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February 26, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

The 10 Billionth song sold at I-tunes: Guess Things Happen That Way by Johnny Cash. I would have guessed something by Justin Bieber. Here's my top 10:

1. Penny Lane -- The Beatles
2. From the Gut -- Husker Du
3. Cumberland Blues -- Grateful Dead
4. Four in One -- Thelonious Monk
5. Lie to Me -- Tom Waits
6. Let's Go Away For a While -- The Beach Boys
7. Dead In the Water -- The Super Suckers
8. Fuck & Run -- Liz Phair
9. Dutch Boy -- The Handsome Family
10. Dream Vacation -- Gear Daddies

Bonus: Early Mornin Rain -- Peter Paul and Mary

Contrary to popular belief, that Liz Phair song was not written about me. Good variety in this list. Not super great songs, but a good variety.

February 25, 2010

Book Review -- Descartes' Bones

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Russell Shorto's Descartes' Bones is a smart and informative book about the philosopher Rene Descartes and the interesting story behind his remains and specifically his skull in the 360 years since his death. Most people have run across Rene Descartes in a college philosophy class as he is mostly known for the phrase "I think therefore I am" (cogito ergo sum). Which basically means that the mind (and the act of thinking) is separate from the body. This mind-body dualism was radical stuff back in the 17th Century as the Church felt that God held dominion over the entire human experience. If one could think independently of the body, then one could think independently of God. Shorto describes it as "the mind and its thoughts exist in a different category or somehow on a different plane from the physical world."

Shorto argues that this declaration was actually the start of rationale, modern thinking and was the crux behind the Enlightenment as well as the use of evidence and experimentation in the scientific method. Shorto describes how followers of Cartersian thinking were those who created the chemical Periodic Table of Elements, the metric system, and Genus-Species classification system we still use today. All of which are foundations to the modern, scientific way of looking at the world.

Rene Descartes actually dies about 40 pages into the book and the remaining 200 plus pages deal with what happens to his remains. Descartes died in Sweden and was buried in a modest grave in 1650. Sixteen years later the French felt that their greatest thinker deserved a grander burial and moved to have his remains transferred to Paris. Along the way a Swedish officer took Descartes' skull as he felt that Sweden should have a piece of the great thinker. He basically kept at in his home and it was passed down generation to generation. Officials in France didn't take a good inventory of the remains and he was reburied at a Paris church without a skull.

Fast forward to 1789 and the French Revolution. Roving bands of thugs were marauding through the streets of Paris and destroying and looting relics of the French past. French officials worked to move some of France's greatest treasures to a safe place, including Descartes' remains. Later in the mid-19th Century, a French official comes across someone selling Descartes' skull. After much inquiry and research, the French Academy authenticates the skull as genuine. Shorto also makes a pretty compelling case that Descartes other remains never survived the French revolution and were either looted or demolished in a church renovation.

Shorto is intrigued by the ironic and macabre fact that the man who first postulated the mind-body dualism actually had his skull removed from the rest of his body. It is this desire to re-combine Descartes' head to his body that drives the story and Shorto's detective work. (Much of which was not known to the public until Shorto started digging around).

Descartes' Bones is really a fascinating book that is a detective story, philosophical treatise, and a decent history of the forces and thinking behind modern thought. If interested in any of these topics I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

February 22, 2010

Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live 12/17/1977

Elvis Costello appeared on Saturday Night Live in December 1977 pretty early in his career as My Aim is True was only released in the States 6 months prior to this appearance. Actually he was a last minute replacement for the Sex Pistols. Of course the appearance is celebrated for the fact that Costello stops the Attractions a few seconds into Less Than Zero ("there's no reason for us to play that song") and launches instead into Radio Radio, a song which hadn't been released yet. The story is that Elvis wasn't allowed to play that song because it was "too controversial" for TV -- although Lorne Michaels disputes such claims. Funny, Costello didn't appear on SNL for another 12 years, so I think Michaels is engaging in a little bit of revisionist history in order to maintain SNL's counter-culture reputation.

I was staying over at my friend Chris' house when we saw this episode of SNL and his mom was watching with us. His mom thought that the whole Elvis Costello thing was a skit as she couldn't believe that this skinny, frentic guy in Buddy Holly glasses was an actual singer. She was dumbfounded when we told her that no, he was a real singer and came from England. Good stuff.

