Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oscar Wrapup

I suppose I should say a few words about the Oscars, since I went to the trouble of posting my predictions. I finished 16/24, which in our family contest was only good enough for 2nd place. The difference between me and the winner (my mom, natch) was the Actor and Actress categories. She correctly picked the winners, whereas I went with Viola Davis and George Clooney.

I've read some very funny criticism of the show, but I thought it was alright. Sure, Billy Crystal is old-fashioned and he did the same shtick he's always done, but I laughed enough to label it a success.

Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but I can't even think of a speech memorable enough to comment on. Angelina Jolie's thing with her leg was pretty funny, and it was cool to see 1/2 of Flight of the Conchords take home an Oscar.

I voted for "The Artist," but I would have been happier to see "Hugo" win. But it's not often that my favorite movie of the year takes home the big prize.

So, next year...Neil Patrick Harris and Justin Timberlake as co-hosts? Anyone with me on that one?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Downtown Fun

It was an interesting day at and around the State Capitol today - Tea Partiers, Occupiers, skinheads, white supremacists, we had it all. Around 3 p.m. the noise level around my office increased significantly, and when I looked down there were a number of people down on the ground, apparently after being tased.

This was taken about ten minutes after that. It's difficult to tell exactly what was going on, but suffice to say there were a lot of police, and the block was still closed when I was heading home around 5:45.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's A Wonderful Night for Oscar!

For what it's worth, here are my picks. And please be warned that I bring no particular expertise to any of these categories.

Of the major categories, there isn't a lot of drama this year, except for Best Actor. I'm going with Clooney, even though I haven't seen the film yet, because I'd like something to break up the "Artist" dominance. And that's not because I dislike "The Artist" - haven't seen it yet either!

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Best Actor: George Clooney for The Descendants
Best Actress: Viola Davis for The Help
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer for The Help
Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Best Animated Feature Film: Rango
Best Foreign Language Film: In Darkness (Poland)
Cinematography: Hugo: Robert Richardson
Editing: Hugo: Thelma Schoonmaker
Art Direction: Hugo: Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Costume Design: The Artist: Mark Bridges
Best Makeup: The Iron Lady: Mark Coulier, J. Roy Helland
Original Score: The Artist: Ludovic Bource
Original Song: The Muppets: Bret McKenzie ("Man or Muppet")
Best Sound Mixing: Hugo: Tom Fleischman, John Midgley
Best Sound Editing: Hugo: Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty
Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett
Best Documentary Feature: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
Best Documentary Short: God Is the Bigger Elvis: Rebecca Cammisa, Julie Anderson
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore: William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg
Best Live Action Short: Tuba Atlantic: Hallvar Witz

Saturday, February 25, 2012

American Top 40 Flashback - Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson is probably known by some people more for his drunken and drugged exploits with John Lennon during Lennon's "lost weekend" phase than he is for his music. Which is a shame, because Nilsson was a very entertaining, albeit quirky artist. And he made the great "Nilsson Schmilsson" album, on which this song appeared.

"Without You" doesn't really sound like anything else on the album, but it's one of those rare bits of saturated pop that works from start to finish.

And no, I have no idea what these dancers are doing in this video - auditioning for "The Walking Dead," perhaps?

"Without You," Harry Nilsson, the #1 song this week in 1972.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Top 50 Albums, #33 - "Horses," Patti Smith

The needle hits vinyl, and for a brief moment, you hear a stately piano introduction. And then, you hear the first, startling, words.

Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.

That piano introduction and those words represent what is certainly among the most striking album openers in the history of rock music. The song from which they come, “Gloria,” is a perfect example of Patti Smith at her absolute best. In fact, it is perhaps the best example of what Smith, at her best, does so well – a fusion of music, poetry and spoken word performance that when done poorly can be embarrassing, but when done well is nothing short of breathtaking.

On the album cover, Patti Smith – in a photograph taken by her great friend and muse Robert Mapplethorpe – looks as if she is ready to take over the entire world. The way that her hands are framed around her slight body suggests vulnerability. But then you see the look on her face, you gaze into those eyes, and you see nothing but absolute confidence. A look that says, “yeah, I know it – I’m not like anything you’ve seen before, but even though I might look like a waif, I am going to change the way that you look at the world.”

I remember my first exposure to Patti Smith almost as if it were yesterday. Saturday Night Live, April 1976, with Ron Nessen –at that time, the White House Press Secretary for President Gerald Ford – as the host. She was introduced, and ripped into a version of “Gloria” that must have had the President’s pollsters wondering if the election was lost right there. I’d never seen anything quite like it, and neither had my mother – she was alternatively amused and horrified, so naturally I kept my opinion to myself.

