October 2008 Archives

Friday Random Top 10

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So what was your favorite World Series moment? Man I probably had the least interest in a World Series ever. Looks like we need a Friday Randome Top 10:

1. This Land is Your Land -- Woody Guthrie
2. Don't Dictate -- The Penetration
3. California Dreamin' -- The Mama's and Papa's
4. Heart Songs -- Weezer
5. Chloroform -- Jack Logan
6. Opportunity (live) -- Elvis Costello
7. Mystery -- Kelly Hogan and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
8. Divide and Conquer -- Husker Du
9. Opportunity -- Elvis
10. Judy is a Punk -- Ramones

First time ever the same song by the same artist in the same top ten (although one is a live version). A fine list too. What's your top ten?

TCF Bank Stadium Photos

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I got to tour TCF Bank Stadium today, future home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The place is going to be spectacular. While the form of the stadium is pretty much complete, the interiors don't have any finishes so I didn't take a lot of pictures of the interiors. However, that locker room is going to be spectacular!! Below are some pics that I did take (click on photo to enlarge).

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The Field is at grade level, so you will have to walk up to get to your seat (or take an elevator).

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Ground Level Exterior

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View from the President's Suite (holds 80 people)

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3:30 on a late October afternoon. Sun and Shade will be a factor

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Inside the Suites

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Top Row below the Loge

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Inside Corridor

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The Field

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Top Row, worst seat in the House!

Like I said, this place is going to be a blast. I can't wait until September 12, 2009.

Bob Dylan Week

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While everyone is focused on the election, it’s unofficially Bob Dylan week here in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota. Tonight the festivities kick-off with an hour long discussion at Nicholson Hall by Dylan biographer and pop culture critic Greil Marcus and Director Todd Haynes who wrote and directed the very interesting Dylan film I’m Not There. I’m not sure exactly what the topic is going to be but it promises to be interesting and I will be there with a certain review tomorrow.

Saturday night events move to the Walker Art Museum where Haynes’ film I’m Not There will screen. Again Marcus and Haynes will be there -- this time to specifically discuss the film. I’m hoping to go, but who knows what the boss has planned for Saturday night. I saw I’m Not There when it came out and really enjoyed it, although it was oblique at times. In this article even Greil Marcus admits it takes a few viewings to enjoy fully so I am hoping to see the movie again, hear the discussion, and gain more insight into the movie.

Next Tuesday, election day, is the highlight. Bob Dylan will be performing at the Northrop Auditorium, his first concert ever at the University of Minnesota. As everyone knows, Bobby Zimmerman “attended? the U of MN in the early 60’s and lived only a few blocks from Northrop. Couple this homecoming with the fact that it’s election night (and an apparent Barack Obama victory that night) and it looks like a very poignant and memorable night. I’ve been checking the set lists for the Dylan shows on this tour and looks like he’s picking classic songs from all aspects of his career. I haven’t seen any reviews, but if the set list offers any clues, it looks like a not-to-miss show.

I have 18 row dead center seats and am very excited about the show. Here’s the deal to my vast readership. I also have 4 additional seats in Row 30 and am willing to sell them. They are $86.00 seats and I have them on Craigslist and Stub Hub for $200. However by this weekend if I don’t get any takers, I am willing to sell them to friends for face value. Send me a note if interested. Jeff T. and Jeff L., I know both of you are Dylan fans. Any interest in going?

Come back to these pages for my review of the Marcus-Haynes events and next week the show.

A Tale of Two Campaigns

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One rainstorm, two campaigns and two responses

"Wearing jeans, white sneakers and an insulated windbreaker, Barack Obama delivered his stump speech this morning in a chilly, steady rain in Chester, Pa.

"A little bit of rain never hurt anybody," Obama said, surveying the soaking, umbrella-covered crowd at Widener University, occasionally rubbing his hands together for warmth and squinting through the raindrops. An estimated 9,000 people turned out.

