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December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008!

As 2008 wraps up I am already looking forward to 2009. Here are some of what I am looking forward to in 2009:

My mission trip to Haiti
Battlestar Gallactica final Episodes
Obama as President
The Opening of TCF Bank Stadium
The Watchmen Movie
The Minneapolis Mayoral race
My 401K going in the right direction

However we can’t forget about 2008. An historic election, another NYC trip for the family, new car, LFAD becoming a place for lost fans of the Urban Guerrillas to check in, lots of bike riding… Below are my favorite LFAD posts of 2008

Drunken Bodeans Concert
U2 in 3D
The Apple Orchard
The Mekons and Griel Marcus!
Vatican Believes in ET
Why I support Obama
The Feelies in Concert
Goodbye Jessie Helms
Welcome RNCers!
Twins lose to Black Sox
Dylan and Obama
Elvis Comeback Special

Also my favorite and least favorite concerts were fun to write about.


Finally I can’t leave 2008 without two other referencing two other pieces of writing that I thought were really excellent. First is a Ryan Adams review that I thought was just sublime. Click Here.

Finally something from Bill Simmons ESPN mailbag. If you don’t know about Bill Simmons Mailbag you should check it out, it is usually absolutely hilarious. Below is a letter that made me spew coffee all over my computer screen:

I was with a lady friend and we decided to pop in a movie. She had never seen "Hoosiers," so naturally we put that in. But 10 minutes into the movie, it was obvious that she wasn't into the movie, and instead was getting a little frisky. So with the movie in the background, we entertained ourselves. The best part was there was a slight pause in the action and I turned to see the movie, and it was right when Ollie hits the free throws, and I thought, "This is awesome!"

With that, have a Happy New Year!

December 29, 2008

Movies in Review 2008

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Here is my 2007 Review
Here is my 2006 Review


Another so-so year for movies in my humble opinion. Here were some of my faves:

Cloverfield. Classic monster movie with the monster representing fear of terrorism. Interesting concept filming from the perspective of those on the street. If you want to read a 10 page treatise I wrote on Cloverfield and terrorism, click here:Download file.

Mongol. Stunning movie about the childhood and rise of Genghis Khan. Filmed on location in the Mongolian Steppes where Khan ruled, this bloody gloriously shot movie is the first of a promised trilogy of the story of Genghis Khan. I can’t wait for the next two.

Tropic Thunder. Funniest movie I saw this year. Great send-up of action flicks. Now you can actually buy Booty Sweat at gift/gag stores.

Batman the Dark Knight. Very dark disturbing film. This isn’t Batman with prosthetic nipples and Schwarzenegger goofing on stupid one-liners. Of course Heath Ledger’s performance was amazing.

U2-3D. Saw this at the I-max and had to see it twice. Great concert show with the 3-D bringing Bono right into your lap.

Butterfly and the Diving Bell. Wow what a film. True story of a man who could only communicate by blinking his one good eye. Filmed beautifully.

Man on Wire. Documentary about the guy who strung a wire between the Twin Towers and walked back and forth for over 45 minutes. Very interesting and you come away with the sense that this guy was both crazy, egotistic, and extremely brave.

Biggest Disappointments: No Country for Old Men was vastly overrated with an ending that was just stupid. Indiana Jones wasn’t a surprise that it wasn’t that great, but aliens? C'mon Spielberg! The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons tried to be great but came up short, thus revealing all of its warts and flaws.

What movies did you like this year?

December 23, 2008

2008 -- Year in Music

Here is my 2007 Music Review
Here is my 2006 Music Review

The year 2008 actually started off extremely slow for listening to new music, but I came on strong as the weather got colder and I listened to a bunch of new stuff, mostly from the old tried and true, by the end of the year. Below are the new albums I listened to, most of them were reviewed on this blog (click album to read review).

