August 2007 Archives

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! Every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Burnin’ Love – Elvis Presley
2. Eternal Ice – Yung Wu
3. Carry Go Bring Come – The Selecter
4. Hardcore Ufo’s – Guided by Voices
5. King and Caroline/Motor Away (Live) – Guided by Voices
6. I Bought a Headache – The Replacements
7. Hang On To Your Ego – Beach Boys
8. Mannequin’s Complaint – Guided by Voices
9. Red Rabbi – The Shins
10. Ashes on the Ground (Live) – Yo La Tengo

Three GbV songs? Something from Pet Sounds? Ironic Elvis Presely Song? Replacements, Yo La Tengo, The Shins? Folks, College Radio lives on my I-Pod.

Glorious Day!!

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What a beautiful day!! Mid 70's, not a cloud in the sky, no humidity. Walking around campus is a treat, lots of wide-eyed presumably freshman with their parents, a soon to be striking AFSCME workers rally complete with an inflatable giant gray rat!! Workers and gardeners putting finishing touches on buildings and grounds. Even the bathrooms are hopping as someone in the stall next to me kept tapping his foot, must have been a lively song he was listening too :o)

What could make such a day even better? How about a groundbreaking ceremony for a new outdoor baseball park for the Twins, including a free concert by Martin Zellar, that's how! Hope to see lots of folks there, I'll be the guy in the Twins hat.


Blast From the Past - No Dome Stadiums!!

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It's no secret that I'm a huge supporter of the new Twins Ballpark and the new Gophers football stadium. In fact I participate/lurk on blogs dedicated to the subject including this this one and this one. However, recent evidence has been unearthed demonstrating that I'm not a newcomer to this outdoor stadium issue, no not me. Below is a letter I sent to the MN Daily that was published in October 1988!!

So Greet Machine, take that! while you were zoned out listening to Led Zeppelin on your parents hifi I was fighting the good fight. Click on the image below to see a larger, more readable version.

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So there! In my 20's I was suggesting open revolt over the Gophers moving to the Dome! The thing is, although no one ever protested the dome, one can make a pretty good argument that Gopher fans followed my first line of attack. It only took 19 years but we're finally there.

Hope to see you at the Twins new ballpark groundbreaking on Thursday, I'll be the one protesting! :o)

30 Best Loved Albums - Astral Weeks

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2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. With that on to #22 of the list...

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22. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison (1968)

Astral Weeks was Van Morrison’s first solo album after leaving Them, a rock and blues band based out of San Francisco, and has a jazzy, trippy vibe that feels right at home in the genre of late 1960’s music. Although not a critical or commercial success when it came out, Astral Weeks is now considered a classic album and can be found all over critics best-of lists, including ranking #2 in MOJO Magazine’s list of 100 best albums. In addition, it placed 19 on the Rolling Stone top 500 albums. (Given such lofty rankings, it's quite odd that it doesn't even make the Definitive 200 list).

At first listen, one could dismiss Astral Weeks as some sort of hippy-dippy tripe good only for listening during a mellow high or to come down after a bad trip. The album’s got flutes on it for Christ sake!! But to dismiss it as such really doesn’t do the album justice. With its “in and out?rhythm stylings and oblique lyrics that conjur up images instead of coherent narratives, Astral Weeks has been compared to an Impressionism painting, with songs that seek to evoke emotions associated with an image. Some have described the album as a "song cycle" rather than a concept album, although the songs do seem to link together and form a loose narrative. Astral Weeks is an album that you listen to as a whole and not to individual songs. At times when an individual song has come up on my I-pod, it feels strangely out of place without the rest of the album following behind.

As I said before the album has a real jazzy feel and the album’s producer had a background in jazz and recruited a top-notch bunch of session musicians to accompany Van’s vocals. The interesting thing is that Morrision gave the musicians basic carte blanche on how they wanted to play, providing only the idea and vocals for each song on an acoustic guitar. Many of the songs were captured live, and in the case of the title song, it was the first and only take. Given the fact that it is the music that really drives this album, what these musicians could do with minimal direction is quite amazing.

I’ve loved this album for nearly 20 years ever since an old girlfriend turned me on to it. It’s a perfect mood album if you just want to mellow out, such as on a road trip or to listen to on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I have a feeling I’ll be listening to this album 20 years from now whenever I need a little down time and for that reason, Astral Weeks deserves a spot on my best loved 30 albums.

Have you heard Astral Weeks, what do you think of it?

Place on the Definitive 200: Not on the list?!!

