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May 28, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Going to SoDak for a few days. Living the glamorous life I tells ya. Here's a random top 10:

1. Rebellion (lies) -- Arcade Fire
2. They -- Guided By Voices
3. Hey -- Pixies
4. Give My Love to Rose -- Johnny Cash
5. Crush the Pill -- Mason Jennings
6. Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell -- Flaming Lips
7. Falling Sugar -- Palace Guard
8. The World Has Turned -- Weezer
9. Abernant 1984/85 -- Mekons
10. Outsmarted -- The Hives

Bonus: Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1 -- Los Campesinos!

If there was any justice in the musical world, The Mekons would be a world famous band. What's your top 10?

May 27, 2010

Blitzkrieg Bop

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This morning on my bike ride into work on a glorious morning the song Blitzkrieg Bop came on the I-pod. Nearly 35 years after it was released Blitzkrieg Bop is everywhere. You hear "hey ho... let's go" at the ballpark when the home team is in need of a rally. You hear it on commercials for video games and in movie trailers. Eight year olds and 60-something grandma's could probably hum a few bars or would admit that they are familiar with the song.

Of course it wasn't always that way. Being a teenager in the suburban hinterlands in the late 70's one heard of the Ramones and punk rock but it was some scary, forbidden music played only in New York City or Los Angeles. Sure you'd see a picture of a punk rocker in the back pages of Rolling Stone or Creem but there was really no way to hear the music. It's a very different world now where the internet allows someone to easily call up a song and at least hear a snippet of the song, if not its entirety.

Hearing Blitzkrieg Bop this morning reminded me of the first time I think I actually heard the song. It was in 1981 (5 years after it was released! I'm telling you it was a different time). I was listening to the radio show Progressions on NPR. Now Progressions was a way for new music to get out to the rest of the country. I think it was produced in San Francisco (sorry I couldn't find anything on the interwebs about Progressions) and was played late at night on some NPR stations. It had an early 70's FM radio vibe with a mellow, educated DJ who would spin the latest and classic punk, new wave, and other unplayed music on the radio from London, Manchester, NYC, and Los Angeles. Sometimes Progressions came across as a music professor playing music as some sort of anthropological study, showcasing this weird music for those intrigued by what was going on in the music meccas of the world. But for an 18 year old, it was just fun listening to music one never heard before.

I was completely enthralled when I first heard Blitzkrieg Bop. It was loud, short, but it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. It was actually fun rock and roll, just sped up a little. It was definitely a marker in my realization that what was passing as popular music was actually quite lame and that there was a whole wide world of music that I was missing, and not only was it good, but it was quite accessible. For that reason I have mixed feelings when I hear Blitzkrieg Bop on a video game commercial. Sure it's nice to see that our culture has changed so that music like this is now considered mainstream (and believe me it would never be played at the ballpark if it wasn't mainstream). But on the other hand there's just a small part of me who wishes there that songs like Blitzkrieg Bop were left undiscovered by the mass marketers and instead were shared only by those who truly love the music and are willing to go out and listen to something new, different, and a little off the beaten track (even if it takes them five years to discover it).

May 25, 2010

Book Review -- Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King

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Having read a number of Martin Luther King biographies, including the three-part biography from Taylor Branch and two tightly researched books by David Garrow, I was always frustrated by the lack of information these books provided on King's killer James Earl Ray. It was as though the authors didn't want to spend any time on the "ten-cent white boy (who) could develop a plan to kill a million-dollar black man." For that reason I was eager to read Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin a new book by Hampton Sides.

Sides takes a true crime approach to his subject as we follow Ray from his Missouri Prison escape in 1967 to his time spent in Mexico, Los Angeles, and eventually Memphis. Ray, who is not even identified by name until the last line of the 40th chapter, came from a long line of losers, criminals, and drug addicts and Ray's time in Los Angeles and Memphis comes across more like a James Ellroy novel than a history book.

Sides interweaves a number of stories here. Ray of course, but also Martin Luther King and his effort to organize garbage workers in Memphis and publicize his Poor People's campaign in Washington, DC. In addition, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI plays a large part in the story too. First as King's harasser, then after the assassination, engaged in a full-throated effort to solve the crime and apprehend Ray. Having read a number of King biographies, the sections on MLK's efforts were not as interesting nor broke any new ground.

The main reason to read this book, however, is James Earl Ray. At times exceedingly crafty (not only did he escape a small prison in Missouri, in 1977 he escaped for nearly a week from a maximum security prison), other times Ray is outlandishly stupid (once caught he claims he's not James Earl Ray but asks to speak with his brother John Ray). Ray is skeevy to the extreme as Sides states that "No matter where he was in the world, his radar for sleaze remained remarkably acute." After his escape from prison in 1967, Ray hangs out in flophouses, engages in low level drug deals and robberies, associates with prostitutes and strippers while talking correspondence courses in bartending and locksmithing.

Sides is at his best when describing Ray's efforts in the 24 hours before and after King's assassination. Sides provides a literal minute-by-minute account of King's and Ray's movements up to and past the time the bullet enters Kings jaw, cuts through his throat, and ends up lodged in his shoulder blade. What is amazing is that Ray literally spent eight hours in Memphis and just happens to find a flophouse that has a bathroom overlooking the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

After the assassination, the FBI takes center stage as they use all the investigative powers at their disposal to identify and track James Earl Ray. (Helped immensely by Ray's leaving the rifle and other personal belongings behind as he was worried he'd be seen by the local cops). Ray was able to get into Canada, create another identity and go to England on a fake passport, all with the intent of getting to then racist Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where Ray thought he'd be welcomed as a hero. An attentive Scotland Yard detective noticed Ray trying to get on a plane to Brussels and immediately detained him.