It could be argued – and I think it has been argued – that other Patti Smith albums are “better,” or “more consistent,” or “express more accomplished musicianship” than “Horses.” And while all those things may be true, it doesn’t really matter. There have been two times in the career of Patti Smith that she has created transcendent art – “Horses,” and “Gone Again” – the latter being the first album released following the untimely deaths of her husband, her brother, and her great friend Mapplethorpe. But as great as “Gone Again” is, and as good as many of the other albums are, she achieved a pinnacle with “Horses.” I’ve never heard anything quite like it. It’s exciting like few other albums I’ve ever heard, and if anything, I’ve probably underrated it.

As good as “Redondo Beach,” “Free Money,” Kimberly,” “Break It Up,” and “Elegie” are, the heart of “Horses” lies with its three epics – the aforementioned “Gloria,” “Birdland,” and “Land” – the latter two clocking in at over 9 minutes each. I go back and forth on which of those latter two I prefer; sometimes the beautiful juxtaposition between Patti’s vocals and Richard Sohl’s piano sells me on the former, and other times the sheer drama and tension of the latter win me over. And what’s great is that it doesn’t really matter – they’re both amazing.

What “Horses” has that sets it apart from all of Smith’s other albums, and about 99% of albums ever released, is the emotional connection it achieves – a direct line straight through the heart.

Horses, Patti Smith (1975) Produced by John Cale

Gloria/Redondo Beach/Birdland/Free Money/Kimberly/Break It Up/Land/Elegie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oscar Worthy

In recent weeks, we've caught up a bit on our viewing of Oscar contenders. Capsule reviews follow.

Hugo. Anyone who's ever watched Martin Scorsese talk about movies knows that he is absolutely in love with the art form. And "Hugo" shows that love in almost every frame. It is a story that stars children in the most key roles, but it is not a children's film (which is not the same thing as saying that children won't like it). Most of all, it is his love letter to the cinema, and everything about it works. Even the 3D enhances the viewing experience, rather than detracting from it - or seeming like a gimmick intended to do little more than to add to the box office.

I really can't think of anything to criticize about "Hugo" - Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz are wonderful as the children, Ben Kingsley is terrific as the mysterious merchant, and even Sacha Baron Cohen is effective as the train station magistrate. The story is magical, and it all works. A triumph of the most unlikely type for Scorsese.

Moneyball. Well, of course I loved it. I love baseball, and I've been reading Bill James for almost 30 years now. This would have to have been a horrible adaptation for me not to like it. And it was far from horrible; in fact, it is outstanding. Brad Pitt is perfect as Billy Beane, and even though his character is a composite, Jonah Hill does just fine as the egghead who has the temerity to think that hard data actually has value in the determination of what makes a good, productive baseball player.

It's hard for me to say whether a non-baseball fan can enjoy "Moneyball." All I know is that a rabid baseball fan can enjoy it just fine.

The Help. This is not a great movie, but given a choice between it and something like "Mississippi Burning," I'll take this any day of the week. I would argue that it is a very good movie, one that overcomes the flaws of its story with the power of three amazing performances - Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain. I really can't praise them enough, and I'm just sorry that all three can't take home a golden statue. I suspect that two of them will.

And after these, we watched "Drive" for a second time, and all I can say it "it wuz robbed!" I can understand why Ryan Gosling wasn't nominated, since the Academy just doesn't seem to go for that kind of performance, but there's no excuse at all for not nominating the film and Albert Brooks for Best Supporting Actor. Not for everyone, certainly - but great, great stuff nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stand By Me

25 years ago today, this was the first song at our wedding reception.

And I'd like to think that we danced a little better than the crazy young kids in this video.

Happy anniversary!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Top 50 Albums, #34 - "The Joshua Tree"

U2 is quite likely the most annoying great band in the history of rock and roll. And it's not entirely Bono's fault. There's no question in my mind that "The Joshua Tree" is their best album - a great album. And yet, for years the band seemed to regard the album as an albatross hanging around its neck, spending more than a decade doing everything it could to sound unlike the band that recorded it. On one occasion, that worked - "Achtung Baby" was very good. "Rattle and Hum" was OK. But "Zooropa" and "Pop," hailed by some as bold and adventurous, were really quite crappy. It was only when the band returned to its strengths in 2000 on the excellent "All That You Can't Leave Behind" that U2 once again sounded like U2.