And John McCain:

"The McCain campaign announced it was postponing a rally at 1:15 p.m. in Quakertown, Pa., about one hour north of Chester, due to weather."

Add to the fact that an unnamed McCain staffer called Gov. Palin a "Whack Job" today, and you get the feeling that the wheels are starting to come off the McCain campaign bus.

Go Go Gophers

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The Golden Gophers Football team is 7-1. Not the Hockey team (although they soon may be too!) not the Basketball team, the football team. Of course the most optimistic fan would have never guessed or dreamed a 7-1 record after last year’s debacle of a season.

What’s even wackier is that it is the Gopher defense that is leading the charge. Last year the defense was the worst in the country and you could make a pretty good argument that it was one of the worst defenses ever. This year they are solid and improving. Clearly Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof is going to get a lot looks over the off-season, I hope the Gophers can keep him another year.

Another key has been the play of Quarterback Adam Weber. Clearly this guy is tough as nails and seems like a natural leader. The guy’s only a redshirt Sophmore so the Gophers have a couple more years of Weber, if he keeps his health. Eric Decker is a fantastic receiver and could be an All-American. Not bad for a white guy from Sartell, Minnesota!

The weakness by far for this team is the offensive line. Injuries and inexperience has taken its toll and let’s hope the o-line improves as the season goes on. Oh and penalties. Please cut down on those stupid penalties.

The Gophers have three of their last four games at home and should be the favorite. A 10-2 season is not out of the question. None of the four remaining teams are pushovers either, and losing 4 games shouldn’t be ignored. The next two: Northwestern and Michigan at home are definitely winnable. Let’s win those two and go from there.

So it’s Homecoming Week, the Gophers are a surprising winner and columnists and Coach Brewster-haters like Patrick Reusse and Dan Barreiro have had to grudgingly give props to the Gophers. The Jug, Floyd, and The Axe are definitely obtainable. What more can a Gophers fan ask?

Friday Random Top 10

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Ten days before the election and the knives and clubs are coming out. I can’t wait until after the election and read about all the recriminations, backstabbing, settled scores, etc that will come out the stinking mass of wreckage call the John McCain Presidential Campaign. Let’s celebrate with a Friday Top Ten:

1. I Can’t Stop Loving You – Ray Charles
2. Homesick – Soul Asylum
3. There Ain’t no Bugs on Me – Jerry Garcia and David Grishman
4. We Walk – The Ting Tings
5. New Rose – The Damned
6. Bulldog Skin – Guided By Voices
7. Inspection Wise 1999 – The Hives
8. Carry that Weight – The Beatles
9. Even the Losers – Tom Petty
10. Think About Yourself – Golden Smog

That Ray Charles Song is from the album Modern Songs in Country and Western Music which holds up as a pretty damn good album some 45 plus years after it was recorded. The fact that a black dude could pull it off in the early 60’s – a time when he was considered a second class citizen in many parts of the south – speaks volumes about Ray Charles’ talent. So what’s your top 10?

What Would Happen If You Didn't Vote?

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What would happen if you didn't vote and the other candidate won by that one vote? Besides feeling pretty terrible, I am guessing the media would have a field day with you. In fact, 1/2 of the country would be upset. It would probably look something like this.

UPDATE:

I took the embed out as it had the irritating autoplay feature. Definitely click the link. It's a hoot.


Lesson: Don't forget to vote!

The Wedding Present -- El Rey

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A couple of weeks ago
I described the fact that I hadn’t listened to a lot of new music lately and decided to do something about it by purchasing four recent releases by newer bands and give them multiple listens and then review them here on this blog. Besides exposing myself to newer music, the hope was to find a new favorite band -- or at least a band to get excited about. My first review was of The Walkmen's You & Me which I found lacking to say the least. Second up was We Started Nothing by the Ting Tings, which was better than the Walkmen, had a couple of great songs, but in the end it was clear that the Ting Tings were not going to my next favorite band. I thought that The Kings of Leon’s album Only by the Night was good, not great and ultimately unsatisfying. That leaves me with The Wedding Present and El Rey. An I am happy to say that the long wait was worth it, I found a new band to get excited about.

