Monday, July 27, 2009
Been Gone So Long!
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I thought this blog lived only as an archive of files on my hard disk, but lo and behold it lives on a server in Mountain View as well!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Pterodactyls, Batman, Jesus Christ and Spiderman walk into a bar...
Completely unrelated, Frank Miller is penning Batman comics again. Miller is the guy who basically brought comic books back from the dead and reintroduced a considerably more gritty Batman in "The Dark Knight Returns" in 1986. The Bitter One will likely remember I picked up the softcover collection of the 5-issue series back in our days at St. Lawrence. Having not spent much time with my childhood hero for well over a decade "The Dark Knight" was a great reintroduction. In 1996 a limited run, signed leather bound edition was released. Having a bit more disposable income I picked up a copy of that as well. In any event, Miller went on to do Sin City and the comic version of 300 - both of which were turned into visually amazing films. He is back to Batman. Miller is writing "All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" for DC Comics. This Batman is even more gritty than the one in "The Dark Knight Returns" and I absolutely love it. Unshaven, exhibiting the charm of a sociopath (at least where criminals are concerned), and violent as hell Batman skulks around Gotham City having kidnapped the recently orphaned Dick Grayson and imprisoning him in the batcave telling Dick that if he is hungry he can kill and eat any rats that cross his path. The newly-formed Justice League made up of Wonder Woman, Superman, Plastic Man and the Green Lantern is the object of Batman's derision as a bunch of bumbling boobs who don't use their abilities to their fullest extent. The Justice League don't like Batman because he is a loose cannon giving super heros a bad name. Wonder Woman wants to kill him, Superman disapproves of his methods, Green Lantern just wants to try and reason with him and Plasticman, well, who knows what goes through his mind - he's a flake. It is a lot of fun and if you liked Batman as a kid you might want to track down the back issues.
Further unrelated, in church this past Sunday the hymn being sung was "something, something, Jesus Christ, something, something." Izzy, who turns 4 this Thursday pipes up "Jesus Christ, now that what I'M talking about!" It was all Jeannine and I could do to not burst out laughing. A four year old has no business tacking on "Now that's what I'm talking about" to anything much less Jesus Christ. Sebastian has taken up climbing. Everything. We caught him climbing a door jam in the upstairs bathroom the other morning. He grabbed either side of the door molding with his hands and since he was barefoot he simply "walked" up the door jam. We weren't sure if we should be proud or mad. In the end we laughed, told him that it was pretty impressive but we don't climb stuff in the house.
Welcome to my world. Pterodactyls shitting on my car, precocious proclamations from my daughter and my son imitating Spiderman.
Monday, March 17, 2008
And what the heck is it? Do I have a sign on my forehead that says "Hey! All you morbidly obese commuters, sit next to THIS guy!" It never seems to fail, I'm sitting there in my one seat, bag in my lap and some GIGANTIC person (usually a woman) decides to sit next to me. But it isn't just next to me. It is partially ON me. They have one cheek sort of resting on my thigh and spilling over into their seat. Their other cheek is half in the seat, half hanging out into the aisle. Their breathing is labored from the exertion of walking down the metro platform and they smell like garlic. Argh, why me? I just want to sit and read my book in peace. Now I'm wedged between some garlic smelling, heavy breathing fat lady and the window of the metro car. And if I shift - just a little - to try and get a bit more comfortable, or a little less sat upon, I'm shot this look like I'm the problem. Like I'm inconveniencing Gigantor.
Whew. I feel better.
Today's commute sucked. But it is better than driving on the Beltway.
(And with this post any chance of public office, elected or appointed, is effectively destroyed.)
My Big Dumb Heart (Part 2)
As I am getting set up in my new digs the ER nurse tells me "Hey, when everything is settled, come on back to the ER. We are DYING to know what the problem is. We've never seen anything like it." Nice choice of words, jackass.
Bobby, my new nurse, busies himself with hooking me up to a wireless transmitter. All the wires from the EKG equipment go to this little box that slides into a specially made pocket in my hospital gown. That little box transmits to the wall-mounted monitor displaying my vital signs. Kind of nifty. Now I can go to the bathroom without trailing wires behind me. When he is done I ask Bobby, no, I plead with Bobby for some food. I get a box lunch. Never has white bread with sliced turkey tasted better.
I fall asleep around 1245.