And then, of course, there is Bono. Most of the time, it's hard to take the guy too seriously. One moment, he's hanging out with Frank Sinatra, in an apparent effort to establish himself as an avatar of cool. The next, he's doing good works (fanfare, please) in third world countries. But before you know it, there he is at the Republican Convention, having a chummy ol' chat with none other than Bill O'Reilly. After all these years, I really have no idea what the guy stands for.

There's a song on "Rattle and Hum" where Bono is engaging in a political monologue about something, and then suddenly he's openly baiting the audience, bellowing "Am I buggin' ya? Wouldn't want to BUG ya." First time I heard it, I laughed out loud, but not quite as loud as when I read the Village Voice review of "Achtung Baby," where the writer began his piece by stating, "Yeah, Bono - as a matter of fact, you're buggin' the living sh*t out of us."

So there you have it - U2 goes onto the dustbin of history, in the section devoted to bands who take themselves too seriously, and singers whose estimation of their own importance far exceeds their actual importance.

And yet, every time I hear the opening chords of "Where the Streets Have No Name," I'm reminded that U2 at its best is a band that can take you to levels that few bands have reached. It's an epic, sweeping song, and it sets the tone for an entire album that you could easily describe in those terms. Producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno create a magnificent soundscape for the songs, and the players - The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. - respond with their very best work. So what if Bono emotes a little bit too much on some tunes? Here, that kind of performance is justified, and it adds to the power of the overall work.

It's their most consistent album, and their best album - one that, for all the band's faults, deserves its place on this list.

The Joshua Tree (1987) Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno

Where the Streets Have No Name/I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For/With or Without You/Bullet the Blue Sky/Running to Stand Still/Red Hill Mining Town/In God's Country/Trip Through Your Wires/One Tree Hill/Exit/Mothers of the Disappeared

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What the?

For some reason that no one, including the staff who work there, can seem to explain, someone has decided to completely move everything around at the market where we buy our groceries.

At first I thought this was no big deal, until I dropped in on the way home from work in search of a bottle of wine. And not just any wine; tonight I felt like chilled white wine. Which, for the past 10 years, has always been in the same place.

Naturally, it was moved to the last place I would expect it to be - which seems to have been the driving factor in all the moving decisions that have taken place so far.

I was so frustrated, I bought two. So, I suppose the story has a happy ending.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Add One More

After the last 10 days or so, I think it's fair to add Jeremy Lin to the top sports stories of 2012. Now the only question is how long it will take for people to lay off the silly puns involving his name. Probably forever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Declawing A Tiger

Yesterday, I noted the possibility that the Phil vs. Tiger duel could end up on the list of 2012 memorable sports moments. And it did, although not for the reason that I (or anyone else, probably) had imagined.

It was a massacre of epic proportions, with Phil playing one of the best rounds of his career on a storied course and Tiger displaying the inconsistency that has plagued him since right around the PGA Championship in 2009. Actually, Tiger was worse than inconsistent - he was downright putrid, especially on the greens. And here I was all set to predict that he would win a major this year. It could still happen, but first he'll have to learn again how to string four strong rounds together (sing that to the tune of "Four Strong Winds").

The stat of the day was provided by Nick Faldo, who brought to our attention the fact that, had yesterday been match play, Mickelson would have defeated Woods 7 and 5. And that, folks, is pretty darn embarrassing.

Monday Morning Wrapup

There were two performances I should have noted last night - Jennifer Hudson's very nice tribute to Whitney Houston (it struck just the right chord), and Nicky Minaj's epic...well, I don't really know what it was, but it was epic. That doesn't mean I thought it was great (or even good), but if nothing else it was an interesting spectacle.

And I'm still trying to figure out how Bon Iver qualified for Best New Artist. That first album came out a LONG time ago.

And given that Alison Krauss has won more Grammys than any other artist, I wish they had found a way to work her and Union Station into the show. I know it's the wrong demographic, but still...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nice Close

That's what we want to see - Paul up there with Bruce, Dave, Joe and others ripping the shreds out of a Beatles song.

Rock on.

Record of the Year

Well, of course it was "Rolling in the Deep." When art merges with commerce, that can be a very powerful thing.

What the...?

Ok, the Foo Fighters / DeadMau5 thing...I have no idea what it was, but it was very entertaining.

Oh Well

Sometimes the mashup doesn't quite work. It wasn't terrible, but it was hardly the best performance that either Tony Bennett or Carrie Underwood ever gave.