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. I Don't Know - The Replacements
2. Transmission - Joy Division
3. Love Comes in Spurts - Richard Hell & the Voidoids
4. Lil' Devil - The Cult
5. A Foggy Day - Louis Armstrong
6. Disenchanted - My Chemical Romance
7. The Busy Girl Buys Beauty - Billy Bragg
8. I'm Not in Love (Live) - Talking Heads
9. Remote Control - The Clash
10. A Wolf at the Door - Radiohead

Take away the My Chemical Romance and Radiohead and I could be a 1990's college radio DJ!

Glacier National Park

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Earlier this month, we packed up the family, headed for the train station, and spent nearly a week at Glacier National Park in Montana. As you can see from the pictures below (which don't do the park justice), Glacier is a beautiful place.

The main reason one goes to Glacier National Park is to see glaciers, and that's what we did. In the pictures below, (click on pic to see larger version) the snowy regions on the mountains are glaciers. Unfortunately the glaciers are retreating and breaking up. One hundred years ago, there were over 130 glaciers in the park, now there is less than 30 and those remaining are small remnants of themselves.

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In the photo above, the glacier use to fill the whole basin and now is just a slash of ice across the side of the mountain. However to get a sense of how large these glaciers still are, the fat ice part on the left is nearly 300 yards wide.

Natural beauty abounds, the picture below shows what we saw from the window of our small cabin. The park is really geared for all ages. If you're elderly and like your creature comforts, you can stay in a lodge and view the park through red buses that travel extensively through the park. If you're a healthy 20-something looking for adventure, there are many back country trails (and campsites) that bring you right to the glaciers. If you're a family with kids, you can stay in a cabin, and take easier hikes to mountain lakes, waterfalls, and breathtaking scenery. That's what we did.

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Wild life is also abundant. We were close to Mountain Goats, Deer, Eagles, Big Horn Sheep, and Bears. The bear moved back into the woods before we were able to snap a picture (don't worry we were in our car). Below is a Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goat upclose.

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All in all it was a great time and would suggest a similar trip for anyone who is interested. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park 2 years ago and our campsite was at 9,000 feet and a lot of hiking was at 10,000 to 11,000 feet. Glacier is at a more modest 5,000 feet and I don't we ever got above 7,000 feet so it was a little easier on the lungs.

Below, the Man and the Mountain....

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30 Best Loved Albums - Ok Computer

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2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List.

Although I have stated that I’m not going to rank or place in order my favorite 30 albums, there is somewhat of a method to my madness. The first five albums were near and dear to me, some may not necessarily be an all-time favorite, but instead are albums about which that I had a lot to say. Albums 6-10 included artists with long and critically acclaimed careers with many, many different albums from which to choose. Albums 11-15 were more related to “roots? music: folk, country, americana, etc. Albums 16-20 favored punk and alternative. Now that we’re two-thirds through, I thought we needed to look at my favorite “headphone? albums – those trippy albums that are best heard on headphones or after you’ve been snacking on your cousin Ernie’s homemade brownies. So sit back, tune in, and let the music take over your mind as we continue with number 21 of my best loved 30 albums.

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21. Radiohead – Ok Computer (1997)

What can be said about this album that hasn’t already been said? “Top album of the 1990’s,? “Best Album of the last 20 years,? over 2000 user reviews at Amazon.com (a vast majority of them with 5 stars). Heck it even merits a ranking on the “Definitive 200!!? Ok Computer was a huge shock from a band that had a couple of cool songs on a two middling albums during the early to mid-1990’s. This album propelled Radiohead into mega-stardom with each one of their subsequent albums creating a buzz over “what’s Radiohead going to do next??

Although Thom Yorke and the boys maintain that Ok Computer is not a concept album, there are definite themes running throughout. Is the album about a dystopian future of mankind being ruled by machines and computers? Is it a modern take on man’s disconnection with humanity in the computer age? Is it just a bunch of great songs that combine straight ahead rock licks and electronica doodads and gizmos with esoteric, dreamy lyrics? Well I definitely come down on the latter and could be convinced of the former two. What really gets me going with Ok Computer is the songs. There’s not a weak song in the bunch (o.k. I don’t consider Fitter Happier a song) and I just love how the rock guitars are augmented by all the electronics. Furthermore Radiohead obsessed over the sequence of the songs on the album and it really shows. It’s hard to imagine these songs in any other order with each song recognizing the song previous while also setting the table for the following song.

With each song a great song, it’s hard to pick out favorites. Paranoid Android (The band played an 11 minute version of this song when opening for Alanis Morrisette in 1996 – man what a trip!) is an obvious with it’s awesome guitar pieces that would put most rockers to shame while Subterranean Homesick Alien is an atmospheric, dreamy song about someone who is abducted by aliens but when he tells his friends, they don’t believe him. Is the alien real or is the singer referring to himself alienated from society? It’s up to you. Let Down is one my all time favorite songs as it captures perfectly the feeling of the disappointment felt when let down by a loved one, friend or just an acquaintance. The chorus says it all: Let down and hanging around, crushed like a bug in the ground. Let down and hanging around.