Albums
Paul Westerberg - 49:00
Walkmen – You & Me
Ting Tings – We Started Nothing
Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
The Wedding Present – El Rey
Weezer – The Red Album
REM – Accelerator
Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue
The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

As I posted earlier, I hated the Walkmen and loved the Wedding Present, with El Rey my favorite Album of the year. The Jenny Lewis album was a disappointment and Stay Positive by The Hold Steady was nice. Accelerator was o.k. Nice rockin’ album but not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. That Paul Westerberg release was a fun little experiment that I find myself listening to every so often as well. Overall a pretty weak year for new music.


Rediscovered Albums
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
The Wedding Present – Seamonsters, Bizaro, Hit Parade
Ike Reilly – Junkie Faithful
Built to Spill – Perfect From Now On

I really got into The Wedding Present this fall with Bizzaro and Hit Parade on heavy rotation. The My Bloody Valentine and Built to Spill albums were long lost classics I am glad I re-discovered. They were off my radar screen for far too long. I really grooved on that Ike Reilly disc too and might check out some more Ike in 2009.


Songs
That’s Not My Name – The Ting Tings
Carpetbagger – Jenny Lewis w/Elvis Costello
Killing the Blues – Robert Plant and Alison Kraus

That’s Not My Name was by far my favorite song this year. I just crank the volume every time I hear it. Carpetbagger was cool too – I just love Elvis Costello’s vocals – that’s why I was so disappointed in the rest of that Jenny Lewis album. Killing the Blues was actually released in 2007 but I really didn’t hear it until 2008. Great lugubrious song.


Concerts
Bodeans
Mekons
Weezer
Bob Dylan

Click on each individual show for my review. Not a whole lot of concerts this year. In fact that Bodeans concert was from New Years but obviously fell into 2008 too so I included it. The Mekons was kinda a concert but hey live music counts is a concert right? I missed a couple of good ones including The Wedding Present, some shows related to the RNC in St. Paul, and a Flaming Lips show at a festival in Detroit Lakes. Not sure what 2009 brings.

So not the greatest year in music but what the heck, I’m not 22 any more. What did you like musically this year?

December 22, 2008

Books Read 2008

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Below is are the books I read in 2008. I think this list covers all of them although I have a feeling I’m missing one or two. If I can’t remember them, they must not have been that important! Many of these books I’ve reviewed in this blog, but not all. As usual, non-fiction predominates the list.

Here is my list from 2007

Here is my list from 2006.

Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and his American Cosmic Music
– David Meyer. I sorta reviewed this book here and is a fascinating read about Gram Parsons, his life and weird death. If you’re interested in Parsons or his music this is a must read. Doesn’t pull any punches and you can tell that the author was disappointed in Parson’s drug use and the potential that was basically tossed away.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley. I read this as part of my class Monster, Robots, and Cyborgs and found it an interesting and a page turner even though it was written nearly 200 years ago. If you only know Frankenstein through the movie, you should read this book. The original science-gone-amok story.

Beowulf – Translated by Seamus Haney. Again from my class. The original monster story in written form. I also found this book fascinating. Beowulf kicked some series ass in his day. This translation is particularly well done.

Dracula – Bram Stoker. One more from my class. Much like Frankenstein, if you only know the story from the movie you’ll be surprised how much more there is to the story. Very creepy and exciting.

A World Lit Only By Fire – William Manchester. Story of the Middle Ages with a concentration on Magellan’s trip around the world and Luther’s protest against the Catholic church. I’ve read better Middle Age histories including A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. Manchester’s narrative was all over the place but you could really tell the author’s fascination and enthusiasm over Magellan. He should have stuck to that topic only.

Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister
– Scott Plagenhoef. Part of the 33-1/3 series which has different authors write a short book about a particular album. Even though this one is about Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister it has a lot about Tigermilk as well. A must read for any B&S fan.