Somebody comes and takes my blood around 115. Great. This is what happened to my daughter (see my October 29, 2007 entry).
In the morning my new, new nurse stops by to check my vital signs, get my food order and give me aspirin. Somebody else takes my blood. I ask when I will see an actual doctor. Nobody can give me an answer. A tech comes by to get a print out of my heartbeat. He tells me it looks like I have PVC. My confused look prompts an explanation. A Premature Ventricle Contraction. An irregular heartbeat. No big deal. How enlightening.
Jeannine calls me on the room phone. She is trying to drive back down to Maryland from New York but some serious lake effect snow is hampering her progress. That and the fact our son managed to puke all over the inside of the car. Jeannine is stressed.
Around 1000 I finally see a doctor. For about 15 minutes. She tells me there is really no big deal. A PVC is pretty common and can be controlled through medication as well as some weight loss, exercise and reduced stress. I wonder how it is that she can be so blasé about this when the ER nurse was treating me with all the curiosity usually reserved for sideshow freaks ("Come see the man with the wacky heartbeat. Come see him soon, he may be dead if you wait too long. Step right up, step right up.") Oh, and about that “reducing stress” bit? Yeah right. I have a 5 ½ year old and a 3 year old to whom I am a human jungle gym. And in case you hadn’t noticed, there is this little thing called a war going on and it is my job to help support the men and women over there. Stress comes with the job. It is a standard feature, not an option.
I'm given a prescription for some drug and make an appointment for a stress test.
My tests, a week or so after the hospitalization, include having some radioactive stuff injected and then getting some sort of a scan to see what is going on. I think it was an MRI. I can't remember. (Plus, the radioactive stuff does NOT give me Spidey Sense or allow me to turn green and get huge when angered. Bummer.) Then I get hooked up to an EKG monitor and hop on a treadmill that increases in speed and incline to see how my heard reacts to increased work. Then I get that scan again. And then a sonogram where they can see my heart valves and muscles working. A few days later I get the results, I'm told everything is within acceptable parameters. Good to know. I still need to see an electro cardiologist to find out exactly what is going on with the weird heartbeat. It is controlled for the most part but if I have too much coffee it gets kind of whacky. Caffeine and alcohol get things jumping. A neighbor had a brunch a couple weekends ago and I had a couple bloody marys. My heart started doing flip-flops. So, booze may be a thing of the past.
In the end, it seems I am fairly healthy but before learning what was going on it was pretty scary. Boring at times but when I started thinking about things it was pretty scary. What did I learn? If you think you may have had a heart attack, tell the ER nurse up front. You get to the head of the line in a hurry. Also, iPods don't screw up precision medical equipment. If it is OK in the ER, you should be fine on a 727. Additionally, we human beings are pretty amazing pieces of precision equipment. It is astonishing how one small thing out of balance can throw the entire system out of whack. And as we age, how more tenuous the balance is. I guess this was my wake-up call to try to rebalance my system. Finally, it made real my father's saying about how you have to protect your health because without it we have nothing. If I couldn't run around outside and play with my family the quality of my life would be drastically diminished. If nothing else, this gave me some perspective I didn't have before.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
My big, dumb heart (Part 1)
For the previous ten or so days I had been dealing with a wildly irregular heartbeat. I had experienced it for years but after a day or so it generally “reset” itself and went on pumping in a normal rhythm. Not so this time. For days it has felt like my heart was doing flip-flops in my chest. Bum-bump, Bum-bump, Bum… BumpBumpBump, Bum-bump, Bum-bump… Placing my finger against my neck I could FEEL my pulse out of whack. After about a week I had had enough and made an appointment with my primary care physician, coincidentally a board certified cardiologist, for Saturday. And here it is Friday night with me checking into the ER fearing a heart attack. So much for my appointment.
“Sir, you should have just told me that from the start,” the admitting nurse tells me after I describe the weight on my chest and the tightness in my arm. After waiting patiently in line to get admitted to the ER my number finally came up. When asked about what had brought me there I told the nurse about how I had been experiencing the weird heartbeat, how it usually goes away after a day or so, blah, blah, blah. When I tell her about my chest and arm suddenly we are all business and I am whisked into a little sort of ante-room with a curtain, given an aspirin, have my chest shaved (ROWR!) and all sorts of frigging electrode thingys with wires attached and plugged into a machine. Blood pressure and temperature taken. Eyes peered into. “How are you feeling now?” I am asked several times by several people. “OK, I suppose.”