The album ends with the weary song The Tourist and it’s plaintive wail of “hey man slow down, slow down? accompanied by a nasty little guitar riff. The song sounds like it should be the final track and the album ends fittingly enough with a single note chime (once described as the bell on a microwave). A perfect end to a nearly perfect album. An album that deserves all it accolades and high rankings and album that has given me hours of listening pleasure over the last 10 years, Ok Computer deserves an exulted place on my list of 30 best loved albums.

What do you think of Ok Computer?

Place on the Definitive 200: Criminally it is only ranked 111!


Friday Random Top 10

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Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Still Worth Noting - Guided by Voices
2. Dancin' on the Bar - Fred Eaglesmith
3. Well, you Needn't - Thelonious Monk
4. Good Morning Boyfriend - Tulip Sweet and Trail of Tears
5. Hey Good Lookin' - Ray Charles
6. Picking up the Signal - Son Volt
7. Hey Jude - The Beatles
8. Systems Crash - Guided by Voices
9. My Hero - Foo Fighters
10. Buy Your Truck - Fred Eaglesmith

What's your top 10?

Who's to Blame?

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It’s been over two weeks since the I-35W bridge collapse and even though four bodies have yet to be recovered, questions of whose to blame for the collapse have swirled around the twisted metal and crumbled concrete remains of the bridge since the hours after the bridge fell into the Mississippi River.

The City Pages had a real good article on the culpable parties earlier this week and you can read it here. I have found it interesting that groups like The Taxpayers League and Republicans covering for the Governor say it’s not fair to assign blame, especially in light of the fact that there is still a recovery going on. Typically those who don’t want blame to be assigned get on that particular high horse because they know they will bear the brunt of the blame.

Obviously the Governor and especially the Lieutenant Governor/MnDOT Commissioner deserve part of the blame. Vetoing two gas tax increases and a modest infrastructure bonding bill in the last couple of years, while not preventing the 35W bridge collapse, signaled that they didn’t take the State’s crumbling infrastructure needs seriously. The Taxpayer League with their dooming and glooming about the impact of increased taxes obscure the fact that maintaining what we have costs money.

In the end it us the taxpayers and voters of this state who deserve the blame. We accepted the no new taxes mantra because it saved us a couple of bucks from our wallets. We demanded from our elected officials new and better projects while turning our back on the fact that we have to take care of what we already have. It is us who winked back at the politicians when they said we can have everything and it won’t cost any more money.

So blame the Governor, Washington bureaucrats, the No New Taxes crowd for the collapse -- they most certainly deserve it -- but in this case the three fingers pointing back at you are equally deserved.

30 Best Loved Albums - Favorite Overlooked Albums

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List.

Sorry for lack of posts, I've been on vacation and dealing with family illness. This week I am going a slightly different route and want to discuss albums that I liked but hardly anyone else noticed. Below is a list of albums that were generally ignored by music lovers. Some may be critically loved but for the most part know one, knows about these albums but should.

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1. Husker Du - Warehouse: Songs and Stories . O.k. I cheated, you’ve probably have heard of this album. But it was criminally overlooked when released. It loses some steam at the end, but that’s typical of a double album. The first 3/4 of the album blows me away 20 years after it came out!

2. Yung Wu – Shore Leave. An off-shoot band of The Feelies, with infectious little songs. Not available on CD, I had Twin Tone Records burn for me an individual copy so that I could hear it once again.

3. Waco Brothers – Freedom and Weep. I reviewed this album here. Great country rock that will lift you off your feet and on to the dance floor.

4. Handsome Family – Milk and Scissors. Great music from the best husband and wife goth-country band out there. The song Amelia Earhart and the Dancing Bear haunted my dreams for an entire summer a couple of years back.

5. Kelly Hogan and Pine Valley Cosmonauts – Beneath the Country Underdog. I am a sucker for big voiced woman singing country torch songs. That’s all you need to know about this album.

What are your favorite albums that have been overlooked and that no one has ever heard of?

