Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cruise with Emmylou and Andy Joe

I am not making this up:

Cruise through the Caribbean with Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris! Sixthman invites Paste readers to take advantage of a special pre-sale opportunity on this unique musical experience.
Cayamo: A Journey Through Song is the ultimate vacation for any passionate music fan. The six-day (Feb. 4-10, 2008) cruise also features Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, Brandi Carlile, Edwin McCain, Shawn Mullins and more! This inaugural songwriters cruise aboard the luxurious Carnival Victory sails from Miami and stops in Cozumel, Cayman Islands and Jamaica. Cruise fare starts at $799 per person, based on double-occupancy.
Join Paste and Sixthman for a magical vacation. Visit and click BOOK NOW to learn more about getting on board before the public sale.

When it's time to book your trip, be sure to let Sixthman know that Paste referred you! You'll gain access to an exclusive onboard party with other Paste readers! We'll see you on the ship!


I need to get in on this racket. With that in mind, I announce the inaugural Banks of Ohio Cruise: A Journey in a Minivan with me, your host, Andrew J. Whitman, M.B.A. Banks of Ohio is the ideal vacation getaway for CPAs, loan officers, tellers, or fiduciary professionals of all types. The three-day (August 17-19, 2007) cruise is highlighted by:
  • Tour of Fifth Third National Bank Headquarters, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Panoramic roadside view of some of the taller King’s Island Amusement Park roller coasters, Mason, Ohio
  • Overnight stay at the historic (1968) but contemporary Knights Inn in Westerville, Ohio, only 12 miles from the heart of downtown Columbus, Ohio.
  • Tour of Huntington National Bank Headquarters, Columbus, Ohio
  • A stop at the Bucyrus Bratwurst Fest, where over 27 tons of open-fire roasted bratwurst are consumed in a two-day period
  • Scheduled restroom breaks
  • Overnight stay at the Holiday Inn, Parma, Ohio, a mere 13 miles from the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame
  • Tour of National City Bank Headquarters, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Tour of site where Cuyahoga River once caught on fire, with Randy Newman CD playing in the minivan
Cruise fares start at $399 per person (compare to Cayamo above), based on six-person van occupancy, seven if somebody doesn’t mind squeezing in between the third row of seats and the hatchback.

Visit to register now! And when you book your trip, be sure type in the special password “cheeto”. You'll gain access to exclusive onboard van snacks! I’ll see you in the minivan!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hallelujah the Hills, The Mendoza Line, The Safes, Richard and Linda Thompson

Hallelujah the Hills – Collective Psychosis Begone

Post-modernists will love Boston’s Hallelujah the Hills. "Made inventions, broke conventions/Raised a glass to new pretensions/Meta-meta-meta-and the novel is dead” singer/songwriter Ryan Walsh shrieks, and hipster literature professors will rejoice worldwide. The good news is that rock ‘n roll fans will rejoice as well. HtH exhibit the kind of madcap free-for-all egalitarianism that characterizes bands like Arcade Fire. The band mixes equal parts fuzzed-out guitars, cellos, trumpets and synths. They chant in unison. They write songs with Sufjan-like titles such as “It’s All Been Downhill Since the Talkies Started to Sing” and “Slow Motion Records Broken at Breakneck Speeds.” And unlike Sufjan, they make an unholy racket. It’s a ramshackle, lo-fi, amateurish indie mess, but Walsh’s off-kilter David Byrne warble and the band’s unerring pop sensibilities combine to forge something that is both accessible and bracing. I’m hoping that the collective psychosis sticks around for a long time.