The Wedding Present is interesting in that it is kind of a new band that’s been around for a long time. In fact, The Wedding Present first came about in the late 1980’s and had a critically acclaimed album, Seamonsters, in 1991 (recorded in Minnesota!). The band broke up and singer/songwriter David Gedge and girlfriend/bandmember Sally Murrell formed the band Cinerama, releasing a number of albums in the 90’s and 2000’s. The Wedding Present was somewhat kept alive by the release of singles, Peel Session recordings and by the cultish fans. Finally, in 2005 Gedge formed a band under the Wedding Present name and released El Rey earlier this year.

El Rey is an album that I loved from the first listen. Swirling, chugging guitars, funny lyrics with definite influences coming from Yo La Tengo. And contrast to let’s say The Walkmen, the songs are infectious and fun to listen to. I can’t stress the later point enough. The lyrics aren’t listed on the CD, which in many cases I wouldn’t care, but the songs were so engaging I searched for the lyrics so that get a better sense of the songs.

Relationships between the sexes dominate El Rey as the singer is constantly faced with appealing women who make him question the current relationship he is in. In fact the first three songs seem to be one story about a guy who falls for a women even though he is in a relationship with another and the resulting fallout. In the first song, Santa Ana Winds, the chorus goes: “When she says: “I’m handing myself to you entirely, completely? Before asking, sweetly: “And are you falling for me too?? And that’s when I pretend that I don’t have a girlfriend.? This is followed up in the next song Spiderman on Hollywood where it’s obvious he’s had to face the music with his old girlfriend and comes up with this great line: “And that’s what’s so funny, honey. You’ve looked like my girl for so long that I thought you would always be beside me. But I’d be the first to admit I was wrong.? Finally in I Lost the Monkey, it all comes crashing apart: “Because I just want you back This has all been a mistake; I didn’t know what was at stake I was playing some kind of senseless game.? A few songs later in Trouble with Men, the singer may be a few years older but still has problems with choosing between women:

Don’t say: “Hello? You’re far too gorgeous for me and I know that if I talk to you then I’ll raise my hopes up again And I will spend all weekend wondering if you could be my girlfriend Instead of loving my wife and getting on with my life

The album is full of songs and lyrics like that and is a hoot to listen to. Probably my favorite song is Don’t Take Me Home Until I am Drunk in which the singer is on a perfect date and then blurts out they he’s falling in love. She replies that she likes him too and then texts(!) him the next day saying she’s getting back with her fiancé. Ouch! What is really cool about this song is that the guitar solo after that little scene is a frantic frenzy of slashing power chords. It really represents what someone would be feeling at this moment: anger, embarrassment, sadness all rolled up in jangly mess.

I could go but you get the picture. El Rey is a fantastic album of catchy songs, fuzzy guitars, and solid rhythm. I think I found a new favorite band.

The Hill

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Near Fort Snelling there is a very steep hill (bad picture above) that connects a bike trail to the Mendota Bridge. The hill has a good 30+ degree slant and is long. For us flatlanders in the Midwest, it’s a pretty nasty hill for bike riders, the steepest I know of along the river. Early this summer I tried to ride up the hill but had to get off about mid-way and walk. I vowed that by the end of the summer I would be able to ride my bike all the way up that hill.

If life was a Hollywood movie, what would be seen next is a montage (with a kick-ass rock song on the sound track) of me exercising, training on other hills, working that hill and getting closer and closer to the top before I had to get off. But life isn’t a Hollywood movie with rockin’ montages. I did remember my vow and when I was riding my bike this summer I would attack any hill I came across a little harder. I hadn’t, however, been back to the Fort Snelling trail.

This being Minnesota, the bike riding season is fast coming to an end and my vow was weighing on me. Thankfully Saturday was a beautiful day and I had some time. I was going to see if I could make it up that hill. It might be my last time I had this season.