“We need to take some blood.”
“OK, no problem. Why?”
“To see if there are any enzymes that are indicative of a heart attack.”
In walks some girl who starts poking around my arms trying to figure out where to stick me. She arrives at a seemingly suitable location. And misses. Then she moves to the left arm. Finds a spot. And misses. Again. No blood taken. Now we are trying to figure out the next spot I can get poked. I tell the girl that if she messes up this time I get to try it on her. And I’m not a professional blood-taker. So she arrives at a suggestion. How about the BACK OF MY HAND!!?? I figure what the hell, when my kids had to get IV fluids because they had awful diarrhea and got dehydrated they got stuck in the back of the hand. I can man up. Now I know why they cried so much. I think a tear rolled down my cheek. They took blood. Finally.
So they look at some print out from the machine that they attached me to and make some concerned looking faces. I’m then moved into my own “private” room in the ER. A bed with a curtain around it and I get hooked up to my very own “Machine that goes ‘BING’.” This is when the fun really starts. The male nurse assigned to me takes a look at the crazy readouts from the monitor and says, I kid you not, “Wow! That is pretty crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that.” And stares at the machine for several minutes. When a weird beat appears on the monitor he asks “Did you feel that?”
“How about then?”
“MmmHmm, that one too.”
“Woah, you felt that one, I’m sure.”
“Oh, yeah. That one too. Hey, is it OK if I listen to my iPod? They tell you not to on airplanes because thy can supposedly interfere with the equipment (although I think that is BS) so I wonder if I can in the hospital. I mean, I don’t want to kill anybody while listening to my music.”
“Sure, no problem. You won’t kill anybody.”
The phone over my bed rings. I pick it up. It’s my Dad. Jeannine called my family to tell them what was going on. Dad has a screwed up heartbeat too. Atrial fibrillation. He has been through all this stuff himself and knows a lot about it. He asks me how I’m doing. Asks me what the docs have said. He tells me what to ask about. Tells me about diagnoses, treatments and procedures. Tells me he loves me. We hang up.
My brother calls. I tell him all about my adventures at the hospital. I tell him about the pot roast I made in the crockpot and have eaten for lunch and dinner for 4 days. He suggests that when the doctors look at chest x-rays they may find my heart is shaped like a pot roast. He goes on to suggest my pot roast diet may be the contributing factor to my current cardiac woes. He may be right. We joke around some more, say our “I love yous” and hang up.
It is getting late. I call Jeannine on her cell phone since it is a “local” call. She asks me how I’m doing (bored as hell). When I’m going to get moved to my own room (soon, I’m told). What the doctors have told me (nothing since I haven’t seen a doctor).
I decide to listen to some music. Feeling melodramatic I try to decide what music I want to hear if I’m dying. Scrolling through my iPod I pass Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (too over-the-top) and land on “Similar Anniversaries” by Small Sails. A fairly recent purchase. Just as I start to get into it my male nurse comes by and looks at my monitor again. Says something about a “branch break” which is a pretty serious deal having to do with the electrical impulses to the heart getting completely screwed up leading to heart disease. He walks out. I scroll to The Smiths.
By 11PM I’ve been at the hospital for about 5 hours and still don’t have a room of my own. I’ve heard all sorts of commotion, people getting wheeled in from ambulance runs, kids crying, adults moaning. It’s been great. But then again, it is the ER. I listen to music. I watch the monitor to see if I can control the BLIPs. Nope. Finally, at midnight I get assigned to a room. Still haven’t spoken with a doc and haven’t eaten since noon. Now I’m bored and grumpy.
Friday, December 21, 2007
The Bitter Buffalo is computer-challenged.
If you logged in here yesterday or earlier today to see my inaugural Best Tracks of 2007 post using Internet Explorer, you saw some random huge playlist that bore little resemblance to my little 12-song post below. That was my mistake. I figured out the problem, fixed it, and now you should see the playlist exactly as I intended it to look (and sound).
Please read, listen, and comment as appropriate.