The Mendoza Line – 30 Year Low/Final Remarks of the Legendary Malcontent

Maybe it’s twisted, but divorce albums frequently make me very happy. Here are a few that have brought me great joy in the midst of profound relational misery: Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights, Van Morrison’s Hard Nose the Highway, Exene Cervenka’s Old Wives’ Tales, and Bruce Cockburn’s Humans. And now we can add The Mendoza Line’s 30 Year Low to the list. Co-leaders Tim Bracy and Shannon McCardle recently split up after ten years of marriage, but they left a scorcher of a record in their wake, equal parts poetic grace and bitterness and recrimination. Bracy handles the poetic grace department, and his spare, Dylan-inspired folk songs are fragile and delicate and achingly sad. But it’s McCardle who stuns here, unleashing a snarling, barely contained rage on tracks like “31 Candles” that is frightening in its wrathful intensity. Don’t mess with this chick. Final Remarks of the Legendary Malcontent, the accompanying odds ‘n sods collection of live tracks and covers, is just fine, but it’s 30 Year Low that is truly worthy of your intention. Hurts so good.

The Safes – Well, Well, Well

The Louvin, Everly and Wilson clans have already taken this band of brothers concept as far as it can possibly go, but Frankie, Michael, and Patrick O’Malley – collectively known as The Safes – do nothing to damage that great sibling legacy. Taking their cues from The Kinks and The Who, they bash their way across ten short power pop anthems that clock in right at the thirty minute mark, just like ten great radio-ready singles should. There’s absolutely nothing innovative here, but as long as massive hooks, power chords, singalong choruses, and sweet brotherly harmonies ring out over boomboxes and iPod earbuds, there will always be an exalted place for songs like these in my musical pantheon. As one of the titles proclaims, “Cool Sounds Are Here Again.” Indeed they are, and this is perfect summertime music.

Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight/Hokey Pokey/Pour Down Like Silver/First Light/Sunnyvista/Shoot Out the Lights

Both Richard (Sweet Warrior) and Linda (Versatile Heart) have new or about-to-be-new solo albums out now, and they’re very, very good. But the new music has prompted me to revisit the six albums they recorded as husband and wife between 1974 and 1982. And I’ll just come out and say it: this is as fine a musical run as you will find in contemporary music, equal in substance and quality to what The Beatles and Dylan did throughout the sixties, what Van did from the late sixties through the mid-‘70s, what U2 did from the early to the late ’80s, what the newly sober Steve Earle pulled off from the mid ’90s through the early oughties, and what Radiohead has accomplished throughout their restless career. In other words, this is as good as it gets in terms of sustained greatness.

Bookended by the masterpieces they recorded at the beginning and the end of their tempestuous marriage, these six albums could loosely be categorized as “folk rock,” but any label is inadequate, and doesn’t begin to account for the sandpaper and sweetness of the harmonies, the jaw-dropping guitar work, the compassion of the social outlook, or the clear-eyed honesty of the love songs and anti-love songs, the ongoing chronicle of two people who loved and hated one another. In a more just universe, Richard Thompson would be widely heralded as one of the greatest songwriters and guitarists on the planet, and Linda Thompson would be justly celebrated as one of our finest singers. But the universe is not just, at least when A&R men and American Idol ratings and Soundscan totals are involved. So don’t look for them on a VH1 “Behind the Music” special anytime soon. Instead, revel in the wonder of two consummate musicians who sparked and burned and created timeless, beautiful, and harrowing music.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Romance is in the Air

Romance is in the air. Oh, yes it is. For the first time in memory, both of my daughters have boyfriends at the same time. One daughter with a boyfriend is challenging, but manageable. Two daughters dating simultaneously, potentially endangering their futures by hanging out with wanton, horny liberal arts majors, is nigh on to impossible. I quickly turn into my father-in-law, who grilled me mercilessly when I told him that I wanted to marry his daughter. My father-in-law was an engineer. I wanted to write the Great American Novel. As you can imagine, it did not go well.