Coming up to the hill I was pretty confident, I noticed that other hills that had given me trouble earlier in the year were easily ascented but as ?The Hill? drew nearer, my mind was clouded with doubts. First among them is that the hill trail is perpendicular to the river trail, meaning I wouldn’t have a running start. But more worrisome was what if I failed? What would that do to my confidence? Would that mean the hundreds of miles I put on my bike this summer would be for naught? I approached the hill with trepidation and had further worries when I came to the hill and, due to the nice weather, found it full of other walkers and bikers – I would have to weave my way around them.

Life throws hills at us all the time. Relationships, work, finances, old houses and cars, etc., seem to constantly present some sort of obstacle that we need to overcome. Just dealing with those day-to-day obstacles can be physically and mentally tough, sometimes overwhelmingly so. But I think it’s also important challenge ourselves with hills of our own making. It doesn’t matter what it is, it can be improvements in your personal relationships, it can be that you’re finally going to learn how to play guitar, it can be stop smoking or lose weight. The important thing is to set a realistic goal and accomplish it. Just by doing that you can gain more confidence to address all those other problems that life throws at you.

So yes I made it up the hill. In fact about a third of the way up I knew I was going to make it. It was a lung buster and wasn’t easy but I made true my June vow. Even more satisfying than making it up the hill was the fact that I passed two guys probably 20 years younger than me walking their bikes. Will making it up that hill change my life? Probably not, but who knows maybe it will a little bit, and if I can make little changes for the better, maybe they will add up to bigger changes over time. Know what my next goal is? To stay in shape over the winter so that on the first nice weekend in April when I bring my bike out for the first time, I attack that hill and once again make it up without stopping.

How about you, any hills you’re trying to conquer?

Kings of Leon -- Only by the Night

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A little over a week ago I described the fact that I hadn’t listened to a lot of new music lately and decided to do something about it by purchasing four recent releases by newer bands and give them multiple listens and then review them here on this blog. Besides exposing myself to newer music, the hope was to find a new favorite band -- or at least a band to get excited about. My first review was of The Walkmen's You & Me which I found lacking to say the least. Second up was We Started Nothing by the Ting Tings, which was better than the Walkmen, had a couple of great songs, but in the end it was clear that the Ting Tings were not going to my next favorite band.

Next up is Kings of Leon and their new album Only by the Night. When their new album came out this fall there was a lot of indie chatter about this band. Their previous albums were definitely in the buzz bin and great things were expected. The single Sex on Fire was burning up the “alternative? and “college radio? charts and in heavy rotation on some stations. However, doing some research on the album, I found that the album has been a big disappointment to old fans. A reaction I both understand and think is a little too critical.

First, this album is good but it isn’t great. KOL has spent that last year in bigger arenas (sometimes supporting U2) and it shows. This album has that “big? sound that could easily fit a 18,000 seat arena and the second song, Crawl, sounds like it could be an outtake from Actung Baby. Caleb Followill’s voice is a kind of craggy moan that could easily be classified as Eddie Veddar-esque. With Only by the Night KOL has honed it’s rock bona-fides.

Read the reviews (like here and here), and the reaction is that Only by the Night isn’t as good as previous efforts and that it loses a lot of steam over the last half of the album. I for one didn’t think the album generated a lot of steam for it to lose and actually liked the last few songs better than beginning. Be Somebody and Cold Desert are actually catchy tunes and I found myself humming the refrains after listening to the album. Neither are huge rockers and maybe not classic outro songs, but decent nonetheless.

In the end Only by the Night is a bit of a let down. It’s decent but I found myself wanting to rock out more than it allowed. There’s some cool ideas musically going on however, and I may want to check out some of their earlier albums to see what all the fuss was about. I may come back to the album from time to time but it probably won’t be on heavy rotation. As I said above a good but not great album. What do you think of Kings of Leon? Is Only by the Night a good album or a disappointment?