Perfect From Now On – John Sellers. Reviewed this book here and is the story of a mid-western guy growing up on AC-DC and Duran Duran who goes to college, discovers U2 and New Order and eventually befriends the guys from Guided by Voices. Very funny, full of lists ala High Fidelity. If you like Guided by Voices or discovered music in the 80’s, this book is for you.

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus
– Rick Perlstein. The rise of conservatism in America in the late 1950s and early 60’s culminating in the 1964 election and LBJ’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater. Great book about a particular period of American history.

Canoeing with the Cree – Eric Severiad. Teenage Eric Severiad and a friend canoe from Minneapolis to the Hudson Bay in the 1930s. A Minnesota classic that is just as thrilling some 70 years after the trip.

Peace Like a River – Leif Enger. Lovely book about faith and love. Enger is a gifted writer. However I have a feeling he had one passage in mind and pre-written when he tackled the book. He then had to build a book around this one scene. Don’t get me wrong, it works and the one scene I’m talking about is beautifully written, enthralling even, but it stands out so much from the rest of the book, I was left thinking it was completely separate from the rest of the book.

Nixonland – Rick Perlstein. I reviewed this book here. Great book about American history from 1965-1973. We are still living the political lessons Nixon taught us in 1968. Hopefully Obama’s election finally wiped away fear and division as a political tactic.

Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollard. Reviewed this book here. This book had a profound impact on the way I look at food. Not as polemic as Fast Food Nation but packs a punch nonetheless.

The Sundance Kids: How the Mavericks Took Back Hollywood
– James Mottram. Story of how “indie? directors such as Steven Soderbergh, David Pincher, Quentin Tarantino, P.T Anderson, etc went from directing quirky little films to Oscar winning films and box office blockbusters.

Bitter Harvest: The Rise of Gordon Kahl and the Rise of the Posse Comitatus in the Heartland – James Corcoran. Story of the rise of the virulent anti-jewish, anti-federal government movement of the 1970s and 80s and its most famous martyr Gordon Kahl. Written by a reporter and you can tell, the book is like a long-form newspaper article. Interesting, not totally unsympathetic to Kahl either.

Children of Men – P.D. James. If you only know this story from the movie, warning: the two stories diverge completely about halfway through. Nice set-up where no children have been born for nearly 25 years. This book however, reminded me why I like non-fiction better than fiction. There were so many other story lines James could have expanded upon I kinda wish it was a different book. Nice ending though.

That’s it what did you read this year?

Books on the bedside table:

The Ten Cent Plague
Hitchcock's Romantic Irony
Mountains Beyond Mountains

December 19, 2008

Friday Random Top 10

Franken pulls ahead in the recount but miles to go before I sleep. Things are looking good for Franken just not going to happen any time soon. Looks like we need a Friday Random Top 10.

1. Static/Diamond Bollocks – Beck
2. I’ll Go Crazy – James Brown
3. Willesden Green – The Kinks
4. Ride my Llama – Neil Young
5. Marked -- Bad Religion
6. Stuck Between Stations – The Hold Steady
7. Sudden Steps – Kelly Hogan & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
8. Rocker – Charlie Parker
9. Closer – Jonathan Richman
10. Driveby – Neil Young

Not the greatest list ever that’s for sure. I am positive E-6 will make a nice comment about the Kinks selection. What’s your top10?

December 18, 2008

LeBron is King

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LeBron James and the Cleveland Caveliers came to the Target Center last night to take on the woebegone Timberwolves. No surprise with the outcome as LeBron drops 32 points and the Cavs win easily by 23.

Besides elevating himself as the best player on the planet. LeBron James also showed that he is the ultimate ambassador for NBA basketball, the role that Dr. J., Magic, Bird, and Michael used to take on but one that Shaq or Kobe haven’t. LeBron sang Christmas tunes during breaks, shot slick threes, threw no-look passes, and slammed thunderous dunks. LeBron knew the game was never in doubt so took it upon himself to make sure the NBA faithful in the arena at least got their money’s worth for one night.

