Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hasselhoff and Milk

David Hasselhoff is the greatest vocal artist of all time. If you don't believe me, then check out these reviews of Best of David Hasselhoff. Here is a sampling of one of the reviews:
Twice the ruggedness of mortal man, ten times the talent of any other artist, Hasselhoff dazzles on this CD. Every track has been plucked from the heavens and trembles with vigor and force. God Himself could not record as good a greatest hits album like this, and if He were to listen to all 17 tracks on this compilation, He would refrain from striking me down for blasphemy.
Got ambrosia? If not, check out Tuscan Milk. Here is an excerpt:
cold, delicious, white
Tuscan Whole Milk satisfies
does a body good
The perfect evening: listening to The Hoff while drinking Tuscan Milk. Some day.

The Day
  • Workout: hurt back has me taking it easy
  • Music: Grateful Dead, Funkadelic, G. Love & Special Sauce, Joe Jackson, Marvin Gaye

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Will Farrell Is a Funny Man

I have been so busy with work that I have not had the gumption to write about anything even a little bit serious. The Tiger Woods/lynching hubbub, politics stuff, and other issues have come and gone, but I can't get myself to write about them. At some point I will return to more serious topics, but for now, it's all about the fluff.

Will Farrell is really great and some of his best stuff is available online.
That's it. No pontificating. No deep insights. Just a few fun videos.


The Day
  • Workout: crunches
  • Music: The Bad Plus

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Life in Music: Undergrad, Take 2

Like many people I know, my college days are partly defined by the music I listened to. The lists of musical groups and songs are too long, but the list of key albums is relatively small.

Undergrad, Take 2
  • New Order, Low-Life
  • Violent Femmes, Hallowed Ground
  • Beastie Boys, License to Ill
  • The Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense
  • Pat Metheny, Travels
Each of these albums has its own set of memories that comes along with the music.

Low-Life and Hallowed Ground both conjure up memories of hanging out in Chris and short, hairy Steve's dorm room. To me, these albums sound like a college dorm and like WHFS in its hey-day. They are dark and fun albums, which makes them the perfect soundtracks for angst-ridden college students. Specifically, these albums were played at Poseurs, a niteclub in Georgetown where one could see spiky, fluorescent pink mohawks and lots of crazy stuff. It was the place to be for folks who were into alternative music.

License to Ill is the sound of Friday afternoons. I knew that Steve was out of class on Friday as I walked across campus and could hear License to Ill blasting from the speaker Steve had pointing out his dorm window. This is some seriously happy music because it is "Friday afternoon and classes are done" music.

A bunch of my friends and I saw Stop Making Sense a few times. Chris had it on video and knew the tape so well that he could fast-forward to a seemingly random spot, hit play, and sing along without missing a step. We were seriously into that movie and album. Now, My Boy loves the album. He often asks for Talking Heads and to him, that means Stop Making Sense.

Travels is the music I listened to while getting ready to head to class. I also saw Metheny in concert at Wolf Trap and he was amazing. Metheny and his keyboardist Lyle Mays are absolutely virtuosos and the concert was full of energy. At least half the songs were given standing ovations.

As I said, there are many other songs and artists that made up my undergrad days, but these are some of the albums with the most vivid and lasting memories.

Monday, January 28, 2008

DVDs That Come to Me

We have finally signed up for Netflix and I already like it.

In case you don't know what Netflix is about, you go to a website and set up a queue of movies. They send you the top movies from your queue that are available along with a postage-paid envelope for returning them. You send each movie back whenever you want, then they send you the next available one from the top of your queue.

No late fees. No 11:48 runs to the video store drop box. There will always be a movie in the house that we want to watch. We'll watch way more movies this way and won't have a problem with picking the occasional flick that one of us loves but the other hates (we have the two videos at a time plan.)

The queue could become a challenge, but the idea is to not have two flicks in a row that the same person doesn't want to watch. For instance, Transformers and 300 should not be back to back. Steel Magnolias and The Piano should not be back to back. Alternating is ok. Our tastes are pretty compatible, but every once in a while, She will want to watch some chick flick (e.g., Steel Magnolias) and every once in a while, I will want to watch a guy flick (e.g., Full Metal Jacket or Transformers) or a more artsy (e.g., No Country for Old Men) or quirky (e.g., Napoleon Dynamite) flick.

