Friday, November 30, 2007

Is there anything more disappointing...

...than a poorly mixed fountain soda?

There probably is, but I can't think of anything right now.

Looks like one more post for November

Evel Knievel died today, one more part of the 1970's that is no longer with us. I fondly remember watching him on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" and owning some sort of motorcycle toy that was powered up with a toothed pull cord.


And one more small "Hot Stove" post

If the deal is Lester, Lowrie, Masterson, and Crisp for Santana, pull the trigger Theo, pull the trigger.

A Great Big Post To End The Month

I've had some free time and some motivation over the past few days, so I’ve undertaken a bit of a project.

I saw a list that somebody made of the must influential albums they owned and I decided to put my own twist on it. These are the15 most influential albums in my life. There are two things that make each of these stand out. First, I distinctly remember listening to them- in some cases I remember the first time, or where I was, etc. Second, each of them led me to other albums and groups that have had an influence on me.

Now for the caveat...all of the descriptions/explanations will have them.

The Beatles “With the Beatles”/The Beach Boys “The Best of the Beach Boys, vol. 1”

I don’t know what the first music was that I ever listened to, but there’s a good chance it was jazz- big band and otherwise. My dad originally went to music school and worked off and on as a “big band” musician (trombone and baritone horn) for most of his life, so jazz was always around. However, my memories of this are vague at best.

The first music I have a specific memory of came from my aunt when I was about seven or eight. She had left a closet full of records at my grandmother’s house when she moved to Australia and during one trans-global telephone call I asked if I might “borrow” some of them. I took a lot of them and a lot of them- and I hope my aunt will forgive me- were crap. The Association, Paula, really?! Some of them, however, were not, and I can remember listening to two of them for hours on end on the GE “stereo” with my dad’s HUGE brown Koss headphones on my little head. They were so big and heavy they hurt my neck after a while.

“With the Beatles” and “The Best of the Beach Boys, vol. 1” are classics judged by just about any criteria or critic. I won’t rehash the reasons why, they’re just great rock and roll albums and they were a revelation for that fact alone. They were pure, unspoiled, joyous, rock and roll. Luckily for me, however they were full of cover songs and obvious influences. The Beatles and the Beach Boys introduced me to Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, which in turn led me to Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochrane, and Roy Orbison.

These artists sustained me as I cast my net far and wide across the musical seas over the next few years. I can remember owning tapes (remember them?) by Def Leppard and the Who, I can remember taping songs off the radio (at my grandmother’s house, we lived too far out in the sticks to get decent reception) by everyone from the Police, to the Clash, to Golden Earring, to Eddie Money and a bunch of other artists that I have probably block from my memory for fear of mortal embarrassment.

The Stray Cats “Built for Speed”

This was the album that brought me out of the musical wasteland that was my “tweenage” years. Not only did I see the connection to the artists I already liked, it was the age of MTV and this band had “the look” as well. Tattoos, pompadours, stand up bass, big Gretsch guitars- everything. I wasn’t sure what “Rockabilly” was, and I didn’t have the means (money and access mainly) to find out what it was or pursue my interest any further. In fact, it would probably be fifteen or twenty years before I actually owned any rockabilly album not by the Stray Cats- partly because a little thing called punk got in the way. Nevertheless, eventually the Stray Cats led me to Johnny Burnette, Sonny Burgess, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis (again), the Paladins, the Reverend Horton Heat, and many others.

Richard Pryor “Live on the Sunset Strip”

Around this same time, my parents allowed their 13 year old son to join Columbia House and then failed to monitor his purchases or listening habits. To their credit, I’m not sure they would have vetoed my choices under any circumstances, they were pretty good about trusting my judgment. Whatever the case, I probably saw Richard Pryor on Johnny Carson or Saturday Night Live reruns or something and when I had the opportunity to purchase his new tape, I jumped at the chance. I remember listening to “Live on the Sunset” at night, on my walkman, while I was in bed. It was, to say the very least, a revelation.

I was born and lived my first seven or so years in a racially mixed and somewhat tense city in CT- not that I remember any of that. Instead, what I remember is growing up in very white, very middle class NH. It was a great place to grow up and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I clearly didn’t get the full picture. Richard Pryor helped to fix that. He was funny, smart, introspective, profane in the best possible way and nothing at all like Bill Cosby.

The Alarm “Declaration”

This might be the most significant album I ever purchased and as a result I’m not sure I’m going to have that much to say about it. First, the band never became all it could have been. There was a great five or so year run (1983-1988) and then they just kind of fizzled. Whatever the case, they were hopeful, optimistic, energetic, idealistic- in short, everything I needed at that point in my life. To this day, they are by far the best live band I have ever seen. An Alarm concert is the closest I’ve ever come to having a religious experience.

U2 “War”

Given what has transpired in the last twenty-five years, this might seem like a no brainer, but at the time, there was no indication that U2 was going to become anything big- they didn’t sound like anything else, and they seemed pretty sincere in a world populated by more insincere bands than you could shake a synthesizer at. The sound was big, the lyrics were engaging, and the videos were always on. “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s” remain as powerful now as they were then. I hesitated to give the group a back-handed compliment, but to this day U2 remain the biggest and most popular band that I am not ashamed to love. With the exception of “Pop”- what the hell was that?!

Minor Threat “Complete Discography”

Wow. This was it. I finally got punk/hardcore when I heard this at a friend’s house. A two hour bus ride to Boston (at the original Second Comings Records in Cambridge, actually) later, I owned it. Well, actually, I didn’t. I owned the various 7”s and 12”s that would eventually make it up. I remember spending $80+ on (used) records that day, I think I rode the bus home with thirteen or fourteen albums that day.

