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January 29, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

I've still been listening to the two Neil Young discs I picked up last week. Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House is just amazing. I can't get them off my playlist. Here's my random 10:

1. Clementine -- The Decemberists
2. Lust for Life -- Iggy Pop
3. Sometimes I Do -- Social Distortion
4. Unleashed! The Large Hearted Boy -- Guided By Voices
5. Turtledove -- Trip Shakespeare
6. I Like Trains -- Fred Eaglesmith
7. #1 Hit Song -- Minutemen
8. I'm Sticking With You -- Velvet Underground
9. Love's Gonna Live Here -- Buck Owens
10. Rendzvous -- The dBs

Bonus: Falling For You -- Weezer

Did anyone watch the Wild last night and see the guy with the Social Distortion T-shirt right behind the Wild bench? Nice list, good variety. Not too mainstream but very accessible. What's your top 10?

January 25, 2010

The Vikings and Neil Young

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Lover,

there will be another one
Who'll hover
over you beneath the sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come
Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over, it's over.

Nestled
in your wings my little one
This special
morning brings another sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come
Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over, it's over.


This past week I picked up two excellent Neil Young releases: Live at Massey Hall, 1971 and Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury Hall, 1968. Both are acoustic shows with Neil Young early in his career. They are melancholy and utterly compelling as Young, especially in the Canterbury release, completely overwhelmed me with their emotional impact. I listened to both releases all weekend and they kept my nerves calm as the Viking game approached Sunday evening.

Unfortunately the Vikings game was perfectly predictable. They were the better team on the field last night but the Vikings are fated to lose tragically in the playoffs. Now we have AP's fumbles, Favre's interception, bad calls by the ref, and a 12th man in the huddle to add to the canon of The Pushoff, 41-doughnut, Darrin Nelson's dropped pass, and Gary Anderson's missed field goal. I truly believe that the 12 man in the huddle was the ghost of Vikings playoff futility past.

I've been predicting something like this all season and realize that it's the fate of the Vikings to lose in such a manner. Unfortunately for many teenagers and pre-teenagers, this was their first experience of being let down by the Vikings. Congratulations. It's a rite of passage. You have taken another step on your journey of being considered a "real" Minnesotan.

Which brings me back to Neil Young. Right after the game I went upstairs and was cleaning the kitchen. I turned on the I-Pod and Neil Young's Birds came on immediately. What an appropriate song as it is a message (lyrics above) from someone who has either died or left a loved one. It is very sad and quite appropriate. If I had the time and ability, I'd put together highlights of last night's game and this song. Listening to it made me smile. Neil knows and so do I: It is the Vikings fate, embrace it, accept it.

Oh and don't fret, Joe Mauer will be signed this week.

January 22, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

It's New Orleans week for Minnesota Sports Teams! Tonight is the big T-wolves-Hornets tilt at the Target Center. I don't know if the Vikings-Saints will even get noticed after that basketball game is in the books. Let's start off the weekend right with a Random Top 10...

1. Will I See You in Heaven -- They Jayhawks
2. The Drinking Jim Crow -- Guided By Voices
3. Dixie -- Bob Dylan
4. All The Same to Me -- Golden Smog
5. Misterioso -- Thelonious Monk
6. Fuck Everything -- Jack Logan
7. Dancin' On the Bar -- Fred Eaglesmith
8. Good Night -- The Beatles
9. Big Day -- XTC
10. Ghost Town Blues -- Social Distortion

Bonus: Drinker's Peace -- Guided By Voices

Nice list, good representation of what I listen to. Dancin' on the Bar is a great country song (So If you're dancin' on the bar, try not to tip over my bottle). What's on your Top 10?

January 21, 2010

Haiti Update


I just wanted to give a brief update on Haiti and the earthquake. Obviously the human toll is still being calculated and it is a disaster of biblical proportions. Although aid is streaming into the country, officials are still finding it difficult to get it to those who need it most. Last night we heard that amputations were being done with the only anesthetic being Motrin.