Now playing: Blonde Redhead - 23
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Bitter Buffalo's Best Tracks of 2007, Part One
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And so begins my (probably way too) ambitious effort to share with you my favorite music tracks of 2007…
I made an effort to sequence these tracks as I might a CD mix (though I did not attempt to edit any segues or transitions between songs). Use the embedded MP3 player above (if you are so inclined) to listen to them in the order I’ve written them up, as you’re reading about them, or download a ZIP file here that you can add to your iTunes library and sequence as you wish. Ideally, you’ll burn them to a CD and listen to them in your car. These tracks would make a pretty good driving mix, I think.
This first installment includes tracks by bands I had never heard (and, in most cases, never even heard of) prior to 2007. With the exception of Doveman (which was included on a free Stereogum compilation – see below) and The Field, everything on this list was downloaded from eMusic. If you haven’t already done so, sign up now (ask me how). It’s so worth it.
1. Miracle Fortress: “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
From the album, Five Roses
2. The Answering Machine: “Silent Hotels”
From the EP, Silent Hotels
In a year when it seemed like every other thing I listened to was Scottish (The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit, Life Without Buildings, hell… even The Fratellis), this one song stood out as my absolute favorite of the bunch. I like the spare, jangling guitar refrain and the shouty call-and-response vocals. It sounds like a conversation between two people sitting at two ends of a long, busy bar.
3. No Age: “Neck Escaper”
From the album, Weirdo Rippers
My favorite pop songs are teases. By that, I mean songs that build to a climax but scuttle off as soon as that climax is reached. The House of Love’s “Happy” is my classic example of that – the song fades out just as it hits the chorus. “Neck Escaper” is just two minutes long, and the first minute or so is a slow, instrumental build to the “song” part of the song. Then, at , the song hits its stride, gives us forty seconds of big love, and walks away.
From the album, No Shouts, No Calls
4.Electrelane: “Between The Wolf And The Dog”
This tune plays like the bastard lovechild of Sleater-Kinney and Stereolab, but somehow manages beat either of those bands in terms of sheer accessibility. It opens with a blistering guitar lick (“The Wolf,” maybe?), then ramps up the tempo and seems to be heading into full-bore S-K territory when it adds an analog synth riff and “doot doot” vocals (“The Dog”?), then mixes the two into one of the catchiest rock songs I heard (and almost ignored, but more on that in another post) all year.
From the EP, Casino
The shorter version on The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse is very good, but I think this is one of those cases where more is better. In this case, more is four extra minutes of the epic neo-psychedelic rock and roll (see also The Black Angels, Black Mountain, and probably several other bands with “Black” in their names) that helps transition the album from a Beach Boys homage to something much bigger, darker, and much more interesting.
From the album, All Hour Cymbals
Reaching out to ‘70’s and ‘80’s
From the album, Untrue
Dubstep, to these ears, sounds like an upbeat version of the stuff Tricky was doing ten years ago. But what do I know? “
8. Doveman: “Airbag”
From the album, OKX: A Tribute To OK Computer
Stereogum, a music blog that became a critical daily read for me in 2007 (though they’ve been around longer than that) produced two outstanding original compilations in 2007, and distributed them, free of charge, to anyone interested in hearing them. The first, a tribute to Radiohead’s OK Computer, produced at least five tracks that could have wound up on this playlist. Doveman’s take on “Airbag” is here because, like the best cover songs, it remains true to the source material without compromising the coverer’s artistic vision. Haunting and beautiful.
From the album, From Here We Go Sublime
9.The Field: “Sun & Ice”
I spend a lot of time working and listening to music with headphones, and a fair amount of time driving as well. Not all electronic music works well in both environments – traditional upbeat techno can be irritating while trying to get some work done, and electronic ambient stuff can cause you to get sleepy and drive off the road. “Sun & Ice,” like all of the brilliant From Here We Go Sublime, walks that line exceptionally well. I’m also a sucker for the little dropout at that made me wonder if my iTunes broke.