Anyway, I am looking forward to watching more movies. Netflix should be fun.

The Day
  • Workout: crunch
  • Music: Crystal Method, Steely Dan, Sublime
A Web Nugget

Friday, January 25, 2008

Freaks Everywhere

A friend of mine was in town from Germany, so we had an extra "Craps" Night last night.

I'm a really boring guy. I work a normal job making normal money. I spend just about all of my time either with my family (usually at home) or working. I drive an 11-year old Nissan and live in a tiny rambler in a nondescript American suburb. I don't really know any celebrities to speak of, though I am just a few degrees of separation from a few (none of whom I have met.)

At "Craps" Night, I get a glimpse of some different worlds.

My friend who lives in Germany is about to start working at a company where he will be on the company's board and run their sales organization. He hasn't worked for over half a year since he was given a massive (over a year's worth) severance from his old company. This severance was the culmination of amazing drama that involved heart attacks, mass firings, and a bunch of lawyers.

Another friend of mine is what I like to call a hustler. He really knows how to make money. He's a very successful entrepreneur (mostly real estate stuff right now) and seems to drive a beautiful new car every few weeks. The amazing thing about him is that he has amazing connections, but he has opened my eyes about being connected. Many people imagine that you get connections because you were born to the right family or went to the right school or some other element of chance. This guy makes connections because he is someone who makes connections. Nothing has been handed to him. His parents aren't particularly connected. He didn't go to any Ivy League schools. He hustles and I really admire him for it. I sometimes wish I had his skills with making money and connections, but that's not who I am. I am a homebody who works a lower-risk, lower-income job, but I appreciate the high drama and fun stories he brings to any get-together.

What did I learn last night?
  1. Just about every famous person is a freak. I learned about a bunch of pro athletes and movie stars who sleep with dozens of women every week. Even the guys who are married are sleeping with everything with two legs.
  2. Lots of celebrities and athletes are gay, but don't admit it. Even many of the celebs who are married are gay.
  3. Even attractive, intelligent, ivy league-educated doctors and lawyers can be total freaks.
  4. A very famous boxer got paid tens of millions under the table by an equally famous boxing promoter. The boxer is scary, but still claims to have ten new women lined up to sleep with him every day. He has also been investigated for rape at least 20 times in the last 3 years.
The stories that these connected guys were telling were amazingly prurient. Lots of celebrities. Lots of smut. Lots of shocking allegations (e.g., "he pretends to have girlfriends, but he's gay" or "he screws every woman who comes to his house for a party"). I don't take all of these allegations as gospel, but it's fun to believe them until they are disproven.

My glimpse into this other world is really fun. It doesn't change how I live, but it's like a really amazing interactive version of the greatest gossip magazine ever.

Compared to these guys, my life is so ordinary, but now I get to watch TV and say "what a freak/sleaze/jerk/hypocrite" whenever I see someone who stars in one of my friends' stories.

The Day
  • Workout: none (cleaners came early this morning. it's a weak excuse, but all i have)
  • Music: The Police, The Pretenders

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mr. Tony Is Back

Mr. Tony is back on the air.

I have never been a big drive-time morning zoo kind of a guy, but a friend of mine from work got me into listening to Tony Kornheiser's show last Spring. I actually listened to it as a podcast through iTunes, so I didn't have to listen to commercials and was able to listen to the entire show. This all came to an end in July when The Tony put the show on hold while he went off to do Monday Night Football.

Tony is smart and fairly funny. He also gets interesting guests and has a crew around him who are a pretty engaging ensemble. Topics range from sports to politics to pop culture to whatever news catches Tony's eye. It's not a morning zoo show. It's not NPR (which is what I usually listen to in the morning.) It's a conversation that is at turns insightful, fun, and interesting.