Although ostensibly a book about an historic event, Sides creates a true crime narrative that at times is literally a thrilling page turner. If at all unclear about this pivotal moment in our nation's history I fully recommend Hellhound on His Trail.

May 21, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Welcome Milwaukee Brewer fans, come see what a real ballpark look likes. Enjoy a random top 10 while you're at it:

1. Life Worth Living -- Uncle Tupelo
2. Riot Act -- Elvis Costello
3. What Ever Gets You Through the Night -- Los Lonely Boys
4. A Man And A Woman -- U2
5. Waiting For A Miracle -- Leonard Cohen
6. Jean Genie -- David Bowie
7. Folsom Prison Blues (live) -- Johnny Cash
8. Journey to the Center of your Mind -- Amboy Dukes
9. Photograph -- Weezer
10. I Hung My Head -- Sting

Bonus: Think -- Aretha Franklin

Lot of big names in that list. Amboy Dukes only Nugent on my I-Pod. What's your top 10?

May 14, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

My 16 year old daughter is going to Prom tomorrow night. How did that happen? I definitely need a random top 10:

1. Bodysnatchers -- Radiohead
2. Border Song -- Elton John
3. O, Dana -- Big Star
4. Eronel -- Thelonious Monk
5. Some People Like That -- G. Love & Special Sauce
6. May The Circle Be Unbroken -- 13th Floor Elevators
7. Go It Alone -- Beck
8. Look What You've Done For Me -- Al Green
9. Ballerina -- Van Morrison
10. Kamera -- Wilco

Bonus: Spirit on the Water -- Bob Dylan

Little bit of a nice mix there, some obscurities that's for sure. What's your top 10?


May 13, 2010

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Source: Bergerson Photography

We are 1/5 of the way through the Twins 2010 season so let's take a look at where they are at and what can be expected from here on out.

New Ballpark. Surprise surprise, everyone love Target Field and outdoor baseball. Even with this last homestand, which was generally cold and wet, Target Field has become a big hit. Surprisingly to some, the field has played pretty fair, with fly balls dying in the gaps and center. Once it gets warmer, we should see more homeruns and I think we may have Wrigley situation on our hands: Pitcher's park on the spring and fall; hitter's park in the summer. Overall a wonderful place to watch a Major League Baseball game. Overall Grade: A

Pitching. Aside from a Crainwreck here and there, the bullpen was been quite stellar and that's with Pat Neshak being injured. Neck Tat has taken over the closer role quite admirably and Guerrer, Duensing, and even Mayhey and Burnett performing nicely in their roles. The starters have been pretty good too, with a every starter having some real nice outings sandwiching a poor effort. I was unfortunately at the game where Carl Pavano gave up 7 runs in 4 innings. He's been lights out ever since. Slowey has been troublesome in the middle innings so hopefully that improves. Overall Grade B+

Hitting. Morneau's having a monster season, Jim Thome and O-Dawg have done everything we wanted from them and Delmon has actually been quite good. Mauer has been a good hitter but the power we saw last year seems to have disappeared again. (1 HR in his last 150+ at bats). Jason Kubel has been dreadful and if he can get it going look out. D-Span has been a great lead-off hitter and generating lots of walks. Unfortunately the Twins batting average with the bases loaded has been atrocious. Hopefully a regression to the mean is coming soon. Oh and Hudson, no need to bunt early in the game with runners on base. Let's get some hits and not give away outs. Overall Grade: B

Fielding: Fewest errors in the majors. Hardy has been much better in the field than advertised and say what you want about Punto's lousy performance at the plate, but he plays a mean 3rd base. Even Delmon Young has shown some improved tracking skills in the outfield. When you see how devastating a bad fielding team like the Tigers or Royals is to a game one appreciates the importance of a great fielding team like the Twins. Overall Grade: A

So just past the 20 percent mark and the Twins are 10 games over 500 or on a pace to win 105 games. The Central Division title should be no problem but the team and fans have much greater expectations than another one and done in the playoffs. The team now heads off to road games against the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox -- places where they've had trouble winning in the past. While none of these games will have a major impact on the final standings, it would be nice to send a message that the Twins are serious about contending late into the fall this year. Should be fun, I can't wait.

May 7, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

757s at Sauce (Lake and Lyndale) tonight. Who's going? How about a random top 10 for this rainy Friday.

1. Parties in the U.S.A. -- Jonathan Richman
2. With God on our Side -- Bob Dylan
3. She's Just a Girl -- Devo
4. Greenface -- Guided By Voices
5. Lust for Life -- Iggy Pop
6. Lip Up Fatty -- Bad Manners
7. Mary Jane -- The Vines
8. Trilogy: Z) Eliminator Jr. -- Sonic Youth
9. Child of the Moon -- Yung Wu
10. All I Need -- Radiohead

Bonus: Revolution Rock -- The Clash

Who thought that first song was going to be by Miley Cyrus? Ha! That Yung Wu album as one of the greatest off shoot albums of all time. What's your top 10?

May 4, 2010

Happy Star Wars Day

Since it is Stars War Day (May the Fourth be with you). I thought I celebrate by sharing the most awesome Star Wars Lego Video ever. Watch to the end. Enjoy.

May 3, 2010

Handsome Family - Bottomless Hole

The Handsome Family are a great husband-wife duo who sing macabre country songs. Originally from Chicago, they've settled in New Mexico for some time now to wonderful effect toward their songwriting. They are a hoot live and I try to catch them every so often when they ramble through town. The video above is one of my favorites: It's about a guy who thinks he has a bottomless pit in his barn and it bugs him so much that he decides to rig up a bathtub and some rope to find out if it is truly bottomless. By the end of the song, he's cut the rope and is still falling. Enjoy.