Friday Random Top 10

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I saw John McCain last night on David Letterman and man he sometimes just comes across as kind of a dick. Say what you want about Obama’s experience or Sarah Palin’s stupidity… I am not sure that John McCain would wear well with the American Public over four years. Here’s your Friday Random Top 10:

1. You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash
2. Moulty – The Barbarians
3. Days – The Kinks
4. Full Moon, Empty Heart – Belly
5. Sweet Dreams – Patsy Cline
6. Ball and Chain – Janis Joplin
7. Oddfellows Local 151 – R.E.M.
8. Plains of Nebrasky-O – Eric Anderson
9. Donut Shops of Ontario – Washboard Hank
10. If I Told You – Husker Du

Sometimes the Friday Random Top 10s are just gems: I wish I could give the list to everyone so that they could hear what real good music sounds like and radio stations all around the country would take that list and play it on an endless loop. The above is definitely not one of those examples. What’s your top 10?

The Ting Tings -- We Started Nothing

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Last Monday I described the fact that I hadn’t listened to a lot of new music lately and decided to do something about it by purchasing four recent releases by newer bands and give them multiple listens and then review them here on this blog. Besides exposing myself to newer music, the hope was to find a new favorite band -- or at least a band to get excited about. My first review was of The Walkmen's You & Me which I found lacking to say the least.

Next up is The Ting Tings and their album, We Started Nothing. To be honest this was the one album of the four I was the most worried about. I love the two songs Great DJ and That's Not My Name but was worried that the rest of the album wouldn't come close to these two songs. I had to include this album because of those two songs, thinking it wasn't fair to ignore them. I am happy to say that while it isn't my favorite album in the world, it's not bad either.

Great DJ and That's Not My Name are pretty representative of the entire album and it's full of electo-beats, infectious riffs, and catchy lyrics. I am sure the album is a smash on the Euro-dance floors and you can take that as damning by faint praise. I definitely heard a little bit of the Yea Yea Yeas in the album especially the title song.

In the end, at age 45 electro dance beats, while fun to listen to every once in a while just isn't my cup of tea, and while I think I'll come back to the first two songs, the rest of the album will fall into that rare listen category. All in all a fun but ultimately insubstantial album will probably be mostly forgotten in a couple of years.

Have you heard We Started Nothing? What did you think?

A Tale of Two Rallies

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John McCain and Barack Obama held campaign rallies this past weekend that couldn’t have been more different than one another and they represent, I think, why Democrats are ascendant in this Country and Republicans are floundering.

John McCain was in Lakeville, MN on Friday. Lakeville is an outer ring suburb of Minneapolis that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years. White, middle class, with manicured lawns, homes with 3-car garages, and strip malls filled with stores you would recognize in any suburb in any part of the country, Lakeville is the American Dream incarnate. This area is solid George W. Bush country and why not? Bush (and Republican) policies have favored cities like Lakeville and their citizens for the past eight years. However McCain’s rally on Friday was angry. John McCain had to physically take the microphone away from a women who called Obama an Arab (some reports stated she added “terrorist? off-mic), over half of the questions from the attendees were to implore McCain to be meaner, to attack Obama and the Democrats. When McCain stated that Obama was a good family man and deserved respect, he was booed.

Contrast that scene with Obama’s rally Saturday afternoon in north Philly. Inner-city Philadelphia is one of those places that’s been ignored by the Bush Administration, predatory lending has led to an epidemic of home foreclosures, jobs are scarce, many of it’s best young men and women have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan, schools are ignored, tax policies favor the families in Lakeville not Philadelphia. If any group of people should be angry over the course that this Country has taken over the past eight year, it’s those who live in the inner cities. However, anger was not the flavor of the day. Instead it was one of hope.

Now of course these two rallies could just represent the state of the presidential race. It’s hard to be happy when your guy is losing. Likewise, why be upset when your candidate is seemingly cruising to victory. But I think there’s more here than just the ups and downs of an electoral contest. Right now Republicanism is a spent force. Republicans have no record to run on, they have no new ideas (just think the panic if the one new idea they did have – privatize social security – was enacted), they have no positive vision for America. All they have left is fear and anger.