After a long hiatus, Mr. Tony's show is back on the air. You can listen to it at where you can either listen to the stream or subscribe to the podcast. Now I have "Seems Like Old Times" as sung by Diane Keaton in Annie Hall going through my mind. Having Tony back is a good thing. Radio is his element. He's decent on PTI, but is not good on MNF. Radio is his bag and his show really works for me.

The Day
  • Workout: crunches and push-ups
  • Music: The Beatles, Rachmaninoff

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Big as Life: Some Thoughts on Obesity, Part 2

A couple days ago, I saw the show: Big as Life: Obesity in America. Here are some more thoughts.

As I was (unsuccessfully) looking for this video or at least a trailer for it online, I found this woman's blog entry about watching the show. Her entry was touching. Her comments about people who are walking the fine line between self-acceptance and delusion (e.g., people who were saying that "there are no health problems with being fat") as well as the endocrinologist who doesn't jump to judge obese people really struck me. The really interesting part of her post was her reaction to seeing fat people as the focus of attention. She's not comfortable with her weight and it causes her real distress.

Some people are really happy in their big bodies, but I would guess that a much greater percentage have had a hard time living as large people. Our society's focus on waif-like Abercrombie & Fitch or Cosmo models is no more healthy than our increasing waist size and decreasing activity level. The extremes seem unhealthy to me. Healthiness lies somewhere between couch potato and marathoner, between big macs every day and fad diets, between fat is great and fat is evil. The extremes are either unhealthy, hard to maintain for the long run, or both.

I wish every person who struggles with weight the strength and persistence to find their middle ground to happiness.

I remember when a study came out that said that people who are "overweight" had lower incidence of certain bad health stuff than folks who are "normal." Jacob Sullum at Reason Online has some interesting thoughts on this. Basically, you could argue that being "overweight" is the healthiest range to be in (thus, I have named my gut "life extender"), but you can't say the same for the "obese" or "underweight" ranges. The middle is pretty broad. The extremes are still unhealthy.

The Day

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Big as Life: Some Thoughts on Obesity, Part 1

I saw a show about obesity last night and it was really interesting. The title is Big as Life: Obesity in America and it was on Discovery Health (soon to be OWN.)

Here are some rambling thoughts on the topic:
  • Obesity is not simply caused by eating too much or exercising too little or genes. It's often pretty complex.
  • Our bodies have evolved to work against us sometimes. When your body thinks you are in a famine, it will store fat to help you through the tough time. Unfortunately, this can also kick in when you go on a diet. If you only work the supply side (limiting food), your body can start storing fat and try to figure out how to keep you going through this time of limited food.
  • Some people are genetically predisposed to gain or lose weight more easily. Still, genetics probably doesn't explain why obesity levels have increased over the past few decades.
  • Humans weren't really built to wake up and immediately suck down bacon, eggs, and pancakes while reading the paper. We were probably built to be more active, especially in the morning. For instance, our ancestors got up and had to hunt and/or gather before they ate.
  • People who are obese (or bigger) are generally less healthy than people who are "normal" or overweight (going by these definitions.) Having a positive self image and realizing that you should and can be healthier are not mutually exclusive. Calculate your BMI. There are unhealthy thin people and healthy overweight people, but in general, carrying significantly more weight than you should (being obese or bigger) is not healthy.
  • Sizeism is wrong. Judging someone by the way they look (whether their skin color, their height, their weight, or any other factor) is bad and can be hurtful.
  • There are plenty of people who are attracted to bigger people, but you don't have to be attracted to a person to treat them with respect, kindness, and civility. Not only do many people have a problem treating big people with real respect, but many big people have serious self-image problems. Everyone (including overweight people) should give overweight people more respect. Just because you are a "normal" weight doesn't mean you are better than anyone who is overweight. We all have lots of baggage in our genes and our upbringing.
  • When a thin person teases someone who is overweight about their size, it generally comes off as mean. If you have ever patted my gut and made a comment about its size (including comments like "when is it due?"), I have probably hated you for that comment.
  1. Calculate your BMI so you know where you stand. These numbers are not absolutes, but can give you a general idea.
  2. Many doctors say that where you have your weight is at least as important as how much weight you have. For instance, weight around your gut is not good. The rough rule of thumb seems to be that your waist should be no more than about half your height. .
  3. A little over a year ago, my BMI was borderline obese and I was about 6 or 7 inches too short. I'm healthier now, but it hasn't been for very long.
  4. Most of us need to exercise more. Personally, I think that being healthy is more about activity than it is about a low-cal or low-carb or low-fat diet. If you only work the supply side(calories), your body can think it's in a famine. Working the demand side (activity) is critical to winning the battle.
  5. Long-term change can only happen when you commit to increasing your activity level and eating healthily. This doesn't mean running a marathon and starting a fad diet. It means moving more (even just walking) and having better balance to your diet.
The Day
  • Workout: short run
  • Music: Natalie Merchant, Big Audio Dynamite