In one respect it was sad. LeBron and the Cavs had the attitude like this was an exhibition game in a non-NBA market, putting on a show for those who rarely get to see the NBA. The problem is that this description is too close to the truth to be comfortable. On the other hand it’s nice to see LeBron have fun, be entertaining, and give some fans who have suffered greatly over the last couple of years an early Christmas present.

December 16, 2008

The Death of Bettie Page

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Even if you haven’t heard of Bettie Page, you’ve seen her picture. The raven-haired vixen with the killer bangs exemplified 50s era pin-ups and is an iconic look that can still be seen in sluttish models today, especially those with an S-M theme.

But why do we remember Bettie Page? Surely there were hundreds of pin-ups from that era, most of which have been long forgotten. I think its because Page just nailed that naughty but nice look that all men crave. You know, someone who’s freaky in the bedroom but still nice enough to bring home to mother on a Sunday afternoon. Bettie Page had that in spades. Another reason is that Page left at the top of her game. Basically she modeled from 1950 to 1957 and then disappeared. We were left with the Bettie Page that everyone remembered, not a Bettie Page that got old, grey, fat, drunk on Bob Hope specials, etc. Page was “re-discovered? a couple of years back but she refused to have her photo taken or show her face on camera. She wanted to everyone to remember “Bettie Page? the pin-up. Not Bettie Page, the regular women who resided in California.

Page died over the weekend at the age of 85. We never did get to see her face again but I am glad to know that she lived a ripe old age with a normal life. Too bad many of our current celebrities can’t learn the same lesson.

If you want to read a spectacular and long article about Betty Page, her life, and cultural impact, click here.

December 15, 2008

Throwing Shoes in Iraq

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President Bush and Hamid Karzai practice their shoe avoidance strategies

I am of mixed emotions over the shoe incident yesterday in Iraq. As an American no one wants to see their president being attacked, even by a shoe, even if the President is a dope. Also the attack makes Bush a somewhat sympathetic figure and with 5 weeks left, this man does not deserve any sympathy to what he’s done to this country or Iraq.

But man it would have been sweet to see one of those shoes smack him squarely on the nose…

December 12, 2008

Friday Random Top 10

There was an article in the Strib today from the Washington Post that says those Americans born in the late 1950s and early 1960s are, on average, the dumbest, least successful age cohort since WWII, with 1963 being the nadir. As someone born in 1963, that explains a lot. Definitely need a random top 10 to ease my feeble brain.

1. Louie Go Home – The Hypstrz
2. Downed – Cheap Trick
3. My Father’s House – Bruce Springsteen
4. I Love You Because – Elvis Presley
5. Epistrophy – Thelonious Monk
6. Young Americans – David Bowie
7. Carolyn No – The Beach Boys
8. Living With War – Neil Young
9. Love You More – The Buzzcocks
10. Rusty Cage – Johnny Cash

Nice range there some rockin’ some reflectin.’ Don’t think it wasn’t hard trying to spell Thelonious. What’s your top 10?

December 11, 2008

Random Thoughts

Not a whole lot going on so light blogging lately. Hopefully some stuff coming up. Here’s some thoughts…

Timberwolves. It’s hard to get riled up over the T-wolves and their latest firings and hirings. As I blogged here, they are so bad it’s hard to think of anything new to say. I’m glad McHale is out of the front office but I have no confidence anything is going to change. This City could be full of huge NBA rubes but a whole generation of fans are being lost due to a lousy team starting from the owner and front office down to the players, cheerleaders, and popcorn sellers.

Vikings. I rarely mention the Vikings in these pages and to be frank I’m more excited about the Packers sucking than the Vikings winning. I’m guessing the Vikes will either lose their next three games and not make the playoffs or get in the playoffs and lose a home playoff game to the Eagles/Buccaneers.

Governor Blag. At least you have to give props to the guy for being so audacious. Thing is he doesn’t even realize how corrupt he is. Nice hair, though wish I had hair like that.

