator, or Congressman. It's just a game, with teams, and scoreboards - winners and losers. What matters most is winning, and whatever you can do to make sure that you are on the winning side is the right thing to do, even if it means switching teams in the middle of the game.
It's sad really. I am sure that Specter has no idea what he believes anymore. His sole focus at this point is retaining his Senate seat, a seat given to him by God, no matter what the voters in the state of Pennsylvania have to say about it.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
It's not really a blog if you never have any entries, but I think it is funny that my last post was asking if I should blog the labor and birth of our second daughter, and then nothing for weeks. Yes, we've been busy. And it has been a challenge, adjusting to two kids. But as you can see from this picture, Nadia is starting to give a little back, and we are getting better at being parents as well. Do I dare say that we are getting the hang of things? No, I don't. Whenever we do that, a new problem seems to surface. We'll just leave it at this: we are happy, Nadia is healthy, Josephine is a joy, and Wilson is Wilson.
Here is a list of ideas I have had for posts that I may get to over the next few months:
- Beer. This was going to be a beer blog, and I still really like that idea. Right now I am drinking a lot of Surly Furious, but I am looking forward to expanding some horizons this summer. I have a lot to say about Hopslam from Bell's, but if you can find it and have $16 to blow on a six pack of beer, go get some, don't wait for me.
- Music. I have a couple of ideas here. I just floated a top 10 albums of all-time idea to Jonathan, and we'll have to see where that goes. I am also trying very very hard to listen to new music all the time. I plan on posting about some of these artists over the course of the summer.
- Social Media in general. My experience with Twitter and Facebook has given me lots of ideas for posts. Twitter in particular is all of the news recently, and I have some things to say about it. It's no for everyone, and you have to figure out how to weed out the noise (Noah hit it on the head with his "noise" description of Twitter), but if you can do that, it can be a pretty cool way to get and share information.
- Politics. Obama is popular, but are we seeing any change? Will Minnesota ever have more than one Senator? Can Michelle Bachmann keep producing material at the rate she currently is?
- Vacation. Will the Chose's ever take one? If so, when? And where will they go?
So that's a lot of good ideas. I plan on making time to write some of them up. I'm open to other ideas as well - let me know!
Monday, February 16, 2009
That's Josephine of course, such a sweetheart at less than one day old even!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Roxy Music - If There is Something - Viva! Live Roxy Music
First of all, this Roxy Music live album should be the only live album they ever released, because it rules, and their other ones, well, I think they leave something to be desired. There is an every and crispness to these performances that I don't hear on later live albums. It's sort of amazing, they never really had a full time bass player. Between live preformaces and studio sessions, they had more than 10 different bass players play with them (maybe you don't think that's amazing, but bass players are much more important than a lot of people realize).
I think that Bryan Ferry is one of those guys who is polarizing to a lot of music fans - you either really like him or you really do not like him. There is a certain pretentiousness about him that can be off-putting - he doesn't seem like the kind of guy you would want to sit down and have a beer with. (Isn't it amazing the traits that we assign to rock stars, I mean, I don't know the guy, but I am willing to state publicly that I would not have a beer with him. Talk about judging a book by its cover!) But he has a cool voice, a good look, he is very sure of himselg, and he likes what he is doing. When he let's it fly at the end of this one, it's sweeping and glorious, and he takes you with him - right back - when you were young.
Phil Manzanera had a great look in the 70's, with long hair and outrageous outfits. He was more than serviceable on guitar as well, although Ferry wrote almost all of their music. Basically, you look at him and say, "well, let me guess. This is where British art-rock came from right?"
This song in particular shows a lot of what makes Roxy Music so great, and powerful live performers in the 70's. Nice long solos help build from a simple beginning. By the time the guitar solo and violin solos come, it's a completely different song. Then, in the final section. Ferry really lets us have it. What a joy.
The posted video here is from The Old Grey Whistle Test, which is must viewing for anyone who likes 70's and 80's live performaces. Just look at him in this video - Ferry's look is no less than 10 years ahead of its time. And is that Brain Eno on keys? Oh my.
I also have to mention that they were #98 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest bands ever. I am sorry, but that is just plain wrong. It makes me crazy to think about it.
Last, and not least...
