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October 2007
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December 2007


Because 1) I haven't posted excerpts from Carrie's blog in a few days, and 2) that's not exactly true, she's the one who gave me the idea for the Starbuck Speaks post, and 3) I've been uninspired of late, I will now once again quote from Carrie Brownstein's must-read blog. This time she's talking about our relationship to music. My only addition to her comments, beyond noting that I am right with her, is that the kind of intimate connection she discusses, the "love affair with a band," last happened to me with the band Carrie was in. So it's odd to find that when she's off stage, she's not much different than us fans, which is to say, she is a fan as well.

I went through my iTunes library and realized that I had increased the amount of music I "own" in 2007, by at least a couple hundred songs. But few of the songs amounted to albums; most were a collection of random singles, free downloads, or the supposed three or four best tracks off someone's full-length effort. And I put "own" in quotes because although music is more free and accessible than ever, it is also more disposable; it's easier to let go of. Thus, we've become dabblers. The songs that I have recently acquired don't really add up to anything more than a 10 day long mix tape with little thematic cohesion and only a shallow survey of the artists' work. I have shifted from collecting to compiling....

[M]aybe this is why I feel like I didn't collect any music in 2007. My vinyl is a collection, and a collection feels permanent. Though a digital music library will outlast the vinyl records, and will likely outlast us all, the digital is not tactile. Recorded music, at least in the digital form, engages with fewer of our senses, and that certainly has changed the way I experience it.

In reality, maybe I listened to and consumed more music than ever this past year. But it is strange that I didn't even notice.

(I realize it seems like I'm pimping for her blog all the time ... I suppose I am. But it's really good, not just for people like me jonesing for anything from Carrie, but for anyone who'd like to spend a few minutes several times a week with a smart, witty writer with broad interests. I wouldn't have thought of it in advance, but she's a perfect fit for NPR.)

friday random ten, 2003 edition

1. Kanye West, "Through the Wire." Kanye was a well-respected producer before "Through the Wire." He struggled to get accepted as a rapper ... his image was thought to be too clean-cut. Then he was in a near-fatal car crash, which resulted in his jaw being wired shut. Two weeks later, he went into the studio and cut this track, with his jaw still wired up. He got to make a solo album after that.

2. R. Kelly, "Ignition (Remix)." What are we to make of R. Kelly? His albums still go platinum, despite the fact that he is often seen as comic fodder when he isn't being reviled for the things he is supposed to have done. Is it possible that Internet videos of a man peeing on a 14-year-old girl fall under the category of "there's no such thing as bad publicity?" (Watch the video link now ... there's no telling how long it will remain online.)

3. Britney Spears, "Toxic." Speaking of artists whose public image overwhelms their actual music. Not sure why, but I feel sorry for Britney in ways I don't for R. Kelly. Well, I feel sorry for her kids, but to the extent we know anything real about celebrities, I feel sorry for this woman.

4. Black Eyed Peas, "Let's Get Retarded." Due respect to the mentally challenged, but this song isn't the same in its NBA-approved "Let's Get It Started" mode.

5. Lucinda Williams, "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings." I love Lucinda ... have for a couple of decades now. But you have to admit, this song title pretty much sums up her lyrics. She would have made a great guest singer on Tonight's the Night.

6. Bruce Springsteen, "Who'll Stop the Rain?" On March 20, 2003, as the invasion of Iraq began, Bruce Springsteen was playing the first date in a brief tour of Australia and New Zealand. His setlists changed immediately. On April 9 in Sacramento, he played his first show in the U.S. since the beginning of the war. He opened with the acoustic version of "Born in the U.S.A." and followed it up with a full-band treatment of this Creedence song. was right when they called it "intense." (The video link is to a 1993 performance with the unfairly-maligned "Other Band.")

7. Warren Zevon, "Disorder in the House." Meanwhile, Warren Zevon was showing the world the right way to die: "enjoy every sandwich." He managed to crank out one last album, and Mr. Springsteen was inspired again, this time to lay down a few of the best guitar solos of his career, as if his guitar neck was the cancer and he was gonna strangle it right out of Zevon's body while Warren watched with delight.

8. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, "Silver and Gold." Zevon knew he was dying. Joe Strummer couldn't say the same ... one day, he was just gone. In his prime, he was as great a performer as anyone I've ever seen. In this, his unexpected last moment, he breaks our hearts without knowing it:

I'm gonna go out dancin' every night
I'm gonna see all the city lights
I'll do everything silver and gold
I got to hurry up before I grow too old

I'm gonna take a trip around the world
I'm gonna kiss all the pretty girls
I'll do everything silver and gold
And I got to hurry up before I grow too old

Oh I do a lotta things I know is wrong
Hope I'm forgiven before I'm gone
It'll take a lotta prayers to save my soul
And I got to hurry up before I grow too old

9. Amy Rigby, "Don't Ever Change." She's never made a bad album ... just to cite one critic, Christgau has given her five albums the grades A A- A- A- A. Given that she recorded her first solo album when she was 37, and her most recent at 46, she would appear to be an outlier to my Theory of Rock Star Career Trajectories. (I may have posted that video link before, but what the heck ... it's less than a minute long, and there aren't any "Don't Ever Change" videos, far as I know.)

10. Mitch and Mickey, "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow." This song represents one of the few times in Christopher Guest's fine movie career where real emotion overcame the slightly mean treatment of human folly (funny ... but mean). Catherine O'Hara's Mickey is an actual character rather than a caricature, someone we care about, and at some point, we quit laughing at her. By the time she and Mickey sing their signature tune, the drama overtakes the parody. It's a moment that might make me retch in a more traditional film; here, it's as lovely as a snowflake.

the clash and bo diddley

I'm listening to an interview with Mick Jones on Rhapsody ... they include tracks of the people Mick talks about. He was talking about the various opening acts The Clash would invite onto their tour in the States, and how often those acts would be crapped on by the audience, resulting in Joe Strummer going out and chewing the audience's ass. He mentioned their first tour of America ... we actually saw the first show The Clash ever played in the USA, it was in Berkeley, not their first North America show, I think they played Vancouver first. Anyway, the band was asked who they wanted to have as an opening act, and they said they'd love to play with Bo Diddley. And they were told hey, that might not work, can't you come up with an up-and-coming punk band? But no, they wanted Bo Diddley, he was one of their idols and they wanted him to play. And they got their way, which is why, on February 7, 1979, I saw Bo Diddley play for the first and only time. He was great, of course.

Time sure does fly. I remember that part of Bo's act that night was to make fun of his age ... he'd bend down and as he did so, he'd have his guitar making creaky noises like his bones were too old to take the stress. Well, I just looked Bo Diddley up on Wikipedia, and damn, he sure was old back in 1979 ... 50! Yep ... Bo Diddley was younger the time I saw the old geezer than I am now. Geesh.

the writers' strike

It's pretty clear this has been a less than inspired week for the old blog. But then, it's been a pretty uninspiring week for the things about which I often write. Television? Most of the shows I watch are on strike-induced hiatus ... Dexter's pretty much all that's left at this point. Music? My once-a-week Random Tens satisfy most of my desire to write about that. Movies? I've said before that I'm never sure if I should bother to talk about the movies I watch, which tend to be ancient. Today I saw The Enemy Below, a 1950s WWII movie with Robert Mitchum as the captain of an American ship and Curt Jurgens as his counterpart on a German submarine. Does anyone really care what I thought? (The leads were fine, there was more character development than is usual in these things, it did a better job than most at avoiding cliches ... not entirely, but a decent job ... and I forgot about it ten minutes after it ended.) Sports? Baseball season is over, no one cares about soccer, the 49ers stink, Cal's football team flopped horribly, the Warriors and Cal men's basketball team are playing well and the Warriors are fun to watch, but basketball needs the playoffs to make them truly exciting. School? I'm currently teaching King Dork again, and it's a good book, but I'm sure I've talked about it before.