So here I sit with my Creative Writing degree (but with my far more pragmatic Education and M.B.A. degrees too, I hasten to add), nearly apoplectic at the thought of my daughters married to waiters who can quote Shakespeare. One waiter-to-be is, in fact, a Creative Writing major. Oh, the irony. The other young gentleman has taken a slightly more pragmatic approach and majored in journalism. Alas, they will both end up as waiters. Or network infrastructure architects churning out Visio diagrams with servers and routers and firewalls on them. I know it. This is what becomes of poetic young souls who long to transform their inchoate longings into sonnets. “You can’t actually live this way,” I want to tell them. “You can be the bohemian in the attic garret for exactly two months, at which point the food stamps run out, and then you will become a waiter. You might as well skip the outrageous tuition payments and head directly to Applebee’s.”

Of course, I am aware that my younger self would have chafed at such a conclusion. I still chafe at it. I wouldn’t want to be a waiter, either, which is why I mess with Visio diagrams all day and indulge those creative writing/music reviewer fantasies at night. It’s not that the 20 to 1 pragmatic to artistic income split is totally satisfying. It’s just that it pays better than the alternative, and involves fewer food stains. And as frightening as it seems, I really have come to value things like the ability to pay bills, and I have come to view my father-in-law less in terms of his steel-hearted insensitivity and more in terms of his concern for the welfare of his daughter. It’s funny how this works when the shoe ($79 per pair, on sale) is on the other foot.

Will I say any of this to the young, idealistic, and undoubtedly horny boyfriends? Nope. Not yet, anyway. I’ll give it time and see what happens. But it has me worried. And happy for my kids, and happy for two very lucky young men, who had damned well better know how great they have it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer '07 Mix

I made a new mix CD for Erik. It's a random collection of songs from the first half of 2007. The common denominator? I like 'em all. It's fairly obscure stuff, but not intentionally so. These just happen to be the songs that have impressed me the most over the past few months. Every song here comes from the past six months with the exception of the Pentangle song, which was recorded in 1970. But since I just heard it on the recently released Pentangle box set, I'm going to declare it to be a contemporary track as well. There's a bit of an Ohio flavor, too, with tracks from local heroes (to me, at least) The Receiver and Son Lux.

What's here? Lots of indie rock. Some neo-soul (The Soul of John Black). A heavy metal song performed on three cellos (Rasputina). Some Nigerian jazz (Antibalas). Some electronica mixed with an operatic diva (Son Lux). Some stoner country rock (Blitzen Trapper). An ancient folk song (Pentangle). A Beach Boys song (Dave Alvin). And really, really loud, dirty guitars (just about everything else).

If anybody else wants a copy, let me know.

1. Wave Backwards to Massachusetts -- Hallelujah the Hills
2. Swamp Thang -- The Soul of John Black
3. Suffering Time -- Bottom of the Hudson
4. Let Me Get Your Coat --- Future Clouds and Radar
5. Dress Sharp, Play Well, Be Modest -- Devon Sproule
6. Beautiful Machine Parts 1 - 2 -- Apples in Stereo
7. Beautiful Machine Parts 3 - 4 -- Apples in Stereo
8. Parker's Mood -- Joe Henry
9. Little Lover's So Polite -- Silversun Pickups
10. Lord Franklin -- Pentangle
11. Untitled #9 -- Son Lux
12. Country Caravan -- Blitzen Trapper
13. Take Pills -- Panda Bear
14. Down in the Valley -- The Broken West
15. Draconian Crackdown -- Rasputina
16. In Tunnels -- The Receiver
17. Filibuster XXX -- Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
18. Surfer Girl -- Dave Alvin

Friday, June 22, 2007

High Hopes and the Lowest Common Denominator

"America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen." – Ronald Reagan, 1984

I suspect the golden age of political campaign songs has passed us by. It’s not like it used to be back in 1960, when John F. Kennedy enlisted his pal Frank Sinatra to stump for him and sing “High Hopes” with new lyrics:

Jack's the nation's favorite guy
Everyone wants to back -- Jack
Jack is on the right track.
'Cause he's got high hopes
He's got high hopes

It may have been corny, but Sinatra brought that ring-a-ding swagger to the convention hall, and made it work.