From the album, Scribble Mural Comic Journal
10.A Sunny Day In
Included for fans of Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Seefeel (you know who you are), and any other act that layers big guitars, echo-y drums and fairy-like vocals in compositions that sound like they were either produced in 1987 and were twenty years ahead of their time, or produced in 2007 and sound like a whirlwind from the past. Also included for those of you who said a band from
From the album, Similar Anniversaries
11.Small Sails: “Somnambulist”
“Somnambulist” is a lot like the Miracle Fortress cut, though the similarities didn’t strike me until I listened to both cuts in the context of preparing this post. So, everything I said up there applies here (including the part about Jon Wilson discovering them), except Small Sails is from
From the album, Transatlantic KK
12.Delorean: “As Time Breaks Off (The Requesters RX)”
Hands down, my favorite driving song from 2007, “As Time Breaks Off” is pure, dumb, euro-Disco – knowing nod to Daft Punk inserted here for both effect and credibility – utterly catchy yet thoroughly insubstantial. This remix foregoes the original’s petulant (but still excellent – this is no knock on the original) vocals and devolves almost immediately into an indulgent electro-wank that – for me, anyway – provided the perfect musical compliment to a moonroof-open nighttime drive in the hot, humid, Carolina countryside. All this from a bunch of nameless Basques, no less. Who knew?
Monday, October 29, 2007
OK, whatever. I'm going for it.
A couple Fridays ago I was on the phone with Jeannine when I heard in the background, kind of soft and scruffy "momiswallowedapenny." I understood when Jeannine told me she had to go. I'm understanding like that. Damn, I'm good. Apparently Izzy swallowed a "penny." Mind you, everything coin is a "penny." Could have been a nickel. Hell, could have been a Kennedy half-dollar if we had them lying around. So, this happened on a Friday afternoon. Saturday comes and goes - no poop. Sunday - no poop. Monday - no poop. Monday evening, out of the clear, blue sky puke everywhere. We just came in from playing at a playground, she went to pee, came out of the bathroom and then half-digested Mac-n-Cheese all over the entryway. And then a second and a third round in rapid succession. Hmmm, no poop but lots of puke. Pediatrician is closed. Take her to some "All Night Peds" franchise. Kind of like a McDonalds of healthcare. They didn't have an x-ray machine but thought that the puke and the penny were unrelated.
Tuesday, after not eating all day and being curled up in a ball we get blasts out the other end of the digestive tract. Twice. The Pediatrician tells Jeannine that if Izzy throws up again to take her to the ER. I'm thinking, she puked up everything yesterday, hasn't eaten today, there is nothing to puke. A bad gauge of health. So, I leave work early and take Izzy to the ER. I explain that I know the ER drill - sit and wait, see if anything changes. We have waited days so I really don't feel like waiting. Fearing a "penny" is causing an obstruction I want an x-ray to determine what, if anything, she managed to swallow and block her GI tract.
We get x-rays. I'm told by the doc that she is glad i was insistent because something looking like a coin is at the top of her stomach and may be obstructing her digestive system. After consulting with the GI surgeon at Children's Hospital she is being directly admitted and will likely undergo surgery the next (Wednesday) morning to remove the obstruction. Go home, change Izzy into PJs, get a book for me and off to Children's Hospital. While waiting in line to check Izzy in I get a call on my cell phone. My grandmother died. "Yeah, I really can't deal with that right now. I'll be in touch." (It wasn't unexpected. She was 95, in declining health and the last time we spoke when asked "How are you?" she responded "I keep waking up and am rather disappointed." Still, it sucks.)
We get Izzy up in her room. The first one is occupied by an infant with tubes and stuff hooked up to her and will not stop crying. We got moved. A steady stream of residents, interns, etc. asking questions. (Here is the part where I tell you it is scary to have reached an age when I can legitimately ask "When did the doctors get younger than me?") Of note is the fact that Izzy had a scrape/scab from playing roughly with Sebastian at SmalWurld at Ikea. (This is where Jeannine and I go for a date. Drop the kids off to play for 45 minutes while we shop child-free. A sad state of affairs.) When you drip the kids off they give you one of those GIANT pagers that light up and buzz. If they need you they page you. We got paged and ran back to SmalWurld. Apparently Sebastian had been a bit rough with Izzy and we were asked to remove the kids. Yeah, my son gets bounced from SmalWurld. Great. Anyway, Izzy got a scrape, it scabbed over. Each intern/resident who looked her over saw it and asked "Ohh, goodness, where did THIS come from (you child abusing sicko)?" Only that last part was not spoken but intoned. After the medical parade we get left alone. It is about 1030. I ask Izzy if she is tired. She is. I ask her if she wants to cuddle with me. She does. She falls asleep. It is 1100. She gets woken up for IV fluids. Nice timing, people. Kids don't like to get IVs. They make a lot of noise in protest. We go back to the room at 1130 and finally fall asleep. Well, sort of. Kids crying. People walking around. Not much sleep to be had. Up at 700. No idea when the endoscopic procedure will take place. But I do have that detail, general anesthesia, a machine breathing for my little girl while they stick a scope down her throat to snatch a coin from her belly. I'm unsettled.