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Greatest Show on TV

I am a man of discriminating taste. Still, some stuff sneaks in that others might think is questionable. I love Miles Davis (hard to argue with for any jazz fan), yet I also like the Dead Milkmen and William Shatner (yes, he sings). I like Sartre and Kafka, but enjoy the comics pages as well. Similarly, I like PBS documentaries, but my favorite TV show is MXC. Most eXtreme elimination Challenge is a fusion of modern American and Japanese culture that raises TV to a new level.

Here is a quick description of the show: There is a Japanese game show called Takeshi's Castle. It involves contestants doing all sorts of crazy stuff so they can be the one person who takes on Count Takeshi so they can win the prize (about $8k.) The tasks that the count puts these people through are generally very ridiculous tasks involving mud, water, fake boulders, costumed goons, or a combination of these elements.

A bunch of Americans then dub Takeshi's Castle with their own ideas of who everyone is and what is going on. They give the contestants fake names and avocations (e.g., "Wendy Fleiss, a duty-free hooker that operates out of 7 major hubs") and group them into fake teams (e.g., Meat Industry vs. Cartoon Voice Actors), and then describe the action in the show. It's hilarious.

The schadenfreude involved in watching such events as Log Drop or Sinkers and Floaters (my favorite) is incredible. Everything is made of foam, so it is hard to imagine that much of it actually hurts, but the added sound effects really help communicate more pain than there is. Though I like a bit of slapstick as much as the next guy, the part that really makes this program sing is the banter between Vic Romano and Kenny Blankenship. These two guys are awesome. It is incredibly low-brow stuff, but it consistently makes me laugh. Wikiquote has a small sampling of the hilarity, but it is much better in the show.

Vic is the play-by-play man, but more importantly he is the straight man who sets up Kenny's lines. Kenny has a maturity level that is somewhere between a stereotypical frat boy and a toddler. He enjoys scatological humor as well as all sorts of really base sexual humor.

Their banter is the perfect complement to the visuals. This isn't Masterpiece Theater, but it really makes me laugh. You might not need external genitalia to enjoy this show, but it probably helps an awful lot. If you have never had the urge to watch Animal House, then skip this show. On the other hand, if you like slapstick and potty humor, then check it out.

The Day
  • Workout: shoveling slush last night
  • Music: Led Zeppelin

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Life in Music: Undergrad, Take 1

This is the first of a series of posts about the albums that were the soundtracks of my college years.

It took me a couple tries to get college right. The years 1982-1984 were in part defined by these albums.
  • Urgh! A Music War
  • Brian Eno, Another Green World and Ambient 3 or anything else ambient
  • Walter Carlos (now Wendy Carlos), Switched on Bach
  • U2, War
  • Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique
  • Mannheim Steamroller (Fresh Aire, Fresh Aire II, Fresh Aire III, and Fresh Aire IV)
  • Jean-Michel Jarre (Oxygene, Equinoxe, Magnetic Fields)
Dan "Mad Dog" Dougherty was one of my pledge brothers at Epsilon Theta. He had the most amazing record collection I have ever seen. It was notable not just for its size (which was impressive), but also for its diversity and quality. He had some really amazing music. One album that struck my ear was Urgh! A Music War. It turns out that it was a soundtrack for a movie that I finally saw sometime last year. It is a concert movie with an amazingly diverse list of performers including The Police, The Go-Go's, XTC, Devo, The Dead Kennedys, and Steel Pulse to name but a few. These are really energetic performances from the apex of the new wave and punk movements. Some performances are bizarre, but many are really full of incredible energy. I just realized that this movie deserves a post all to its own, so I will move on to the next album....