And how does Bon Iver win Best New Artist when he/they released an album over two years ago?

Glen Campbell!

OK, that was awesome too. I wish they'd found a way to work "Wichita Lineman" into the mix, but that's just me.

What few may realize is that Glen is/was an awesome guitar player. He deserves all the accolades.


Hey, it's one of the greatest songs of any era one might define, so of course it was awesome. And very nice to see that Adele has her voice back.

And of course she's going to win everything. I don't have a problem with that.

Lost Opportunity

Should have had a Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder duet. Anyone ever hear Stevie's version of "We Can Work It Out?"

And while I'm at it, Stevie is the most awesome harmonica player on the planet.

Beach Boys

If you're going to honor The Beach Boys, you should probably say a little something about the two who are no longer with us - Carl and Dennis Wilson.

Having said that, it was an enjoyable performance.


I'm a fan of the "let's put x together with y" approach at the Grammys - it may not always work, but why not try it? The appeal of music should be universal, so why does it matter if Coldplay doesn't quite mesh with Rhianna? It's worth a try. And it makes me wonder about some of the possibilities that were missed in years long past, back when artists like this would not have been allowed within a mile of the Grammy stage:

- Otis Redding and Petula Clark

- The Beatles and Stevie Wonder

- James Brown and Dusty Springfield


Very sorry that Kanye and Jay-Z were not there, because you know that would have been entertaining.

Not a huge fan of the song - I keep thinking, "let Otis sing!"


That was about the best tribute I could possibly imagine.

I just wish she had found her Burt Bacharach, like her Aunt Dionne had before her.

And LL Cool J is a great, enthusiastic host so far.


OK, that was awesome.

When you can make a member of The Beatles rock out, you've got a good thing going.

Grammy Awards

I'm on record as saying that I believe there's a larger gap at the Grammys between artistic merit and the eventual victors than at any other awards show (but in fairness, I said it before I started the Golden Globes). However, that doesn't stop me from watching. And tonight, I'm planning to offer a few, possibly random thoughts as the evening progresses. I can't call it a "live blog" since those of us on the West Coast don't get to see it live, but I'll do my best.

The Year In Sports, So Far

One of the things I told myself that I would do this year is keep a running tab of 2012's most memorable sports moments. Since we're into mid-February, I suppose it's time to get cracking on that before too much time slips away.

- The Super Bowl has to be included, as it should be any year when it is a great game. And the game's most indelible moment, the Eli Manning to Mario Manningham throw-and-catch, is one of those highlights that we will see for the rest of our lives. I distinctly recall when Manning threw that ball thinking that it was going to be out of bounds by at least five yards. Shows you what I know. And the catch? Much better than the Tyree miracle from the game 4 years ago. Where that one was a fluke, this one was a bonafide miracle, a "real" catch made under the most trying circumstances imaginable.

- The epic Australian Open battles between Nadal-Federer and Djokovic-Nadal must be included. I've added that tournament to my personal bucket list, because I can think of no better way to spend January than watching some great tennis in the middle of summer.

- And last but certainly not least, I'm adding Kyle Stanley's PGA win at Phoenix to the list. As golf fans know, Stanley suffered a meltdown of Van de Veldian proportions the week prior, to let a 3-stroke lead slip away on the final hole. Something like that could end the career of a lesser man, but all Stanley did was go out and win the next week. Impressive. Most impressive.

Have I forgotten anything? Perhaps today's Tiger vs. Phil battle at Pebble Beach will join the list.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

American Top 40 Flashback - Al Green

I'm not sure that a performance can get any smoother than this - powerful, but perfectly controlled.

I have no idea what this show was ("Rollin' on the River?" Anyone ever hear of that one?), but the video is also amusing because of the audience, which seems to be well on its way to slipping into a catatonic state.

One of the great Seventies Soul singles - "Let's Stay Together," Al Green, the #1 song this week in 1972 (I was in sixth grade at the time).

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


So, I started a new job this week. And until this morning, fate had been conspiring against my ability to get to work on time. On Monday, there was a major accident on the freeway that I take into downtown Sacramento. On Tuesday (because as everyone knows the world forgets how to drive when it starts raining), there was a jack-knifed big rig on the same freeway. Fortunately, I heard the traffic report just in time and was able to take a route that took me about 15 miles out of my way but probably saved an hour in travel time.

But this morning, smooth sailing. Progress, right?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

And That's A Wrap

Wow, that was close. Great game with great moments, and now Eli is one-up on big brother. Who would have thunk it?