I meet the doc. He tells me about the procedure. About the anesthesia. "How long is the recovery period?" "Not long at all," he tells me. "It is a minimal amount of drugs. She will be up and running before you know it." "What could go wrong?" I ask. "She could die. But it is HIGHLY unlikely." Oh, great. Thanks for that.
We get an x-ray before the procedure to see if the "penny" has moved. The penny was swallowed on Friday. It is now Wednesday. After so many days, it finally moved. It is in her lower GI tract. The surgery is called off. The "penny" will, well, get pooped out. And guess who gets to look for it. I pocked a handful of exam gloves before leaving the room anticipating my mission. I think it passed and we missed it. She is doing just fine now, thank you. We did learn an important lesson, there are differences between Piggy Banks and Izzy Banks. Piggy Banks are much better for "pennies."
I'll post my corn chowder recipe next time. I have to go to bed.
So Umm, yeah. Is this thing on?
Monday, August 27, 2007
Pics of my kids, for you...
Meantime, enjoy the mini slideshow of my kids, Logan and Sophia. They're too awesome, really.
Listening to: Miracle Fortress - Poetaster
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
But not right now. Now I'm going to bed.
But I'll be back.
PS - Cute photo of Christmas Logan.
PPS - So, when does 2.0 arrive?
Friday, January 05, 2007
Elmo, Elmo, Elmo
Last Christmas, I bought Logan a "Happy Holidays Elmo" DVD. It's pretty cute. Holiday songs, introductions to Chanukah, Kwanzaa (!!!), and very briefly, Ramadan. It's not a bad little movie, and Logan loves it. He calls it "Apedah Momo". We've had fun singing the Christmas Carols together, singing with Elmo, laughing at the mistletoe jokes and the Noodles' antics. However, there are several things about this DVD which irk me to no end. Maybe it's just my education getting in my way of simple pleasures...maybe some pure snobbery...maybe just too many viewings to be this intimate with the content.
1. Chanukah - the family is beautiful! Perfect! Well dressed and clearly happy. The 'traditional' food included looks really yummy. There's even a little cartoon explaining the lamp miracle behind Chanukah. Very nice.
2. Ramadan - gets nothing more than a cursory mention by a couple of kids talking about how they celebrate the 'holidays'. That's it. Ramadan got gypped.
3. Kwanzaa - Okay - so I'm biased against such a clearly manufactured 'holiday'. The first thing in this video elicting a laugh is the mention of the "Kenorah" (which boasts a mere 7 candles as opposed to the Menorah's 9). Can you say "we borrowed from everywhere?" The video suggests Kwanzaa is a celebration of African heritage and the harvest time in Africa. So what tray of veggies does Mom carry in? Cucumbers, corn, grapes, eggplant....correct me if I'm wrong, but I doubt any of these are cash crops in Africa. Lastly, and this just plain makes me angry. The family celebrates the last day of Kwanzaa with a family gathering, which is cool. However, in true stereotyping traditions, the family is eating....no - not African traditional food...FRIED CHICKEN! And pineapple with Maraschino cherries...and other items which appear to be traditional soul food selections. I know I'm losing some marbles (pregnancy and children do that to you), but that just seems wrong to me (on many levels).
4. Christmas - man, do they short-shrift Christmas, and this makes me madder than any of the previous complaints. There's a nice little Christmas play during which they tell the story of Jesus's birth, but not ONCE do they mention why the little baby is special - specifically, there is absolutely NO mention of GOD!!!!! Why bother talking about Christmas at all? (There's quite a clue in the name of the holiday, eh?) All the kids talk about is getting presents and spending Christmas with family. Which is very warm and fuzzy, but not at all the point, really. Nope, Heaven forbid we mention GOD in any children's programming - we might corrupt them.