For our Parish, there has been some good news in all this. The school that we built is still standing although there are some cracks in the walls. The convent house that is home to the nuns who run the school is also still standing although it experienced some damage. The wall that we were building to secure the convent so that it can be used for farming received lots of damage. All of the nuns that run the school are o.k. We don't have much word on the children that attended the school. School was not in session when the earthquake hit so the nuns have had a hard time finding who's safe and who isn't. Finally an orphanage that we have a strong relationship with (here's a link describing the time I played soccer with some of the orphans) is ok and sustained no damage.

There has been some personal heartbreak too. Another school located in Leogane that our Parish had sponsored through financial support collapsed killing 150 students and the 4 nuns that ran it. The mission house where we stayed collapsed injuring some residents (but no deaths). Most of the people we had relationships with in Haiti have suffered greatly and most have lost many family members. There are also a couple of Americans in Haiti that we have not heard from.

With Haiti starting to slide off the front pages, it's easy to forget about their plight. Funds are still needed and remember to only give to organizations that have relationships in Haiti. The American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are considered two of the best.


January 20, 2010

Jay Farrar/Benjamin Gibbard - One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Music from Kerouac's Big Sur

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Big Sur was Jack Kerouac's anti-fame book. After years of carefree youth and unwanted fame, Kerouac spent some time alone in Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Big Sur Cabin and used the down time to confront some of his most troubling emotional issues: a burgeoning problem with alcoholism, addiction, fear, and insecurity. He "dutifully records his ever-changing states of consciousness, which culminate in a powerful religious experience." Written after the fame of On The Road had worn off, Big Sur chronicles Kerouac's travels to San Francisco and his isolation at Big Sur.

Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard's new album, One Fast Move Or I'm Gone: Music From Kerouac's Big Sur, takes the ideas and text from Big Sur (Kerouac is listed as a co-writer on every song) and puts them to music "Mermaid Avenue" style. The result is a haunting mix of alt-country tunes that takes the manic energy out of Kerouac's prose and presents them as a road weary ode to life on the road and the lost promise of California.

Gibbard and Farrar switch off singing each of 12 songs on the album and the Gibbard songs are the much stronger of the bunch, at least the most catchy. Jay Farrar approaches the songs in the low-energy style of some of his lesser Son Volt recordings (Wide Swing Tremelo) while Gibbard, while also low-key, brings an emotional resonance not found on the Farrar songs.

The album opens with probably my favorite, California Zephyr, and if you've ever traveled cross country by bus or train (or the back seat of a car), this song will resonate:

Now I'm transcontinental

3000 miles from my home
I'm on the California Zephyr
Watching America roll by

As mentioned above, Kerouac confronted his raging alcoholism at Big Sur and this comes through in the song Final Horrors (sung by Farrar):

Frisco Skid Row - Hotel Room

I feel I've been betrayed my very birth
My guilt so deep I must be with the devil
Breathing without believing
My helpless hands are on fire
I look at the world with dead eyes
I'm like a city street drunk
In the Boweries of the world
I want to bury my face in my hands and moan for mercy
The world is looking at me
With hollow big red eyes
I'm at the point of disaster of the soul
Even worse than dawn is morning
The bright sun glaring in on my pain
You feel death for a good reason
I took the deep iodine death breath
I'm afraid to close my eyes
I throw a cancerous look on the world

I know the album sounds like a big bummer, but it's not. It's a solid, if slow, country album sung by two great singers and many of the songs sound like they could be outtakes from a Son Volt or Death Cab For Cutie recording session. If you're into alt-country and slow, lugubrious songs with a Jack Kerouac pedigree, then I would hardily encourage you to check out One Fast Move Or I'm Gone.

January 18, 2010

Dylan at the March on Washington

I'm going to have a couple of Dylan clips the next few weeks and I thought since it is Martin Luther King Day, that I would start with Dylan at the March on Washington.

This was one of Dylan's first time in the spotlight and was due to Joan Baez, who insisted that he be part of the pre-speech entertainment. It's early in the event so MLK is no where to be seen and I don't know if there is any record of his thoughts on Dylan or his performance.

Dylan sings When the Ship Comes In which I think is perfectly appropriate for the day. The is basically saying that those standing in our way will get bulled over and will get their commeuppance. The songs sentiments fit in quite well with the thinking of that day and of course articulated later by MLK.