And it sure as hell isn’t like what it used to be back in the halcyon days of the summer of 1984, when Ronald Reagan, the old rock ‘n roller, appropriated Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” for his re-election campaign. Never mind that the song was written from the viewpoint of an alienated Vietnam veteran. For a few weeks there we had yuppies in yellow ties pumping their fists and acting like crazed frat boys, and music fans from the Redwood forests to the Gulfstream waters chortled in the giddy hope that music could change the world, or at least provide a decent soundtrack to the political chicanery.

This week Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her theme song for the upcoming 2008 presidential campaign: Celine Dion’s “You and I.” You may know the song as a commercial jingle for Air Canada, with Celine shilling for airline tickets. That should probably tell you all you need to know, but just in case you want the sordid details, here’s the chorus:

You and I
Were meant to fly
Higher than the clouds
We’ll sail across the sky
So come with me
And you will feel
That we’re soaring
That we’re floating up so high
‘Cause you and I were meant to fly

I don’t know about you, but my heart isn’t exactly swelling with patriotic fervor. Although it’s a song that could inspire any fan of unicorns or rainbows, it seems to be lacking in that pragmatic grounding that could animate potential voters to get behind a candidate who must deal head on with terrorist attacks and melting polar icecaps. And as poetry it absolutely sucks, expressing sub-greeting-card sentiments that even the Hallmark Company would have the good sense to reject.

But you can rest assured that we’ll be hearing it, ad infinitum, for a long time to come. It’s going to be a long seventeen months, and I’d prefer to skip the whole sordid American Idol Goes to Washington extravaganza if I could. At least in that sense, the song achieves its original goal. It makes me want to travel abroad.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Star Wars References in Rock Music

And no, I'm not talking about a Han solo, either. I'm looking for authentic, arcane, certifiably nerdy references to all things Star Wars in rock 'n roll music. Here's my favorite. For some reason, it was never a hit, possibly because it doesn't have a singalong chorus. Or even a singer who can sing. But it's been a month or more since I've written about The Hold Steady. Too long. Why? Because they're the best rock 'n roll band in the world.

Pills and powders baby, powders and pills
We spent the night last night in Beverly Hills
There was this chick that looked like Beverly Sills
We got killed. Tights and skirts baby. Skirts and tights
We used to shake it up in Shaker Heights
There was this chick she looked like Patty Smythe
She seemed shaky but nice

She said my name's Rick Danko
But people call me one-hour photo
I got some hazardous chemicals
So drive around to the window
She said my name's Robbie Robertson
But people call me Robo.
I blew red white and blue right into a tissue
I came right over the counter just to kiss you

Ginger and Jack and four or five Feminax
Psycho eyes and a stovepipe hat
A ray of light in white rayon slacks
We got cracked. Shoes and socks baby. Socks and shoes
We spent the night last night in Newport News
This chick she looked just like Elizabeth Shue
We got bruised

She said my name's Steve Perry
But people call me Circuit City.
I'm so well connected
My UPC is dialed into the system
She said my name's Neil Schon
But some people call me Nina Simone
Some people call me Andre Cymone
I've survived the 80s one time already
And I don't recall them all that fondly

It was a blockbuster summer
Moving pictures helped us get through to September
They made a movie about me and you
It was half nude and half true
It was a bloodsucking summer
I spent half the time trying to get paid from our savior
Swishing though the city center
I did a couple favors for some guys
Who looked like Tuscan Raiders[1]
-- The Hold Steady, "The Swish"

[1] In the "Star Wars" movies, the nomadic, caftan-wearing inhabitants of Tatooine, the sandy planet that Luke Skywalker calls home in the original trilogy. They are not the most attractive creatures.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Old Friends

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy
-- Paul Simon, “Old Friends” (1967)

MONTREAT, N.C. - Ruth Graham, who surrendered dreams of missionary work in Tibet to marry a suitor who became the world's most renowned evangelist, died Thursday. She was 87. Graham died at 5:05 p.m. at her home at Little Piney Cove, surrounded by her husband and all their five children, said a statement released by Larry Ross, Billy Graham's spokesman.