Unfortunately for Republicans, fear and anger don’t work anymore. First there’s just too much information out there so while ugly rumors can be get out to more people quickly through the internet, they can be shot down just as quickly. Also Republicans have gone to the fear well too many times. When Republicans talk about how Democrats will ruin the economy most remember how the economy under Bill Clinton was a whole lot more robust than under George W. Bush. When Republicans talk about social ills under Democrats, America looks at a horndog John McCain dumping his first wife for an heiress, Larry Craig on his knees in an airport restroom, and lobbyists buying Republican influence with bags of money and gifts.

Even though it appears counterintuitive, I believe that north Philly rally is more reflective of America in 2008 than the one that took place on Friday. America is more diverse, more hopeful, more forgiving than those angry people that made their way to the lily white suburb of Lakeville. That’s why Barack Obama is winning this race. His is the face of America, his are the policies that make more sense, his views are those that resonate with a country that is sick of the Republican stance of angry words and broken promises.

Friday Random Top 10

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This weekend I am making two pizzas with all locally grown ingredients including the sauce and crust from scratch. I’ve got the tomatoes, onions, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, flour, sausage, and spices all gathered. Friends are bringing a salad collected from their garden and we will have local beer and vodka, and hopefully a regional wine. Should be a fun time and what better way to celebrate than with a Friday Random Top 10:

1. Black – Pearl Jam
2. Motor City is Burning – MC5
3. Wart Hog – The Ramones
4. Blue Monk – Art Blakely
5. Goodbye Babe – The Castaways
6. Do You Think It’s Alright? – The Who
7. She Walks on Me – Hole
8. Birds You Cannot See – The Handsome Family
9. Unleased! The Largeheaded Boy – Guided By Voices
10. Stay Away From Heaven – Yo La Tengo

That Guided By Voices song reminds me that Robert Pollard was in town on Tuesday and I missed it. Dang! Anyway a cool list. Kind of a music snob’s wet dream: obscure faves like Yo La Tengo and GBV, ironic non-hits from Pearl Jam and Hole, jazz and garage rock classics, and the Ramones. What’s your top 10?

The Walkmen -- You & Me

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On Monday I described the fact that I hadn’t listened to a lot of new music lately and decided to do something about it by purchasing four recent releases by newer bands and give them multiple listens and then review them here on this blog. Besides exposing myself to newer music, the hope was to find a new favorite band -- or at least a band to get excited about. Unfortunately The Walkmen and their album You & Me will not be that band.

It’s hard to describe how much I hated this album. Hate may seem like a strong word but this was one of the four bands I wanted to check out, invest money and time in, and talk about on this blog. For their album to come up so lame, so unlistenable, so… bleh, makes me mad I wasted the opportunity on such a snooze of an effort. I truly don’t want to listen to this album ever again.

Reading reviews of the album one comes across the word “atmospheric.? And I get it. I guess I would describe the album that way too in that the music is somewhat slower and dream-like. When someone describes an album as atmospheric they usually mean it’s somewhat languid with no sense of urgency. Which is fine, not all music has to get you up and want to move. But if something is atmospheric it should sweep you away, bring you up into the atmosphere. You & Me does not do this. I found the music boring, with no hooks or melodies that got me humming or dreaming, or, to be frank, to really care. I found this album worse than The Shin’s Wincing the Night Away which is another album that I just can’t listen to.

So in my opinion, stay away from the Walkmen’s You & Me. It’s a lousy, lazy effort that’s not worth the disc space on your I-pod or chance that it comes up during a Friday Random Top 10. (Hey Jeff T., does your neighbor have this CD yet? If not he can have mine).

Have you heard You & Me? What did you think?