Sorry, had to eat.

It's a cliche, but "game of inches" certainly applies here. How close was Welker to catching that ball for what could have led to a clinching touchdown? How close was that Manningham catch to being out of bounds?

And how close was Ahmad Bradshaw to "self-downing" at the 1? Will it matter?


I think a healthy Gronkowski battles for and gets that ball.


OK, I admit it. I have no idea who is going to win this game.


Looks like I spoke too soon. After what happened two weeks ago, I should have known better. This Giants team does not quit.


Wow. That was surgical precision the likes of which hasn't been seen since Joe Montana. The pressure is really on the G-Men now. If they don't score on this drive, it will be rough sledding for them.


After seeing the halftime show in person last year, I look at them a little differently now. It's all about the spectacle. And on that score, what we just saw from Madonna fit the bill.

On the other hand, what we just saw from Clint Eastwood - the Chrysler commercial - was great art.


OK, that was impressive. Right now, you gotta like New England's chances. If they score a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, I think we might be looking at a 31-16 final score. But a game like this is all about adjustments, so Tom Coughlin might have something up his sleeve. The key now seems to be the Pats' tight ends. If the Giants can take them out of the game, they can win. If they can't, this game may be over.


The difference in this drive? The tight ends. Whatever adjustment the Pats made, it worked.


Finally - a Ron Gronkowski sighting!

If they score before the half, I like the Pats' chances.


Paging Ron Gronkowski...paging Ron Gronkowski...


A field goal is better than nothing. Another key possession coming up - if the Pats stop them quickly, we got ourselves a game.

I think we need a little more Madonna hype right now.


It's early, but the Patriots are very close to being up you-know-where without a paddle. They'd better score on this drive.


Well, pat yourself on the back if you had 2 points by safety on an intentional grounding penalty as the first score.

No one?

Running Super Bowl Commentary #1

Never heard of Miranda Lambert? She released two outstanding country albums last year - one a solo effort, the other as one-third of the Pistol Annies. If you like the genre, by all means check them out.

The bangs looked good on Kelly Clarkson. And no faux pas like last year.

Wow, Curtis Martin looks sharp.

Still can't believe I was there last year.


I'm going to equivocate a bit, but it's my blog, right?

You don't have to be a football genius to figure out that the key matchup of the game is the Patriots' offensive line vs. the Giants' defensive front. A key corollary to that is the question of whether the Patriots' receivers will have time to get open. And a key to that is whether Gronkowski is healthy.

So with all that in mind, I offer the following cop-out:

- If Brady has time and can neutralize the Giants' rush, the Patriots win 27-20.

- If the Giants get to Brady consistently and throw him out of his rhythm, they win 23-20.

I'm really torn as to which is more likely.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Top 50 Albums, #35 - "Rumours"

I swear that I didn't plan it this way, but today is the 35th anniversary of this album's release.

The story of "Rumours" actually begins a few years earlier, with the release of "Fleetwood Mac" in 1975. The band had already been around for a long time, in various incarnations. Members had come and gone, and in the process the band had developed an entirely different sound and approach to music. The constant throughout it all was the rhythm section, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.

In 1974, after the departure of guitarist Bob Welch, two unknowns joined the lineup, which included Christine McVie on keyboards in addition to the rhythm masters. Let's let Robert Christgau tell the story:

Why is this Fleetwood Mac album different from all other Fleetwood Mac albums? The answer is supergroup fragmentation in reverse: the addition of two singer-songwriters who as Buckingham Nicks were good enough--or so somebody thought--to do their own LP for Polydor a while back. And so, after five years of struggling for a consistency that became their hobgoblin, they make it sound easy. In fact, they come up with this year's easy listening classic.

Those addition of those two, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist (and muse) Stevie Nicks, resulted in a mix whose power went far beyond the sum of the band's parts. "Fleetwood Mac" was (and remains) a great album, and I was sorely tempted to include it on this list.

"Fleetwood Mac" stayed high on the charts throughout all of 1976, pushing the release of the "new album" back to early 1977. The first hint of the new album's greatness came in December '76, with the release of the first single, "Go Your Own Way." Although it didn't become the smash single that subsequent releases would be, it was apparent from first listen that it was a monster song, one that would endure through the ages. On the song, Mick Fleetwood's drums sound like a man caught in a house on fire, desperately trying to get out. And Buckingham's guitars sound like they might have set the fire.