Baseball Hot Stove League. I consider it an early Christmas present that the Twins didn’t sign Casey Blake for 3 years. The Dodgers are going to be hating that contract in about 18 months. Yanks sign Captain Cheeseburger. My friend Jeff is all riled up. Me? No surprise and no problems. The Yankees have bigger problems than one starting pitcher. I was worried when I read that Gardy wants to start Nick Punto at SS if the Twins re-sign him. I have no problem with Punto as utility infielder (and paid as such) but he is not a starter. I’d love to see JJ Hardy in a Twins uniform and would be willing to see Blackburn or Perkins go to get him. Word is that the Brewers want more. Hopefully if they lose Ben (ouch, what I break now?) Sheets, the Brewers will become more desperate for pitching.

The Day the Earth Stood Still. I’m hearing bad stuff about this movie. However Keanu as Mr. Carpenter is inspired casting. Is there an “actor? out there today that exhibits less human emotion than Keanu Reeves? I don’t understand why they had to do a remake. They should have made a sequel. After all the original promised that the rest of the universe was waiting the Earth’s response. We obviously didn’t listen, why not have the movie be the follow-up? Btw, the original is a classic that holds up remarkably well after nearly 60 years.

Senate Recount. Ok we’d like this to be over. Who know what’s going to happen although it appears to hinge on whether or not the rejected absentee ballots will be counted. Norm Coleman should be secretly praying that he loses because if he wins, this investigation of his shady dealings will only intensify. However if Norm wins, he’ll probably switch parties back to being a Democrat. That way he won’t be in the minority party. Don’t underestimate this guy’s ability to put himself in the most advantageous position.

Well that felt better, what’s on your mind?

December 5, 2008

Friday Random Top 10

A women complained to the Star Tribune because Starbucks caught on to her scheme where she was able to get a $4.00 latte for $3.60. This woman purchases two latte's a day or 40 a month for a total bill of $160. By saving 40 cents a latte, she's saving 10 percent of her monthly latte bill. First this "gaming" the system is why we are in the trouble we're in economically. Everyone was always trying perpetuate a scheme to make a buck. Take on a mortgage with no interest for two years? Do it, you're getting a good deal! Tom Petters says invest with me you'll get a 50 percent return, ignore the fact that almost all other investments are getting 5-8 percent, it's a great deal!!. Second, hey lady if you want to save some money buy only one latte a day, you'll save $4.00 a day plus you won't have to keep on buying new clothes to replace the ones your 2-day latte habit is making you grow out of. With that here's this week's random top 10:

1. I Got You -- Wilco
2. Redemption Song -- Johnny Cash w/Joe Strummer
3. Where Were You -- Mekons
4. Swastika Eyes -- Primal Scream
5. Somewhere -- Husker Du
6. The City of the Dead -- The Clash
7. Memphis Hip Shake - The Cult
8. Think -- Aretha Franklin
9. Revolution -- Grandaddy
10. Clowntime is Over No. 2 -- Elvis Costello

Wow, what a rockin' set. A lot of classics in that set. What's your top 10?

December 3, 2008

Elvis Comeback Special

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This night 40 years ago as you settled into the Christmas season after a sad and dark year filled with assassinations, unending war, urban unrest, and the election of Richard Nixon as President, you may have turned on the television to check out what we now commonly call The Elvis Comeback Special. Of course it wasn’t called that at the time because no one had any idea Elvis was going to do kick some rock and roll ass and for one night fulfill the promise that was “Elvis.? In fact, if Col. Tom Parker had gotten his way, Elvis would have been sitting on a spare stage singing Christmas songs.

Before one can “comeback? two things must happen: First the one making the comeback had previously performed at a heightened level and second, that they’ve fallen far from those heights. No doubt by 1968 Elvis had fallen far from pinnacle he sat upon in the late 1950’s. Bad movies with even worse songs had defined Elvis’ career since 1961 and musically Elvis seemed trite compared to the music that then ruled ‘68. (Remember The White Album was released only 10 days before the comeback special aired).