If we're trying to educate them about holidays, which are all essentially religious celebrations (except the obvious ones like 4th of July and Columbus Day), why can't we mention the diety/ies at the root of the holiday? Is that not a truer education than just saying it exists as a holiday? I realize my sentiments here are not unique, but I'm heartily sick of God being the being most discriminated against in our current culture. It's almost evil to be Christian these days. Can't say Merry Christmas to sales clerks, we might offend them. Can't pray in school, might offend someone; can't say the Pledge of Allegience, it mentions God. Is everyone else really so sensitive and easily offended, considering this country was founded on the beliefs of Christian men and women? We've really lost it....I'm not going open the can of worms I'm heading into, so I'll stop here...Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan....did I miss anyone? I wouldn't want to offend.....
Monday, December 18, 2006
I've Been Bottling This Up All Year
Originally, I thought I’d throw one or two of these reviews up a day (and even started to do that with the Black Angels review), but then I faced the mirror and realized if I haven’t had the energy to post here but twice since April, what the hell am I thinking I’d post every day? That’s insanity right there. Insanity, I tell you.
Nevertheless, I did compile a list of my favorite music of 2006. And I am presenting it here, alphabetically, by artist. If you insist on knowing my absolute top pick of the year, I’d say it’s a toss-up between Yo La Tengo, Fujiya & Miyagi, and LCD Soundsystem. Or maybe TV on the Radio. Or perhaps Band of Horses. Tapes ‘n’ Tapes is good, too. So is Mew…
... now, maybe, you see why I’m throwing these up alphabetically instead of order of awesomeness (to brazenly borrow a line from My Name Is Earl).
Since I want you to decide you like these CDs, too, I have provided a link to an MP3 file of a cut from the CD being discussed. And since I want these artists to continue to make a living so I can hear more great stuff from them in the future, I am setting this post up so you can click on the album art and link to an on-line retailer (of my choosing, ha!) that will be more than happy to sell a copy of the CD to you.
Finally, do yourself a favor and sign up for eMusic, which is the best $20 monthly music investment I have ever made, period. You can download several of the CDs on this list from them (including Califone, Fujiya & Miyagi [if your account is set up somewhere besides the US, unfortunately], Tim Hecker, Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, and Yo La Tengo) legally, in their entirety, at bitrates between 128 and 220 kbps, and without any DRM attached whatsoever, for around $2 an album. That, my friends, is quite a deal.
(And hey, if you check out eMusic and it sounds good to you, send me an email first. They have a tell-a-friend promotion that would put free downloads in my cart if I refer you. And I like free downloads. A lot.)
And now, with no further ado, my list:
Band Of Horses
Everything All the Time
When I first heard them, Band of Horses struck me as sounding awfully similar to The Shins, as both bands produce soaring power pop with distinctively high-pitched vocals. But a mid-day Pitchfork Music Festival set under the searing Chicago sun last July demonstrated to me that Band of Horses are less intent on scoring the closing credits of the latest Fox Network primetime teen soap than crafting deliberately heartfelt country-tinged melodies about weed parties and salt lakes. To my ears, “The Funeral” soars above the rest of the record, but there really isn’t a bad cut to be found anywhere on it.
Roots And Crowns
On my eMusic review (yeah, I post there more often than I post here, sue me) of Roots And Crowns, I wrote that Califone sounded “as if Caribou bred illicitly with Iron and Wine.” I’ll stick by that assessment. “The Orchids” is perhaps the strongest cut on the CD, and it is (improbably, perhaps) a cover of a Psychic TV tune. And coming from a guy who could never quite see past the grotesquery of Genesis P. Orridge, that “The Orchids” sounds as pretty to me as it does is either a testament to Califone’s musicianship or a tacit admission on my part that Psychic TV actually wrote a good song.
Fujiya & Miyagi
On eMusic (it was the first new CD I downloaded with my eMusic account, and shortly after I did so it was yanked from the US eMusic catalog… snooze, you lose) I called Transparent Things, “an infectious and highly listenable combination of vintage Kraftwerk and disco new wavey proto funk.” This, clearly, is where my extremely limited musical vocabulary begins to fail me (I was sleepy, and perhaps a bit drunk, when I wrote that). Whatever. Transparent Things is classic British electro, from two dudes who have spent an awful lot of time listening to Neu! While my words may fail me, the music itself does not. Hear what I mean on the opening track, “Ankle Injuries.”