This is a pretty fast and furious version of Radio Radio heightened by the fact that Elvis does stop the previous song. This was difficult to find on-line as it's not on youtube. It's some Dutch site I think but works just fine. Enjoy

February 19, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Only 4 weeks until Ike Reilly week. Got your tix yet? I have mine for the March 18th show at the Entry. Here's a Random Top 10:

1. Powerline -- Husker Du
2. An Oscar for Treadwell -- Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie
3. Looking Down the Barrell of a Gun -- Beastie Boys
4. Back to the Night -- Joan Armatrading
5. Capital Radio 2 -- The Clash
6. Beyond & Back (live) -- X
7. Happy Day -- Talking Heads
8. Leap Frog (take 6) -- Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie
9. Bossa Nova Baby -- Elvis Presley
10. Icicles -- Badfinger

Bonus: 40 -- U2

Some classic punk mixed in with a bunch of other stuff and 2 Bird and Diz from the same album! What's your top 10?

February 18, 2010

Drop a Quad Mick

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Last night in the half pipe competition Sean White was already assured a Gold Medal but still had one more run yet to complete. On top of the hill, celebrating his Gold Medal White had the following discussion with his buds/coaches on how to approach the last, meaningless run:

"Do whatever you want man."
"What do you think?"
"Do whatever you want, have some fun, what do you want to do?"
"I don't know man, fly down the middle?"
"Nah."
"Drop a Quad Mick?"

Now of course Drop a Quad Mick means spinning 1260 degrees including a head over heals flip about 25 feet above the top of the half pipe. No one else can do this and it absolutely has no bearing on whether or not he gets the Gold or not. Who cares, drop a quad mick.

He nails it, it looks cool as hell and Sean White, already a huge star, cements his place along Lindsey Vonn as the star of the Olympics.

Now I would love to include a video of his run but NBC only has a 10 minute clip and there is no way to embed it. And NBC doesn't allow any coverage to show up on youtube. So if you didn't see it, go to NBC.com, it's easy to find there. Also I am sure it will be shown over and over on the Olympics coverage. It's well worth it.

February 15, 2010

Devo - Satisfaction SNL 10/14/78

A lot of younger people don't realize how polarizing this version of Satisfaction was, especially when it was played on Saturday Night Live in the Fall of 1978. I was in 10th Grade and I still remember the school bus on Monday morning literally buzzing with a reaction as lines were drawn pretty stark between those who thought it was terrible, those who thought it was incredible, and those who didn't know what the fuss was all about. Although the later group didn't really participate in the on-bus discussion.

By 1978 classic rock and roll had a stranglehold on popular music. Sure here in the hinterlands we had maybe heard of The Ramones or Sex Pistols, but hadn't really heard them. To see this weird band take such an integral part of the rock and roll canon like Satisfaction and turn it into some sort of robotic freak music was unheard of and it was hard to get your mind around what it meant.

I just love this performance. The yellow suit, the eyeglass, but especially the herk-jerky movements that remind me of Disney animatronics such as The Country Bear Jamboree. Pay particular attention to the end as the guitar player drops his guitar, lifts his hand...holds it... then bows. Like a robot that just got turned off.

I think the reaction was so strong on that bus because kids realized that if you could do that to such an iconic song, then anything was possible musically and some were terrified of that notion while others thought it liberating. That we could actually see it on our TVs, that it was happening in our rec rooms and not in some dank club in NYC meant that it could happen here too. And it was. Unbeknownst to probably everyone on that bus is that just 25 miles to the east bands such as The Suicide Commandos and Suburbs were just beginning to take the same attitude toward their music, while others such as Paul Westerberg and Bob Stinson were still listening to the Beatles and the Stones, but were playing and writing different kind of songs of their own in their bedrooms.

Kids kind of hated this version but were excited by the opportunities it presented. The old ways making music were crumbling and not everything that was rock and roll meant listening to acts that played at Woodstock or were part of the 60s. The door was wide open for interpretation and although it took me a few more years, I would end up running through it at full throttle.

February 12, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Two months from day is the official opening of Target Field and the beginning of outdoor baseball in Minnesota. Can you tell I'm counting down the days? Here's a random top 10 to get us just a little closer to that date.

1. Cool Blues -- Charlie Parker
2. High Fidelity -- Elvis Costello
3. Talking World War III Blues -- Bob Dylan
4. Top of the World -- The 757's
5. Radio Clash -- The Clash
6. Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles) -- Arcade Fire
7. Airlane -- Gary Numan
8. Fistful of Steel -- Rage Against the Machine
9. Street Spirit -- Radiohead
10. Bad -- U2

Bonus: Let It Be Me -- Social Distortion

Took out the big guns this week, U2, Dylan, Elvis Costello, Radiohead, Rage, The Clash. What's your top 10?

February 11, 2010

MLB10 -- The Show

Most Twins fans know that Joe Mauer will be on the cover of the next MLB10 video game (Baseball's equivalent to Madden). It's release date is in early March and most video guys are really geeking out over it.