When I studied, I often turned to Dan's collection of ambient music. Brian Eno is the father of ambient music, but he's done lots of other stuff as well. Ambient 3 is actually by Laraaji, but was produced by Eno. It is incredibly subtle (i.e., repetitive) music that I suspect few people can really appreciate. It probably says something scary about me that I like it, but such is life.

Walter Carlos worked with Moog on the original synthesizers. He produced lots of interesting purely electronic music. He did the soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange, but I still remember him primarily for his/her electronic versions of Bach's work. Later, he had a sex change and is now Wendy.

In the summers of '82 and '83 I worked for Bell Labs. The latter year was in New Jersey and my favorite song was New Years Day by U2. That song still reminds me of boring evenings in my apartment on Rutgers' Bush campus in Piscataway.

A couple pledge siblings (Epsilon Theta is co-ed) and I took a music appreciation class (was 21.600, but now is 21M.011) together. I don't remember everything that Lowell Lindgren taught us, but I remember that on the final, we had to name the work, composer, year, place, etc. for a bunch of sound snippets he played for us. One of the snippets was from Symphonie Fantastique. Here is Wikipedia's description of the end of the fourth movement (from which our snippet was taken):

"The scene ends with a single short fortissimo G-minor chord that represents the fatal blow: the dropping of the trap door, or perhaps the guillotine blade; the series of pizzicato notes following can be seen to represent the rolling of the severed head into the basket."

What a wonderful symphony.

A bunch of us were into music that later would be called New Age. Jarre and Mannheim Steamroller were staples. we'd play them quietly (usually with headphones) when studying, but we'd crank some Jarre when cleaning the house or when having a "stereo war" before 24-hour quite time around final exam time. This is Noqui's sound and anything that reminds me of one of my favorite people of all time is a good thing.

Anyway, this is the music that defined my first stint in college. I still listen to Eno and Berlioz and some U2, but most of the rest of it is just for when I am feeling nostalgic. This is the soundtrack of a world completely removed from influence by popular culture. The independence and purity still make me smile.

The Day
  • Workout: short run
  • Music: Cake, Crystal Method, Dave Brubeck Quartet

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Two Lists: Popular vs. Good Albums

Take a look at these lists:

The Top Selling Albums of All Time.

Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

First of all, I look through these lists and see a bunch of albums that I need to buy, but I mostly marvel at the contrast between the lists. For instance, it is incredible to me that Garth Brooks and Shania Twain have albums in the top ten for sales. They both have albums that are higher on the album sales list than anything by The Beatles. Kenny G has an album that is higher on the sales list than Sgt. Pepper's. I haven't checked the whole Rolling Stone list, but I doubt Kenny G makes the cut. I could go on and on with this sort of thing, but the contrast between the lists is staggering.

I think I understand why this disconnect between quality and sales happens, but it interests me.

The Day
  • Workout: crunches and dumbbells
  • Music: none (all-day meeting at work)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Instant Musical Gratification

My nostalgia for my college music days led me to try something new.

The woman who runs my department at work sent all of us Amazon gift certificates for the holidays. Figuring out what I should get took some thought. Though I found Neti-Pot salt that I could afford, I decided instead to buy a couple albums (Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy and The Violent Femmes' Hallowed Ground.) What makes these purchases different is that I bought them from Amazon as MP3 downloads. I can do what I want with them (which makes these better than iTunes.) Once downloaded (which was quick), they were in my iTunes library and I was able to burn a CD of each album so I could import them into my home computer's iTunes (and thus have it on my iPod) and listen to them in my car.