Book Review -- Nixonland

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Nixonland by Rick Perlstein covers the time in American history when it really seemed that the country was about to collapse. The book covers the time period from 1964 to 1972 when urban riots, assassinations, war, massive protests, and campus unrest were constantly being broadcast into people’s home via the nightly news and on American’s doorstop via their daily newspaper. It was also the time that Richard Nixon exploited this unrest and the fears it brought to win two terms as president.

If the past few elections have gotten you down because they seem to have played on the people’s fears rather than issues and positions, blame Richard Nixon. He was the first candidate to really exploit middle class fears, resentments even, about changes in the culture, fears about crime, fears about blacks moving into white neighborhoods, and college students who were not respectful of their elders. People who had never voted for a Republican candidate in the past were scared and mad and confused about what was happening in the world and Richard Nixon spoke to these people like a politician never spoke to someone in the past. And even though he was never well liked, he won two terms as president.

The book is a fascinating read and it really takes you through all the momentous events of the era. The riots in Watts, Detroit, and Newark, the escalation of the Vietnam War, Civil Rights struggles, MLK and RFK assassinations, the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, rising urban crime, Woodstock, Nixon going to China, Kent State, the first inklings of Watergate, and much, much more.

It’s especially interesting because it seems that, 44 years after it was first used as a campaign tactic, fear and resentment is losing steam as an effective political tool. First Hilary Clinton and now John McCain have tied to use fear and wedge issues against Barack Obama with diminishing results. Of course there are pockets of the population that still respond to these tactics as the ugly crowds that have been showing up at Palin rallies can attest (cries of “kill him? were heard on Monday, referring to Barack Obama). However people who feel this way seem to be more and more isolated as the cranky old coots they really are.

So if you like recent American history, interested in how we got to where we are today politically, I strongly recommend reading Nixonland. It should be a must read for all students of American history.

UPDATE:
Ezra Klein states much better what I was trying to say above:

Similarly, attacks that should have shuttered Obama's campaign did not. In 1988, the Willie Horton ads managed to make Michael Dukakis seem too black. In 2008, Reverend Wright couldn't derail Obama. Indeed, to assert Obama's otherness, they've need to stack racial attacks atop insinuations of Muslim heritage atop cries of political radicalism. In 1984, Ayers would have been enough. In 1988, Wright would have been enough. In 2004, his Arab name would have been enough. In 2008, it seems likely that all three combined won't keep Obama from the White House. Which suggests that the traditional sore spots of American politics are becoming quite a bit duller.

We may be entering a time when attacks like this don't work anymore. If you want to read about when these kind of attacks first began, and how effective they were, read Nixonland

The Great 2008 New Music Listen-Off

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Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I haven’t written much about music lately. To be quite honest, there hasn’t been a lot of new music that’s excited me and I’ve mostly been filling in with some older stuff and listening to the old tried and true. Besides listening to My Morning Jacket, which is pretty derivative of 70’s rock, I really haven’t heard anything new since last year’s Klaxons album and Radiohead’s In Rainbows. I’ve even ignored new albums by established acts that I’ve liked in the past like Beck and Weezer.

Part of it has to do with age and priorities. It’s hard to check out new music when you have job, family, financial obligation that just seem more important. Part of it has to do with the fact that the music industry is in a doldrums and isn’t really producing a lot that is new and exciting lately. It’s hard to get excited about bands that sound just like Death Cab For Cutie or have one decent song and 15 bad ones. So recently it’s just plain easier to listen to the old standbys, the stuff I’ve always liked and there's only so much you can say about an album you've heard multiple times before.

Well over the past week I decided to do something about my musical doldrums and decided to purchase four CD’s from four relatively new bands. The CD’s are all 2008 releases and I chose them based on a song or two I heard on the radio and by a cursory check on youtube.com. My plan is to give all four CD’s multiple listens, review them here over the next week or so, and then choose a favorite new band. The four bands and albums are as follows:

Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing
The Walkman – You & Me
The Wedding Present – El Rey

I’ve started to listen to these bands over the weekend and have some initial thoughts that I will keep to myself. I promise to give each band a fair shake and give them multiple listens because I know my opinion changes with each listen. So come back to find out what I discovered it should be an interesting experiment.