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Billy Graham said in a statement. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support. I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together. We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven."

My daughter Katryn is home for the summer and working at an assisted living facility, which is a polite euphemism for what used to be known as a nursing home. She returns from work and regales us with tales of what happened on the job that day. Almost all of her stories involve old men who bellow out their thoughts.

“WE TOOK A POLL, AND WE VOTED YOU THE PRETTIEST!,” one of them told her. Apparently the old geezers fancy themselves the judges at the Miss Bedpan Contest. Another, a confused old man who sometimes can’t remember his name, seemed to wake from a stupor and roared, “DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT BEING CREMATED?” She finds these stories hilarious, and we do too. At least until I start to really think about them.

When I was a kid my parents used to take me to my visit my dad’s aunt, Aunt Annie. She was an old, old woman in a nursing home when I met her, and she didn’t know who I was. I remember passing open doors full of old people in bed, dozing, or staring blankly into space. They were tiny, shriveled, more than a little scary, and as alien as Martians. I couldn’t wait to go home. And when Aunt Annie died it was a relief. There would be no more trips to Pleasant Valley, or whatever that hellhole was called. Pleasant Valley had about it the stench of death, and I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

Our former pastor in Mount Vernon used to preach regularly about the twin themes of holding on lightly and letting go. He told us, Sunday after Sunday, that we would either learn the lessons the easy way, as we incorporated those notions into our day-to-day lives, or the hard way, when we were old and had no choice. Getting old, he informed us, was hell. You lost your youth, your good looks, your career, your friends, your spouse (or your spouse lost you), the use of your limbs, your bladder and sphincter control, and maybe, perhaps mercifully, your mind. Forget the movies, he told us. Ignore what our culture tells us about the slow, glorious coda of the American Dream. Old age was a cruel mockery of the notion of the Golden Years. Maybe you could delay the inevitable for a while by riding in a golf cart in Florida, but your prospects were dire. You started out in diapers, and you ended up in diapers, moving from dust to dust.

So I think about those things, and pray for Billy Graham, a man I greatly admire, and for solace and hope in a loss I cannot really fathom. It’s too painful to contemplate for long. And I pray for old guys named Harold and Marvin, judges in the Miss Bedpan Contest, who cannot remember their names. But I remember them for them.

Kate and I watched our youngest daughter Rachel graduate from high school last Saturday. I don’t feel like I’m ready for Pleasant Valley, but you can’t go through something like that and not be astonished. Our kids are all grown up now, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what happened to the time. The unfathomable becomes all too real, and all you have to do is keep waking up in the morning. Paul Simon, who couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be seventy years old, is now sixty-five. And an old man of God, walking hand in hand with his closest friend for six decades, is now bereft of the love of his life. “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied,” the apostle Paul wrote. Those of us who have ever known that kind of loss, that dizzying and horrifying sense of the loss of relational equilibrium, will know that his words are true.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hot Fun in the Summer Sun

I blame it all on Max Yasgur. Max is the guy, way back when, who agreed to lease out his farm in upstate New York for a little soiree called Woodstock. And ever since then hordes of young adults have labored under the illusion that it’s a great idea to try to watch a rock concert in 100-degree heat, half a mile from the stage.

This curious notion seems to be undergoing a renaissance in recent years, as once-small festivals mushroom (even the non Deadhead ones) into mammoth multi-day events. You all know the litany – Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and many, many more. It’s possible to see 80 or 100 bands at these events. There’s only one problem. You can’t actually see them.