First 20 albums reviewed:

1. Pretenders – Pretenders (3/12/07)
2. Replacements – Let It Be (3/19/07)
3. Nirvana – Nevermind (3/26/07)
4. Johnny Cash – American Recordings (4/2/07)
5. Guided by Voices - Bee Thousand (4/9/07)
6. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (4/16/07)
7. Beatles – Abbey Road (4/23/07)
8. Rolling Stones – Some Girls (4/30/07)
9. U2 – All that You Can’t Leave Behind (5/7/07)
10. Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model (5/14/07)

5 Critically Acclaimed Albums I don’t get (5/21/07)

11. Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads (5/28/07)
12. Grateful Dead – American Beauty/Workingman Dead (6/4/07)
13. Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (6/11/07)
14. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (6/18/07)
15. Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music (6/25/07)
16. Husker Du – Land Speed Record (7/2/07)
17. Gang of Four – Entertainment (7/9/07)
18. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dreams (7/16/07)
19. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine (7/23/07)
20. Green Day – American Idiot (7/30/07)

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Join the Eagles – Robert Pollard
2. Even Better Than the Real Thing – U2
3. She – Green Day
4. Stop This Car – Jonathan Richman
5. Watch the Sunrise – Big Star
6. Warning – Green Day
7. Radio Song – R.E.M.
8. Bookends – Simon and Garfunkel
9. Melt Snow – Old 97’s
10. Tonight’s the Night – Neil Young

What's your top 10?

COLLAPSE!!

Driving over the 35W bridge every morning and working about a mile away really brings yesterday's tragedy to close to home. Today over lunch I went out and tried to get as close as possible to take pictures. Here are some of the best (all taken from the east side of the river with a 10x zoom). Click on each pic to enlarge.

This one was taken about 100 yards from my building
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From University Avenue
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Cars that didn't make it
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The famous school bus
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Rescue Operations (that's the bridge "floating" on the water)
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Summer 2007 Round-up

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Well July is in the books so it’s time to take a look at all that I’ve been enjoying or not this summer.

Movies. I’ve previously reviewed the movies I’ve seen here and here. Since that time I’ve seen Transformers, Harry Potter 5, Hairspray and The Simpson’s Movie. The Transformers movie trailer had me drooling in my seat so of course it couldn’t live up to my expectations. While stunning to watch, the movie was too much like a cartoon. If you’re a 12 year old boy you’re gonna love this movie. Simpson’s was an extended TV show – very funny with biting satire. The first 40 minutes are so chock full of jokes, you can hardly keep up. If you’re a Simpson’s fan you can’t miss this movie. Harry Potter 5 was good. The darkest, and I thought best, Potter movie thus far. The story has moved beyond a magical children’s story and the movie reflects that change. That leaves me with Hairspray. I was a big fan of the original movie and thought it was hilarious if a little silly. The current version is also great. From the opening song Good Morning Baltimore (with a wonderful cameo by John Waters), you know you are in for a treat. The movie was a blast, fun to look at and the set musical pieces were stunning. The one movie so far that I would go back to see again (although I could be dragged to the Simpson’s just to catch some of the jokes I missed).

Books. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I thought it was a good ending to the story. A surprising amount of sub plots were wrapped up and a large number of known characters were killed (nine at my count). The ending is a little confusing but with a little research I’m pretty sure I get it. Rowling can write some great set pieces and there are definitely parts that are absolute page turners. Wild Trees: This is a fascinating little book about researchers of Redwood trees who climb up to the top of 350 foot redwoods to find out what’s going up in the canopy. Fun characters that you care about and what would seem like a boring story – tree researchers – is actually quite interesting. Written by the author of Hot Zone. Also check out my review of The Natural at Stick and Ball Guy.

Music. I haven’t listened to a whole lot of new music this summer. Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky is a nice addition to the Wilco canon. It definitely has a 70’s vibe and the guitar work is stellar. Not as experimental as Yankee Foxtrot Hotel or a Ghost is Born but compelling and worthy of multiple listenings nonetheless. Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible is good but not the second coming of the Lord as it was described by some reviewers.

TV. I haven’t watched a lot of TV other than the Daily Show or Twins baseball games. ESPN’s The Bronx is Burning has been good. Based on a book that I read last year it tells the story of 1977 NYC including the Yankees (Billy Martin v. Reggie Jackson), the Son of Sam killings, the mayors race, and eventually the blackout. Since it’s on ESPN the series is focusing on the Yankees angle but is actually done quite well.

Sports. Twins have been maddenly inconsistent but weren’t able to add that one bat or two to get them over the hump. Wolves trade Garnett, Michael Vick sponsored dog fights, doping epidemic at the Tour de France, Freddy Adu goes to Portugal, Barry Bonds will break Aaron’s record any day now, and the Vikings promise to wallow in NFL mediocrity once again. Summer 2007 will not go down as a shining sports era under anyone’s measure.

What have you been doing this summer? What have you liked or not liked?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2007 is the previous archive.

September 2007 is the next archive.

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