No shipping. No delay. Instant gratification. It was most excellent. The only place I listen to CDs is in my car, so this solution works for me. It was easy and quick.

is really tremendous. It is one of the great rock albums of all time. D'yer Mak'er is one of my favorites (just ignore the cheesy montage.)

On the other hand, Hallowed Ground is an under appreciated sophomore effort. It is at turns dark or spiritual or both, but a really fun album. The bass parts are incredible. The lyrics are great. If all the Femmes you know is Add It Up or Blister in the Sun, then give this album a try sometime.

The Day

  • Workout: short hill run
  • Music: none (all-day meeting at work)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Obama: Very African American, Not Very Black

Two articles in last weekend's Washington Post Outlook section caught my eye:

As Obama Rises, Old Guard Civil Rights Leaders Scowl

Why Obamamania? Because He Runs as The Great White Hope

What struck me in both of these articles is that Obama is acting like an outsider because he is one. He's second generation African-American, so this makes him different from American blacks like myself.

Here is how I decide whether a person is black or not: If a significant part of their ancestry were enslaved or subjugated to segregated America, then the person is probably black. Calling such a person "African-American" ignores the complexity of their history and their ties to American history. It also lumps relatively recent immigrants from Africa into a group to which they don't belong culturally. I was born black and I will die black. Please don't call me African-American. My ancestry and culture are too complex for the African-American label. There is a distinctive American black culture (several, really, but let's not pick at nits) and it has precious little to do with Africa.

On the other hand, Obama is half African-American since his father was Kenyan. Obama himself says that his father "...was black as pitch, [his] mother white as milk." His father left when Obama was two, so to a very significant degree, Obama was not raised in an African-American home. His upbringing is complicated, but it certainly contains no connection to the American black culture.

So, the bottom line is that Obama (the African-American politician) is not black enough for the black political establishment. This is hardly surprising since he isn't an American black. He won't kiss their butts to get their blessings and that ticks them off. Actually, if he were to kiss up to them, it would probably hurt him much worse than any possible benefit they could provide. I won't take this time to discuss what is wrong with the black political establishment that is represented by the likes of Sharpton and Jackson. The point here is that I find Obama's outsiderness interesting and am gladdened by how he is handling it so far. It almost makes me wish I were African-American instead of black.

Obama is treading his own path, and that is the right thing for him to do.

The Day
  • Workout: crunches, dumbbells
  • Music: Violent Femmes

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Bunko" and "Craps"

Last night was "Craps" Night, but there was no betting and there were no dice.

The wives in our group started getting together for bunko night about six years ago. In theory, bunko is a betting game that involves dice, but the ladies only played one or two times before the monthly events degenerated into girls' night out. At first, they met at someone's house and passed the box of bunko supplies as a ceremonial way of indicating who the next hostess would be. Eventually, the ladies moved "bunko" night out of their homes and into restaurants where a game of bunko could not break out even accidentally. Some of the bunko babes have never played the game.

A few months ago, I decided that it was time for the guys to have a night out as well. It has been a long time since a bunch of us played indoor soccer together (which is how we kept in touch for quite a while), so we really needed a scheduled guys' night. I like the idea of having a name for the event, so I chose "craps" night. Craps is also a betting game with dice and we have no intentions of ever playing it. I'm a math guy, so I like the symmetry.

Anyway, every married guy should have a "craps" night. The other thing we should all have is an annual weekend away with the guys. I'll describe Looray in a later post, but suffice it to say that my friends used to have a yearly golf outing. It has not happened for some years and needs to be resurrected. It was good, clean fun and we need to get it started up again.

The Day

Thursday, January 10, 2008

White Like Eddie Murphy

This is a fascinating documentary that Eddie Murphy did a while ago. It is quite the expose that opened my eyes to a world I always suspected, but didn't know existed.

White Like Eddie

I had to install a plugin to see the video, but it was worth it to relive this important piece of investigative journalism. This is required viewing for anybody who wants to understand racial issues in modern America.