The TV special itself is divided into a number of different performances. Running through it is a series of set pieces each one based on chorus of the song “Guitar Man? which tells the “Story of Elvis? from a boy leaving a dead-end town to that boy becoming a star, with stops at whorehouses, seedy nightclubs, and backwoods carnivals along the way. The highlight of the one hour-long special however are the concert performances, one alone (see pic above) surrounded by bouffanted girls as he belts out the hits and another with his old band reliving old times and old songs as if they were back on the porch at Graceland.

Those performances were so compelling, so antithetical to the Elvis of the last 8 years that they became legend and the source of the “comeback? in the comeback special. As Charles Taylor describes it in his excellent review of the special “What those audiences witnessed was the moneylenders being thrown out of the temple. The memory of "Do the Clam" or "Rock-a-Hula Baby," of "Double Trouble" or "Harum Scarum" was trashed. Elvis, acting as his own blade runner, retired the glazed replicant Elvis who had stood in for him for most of the preceding eight years.? In fact, Elvis became so wrapped up in the songs that there is reporting that he… ahem… brought new meaning to the word “climax? as he finished his performance.

The Special fittingly ends with Elvis singing If I Can Dream, (see video below) a message song that was an emphatic end to an ugly year and a performance that Elvis completely takes over. With the song building toward the finale, the camera switching back and forth from Elvis in white and Elvis in black leather, his swinging arm ardently sweeping away the dreck that was all around us and his career, Elvis clears a path for a new and brighter day.

After the Special, Elvis would go on to record From Elvis in Memphis, one of his greatest albums, the sessions from which such hits as Suspicious Minds, Kentucky Rain, and In The Ghetto were recorded. Unfortunately we know the story from there. Elvis couldn’t keep the comeback alive, he became bloated both physically and musically and once again became more like a joke than the king of rock and roll. But for one night forty years ago, the promise that was Elvis was alive and shone like a beacon.


December 2, 2008

Random Thoughts

No Acorns. David Brauer over at Minnpost has a little story about the fact that for some reason a lot of Oak trees produced no acorns this summer. Now the squirrels are going nuts (sorry) due to lack of food. I also noticed that our neighbor’s Black Walnut tree produced no walnuts this fall. That’s the first time no walnuts in the 13 summers we’ve lived here. Is this cyclical? A scary environmental bellwether? Is it an arboreal Children of Men scenario? Let me know if you have any theories.

Conservative Blogs. During the election I liked to check out a couple of conservative blogs to see what they’re saying. It’s pretty amazing in that there seems to be some centralized daily distribution of Republican talking points that all conservatives reference as most of the conservative posts are quite similar to one another and similar to what the conservative talking heads are spouting on TV. One particular blog, Let Freedom Ring, I would actually engage in the comments section, pointing out the inconsistencies and ridiculousness of their arguments. I did this respectfully. Unfortunately I guess I hit a little close to the bone in my comments as suddenly my comments were being deleted. In the classic words of Jack Nicholson, hey Let Freedom Ring Blog: you can’t handle the truth!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Finally saw this amazing movie. Fantastic true story about a French fashion magazine editor who has a massive stroke and can only communicate by blinking his one good eye. He actually is able to “write? a book in this fashion. Well directed, awesome cinematography, well recommended.

Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue. The song Carpetbagger, with Elvis Costello is awesome. The rest of the album is pretty boring. Download the song, ignore the album.

Bitter Harvest. Based on a recommendation by SBG, I am reading Bitter Harvest which is the story of Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus movement of the early 1980’s. My question is what happened to the movement? Farm families are hurting just as much now as they were in the 1980s. Is the movement underground, non-existent, or do we just don’t hear about it anymore? Obviously some ugliness occurred at Palin rallies this Fall but nothing like the violence of the late 1970s and 80s.