What would also become apparent by the time the album was released was that all of the male/female relationships with the band had dissolved, to the point where (so I read somewhere) the band was barely talking to each other while on the road that summer. All you have to do is look at some of the song titles to know that something was amiss:

Second Hand News
Never Going Back Again
Go Your Own Way
I Don't Want to Know

Even one of the album's biggest hit singles, appropriated by the Clinton/Gore campaign 15 years later, hinted to a grim story:

All I want is to see you smile, If it takes just a little while, I know you don't believe that it's true, I never meant any harm to you

And that's within what is probably the album's most upbeat song!

And then there was this, from the #1 smash "Dreams":

Now here you go again You say you want your freedom Well who am I to keep you down It's only right that you should Play the way you feel it But listen carefully to the sound Of your loneliness Like a heartbeat...drives you mad In the stillness of remembering what you had And what you lost... And what you had... And what you lost

Ouch. On that one, Stevie Nicks isn't even trying to be subtle.

Throughout, the band achieves a consistency that it had never reached before, and would never reach again (in fact, the follow album, "Tusk," would deliberately make a mockery of that consistency, in much the same way that the White Album had done for the Beatles a decade earlier).

The best evidence that the album was destined for greatness is probably "The Chain." I mean, this song is really nothing more than an extended jam. But once it begins, I defy you to stop listening - it's really that good. And when your fragments are better than the most fully realized songs on other LPs, you know you're on to something good.

"Rumours" - a glorious pop beacon for its times, even in the midst of punk.

Rumours (1977) Produced by Fleetwood Mac with Richard Dashut and Ken Caillat

Second Hand News/Dreams/Never Going Back Again/Don't Stop/Go Your Own Way/Songbird/The Chain/You Make Loving Fun/I Don't Want to Know/Oh Daddy/Gold Dust Woman

Friday, February 03, 2012

American Top 40 Flashback - J. Geils Band

After years of cult status, the J. Geils Band absolutely exploded in the early 1980s. First there was "Love Stinks," the album that put them on mainstream radio. But then there was "Freeze Frame," which catapulted them, at least for a little while, into superstardom.

And then, it was pretty much all over. Peter Wolf, one half of the band's creative center with Seth Justman, parted acrimoniously, and neither him nor the band ever enjoyed that kind of success again.

But it was fun while it lasted. "Centerfold," the #1 song this week in 1982.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

But I Don't Want to Talk About China Grove

I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that the tape player in my car gave up the ghost, leaving the radio as the only remaining option. I spend most of my time going back and forth between two stations, one that plays "oldies" and the other that plays new stuff, and sometimes reaches back a little further than that. I start with the oldies in the morning to get the traffic report, and then start switching back and forth when one of the stations starts to annoy me. Which happens quite a bit.

The worst thing about the "oldies" station is that its definition of "oldies" is ridiculously limited. I mean, come on - you're mining close to three decades of material here, and I have to listen to "China Grove" by the Doobie Brothers on three consecutive days? I enjoyed the Doobies as much as anyone in the early 1970s, but jeez - they did record some other songs.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Apple of my eye?

It's been close to two decades since I've used Apple products on a regular basis. Until the mid-1990s the office I worked in had Macintosh computers, but then converted to PCs. Since then, all of the computers and the music devices I've used have been PC-based. It's not that I'm a warrior in the Mac vs. PC battles; that's just the way it worked out.

Suddenly, that all has changed. In November I received in iPad as a gift, and last week I received an iPod (32G iTouch model) as a gift (there's a story behind these gifts, but now is not the time to tell it). Suddenly, I'm awash in Apples.

Let's start with the iPad. Above all, I would have to say that it is a great toy, and I don't intend for that to be an insult. If nothing else, it's gotten me back into Twitter, because the Twitter app makes the interface easy to follow. The key to any successful iPad is in the apps that you select, and so far I've found some great ones and haven't yet shelled out a penny. I can follow NFL scores, NBA scores, golf scores, check my Facebook page, read the Bible (I'm not what you would call the most religious guy in the world, but the app allows you to read the Bible over the course of a year), downloaded some free classic books (Dickens, Joyce, some others), as well as some work-related documents. I've also been pleasantly surprised by how handy it can be with work, especially when teamed with a laptop.

I'm still getting used to the iPod, but so far no major complaints. Well, one. I can't say that I'm a fan of how iTunes manages a music library; Windows Media Player is much simpler to use and manage. And I think I will probably continue to use my 8G Sansa for running, because I'd be too damn scared that I'd drop or somehow otherwise ruin the iPod.

But you know, since these were gifts, it's probably churlish of me to complain at all.