This was the height of Dylan's protest song period, which would last for another 15 months of so. For Dylan it was a big stage and he took full advantage, never looking back so to say.

January 15, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

I've really been grooving on the Jay Farrar-Ben Gibbard release all this week. I intended to have a review up, hopefully next week. Let's do a Friday Random Top 10 instead.

1. Weedking - Guided By Voices
2. Think That it Might - Wedding Present
3. To Hell with Poverty - Gang of Four
4. Trap Soul Door - Guided By Voices
5. Curtain Calls - Old 97's
6. So Fine - The Chancellors
7. Love Itself - Leonard Cohen
8. The Card Cheat - The Clash
9. Sunday Morning - Velvet Underground
10. Lewis - Yo La Tengo

Bonus: The Tooth Fairy and the Princess - Husker Du

One of my better lists in a long, long, time. Thought I might get a triple shot of GBV there. What's your top 10?

January 14, 2010

Haiti Earthquake

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The news out of Haiti is both devastating and heartbreaking. It was only 50 weeks ago that I left Haiti after spending 8 days on a mission trip. The mission house in Petionville that I stayed in when we were in the City has been completely destroyed (the picture above is pretty close to where we stayed). As has the neighborhood around it. The hospitals where we cared for people with aids and the orphanages are severely damaged too. It is unbelievable that a place that I was at less than a year ago has now been reduced to rubble.

We still haven't heard about the school that our Parish built in Leogane. Leogane is about 15 miles west of Port-Au-Prince but is on a coastal flat land. Some reports are that Leogane didn't suffer as much damage, other reports is that it did. The fact is that the human toll in Port-Au-Prince is so severe, some of the outer areas are probably not even being addressed by the international community. Couple that with the fact that diesel fuel for the electric generators is probably running out means that communication with the outside world is near impossible.

Haiti has no means to help itself. It has no infrastructure. It has no equipment. It has no stores of supplies to pass out to the population plus no means to distribute it if it did. This will take a massive humanitarian effort by the entire international community. Apparently right now money is the most important commodity with contributions to the Red Cross probably the safest and most effective route. The organization that our Parish established to build the school in Leogane is also taking contributions and you can help at the link here. Rest assured that 100 percent of those funds collected will go to the people of Haiti.

January 11, 2010

Jack Kerouac on the Steve Allen Show

Looks like it's lining up to be Jack Kerouac week here at LFAD. Above is a classic clip of Jack Kerouac reading from On The Road as Steve Allen accompanies on piano. I like this clip because it shows what 50 plus years have done to late night television like the Tonight Show. Fifty years ago, the host would accompany a poet(!) as he reads from his most famous book. Today, we get dick jokes.

I also love this reading. Kerouac reads in the breathless, manic style in which he wrote the book. It's exhilarating. You get a sense of the excitement of the road, the carefree openness that the road symbolizes to Kerouac. Try to read the entire book in this style, it's exhausting, which I think is its intent. Also Allen's jazzy piano is spot on, a nice accompaniment to the reading.

At the time of this reading On The Road had recently been published and this was by far the most exposure Kerouac had ever received (although On The Road had been glowingly reviewed by the NY Times). Kerouac looks nervous and fidgety and is obviously sweating, either from nervousness or the bright studio lights. Once Kerouac starts reading however (about 2 minutes into the clip), he settles down and I love the way he draws out Dean Mo-ri-ar-i-ty at the end.

If you ever wondered what the big deal was about Jack Kerouac, I think this clip illustrates how cool Kerouac and On the Road was. Although Kerouac would write a number of books that were well received, none would match the energy of On The Road and unfortunately Kerouac would descend into raging alcoholism, passing away in 1969 basically from alcohol destroying his liver.