The Day

  • Workout: crunches and push-ups
  • Music: Cloud Cult, Bronski Beat, Wynton Marsalis (Telemann/Vivaldi/Haydn/Pachelbel), Queen, Public Image Ltd. (it was a long day of reviews at work, so the list is long)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Middle East : A Complicated Place

I already had a draft of an entry for today, but it can wait. You are probably sick of me going on about music, so this is a good time for a brief diversion.

The Middle East is complicated. I am not going to attempt to go into why or how except to share this cool animation of The Imperial History of the Middle East.

It's no wonder that things there are not easy. I think that anyone who thinks there is an easy solution to anything in the Middle East is underestimating the complexity of the situation. Then again, maybe I'm overgeneralizing.

The Day

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My New CDs: New Order, Low-Life

One of my xmas CDs really has me a bit nostalgic for my college days. New Order's Low-Life reminds me of the years when I had the time to dwell on music. My friends and I focused so much on music that we gravitated toward working at the college radio station. We were really in to music.

With Low-Life, New Order continued to explore both electronic/dance music and straight-up post-punk rock. The lyrics are often pretty dark (understandable since New Order was created when one of Joy Division's members committed suicide), but the instrumentation is diverse and the album holds together pretty well. You can hear their dance music style evolving on a few tracks, but you also hear the vestiges of their rock/post-punk beginnings.

Check out this video on YouTube of them in concert in Japan in 1985. This is not simply the stuff of the electronic dance music that you find on Substance a couple years later. The journey from Love Vigilantes to Sub-Culture is a fun one.

My roommate and I nearly wore out the grooves on this album.

On a totally different note: check out this Pachelbel rant. It tickled me.

The Day
  • Workout: 3.5-mile run
  • Music: New Order, Nick Drake, The Police, Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin

Monday, January 7, 2008

My New CDs: Clifford Brown & Max Roach

Sometimes a review, interview, or other article points me toward some music I like. Most recently, an Appreciation piece (i.e., an obit in the Washington Post Style section) on Max Roach spurred me to add the album Clifford Brown & Max Roach to my Amazon wish list just before xmas.

When Max Roach passed away a couple months ago, he was the last of the jazz greats who created the bebop movement. He was quite a man and quite an artist who lived a life that was full of creating fine music and (perhaps more importantly) sharing his passion with others. He won a MacArthur "Genius" grant in 1988, so his greatness of mind, talent, and spirit were known to many.

On the other hand, Clifford Brown died in a car accident at age 25. In his tragically short life, he managed to create some really tremendous music including A Night at Birdland (with Art Blakey) and his collaboration with Max Roach and his quintet (a few albums worth.)

This music is very accessible. Even someone who is not into jazz could probably find a tune or two they like in this album. Both Brown and Roach were technically impressive performers who were able to do things that few others could do. The really amazing part is that they both were able to bring such passion and feeling to their music.

It's sad that it took Max Roach's death to get me to appreciate what these two great talents brought to the world of music.

The Day

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Friends Are So Cool

I had a really brutal week at work last week. Two stories from work will describe how crappy it was.

First, a former Project Manager of mine who is not known for being particularly touchy-feely was passing by as I was getting some seltzer from a vending machine. She literally stopped and just gave me a hug from the side. Anyone who knows her and hears this is a bit amazed. She can be a bit brusque at times, but she came through for me when I could use some recognition of the crap I was going through.

Second, a really cool friend/co-worker sent me an email:

Something traveling in the wind tells me that you could use some good music to cleanse your mind...

The music helped (Yoav is pretty cool), but the thought helped even more. Having people who care when you are having a tough time is great. Having caring people who know how to help you is absolutely incredible.

The Day
  • Workout: short run
  • Music: Yoav, Squeeze

Friday, January 4, 2008

Say No to Drugs and Yes to Saline

When the sickness moved on to a very painful sore throat and nightly coughing fits that have kept me out of my own bed for a couple days, I finally dug out the antibiotic prescription the doctor gave me last week. The Wife took it to the pharmacy, then delivered the pills to me at the office (so nice), so I am on my way to medicated wellness.