What about you? What new releases are you listening to? What’s your opinion of the bands I have selected?

Weezer Concert 10/3/08

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Has there ever been a band where its fans lived and died on the singer/songwriter’s psyche as much as Rivers Cuomo and Weezer? I am happy to announce that Rivers seems to be happy and accepting of his status of a rock god. Weezer played at the Xcel Energy Center on Friday and it was a blast. From the opening song of My Name is Jonas, the band was out to prove it wanted to have a good time and for the next two hours we were treated to red weezer track suits, soccer balls, trampolines, rock god posing, good natured rock banter and fun time rock and roll. Throw in a 40-piece “orchestra? of radio contest winners playing everything thing from guitars to bongos to trombones to a washboard and you have a fun time with Weezer. Rivers Cuomo was the ring leader but he shared the stage with his bandmates and at least half the songs were sung by someone other than Rivers. Highlights: The opening of My Name is Jonas, Pink Triangle, and Perfect Situation; Lowlights: Only two songs from Make Believe.

A fun show from a truly great band. Hopefully we see more of them in the future. Here’s the set list:

My Name Is Jonas
Pink Triangle
Perfect Situation
Say It Ain’t So
Susanne
Keep Fishin’
King
Undone
Pork and Beans
Dreamin’
Dope Nose
Trouble maker
Automatic
Hash Pipe
El Scorcho
What’s the Story Morning Glory
Greatest Man That Ever Lived
ENCORE
Island in the Sun (with Orchestra)
Beverly Hills (with Orchestra)
Sliver
Buddy Holly

Friday Random Top 10

Well Just as I predicted on Tuesday, Sarah Palin did fine in the debate, but the big story is that Joe Biden rocked! Now the Cubs are on the verge of another disappointment in the playoffs and the Brewers somehow forgot to bring their bats to Philly. Maybe both teams need a Friday Top 10 to get them out of the doldrums.

1. Turnaround -- Nirvana
2. Baby It's Cold Outside -- Ray Charles
3. Time After Time -- REM
4. It's Up to You -- The Jayhawks
5. Easy Wind -- The Grateful Dead
6. Sieve-Fisted Find -- Fugazi
7. The King Who Wouldn't Smile -- The Handsome Family
8. Rock & Roll -- Velvet Underground
9. Once is Enough -- Wire
10. Fair Touching -- Guided By Voices

Another nice list, I wonder if Kat Dennings would think I was her soul mate if she heard this list? Weezer tonight, look for a weekend review. What's your top 10?

Black-1, White-0

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Bush beats Gore. Saruman The White aligns with Mordor. Kurt Cobain gives in to his demons. Germany invades Poland. These were dark days when blackness engulfed light, when hope was all but lost and man feared for his suddenly trembling soul. Last night it happened once again as the black clad Chicago White Sox defeated those men in white, those plucky nine-ballers from the north, the lovable, the handsome, the wet-behind-the-ears Minnesota Twins.

Oh it was close, it always is when evil toys with good. Evil can never just roll over good. The outcome must always be in doubt, it must tease, give a smattering of hope. Then, at the most opportune moment, crush. This time it was a single shot, a mammoth shot that first lifted into the black Chicago sky and then fell gently back to earth into the black Chicago stands. It was as if Dr. Henry Holmes had risen from his dark South-side parlor to administer the lethal blow himself.

So evil stands again. But only to face another purveyor of good, another Ray of light. See that’s the problem that the forces of dark must face: it can’t sustain itself. There’s always another day, the sun comes back up again. And even for the Minnesota Twins there’s next year, a year that promises to be brighter than this year. With a pitching staff that is young and strong and wise. A line-up that is swift and strong and manly. And a team that represents the light, the good, and all that is worth living on God’s good earth.

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