U2 - Walk On - from America: A Tribute to Heroes
There was no way U2 was not going to make this list. I consider them the best band of all time. We can argue about it forever if you want, but that's how I think of them. They have produced 3 of the 10 albums of all-time: The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby! and All That You Can't Leave Behind. That's remarkable, to have created truly seminal albums THREE TIMES in their career. And my absolute favorite show I have ever seen in person was not Phish, but U2, at Target Center in 2001. We were behind the stage, and paid $55 per ticket, but they made it worth every single penny. For three hours I was in almost total and complete ecstasy. They know how to give a live performace.
There's a lot of good stuff on the Tribute to Heroes discs. Mariah Carey singing America the Beautiful with Willie Nelson still gives poor Willie nightmares I am sure. Neil Young's Imagine performance was also amazing. But the best performance of all was U2, in a studio by themselves, singing their signature single of that time, Walk On. (They were closing most shows with it at the time, with PEACE written in many different languages spinning around the arena. U2 walks the line between awesome and lame, emotional and cheese, more than any other band I know. They often cross over it, but most of the time they are right on it, and the results are beautiful).
From the beginning softly spoken words "I'm sick of hearing/ again and again/ that there's never gonna be/ peace on earth", and his "Goodnight from London" (always reminds me that there was no flying still at the end of that week), you know they are not going to mail in this performace. And while they stay under control the whole time, I think you can see some strain on their faces, even these guys (Edge is possibly the coolest individual of all-time). There are so many lines that get me in this one, like, "we're packing a suitcase for a place/ none of us has been/ a place that has to be believed/ to be seen". Then in the end his promise: "See you when I get home!" Well, it sends the softer ones among us to the brink of emotional release. Even to this day. It's an amazing performace, and it's connection to 9/11 makes it that much more poignant, without taking emotional advantage. A few months later, they performed at halftime of the Super Bowl, another incredible scene. That might be the best Super Bowl halftime ever (although if you put a gun to my head, I would probably say Prince in 2007 was the best ever, I mean, he was able to make it rain in Miami for the love og God. Who else could do that?)
That's it! The List is complete! Here is the final tally:
- Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
- Bad Religion - Skyscraper
- The Velvet Underground - Heroin
- Phish - Harry Hood (live)
- Felix Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in e minor
- Coldplay - The Hardest Part
- Neil Young w/ The Band - Helpless (live)
- Dave Matthews Band - Seek Up (live)
- Roxy Music - If There is Something (live)
- U2 - Walk On - (live)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Now that I have caught my breath after the Super Bowl, it's time to get back to the top 10. Jonathan's is all wrapped up, so if we want to get together to have beers and listen, I better get mine done too. Without further ado, and also without any of the cool videos that Jonathan uses, here's more from my Top 10 list:
Neil Young - Helpless
I would have a hard time accepting any list of this kind that did not include at least one Neil Young track. Arguably the greatest singer/songwriter of the past 50 years (don't get excited Bob Dylan fans, I said arguably), I could have filled an entire Top 10 list with his songs alone. What is it about Neil that is so awesome?
1. Lyrics - I do not consider lyrics, especially most rock lyrics, to have much weight. Too often the rhymes are so forced, and the imagery so childish, that it is more fun to make up my own lyrics. Not so with Neil. Here's the opening from Helpless:
There is a town in north Ontario,With dream comfort memory to spare,And in my mind I still need a place to go,All my changes were there
That's good stuff. The lyrics of this song in particular make you think while you enjoy them, which adds to the awesomeness of this song.
2. Music and Voice
He can do beautiful, poignant, angry, rockin, folky - whatever you want. He can absolutely do it all - you cannot put him in a box. And the quality is always top notch, too. He can make noise too (Sleeps with Angels is an often overlooked album, or it is only considered as part of the Kurt Cobain saga). This particular recording, on my top 10 list, is from The Last Waltz concert, with The Band. It starts out acoustic, mellow. His haunting voice (no other word describes it so well, I think) let's the audience know what's coming, and then... By the end, they are absolutely ROCKING on this song, and I can hardly stop myself from screaming it along with them. Talk about having a good time - you can see it. An excellent performance.
My favorite story is from the MTV Unplugged sessions, when he got up and walked out during rehearsals because the band they brought in was not ready. They came back a couple of months later and did it right. Not many rock artists out there would have the guts to maintain that kind of a standard. Another one was one of the guys in Crazy Horse saying that they basically had to operate knowing that any day Neil might show up and say, "that's in, I'm leaving for awhile", and there was nothing they could do about it but accept it. That's the kind of crazy I want in my rock stars! I really think that for Neil it is not about himself, but about the music, which sounds really silly of course, except that for him it is true, so you have to love it.