Harmony in Ultraviolet
I cannot imagine a single one of the people who are most likely to be reading this will like this album. Nevertheless, in light of new information about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah that indicate that CD was actually purchased by me in -- and included on my Top Ten List of -- 2005, I am selecting this ambient masterpiece for inclusion in this year's list. Although I am posting "Blood Rainbow," I could have selected any of the tracks. Taken as a whole, Harmony in Ultraviolet is an immersive wash of noise and subtle production tricks that is as good for zoning out (or drowning out) as Fennesz's Vienna, which has roughly the same effect on me.
45:33: Nike+ Original Run
The first (and so far, only) $10 I’ve spent at the iTunes store, and boy am I glad I did. James Murphy’s contribution to Nike’s series of “workout soundtracks,” 45:33 provides the perfect uninterrupted soundtrack for drudgery (i.e., work), driving a long ways, or running. Actually, I wouldn’t know about running since I don’t run. Still, this is a masterful and lighthearted tromp through about five distinct disco-fueled “movements” that’s perfect for anyone who likes Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, or, well, LCD Soundsystem. Too bad it isn’t available on CD (but I did find an MP3 copy of the first five minutes for you to sample).
And The Glass Handed Kite
Goofy Danish prog bombast normally wouldn’t find a place on my year-end list because just that description alone makes it sound horrid. Plus, the CD cover art is truly some of the worst I’ve seen this millennium. Nevertheless, the album itself is amazing, full of complex and catchy pop melodies that not only won me over (and over and over and over… I’ve listened to the CD more times than just about any other on this list since I ripped it to my iTunes back in September), but also caught Beth’s ear too. That overlap is pretty rare, and is most definitely “Special.”
Begin To Hope
Initially, Spektor comes off as a less serious Fiona Apple, or a more emotionally-stable Tori Amos. All three women write their own songs and have managed to score studio time with some truly amazing producers. But where Spektor soars is her songcraft – playful story-songs that indicate an imagination at work, not unlike a great novelist. It also helps that she has a voice that will get inside your head (especially if you’re wearing earphones) and take up permanent residence there if you let it. “Fidelity” might sound trite and gimmicky (and destined to score an especially heart-wrenching breakup scene on Veronica Mars) to you. To me, it’s my foremost guilty musical pleasure of 2006.
Tapes ‘N’ Tapes
Take a healthy dose of The Feelies, throw in a bit of Pixies, then sprinkle a liberal amount of any cool lesser-known Minneapolis band (The Suburbs, maybe, or The Wallets) and maybe you’ll get something like The Loon, as promising a debut album as I heard all year. These dudes have now officially sold out (that’s a good thing for working musicians), signing a contract with XL records and whoring “Jakov’s Suite” to some ad agency that was in turn hired to do an ad for, I believe, Nissan. With cars – Nissans in particular – it’s true: “you don’t move, you don’t move, you don’t move, you don’t move away.” Right.
TV On The Radio
Return To Cookie Mountain
Either you buy their art rock-meets-a cappella shtick, or you don’t. I do, in a big way, and found myself massively rewarded by Cookie Mountain, which is the closest thing to a truly original record as was released all year. “Wolf Like Me” (see their spellbinding Letterman performance of it, and watch Letterman’s face turn from jaded skepticism to something approaching sheer awe) may be (as one of you said to me a while back) the best Bloc Party song Bloc Party never recorded, but you only have to listen to the opening track, “I Was A Lover” to understand how a single band can combine so many styles in a coherent and compellingly infectious way. TV On The Radio are destined to emerge from the ‘00s as one of – if not the single most – important band of the decade. You’ll see.
Yo La Tengo
I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
Hoboken’s finest finally won me over (I have no idea why the hell it took so long for me to come around, but I finally did) with the most immersively listenable psychedelic record of the year. The best cuts are the bookends, both of which run longer than ten minutes apiece and pick the listener in an audio maelstrom, give him (or her) a good toss, then redeposit him (or her) a half mile away, with nary a hair on his (or, alas, her) head unruffled. Between those cuts, though, are a seemingly randomly diverse collection of tunes that collectively work as a superb album, start to finish. Though I’m tempted to post my favorite track (the epic “The Story of Yo La Tengo”), I’m gonna cite bandwidth concerns and post “The Room Got Heavy” instead (and promise you the Black Angels similarities are purely coincidental).
Labels: Badly written music reviews