Don’t get me wrong. God knows I love live music. I’d spend my life in some dive bar if I could, hanging out with a couple hundred other people, reveling in the wonders of some new or up-and-coming band. There’s little in life that I enjoy more. But it’s precisely because I enjoy that interaction that I’m mystified by the appeal of the mammoth festivals.

I’ve given it the ol’ college try, and the post-college try. Before that I gave it the ol’ high school try, and had my first experience at such an event in July, 1970 when Sly Stone failed to show up for a free concert in Grant Park in Chicago, at which point there was a riot goin’ on, and I ended up trying not to breathe tear gas as I ran away from police who were firing rubber bullets. That was a rollicking good time. I’ve watched The Rolling Stones in their heyday along with 80,000 people in old, rusting Cleveland Stadium, and heard later about some kid who sailed out of the upper deck and landed on the infield below. I’ve sat in the midst of a sea of wasted humanity many, many times, everybody completely oblivious to the music. Are we havin’ fun yet? But, you know, I actually kinda care about the music.

Columbus, Ohio, where I live, has its own corporate version of Yasgur’s Farm; a former cornfield transformed into a concrete amphitheater and named after a local car dealership. It is one of the most soulless places in the universe. Usually it is home to Styx/Foreigner/REO Speedwagon packaged nostalgia, Genesis reunion tours, and overpriced burritos and watered-down beer. Thanks very much, but I’ll pass. But occasionally it tempts me. I forget myself, forget the lousy times I’ve invariably had in similar environments, and somehow succumb to the notion that this time it will be different. So when Farm Aid came through Columbus a few years ago, I naively forgot 35 years of my musical history.

Up there on the stage, theoretically, were a lot of people whose music I loved – Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, John Mellencamp. But back on the lawn seating it was hard to tell the Emmylou speck from the Willie speck. Giant jumbotron screens on either side of the stage projected the faces of the musical performers, but from where I sat the giant jumbotron screens looked like 12-inch TV sets. So I watched Willie and Emmylou on the little TV set, was mildly entertained by the sea of wasted people around me, sweated in the sun, got drenched by the late afternoon thunderstorm, and groused at the prospect of an $8 watered-down Coors. Are we havin’ fun yet?

So enjoy the festivals, ye neo-hippies. Be safe. I’ll catch you again in the fall, when musicians return indoors, and I can actually bear to pay money to watch them again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paste Saves the World

Paste Issue #33 is out. I couldn’t even begin to describe the cover; you just have to see it. But a cartoon version of Bono can be found there. And Emmylou Harris, also in cartoon form. And some sort of a robot/lizard hybrid monster that you wouldn’t want to encounter in a dark laboratory. The caption on the cover says “Can Rock Save the World?”

I’m betting on “No.” How about you? But I’m betting it can change the world, because it already has, and the bulk of this issue is focused on highlighting the many good causes that rock ‘n roll has brought attention to and raised money for through benefit concerts over the years. It is easy to become cynical about such things. After all, is there anything more ludicrous than a pampered rock star arriving by limousine to sing about famine in Africa? In spite of the sordid trappings, rock has somehow managed to promote positive change in the world, sometimes in spite of giant stages with jumbotron screens projecting every sensitive facial expression of an overemoting prima donna. More significantly, there are many people involved in the music business who quietly go about the hard and unrewarding work of making the world a better place, and Paste highlights those folks as well. Throughout the issue there are links to websites where you can find out more information about how you, gentle reader, can help change the world as well. And there’s an announcement about an upcoming benefit concert sponsored by Paste, the proceeds of which will be used to help end child slavery throughout the world. This is called putting your money where your mouth is, and I couldn’t be happier to do my little part to promote such an event.