January 8, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

For the first time ever I dabbled into fantasy sports and started a fantasy basketball team (Cassell's Big Balls). I was bad at first but figured out how to set my line-ups and was steadily moving up in the standings. Then KG hurts his knee and is out for at least two weeks. Then Gilbert Arenas gets suspended for bringing a gun into the locker room. All of a sudden I'm reeling. What next? Steve Nash gets deported back to Canada? We need a Random Top Ten:

1. Today You Move - Trip Shakespeare
2. Away With Murder - Camera Obscura
3. You Can't Do That - The Beatles
4. Broadway - Foxboro Hottubs
5. Hey Jude - The Beatles
6. It Could Happen To You - Bud Powell
7. Michelle - The Beatles
8. Chimes of Freedom - Bob Dylan
9. Move - Miles Davis
10. Evidence - Thelonious Monk

Bonus: Trying to Get to You - Elvis Presley

Wow the rare triple play with The Beatles, plus some jazz legends and a shout out to Elvis. What's your top 10?

January 5, 2010

Taco Bell's Drive Through Diet?

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If you watched any football over the weekend, you undoubtedly saw commercials with Christine, the woman who, using the "Taco Bell Drive Through Diet," lost 54 pounds. My first reaction is that she lost that much weight from the diarrhea she experienced from eating so much Taco Bell. But if you look at the fine print, she says she reduced her total daily calorie intake by 500 calories to 1,250 calories by choosing Fresco items and "making other sensible choices."

Since Taco Bell's Fresco menu replaces the cheese with salsa, the Fresco items are about 50 calories less than the basic Taco Bell swill you usually get. In other words she would have to eat 10 Taco Bell Fresco items a day and then switch to the Fresco items to get that 500 calorie reduction. Yikes!! Maybe I wasn't too far off with my diarrhea assessment. Or perhaps "making other sensible choices" was the key to Kristine's weight loss.

The Taco Bell lawyers are all over the ad campaign too as they splash phrases such as "The Drive-Thru Diet is not a weight loss program," "These results aren't typical... " and "Fresco is not a low calorie food" all over the commercial. Clearly they were concerned about being accused of promoting a new diet plan.

Weight loss isn't rocket science and you don't need special diets or hang with Subway's Jared or Taco Bell's Christine to lose weight. All you have to do is reduce the number of calories you consume and exercise more than you do now. It's that simple. Plus you won't have to go to Taco Bell every day. Yuck!

January 4, 2010

Elvis Performs Hound Dog on National T.V.

Given that it's Elvis Presley's 75th Birthday on Friday, I thought I would celebrate by sharing this video of Elvis performing Hound Dog on the Milton Berle show in 1956.

In early June 1956 Elvis hadn't recorded Hound Dog yet but had been performing it live in concert after seeing a similar version played at a Vegas show. The Milton Berle performance is notable for the fact that Elvis isn't playing guitar and gets pretty suggestive with his hip shakes and leg movements. If anyone didn't know that Rock and Roll was a euphemism for sex, they did after seeing this on their 12" B&W TVs. It's pretty safe to say that the 40 million Americans who tuned in had never seen anything this suggestive on their sets. This performance was also the genesis of the nickname "Elvis the Pelvis."

The outrage was immediate and intense, with NBC receiving literally tens of thousands of letters protesting Elvis' "vile" gyrations. Three weeks later, Elvis was scheduled to perform on the Steve Allen show and Allen, a known hater of Rock and Roll, made Elvis dress up in a tux and tails and sing Hound Dog to an actual Basset Hound. Elvis, although cheeky on stage, was reportedly furious and embarrassed. Elvis got the last laugh however, as he funneled that anger into the studio, where the next day he recorded the rip-roaring version of Hound Dog we all love today.

January 1, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Happy New Year!! I listened to everyone of the 7641 songs on my I-pod in 2009. I wasn't planning on doing that but I was listening to songs I hadn't for a while and noticed I was close to listening to them all in 2009, so the last day or so was to get every song with a 2009 listening date. Let's ring in 2010 with a brand new list:

1. Driveby -- Neil Young
2. Underture -- The Who
3. Sally MacLennane -- The Pogues
4. Who Knows -- Thelonious Monk
5. Original Love -- The Feelies
6. My Uptight Life -- Teenage Fanclub
7. The Gloaming -- Radiohead
8. A Knife and a Fork -- Rockpile
9. News of the World -- The Jam
10. Ed is Dead (live) -- Pixies

Bonus -- About A Girl -- Nirvana

Hey not a bad list to kick off the year. What's your top 10?