Besides Mauer on the cover, Minnesota fans are excited because we get to see some good first views of Target Field in play. Take at look at the video above, lots of shots of Target Field (and a Mauer homerun to boot). Also click here for a longer clip that includes some shots of the Minneapolis skyline (and Jim Thome in uniform).

From all reports this game is going to be awesome and the game playing fun. I can't wait.

February 9, 2010

Guthrie Theater's Macbeth

I first came upon Shakespeare's Macbeth in a 9th Grade English class and was instantly enthralled. And why not? It has everything a 15 year old boy would love: Violence, creepy witches, war scenes, sexy ladies who talk smack (screw your courage to the sticky place), and pathos galore. I have read the play many times and seen numerous performances, from Shakespeare in the Park to full blown productions. That is why when I heard that The Guthrie Theater was putting on Macbeth, I had to get tickets. And good ones too. We had 4th row seats located dead center of the thrust stage. I was going to take in Macbeth in all its glory.

Joe Dowling's direction of Macbeth also promised to be lean and mean. No intermission for this Macbeth; just 125 minutes of straight action with the drama ramped up to the final battle between Macbeth and Macduff. However, Dowling starts the play off with an added scene: The Guthrie's production begins with a battle scene full of soldiers repelling down to the stage, the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire, and Macbeth dispatching of King Duncan's enemies in ninja-like fashion. We get the idea right away that this Macbeth is no stranger to violence or killing.

The set design was spare with Inverness portrayed as somewhat down on its heels. Cracks in the roof only allow lightning, no sun, and the columns were gritty and dirty. Detritus of the previous battles lay strewn across the stage and the d├ęcor appeared to be from the early 20th Century. Costuming didn't give away the play's setting as military men wore uniforms from the perhaps the 1930's, politicians wore suits and ties, while other trappings of medieval times were also present. Dowling uses these various costumes to take us away from placing the play in context in time and to focus on the story in front of us.

Lady Macbeth was sexy in her flowing red hair and gave a visceral performance. She is the driver of Macbeth's actions and when she says she would rip a suckling babe from her breast and bash its head in if that what it takes to be king, you believe her. Macbeth is played as a hunky warrior who is driven by fate, even though he knows his actions will lead to doom. Being told that he will come to no harm by man "woman born" finally gives him the confidence to "be bloody, bold, and resolute" as Lady Macbeth implores.

The famous set pieces such as Banquo's ghost appearing at the dinner are played superbly (my wife gasped at Banquo's appearance) and the butchering of Macduff's family is both creepy and terrifying, especially as the three henchmen approach Macduff's daughter and the lights go down, leaving the awful deed to your own imagination. Finally the final battle between Macduff and Macbeth mirrors the opening fight scene with Macbeth's ultimate demise given a bloody and ruthless presentation.

The Guthrie's Macbeth is intense, bloody, visceral. It's probably one of the most physical performances I have seen. If you are a fan of Shakespeare or Macbeth, it is a must see. If you like good theater or haven't been to the new Guthrie, Macbeth is an excellent way to score some culture cred. Finally Macbeth is a warning to all who claim that God has told them to lead. The Fates are strange things and may have ulterior motives than passing out glory and power.

February 8, 2010

Johnny Cash - The Man in Black

Johnny Cash maintained that he always wore black because he looked good in it. And he did. However, in the song The Man in Black, Cash lays a more serious reason for the black attire: There's so much darkness in the world, it doesn't make sense to wear bright colors. He wore black as in mourning of wars and suffering.

This is one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, and one of his more political songs. This song was released during the height of the Vietnam War and it's pretty obvious his sentiments lie with those protesting the war. Given that he was a "Country" star, this stand was pretty radical for its day. Also this recording is from Denmark. If this had happened during the Iraq war, just think of the reaction on Fox News for criticizing the war effort on foreign shores.


Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.


February 5, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

I saw MacBeth last night at the Guthrie Theater. Fourth row, dead center. I will have a review next week but I can say the performance was awesome and highly recommended. Here's a top 10:

1. Jagged - Old 97's
2. Send For Me - Nat King Cole
3. Stay Away - Nirvana
4. Evidence - Thelonious Monk
5. Daughter - Pearl Jam
6. Gone - The Wedding Present
7. O, Dana - Big Star
8. The Comedians - Roy Orbison
9. Song For Patty - Sammy Walker
10. It's Never That Easy Though, Is It - Los Campesinos!

Bonus: Country Boy - Johnny Cash

Not a bad list, some new, some old, some obscure, none too popular. What's your top 10?