Last note - this recording features Joni Mitchell singing in the background - they hid her behind a curtain so that the audience wouldn't know she had her own set coming up. And it was very hard for me to cut Coyote from this list, but Neil hits an absolute home run here.
Dave Matthews Band - Seek Up - Live at Red Rocks
Here's another violin song, and believe me, I would LOVE to play along sometime. If you have ever been to Red Rocks, you can imagine what this set opener must have been like - you're about ready to pop waiting for the show to start and then they come out with 15 minutes like this - I am surprised anyone had any energy left be the end.
This one has all of the things that I liked about Dave, and none of the things I don't like. I like his voice, the rhythm section, and the solos in the long jams. I don't like pretentious Dave, Dave that talks too much telling stories, and Dave talking about girls. That's annoying Dave, and it's covered up nicely here. They do a good job of making you wait, not giving away the jam too soon. And the end section with him wailing and the violin freaking out in the background sounds like a lot of fun. Excellent stuff. This song is a fantastic way to spend 15 minutes!
Here's a summary of what I have so far:
- Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
- Bad Religion - Skyscraper
- The Velvet Underground - Heroin
- Phish - Harry Hood (live)
- Felix Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in e minor
- Coldplay - The Hardest Part
- Neil Young w/ The Band - Helpless (live)
- Dave Matthews Band - Seek Up (live)
Two more entries left, and I am very excited about them. Classics, both of them. One you've heard and one you haven't! (Unless you have been over to my house recently, then you would have heard both of them.)
Friday, January 30, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Too much. This is an inauguration not the Super Bowl.
—Rebecca, Sumter, S.C.
Apparently Rebecca in South Carolina thinks that a football game played every single year is more important than the peaceful transition of power at the highest levels of the most powerful nation in the world. A transition of power to a man whose race would have had him sitting in the back of the bus and using different bathrooms just 50 years ago. But hey, maybe Rebecca is right - I mean, if the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl, it would be a pretty big deal, right?
Some people worry about the decline of our great nation, but to them, I point to Rebecca, who clearly has her priorities in the right order.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
- I really do think I am too old for it. Facebook began as a way for Generation Y (or are they Gen Z now? Gen AA?) to connect with each other. I am fundamentally disconnected from that generation - I don't know many of them (just family really), so anything that would connect me more to them seems like a weird attempt on my part to become more like them, to get younger. That feels creepy to me. And funny, too. My wife's father and my boss have pages, and they are both over 60. My first reaction when I heard they had Facebook pages? I laughed to the point of wetting my pants. I don't want other people to have the same reaction towards me.
- I just do not want to be that accessible. There are a lot of people out there I don't want to deal with. Having a Facebook page greatly reduces my ability to not-connect with those people. Some dude from high school I sort of knew? How should I handle their friend request? "Um, thanks, but I have been able to survive the past 15 years without having the slightest idea what you have been up to, so I think I will try to go a little longer and see if I can make it. If I find myself unable to live another day without knowing what you are doing very second of the day, I will let you know, and we can be friends." There's a Seinfeld episode where Jerry gets introduced to a new person and Jerry decides that he doesn't need anymore friends - he has enough. I feel the same way (and yes, I realize that being such a Dick in a public place increases the chance that I will have fewer friends now, but this is simply the truth).
- I don't need one more thing in my life that I need to carve out time to take care of. My wife stated that this was her reason for not participating early on, and this was her number one fear as she was creating her page. It seems to me that maintaining a Facebook page is more work that I don't need. I would rather be playing mandolin or Xbox or impressing liberal views upon my daughter. What if she turns into a Republican because I was poking or tagging "friends"? What kind of a father would that make me?
Yet the urge is there, and it grows stronger everyday. I have a strong conformist streak within me, and I can feel the pull of Facebook like the Millennium Falcon in the Death Star's tractor beam. There's an interesting article on Slate today that outlines many of my objections even better than I can. But the author also extols the virtues of Facebook, and I think they are important. One of my goals at work this year is to learn about social networking sites, and discover how 21st century marketers can put them to use. This idea was applauded by my boss, and I have been wondering since then, "will I be able to research and learn about these sites without actually participating on them?" I am not sure yet, but I think I know the answer. My sister-in-law called it awhile back: "You're going to get a page. I know you will."