And the one thing I might have something to say about, the TV writers' strike ... well, I've thought about saying something, but I'm pretty sure everyone knows my opinion without my saying anything, and there's nothing I can offer that isn't being said far better by the writers themselves. I suppose I could post links ... there are some terrific videos, the serious ones are here:, and the funnier ones are everywhere ... here's one:


Anyway, I have nothing to add. If you're interested, you've already hunted down the same web sites that I have.

So I'll just go to bed.

razor redux

I have nothing new to say about Battlestar Galactica: Razor. I'm going to watch it again when it comes out on DVD in ten days, because the DVD will have extra scenes that weren't in the version shown tonight on Sci-Fi. In the meantime, here's what I wrote a few weeks ago, minus the cutesy "oh, he hasn't seen it yet, has he" crap, to serve as a mini-review:

Holy frak! It's a flashback that offers up the backstory on the Pegasus. It also gives us a clue about Season Four … for that reason, among others, I would NOT recommend that you watch Razor if you haven't yet seen Season Three.

Admiral Cain and her ship resulted in some of the darkest episodes of BSG, and that's saying something considering how dark the series is as a whole. Watching Razor is a bad idea in one sense: when it's over, and you realize it will be months before another episode airs, you'll be pretty frakking sad.

friday random ten, 2002 edition

1. Nelly, "Hot in Herre." There will always be songs like this, that perfectly fit in their moment and become ubiquitous, until people tire of it because it is inescapable. Then a few years later, the song reminds us of the time when it was popular. And finally, many years down the road, we can hear it with fresh ears once again.

2. Avril Lavigne, "Sk8er Boi." I guess 2002 is the year of odd spelling. This track itself is very odd, beyond the fact that it's a piece of perfect power pop. It tells the story of a kid from the wrong side of the tracks and an upper-class girl who likes him but can't admit it. A few years later, they've grown up, and he's a big rock star while she's at home with a baby. The narrative is picked up by the Sk8er Boi's new love, who chastises the first girl for not seeing the boi's true qualities. The odd thing is that in real life, Lavigne is the sk8er boi, the kid who grows up to be a star, but when she adopts the first person at the end of the song, she sings as the groupie who waits backstage.

3. Missy Elliott, "Work It." Hell with weird spelling, Missy comes up with all-new words, simply by reversing the recording at key moments in the chorus, resulting in an impossible-to-sing-along hook that is one of the most irresistible things in pop music in many years.

4. Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me a River." Teen star turns 21, releases solo album, sells nine million copies and never looks back.

5. Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, "Get Low." Yet another way to spell the word for young males. I've been trying to think of what to write about this for a day now, and I still don't know what to say. The sucker is as catchy as "Work It," but don't listen to the lyrics unless you love singing along to "'til the sweat drops down my balls."

6. Buffy Summers and Friends, "Walk Through the Fire." For a variety of reasons, Buffy's friends have decided they need to let her go it alone. Buffy sings about the core loneliness of the heroine, while her friends reconsider and realize walking through the fire with Buffy is what they do.

7. E-40, "Mustard and Mayonnaise." If I'm repeating myself, I apologize, but everyone needs to hear E-40 at least once before they die.

8. Eminem, "Lose Yourself." There are plenty of candidates, but this might be the best rap song to convince a rocker that there's something to this hip-hop business. Crunching, vital, honest, and hooky ... just a great, great track from a pretty good movie.

9. Johnny Cash, "Hurt." One of the greatest summations of a career I've ever heard, and who would have thought I'd say that about the Man in Black covering a Nine Inch Nails song. There is some wonderful stuff on the Random Ten, but the finest work of art here is the video at the top, close to unbearable in its sad beauty.

10. Bruce Springsteen, "Mary's Place." If Johnny Cash singing "Hurt" fills us with a feel for the end, "Mary's Place" reminds us to dance on our way to the grave. Like many Bruce songs, this was a bit of a trifle when heard in its studio incarnation. But from the beginning, you knew it was meant for live greatness. The moment Bruce sings "waitin' for that shout from the crowd," you were ready to be there at the show, doing your part, yelling out "TURN IT UP!"

[edited to add Spotify playlist]