February 4, 2010

Its a Dark Winter for Minnesota Sports

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It's becoming a lost Winter here in Dinkytown as we look at the Golden Gophers. The hockey team is barely middle of the pack and can't even get two wins against a lackluster Alaska team. A NCAA playoff run is a pipedream at best. My how far this mighty program as fallen.

As for men's hoops this was supposed to be the year that the basketball team competed in the Big Ten, get a decent seed in the NCAA tourney and actually make some noise. With about a month in the season, Tubby's team has yet to have a signature win, is losing key players to academics and crime, and the Sophomores haven't shown a whole lot of growth (I'm looking at you Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson). NIT is staring at this team real hard.

Finally Gophers football. When we last saw this team it was losing a boring game to a very average Iowa State team in a minor bowl. Since then a number of players have had runs in with the law, Coach Brewster got a contract extension that made the fan base feel worse about the program, and national signing day came and went with a lackluster recruiting class.

Of course the big news was the loss of Seantrell Henderson to USC. This one doesn't bother me as much. If the football big boys want one of our players, it's going to be hard to stop them. USC, Ohio State, Texas, Florida, Notre Dame just offer too much compared to what Minnesota can. Although, Brewster did say that he'd get some of those guys once in a while. But we're still waiting. What really bothers me is that we lost some of the "border battles" too. Beau Allen was a nice defensive linemen who is going to Wisconsin. The Gopher should be getting the Beau Allen's over Wisconsin as they have nothing that the U of MN can't also offer. Tobi Okuyemi going to Nebraska is another example.

In fact if one looks at the Gophers recruits, there's not a whole lot to get excited about. Many of the players who signed here really had no place else to go in D-1. Minnesota was their only D-1 or big time school offer. Now the reason Tim Brewster is the Gopher's coach is because he reportedly could recruit. Unfortunately the reality of his poor record and lousing coaching is catching up with the bullshit he slings and 18 year old kids are seeing through it (something I think will happen to USC's Lane Kiffen too - Good Luck Seantrell). Also having a middling recruiting class is o.k. if you can demonstrate an ability to "coach 'em up." Brewster has shown absolutely no ability to come close to taking o.k. kids and making then good players.

So it's dark days as far as our sports teams go here in Minnesota. The Vikings crushed our soul. Again. The T-Wolves show no glimmer of hope, the Wild are middle of the pack, all Gopher's mens teams have major major issues and Lindsey Vonn (above) states, right be before the Olympics, that she's a Coloradan, not a Minnesotan. Thank god for baseball, where pitchers and catchers report in 15 days. Boy do we need it.

February 3, 2010

Republicans Are Crazy

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Yesterday a survey was released that looks at the views of over 2000 self-identified Republicans and the results are amazing. Bottom line is that Republicans are fast becoming a fringe group with views and opinions way outside the mainstream of American thought. Look at the chart above that highlights some of the results.

64% of Republicans think or aren't sure that Obama was born outside of the U.S. 53% think Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Obama. Only 8 percent think gays should be able to teach in school. The list goes on. Here's the full survey.

This survey shows that the Republican faithful are so outside of the political mainstream it's difficult for Dems to govern with them. It is also pushing elected officials, who I believe aren't as crazy, (Michelle Bachman excepted) to move rightward. Also although it appears that Republicans will do well in the next election, once the American public looks closely at what Republicanism stands for in 2010, they will be rejected once again.

I'll leave you with this one stat from the survey: 23 percent of republicans (33% southerners) want their state to secede from the union. Way to love your country Republicans! Also I would love to see how well Alabama or Mississippi, or Texas would fare without sucking at the Federal teat

February 2, 2010

Dylan Meets Donovan

In the movie Dont Look Back, the singer Donovan practically deserves second billing. He is everywhere in the movie as it was during the time that Dylan was being filmed in England coincided with the height of Donovan being hyped as "The New Dylan." Donovan posters were all over London and Bob Dylan was asked repeatedly about his reaction to Donovan.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Donovan and Dylan finally meet in a London hotel room. It's a little awkward at first but then Donovan offers to play a song that he just wrote. The crowd agrees to hear it and Donovan sings a vaguely Dylanesque song (including a tune he stole from Dylan) Its positively dreadful but Bob is right there listening intently.

Dylan then takes the guitar and says he has a new song too and commences to play It's All Over Now Baby Blue (which had only been recently released). Of course he blows Donovan away. There's a shot late in the clip where the camera is focused on Donovan and you can tell he just wants to get out of there, thinking to himself why did I ever try to compare my song to Dylan's? It's a classic scene and a rare look into the two musicians facing off. Enjoy!