This is also Paste’s five-year anniversary issue. Five years ago I procrastinated in writing my first article about Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love, not really certain what I was writing for in the first place. A month later a magazine – a real magazine – showed up in my mailbox. It was the product of three guys who maxed out their credit cards and worked 100-hour weeks and slept on couches in the office during the month prior to publication. Since then Paste has gone from quarterly, to bi-monthly, to monthly, and it’s now the best-selling music magazine in Barnes and Noble Bookstores. It’s won scads of awards, has been written about in glowing terms in places like The New York Post and The Chicago Tribune, and I’ve had the surreal experience of watching my friends Josh and Nick pontificate about their favorite music on a weekly TV show on CNN. On a personal level, I’ve had the great joy of writing 150 feature articles and reviews, meeting some of my favorite musicians in the world, and receiving truckloads of free music and music DVDs, far more than I can even remotely begin to take in.

And I’m thankful. It’s been a wild ride, one for which I still frequently shake my head in disbelief. I’m doing what I love to do, and people are actually paying me to do it. So give it up for Paste, buy the new issue (or, better yet, subscribe), and, more importantly, check out those links and do what you can to support that Paste benefit concert. There are more important things than rock stars, and magazines about rock stars. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not grateful that both are around.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What's in a Name?

Sometimes when you google yourself you find things like this:

MBC 휴먼다큐 '너는 내 운명' 반프상 심사위원 특별상 수상 인터넷뉴스팀 2007/06/12 16: ... 상의 진짜 주인은 진정한 사랑의 존재를 일깨워준 정창원씨와 고(故) 서영란씨라고 생각한다. 그들에게 이 상을 바친다”는 소감을 밝혔다. 심사위원 앤디 위트만(Andy Whitman)씨는 “인간의 존엄성과 진정한 사랑의 의미를 세심하게 다룬 훌륭한 작품이었다. 심사위원들 모두 눈물을 참기 힘들었고, 상을 당연히 받아야 한다고 의견을 모았다”며 “프로그램을

And now I'm really curious.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Harry Potter, Al Qaeda, and Global Warming

I am always glad when someone takes my political and social conscience to heart, and tells me how to think and how to vote. Thank God there are people who can help me navigate this confusing morass of complex issues and who can cut through the pettifoggery and zoom in on the real culprits. So you can imagine how relieved I was to receive the following commentary:

America is on a path to a greater threat then we thought. It is those wicked Harry Potter books. The reason why Harry Potter is a terrorist threat, for the spells in the books are speical codes for terrorist groups in the middle east. The characters represent well known terrorist who have attack our borders. This is why we should ban these books from our schools. So, that no child would be influence by these materials of mass killings on a free country. There is also popular podcast like PotterCast, MuggleCast who are spreading words of prasie to this horrible book of evil. And they must be stop, so that they won't brainwash anymore children with their terrorist views and support. They are the reason for the VT shooting, causing that boy to commit an act of mass murder all because of a internet show that talk about the evil that is in Harry Potter.

This is all great stuff, but the author forgot to mention the clear link between Harry Potter and global warming. If suggestions are in order, I'd recommend an amendment something like this:

"Also, for the spells in the book are rising the global thermeter, and are caused great natural clamerties such as the Hurrican Katreeena. Harry Potter and Al Gore am behind this. They are the reasons there is no more Pandas. This is another reasoning why we should band these books from our schools. I have hear that there is a evil man name C.S. Lewis who has also writing about witchcrafts. He should be band to."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Parker's Mood

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is no finer songwriter working today than Joe Henry. He wrote the definitive song about Richard Pryor. Now he’s done it again with Charlie Parker.