There another interesting article on Slate today discussing the impending crossroads that Google and Facebook will reach. I believe that sometime in the not too distant future Google will DOMINATE the web in ways that are hard to imagine right now. Maybe I can wait it out, and instead of a Facebook page, I can get a GoogleFace page instead...
Thanks Adam. I have just one other question . . . Al Franken?
I had been answering some questions for this client, and this was the reply I received. This is a good client for us (not from Minnesota), a very nice person, and I have no desire (or reason) to sow any kind of ill will here. I am probably running a small risk by even publishing this email and discussing it in this blog (my boss said he was looking at it recently, although it's probable that he won't read anymore because he was bored by what he read). But I think it represents an interesting dilemma, especially for us "Minnesota Nice" folks who have been taught not to discuss politics or religion under almost any circumstances.
Where do we draw the line when it comes to discussing non-business matters with clients? Or co-workers? I have strong feelings about Sen. Al Franken, and have friends who worked on the campaign. I have strong feelings regarding former Sen. Norm Coleman as well. Obviously, a meandering rant on the evils of Coleman is not an appropriate response to the email from my client. Above all, I desire to remain professional, and to maintain what has always been a good relationship with this client. At the same time, I do feel compelled to take this opportunity to outline some of the qualities that I like about Sen. Franken, and why I was very proud to vote for him. It would be a bit of Political Evangelism, if you will.
But is that necessary? What's wrong with just leaving well enough alone? And do you know what is disturbing me the most about this? What can't I think of something hilarious and appropriate to send back to her?
I welcome any input others might have on the issue. Remember, this is a paying client, who could do great damage to me professionally if they wanted to, in response to some sort of snide or inappropriate remark by me. What would you do in a case like this?
Friday, January 9, 2009
That's a picture of Brit and K-Fed from Halloween 2005. I am sure that I can speak for all of my children and parents and let you know that they could not possibly be prouder of us!
On to more civilized matters...
Felix Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in e minor
Ok, no surprise here, a violin concerto (which is very heavy in violining, surprise sirprise). If the original question had been "You get to pick on violin concerto to take with you to the island and you can't listen to anything else ever again, what would it be?" I would have picked this one. The performance linked to above is by Joshua Bell, who gets a lot of media attention because he has a marketable face and oh, by the way, he rules. Missing him completely during his leadership of the SPCO was a travesty that I may never outlive. But you can pick whatever recording you want, this piece absolutely rules.
Mendelssohn himself was an excellent violinist in his day. While his live was short (he dies I believe from tuberculosis at 37), he contributed mightily to musical development. I think it is interesting to go back and look at pieces that were written so long ago and try to look at them as though we had never heard them before, or any music that has come since. We forget that some of this music was quite new at the time - that no one else was making music like this then, and that the ideas Mendelssohn put on paper had never been though of before. It's hard to do because a lot of these ideas have been copied so much since then that we take them for granted now, and we hear this music and think of it as just another concerto, even though in its time it was almost revolutionary. It's like the story of Romeo and Juliet. There are so many tragic love stories that have come since that was written, that when we think of Romeo and Juliet, we think of it as just another tragedy or love story with a sad ending. But when it was first conceived it was original, and no one had ever put a story like that down before. I like to try to listen to music in this way, as though I was hearing the original performance of the music, although that is very difficult to do.
This concerto starts out quite differently than concertos traditionally began at the time, with the solo violin entering almost immediately. More typically, the full orchestra would play the main theme before the soloist entered. Also, all three movements run together, without breaks. The lonely bassoon note that ties the first and second movements together is sublime. This concerto is widely viewed as ushering in the Romantic period in classical concertos. Oh, and it's really hard, although it is accessible enough to the masses that it is also considered one of the cornerstones of violin repetoire.
A bit of controversy here for me personally, as I selected all three movements, rather than just one track, to include on my mix. And the overall length of this piece (along with some others on the list, I ended up picking long songs although not deliberately) made it so that in regular audio format, the entire Top 10 will not fit on one CD. But in mp3 format, there is plenty of room, so sue me if you want.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
That's Nicole and I at the "summit" of Flattop, right outside Anchorage in July, 2003. Seems longer ago than that. For some reason we were woefully unprepared - our footwear was NOT appropriate even for the simple climb. But I can guarantee you that we listened to these two songs at some point on that trip - yes, the Top 10 continues...
Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
I know I know, I don't get to take the whole album with me to the island, but if I could, this would be a tempting one to take. But the title track is so great, and while I normally don't put a whole lot of weight on lyrics in music, for some reason I love the lyrics on this one: "When I ventured into the slipstream/ between the viaducts of your dreams..." It goes on from there of course. Three things about this song:
The man can sing. It is not easy to sing what he sings, and if you think it is, go try it sometime. He's an incredibly talented singer.
This was the first song that I ever listened too that made me think I could play violin and be a rock star. It was the first time I ever sat down with my violin and tried to play along - it's not that hard really, but the string part on this song shows exactly how I would like to try to sound when I play. It's color on top in this kind of setting, and it is very important to the music, but it sounds silly on it's own. Just imagine the violin playing its part in this song with none of the other instruments. BORING.
This song was introduced to me in high school by my friend Owen on yes, you guessed it, a mix tape. I asked him for music to listen to, and he always came up huge. I still have some of those origina. l tapes, and while I don't listen to them anymore, they are a very important piece of the music I love today.
You might start to notice a violin theme with these songs - it was unintentional, and I was as surprised as anyone when I realized how much violining there was on these songs.
Skyscraper - Bad Religion
If you haven't heard any Bad Religion and you like any kind of punk at all, you should come over to my house sometime and we'll waste an hour listenting to all of their songs. Yes, most of their stuff is very short (their album No Control has 15 tracks and does not last 28 minutes), but I like it because there is nothing extraneous in any of their music. Everything has a purpose, there are no extra notes, no extra choruses, no extra solos. They hit you hard, make their point, and are done.
This is my favorite of all their songs, although a lot of what they do sounds similar, and I could have come up with a different one and been just as happy. I have no idea how someone can play drums like that, but the real magic of Bad Religion really is lyrics and harmonies. Whoever figured out that harmonies sounds cool over lour guitars and pounding drums deserves some sort of award. The nice thing is you can always understand what he is saying, and sometimes it makes you think. Those two qualities are lacking in 97% (scientifically calculated!) of the music I hear coming out today. I'm not saying that the music has to have a message, and I am not saying that I have to understand what you are singing - but if you do have a message, I better be able to make the words out.
I actually saw these guys once, in 1991 while on a school trip to Germany. I don't remember much of the show, but you know those German kids love them some punk, and I do remember having a good time.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
For once it appears as though Connor is not the fussiest one in the room. Can you guess who it might be?
Over a month late, I am going to start releasing the Top 10 finally, so comment away if you want. And remember, with this blog, you get exactly what you pay for.
Heroin - The Velvet Underground
Like many of the songs that have made this final list, Heroin has a little bit of everything in it. It's a simple song, but I think that this song is a perfect example of what real musicians can do with even the simplest of ideas. There's only three chords used in Heroin, but the group makes the most of them, changing the tempo, dynamic, and texture several times through the song. And that really is an electric viola in the background there. No bass player in this one either.
I love how the song starts slowly and calmly, you might even say it's pretty. Then we are taken on the journey all the way up and all the way back down again. It's one of the best absolute freak outs that you will ever hear in any song. And we know that no one is doubting Lou Reed's credentials and his influence on future musicians, but if you listen to a lot of the popular grunge music of the 90's, there is no way you can tell me that those guys didn't listen to a LOT of Velvet Underground, and this song in particular.
I could listen to that thumping drum line and feedback viola all day long.
Harry Hood - Phish
When I got the idea to do this, there was only one song that I knew would be on the list for sure, and this is it. I prefer this recording from A Live One to almost any other recording of anything I have ever heard. I often listen to this track while flying, usually when I think I am around 20 minutes from landing. I don't think that there is one note out of place in the entire song. And it has a little of everything of course. There's some sort of a bridge section in the middle that just blows me away - they are playing together so precisely, but I have no idea what the count is. It's a remarkable show of what "tight" really means. And Trey's guitar solo over the last several minutes of this one is absolutely beautiful. And you get the double climax in the last section too - I still get goosebumps listening and this has been around for over 10 years.
If you made me pick one track, one single recording of something and told me that it was the only thing I could ever listen to again, this would be it.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Josephine had a great Christmas as well - I think she will start remembering these from now on. We had lots of time to spend with family and friends, which was also excellent. Christmas Eve featured fondue with Grandma Sugar, Terry and Uncle Banle. Grandma Sugar was very generous with her gifts as she always is. Christmas Day was spent with Nicole's family. We stuck around at her parents house until almost 9 pm!
To say that we were blessed is to make a bid for understatement of the year. Our first Christmas in our new hoome will always be special!