I also gave the Neti Pot a try and I must say that I am a fan. It took a while for it to work as designed, but it finally did and it is cool. The Wife and kids now refer to me as a circus performer since I use the Neti Pot to pour salt water into one nostril, and then watch it pour out of the other nostril (really! check out this great video). It's an odd sensation, but it's really cleansing and helps me breath. BTW: Be sure to get the right type of salt. Don't use normal table salt.

Only someone with serious allergies or sinus problems (like this guy) can empathize with the feeling, but anything that gives me relief from my sinus congestion and pressure is a godsend. Nasal sprays like Afrin can dry you out like a sponge, but can also be psychologically and physically addictive. When you live your life congested, being able to breath through your nose is a rare pleasure, but drugs are not the right pathway to happiness. Saline is the answer.

The Day
  • Workout: crunches and push-ups
  • Music: Van Morrison

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My New CDs: The Beatles (White Album)

I like The Beatles and it dates way back. When I lived in Sierra Leone as a little kid, we had a pretty darn small record collection and no radio stations that I recall. As a result, I listened to Tchaikovsky (1812 Overture), Saint-Saens (Carnival of the Animals), The Sound of Music soundtrack, The Jackson 5 (ABC), Easy Rider Soundtrack, and The Beatles (Sgt. Peppers.) I'm sure there was other music, but these are the only albums I remember playing over and over again and they form the soundtrack of those 2 1/2 years from when I was 4 until 6 1/2. Of all of these, Sgt. Peppers was my favorite.

Ten years later, my sister and I went to Paris for about 3 or 4 weeks. We stayed in an apartment (I think it belonged to a friend of hers from college) on the Rue Jean Goujon. I had a tremendous time, but as a 15-year old, I couldn't stay out and explore too much on my own, especially at night. My time in the apartment was spent listening to a few albums on an old record player. There were not many records, but I remember two of them: Revolver and The White Album both by The Beatles. Again, the Fab Four accompanied me in a time when I was pretty solitary.

It has taken a long time, but I am finally fleshing out my Beatles collection on CD. Sgt. Peppers was the first, but since then, I have picked up Revolver, Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, and Please Please Me. I just got the White Album and I love it. It's not the greatest collection of singles, but it's a really great album and I like great albums. It has fun little ditties, rockin' tunes, nice ballads, and the mixture of all this along with some off-the-wall craziness really works for me. Revolver is another tremendous album, but the White Album is quirkier. I adore them both.

I want my kids to gain some bit of my affinity for various kinds of music. If I leave their musical taste up to their friends and what they happen to hear on radio or TV, I have only myself to blame when they have crappy taste. If I expose them to music I think is great, then I have done all I can. Music is an important part of my life and sharing that with the kids is really important to me. Luckily, albums like The White Album can make sharing really fun.

The Day
  • Workout: crunches and push-ups
  • Music: The Beatles, Bill Evans, Lalo Schifrin

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sick for (not of) the Holidays

I didn't mean to take such a long break from the blog, but I have been sick since the first day of my xmas vacation.

During the day, I cough a bit and blow my nose every once in a while and sometimes have a sore throat, but aside from being tired, it generally isn't too bad. Nights stink. Every night is special, but the general story is:
  1. Sleep until 03:00-ish (anywhere from 01:30-03:30.)
  2. Wake up to sneeze, blow nose and/or cough a few dozen times. These sneezing/coughing fits can be loud, so this phase sometimes drives me downstairs so I can clear out my respiratory system in peace.
  3. Lie back down and try to get back to sleep. Some nights the sneezing/coughing fun happens more than once.
  4. Wake up when the kids wake us (around 07:00) and spend 45 minutes clearing out my upper and lower respiratory systems. This is a truly disgusting phase that I will not describe except to say that it is generally messy and noisy.
This has been my experience for the past 11 days and I am sick of it. I am finally motivated to try a Neti Pot or something similar. It is a really odd looking thing (check out the video), but I need relief.

Now to get back into the swing of things. I didn't leave my house much in the past week except to go to the grocery store or the doctor, so it was a pretty uninteresting week. I did, however, get some music about which I will write in the coming days.

The Day