Parker's soaring, fast, rhythmically asymmetrical improvisations could amaze the listener. His harmonic ideas were revolutionary, introducing a new tonal vocabulary employing 9ths, 11ths and 13ths of chords, rapidly implied passing chords, and new variants of altered chords and chord substitutions. His tone was clean and penetrating, but sweet and plaintive on ballads. Although many Parker recordings demonstrate dazzling virtuoso technique and complex melodic lines — such as "Koko," "Kim," and "Leap Frog" — he was also one of the great blues players. His themeless blues improvisation "Parker's Mood" represents one of the most deeply affecting recordings in jazz, as fundamental as Armstrong's "West End Blues."
-- from the Wikipedia article on Charlie Parker


Where’s my sock?
And where’s my other shoe?
I didn’t know what time it was
When I came to
The only light in here is my flickering TV
Watching back at me
Oh, my love is here to stay
Oh, my love is here to stay

Saints alive
And all the saints we praised
I see them all around me now
For they've been called and raised
Their jaws have all gone slack
Their yellow nails are long and curling back
To scratch the phantom ache
Of our lost days
Oh, my love is here to stay
No matter what you say

Well I came home this morning I was dead on my feet
Drunk on the victory of my own defeat
Now I’m reeling on the ceiling
But what Yardbird law is this
When a heart in chains is what remains
The prelude to a kiss?

God is in the details of the smoke in the air
The devil he’s a pauper prince nesting in your hair
The things we put together
Ah, the world will tear apart
Well I beat them to the start
Along the way
Oh, my love is here to stay
Oh, my love is here to stay
-- Joe Henry, “Parker's Mood"

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Worst Album Cover of All Time

John started it. But this one gets my vote. It's got the whole package -- the smoldering insouciance, the come-hither bedroom eyes, the flute thrust provocatively over the shoulder, the chest hair, and the receding hairline.

The seventies were a dire decade. No one -- especially perfectly respectable flautists -- should be subjected to these things.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lord Franklin

British Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin, born on April 16, 1786, discovered the Northwest Passage, but disappeared in the course of the exploration. After serving (1836-43) as governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), Franklin was sent in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845. His ships, Erebus and Terror, were last seen in Baffin Bay on July 25 or 26, 1845. When nothing was heard from the party, no fewer than 40 expeditions were sent to find him. In 1854, Dr. John Rae of the Hudson's Bay Company found the first proof that Franklin's vessels had sunk. In 1859, Leopold McClintock, commanding Fox, a search vessel outfitted by Lady Franklin, discovered a cairn that revealed Sir John had died on June 11, 1847, in King William's Land and had, in fact, found the Northwest Passage. Further expeditions were sent to the Arctic, but they simply confirmed the earlier discoveries.
-- from Wikipedia

Sometime during my high school years I discovered the traditional folk songs of the British Isles. While almost everybody else I knew was debating the various and sundry interpretations of “Stairway to Heaven,” I and a few of my friends were checking out bands such as Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Planxty, and Pentangle, who were singing songs that were centuries old and tarting them up with a backbeat and electric guitars. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, try to think of roll ‘n roll versions of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” or “Home on the Range.” Except instead of musical American cheese, think of good songs featuring meaningful lyrics, great storytelling, and heartbreakingly beautiful melodies.

In preparation for a review for Paste, I’ve been listening to a recently released box set of material from Pentangle, some of which is known to me, and some of which is not. But I’m discovering all over again how much I love this music. There’s a good reason why these songs have survived for hundreds of years; they sock you in the gut. They touch on themes that still sound all too relevant and contemporary. In this case, death, and grieving over the death of friends, never seems to go out of style, and our children’s children’s children will still be making up new songs that will simply be variations on a theme. This particular Pentangle song is from the early 1850s – relatively recent as Trad material goes. But it sounds as ancient as David’s psalms, and as contemporary as a downed Apache helicopter in Baghdad.

‘Twas homeward bound one night on the deep
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew

With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek a passage around the pole
Where we poor seamen do sometimes go

Through cruel hardships they vainly strove

Their ships on mountains of ice was drove
Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one that ever came through

In Baffin Bay where the whale fishes blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell

And now my burden it gives me pain
For my long lost Franklin I would cross the main
Ten thousand pounds would I freely give
To say on earth that my Franklin do live
-- Traditional, “Lord Franklin”