Super fast, super tight but you could understand the lyrics, and in this case, here was a hardcore group whose lyrics were as important as their music. On a personal level, those lyrics gave very vocal support to a lifestyle I was always living. And they were doing all of this on their own record label, and one (Dischord) that still exists.

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double TroubleCouldn’t Stand the Weather”

This is where the blues began for me and I suspect that this is the case for a lot of us who grew up in the 1980’s or who did not grow up in the South. This was music that I could get lost in and music that made me want to find out more about the blues, more and more and more. Stevie was a genius in his own right and his music led me back to everyone from Robert Johnson to Son House, to Muddy Waters to B.B. King and beyond.

And, as I always tell people, I have never witnessed anyone better at what they do. When you watched SRV in concert you felt as though you were witnessing something incredibly special- and you were right.

3rd Bass “The Cactus Album”

Growing up in rural NH I had been aware of Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys through the mass media, but this was the first rap album I ever bought- and that didn’t happen until I was in college. Why this one? That’s fairly simple- I got the references. Whether they were literary, pop culture, or musical. I’ve learned to appreciate Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, Nas, Public Enemy and many other rap groups, but 3rd Bass will always be first. Sadly, they only lasted long enough to produce two proper albums.

Johnny Cash “The Sun Years”

It took me far too long to find Johnny Cash. My grandfather was born in the same small Arkansas town (Kingsland) and even lived there at the same time as the Cash family did. I even remember some connection between the two families being mentioned at some point. Nevertheless, I think my disdain for country music in general always kept him at arm’s length. Somewhere along the line, however, maybe as a result of my interest in rockabilly and probably in a search to be close to my grandfather after he passed away, I found my way back.

Morphine “Cure for Pain”

I met a guy named Owen when I was in college- he went to UC-Santa Cruz but was at my college for a semester on an exchange program. After college he moved to NYC and bounced around a little before getting a job at the New Yorker- where he works to this day. Owen was already hip when I met him and living and working in New York only magnified things. He once sent me a cassette in the mail- no case, no labels, no explanation. I listened to it more months and enjoyed it. Then I got sick of it and tossed it. Some months later Nirvana and Pearl Jam were all over the radio. Needless to say, although they weren’t my favorites, I learned to keep track of what he was listening to. During one visit I noticed a “Cure for Pain” sitting next to his stereo. I didn’t listen to it, I didn’t even pick it up to take a look at it. Nope, I just waited until I was home and then went out and bought it.

Drums, sax, and a 2-string slide bass. It shouldn’t work, but it does. That plus Mark Sandman’s lyrics made Morphine “something” in a musical world full of a lot of nothing. I think Morphine brought me close to liking jazz, but after peering into the abyss, I stepped back. Morphine is better than jazz...wait, what?

The Clash “The Clash”

“London Calling” is the more obvious choice, but this is the first Clash record I remember buying. It struck me at the time as not sounding like a band’s first attempt. There seemed to be too much going on and it all seemed to be going too well. The Clash led me to the the Sex Pistols and the Ramones and the Jam. The Jam led me to Paul Weller and the Style Council (for better or worse).

Sam Cooke “Live at the Harlem Square Club

Thanks to my parents, “oldies” had always been in my life, but too often they were too clean cut, too saccharine for my tastes- especially after I’d discovered punk and the blues. But it wasn’t until I read that this was one of the top ten live albums of all times that I became at all interested. Not too long afterwards I was in NYC with a friend and we went to Mondo Kim’s where I bought the CD. I was not disappointed.

Not only did Sam Cooke possess one of the most spectacular and subtle voices ever, he could also get down and dirty.

The Pogues “Rum, Sodomy, & the Lash”

I don’t know if it’s my favorite Pogues album, but it’s the one I bought first. From the Gericault painting on the front to the rogues’ gallery on the back, it looked cool before I’d even set it on the turntable. The music was everything from sentimental to rambuncious and Shane MacGowan’s voice and lyrics were a revelation. In my opinion, it was not going too far to say that his work belongs with that of any poet or author Ireland has produced. While I like Black ‘47 and Flogging Molly, and while I love the Proclaimers, nobody has ever done a better combination of traditional folk music and punk rock and I doubt anyone ever will.

Husker Du “New Day Rising”

It’s funny how over a quarter century after this record came out it finally dawned on me who Husker Du most resemble- the Clash. They were the American Clash. Think about it: an incredibly high output over a relatively short period, the ability to master any genre of music they undertook, a pair of writer/singers who alternately cooperated and competed with one another, checkered solo careers, and gone too soon. But enough about that.

This album is relentless. From the first fifteen seconds of the title track to the insanity of the record’s last three songs, it’s flawless. The lyrics were pretty good too: "All the silver you can steal, can't buy a piece of what I feel."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Announcement

I shall now have some toast.

And there is a big, big post coming in the next day or two.

That sort of rhymed!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Question of the Day

The collective term for brothers and sisters is "siblings."

What is the collective term for nieces and nephews?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Today's Observations

  1. One of the things I like best about living in New England is that when I went to bed last night it was Fall, and when I awoke this morning it was Winter.
  2. I hate high school aged boys. I know at one point I was one, but I have every confidence in the world that I was not as much of an idiot as the three boys I had to play soccer with tonight. You want to know how bad it was? I paid to play for two hours and left halfway through. Here's a tip boys: if you're constantly dribbling the ball into not one, but two defenders, there is somebody open- always!
  3. A person I know and who is known as a moralizing do-gooder was fired today. Good luck explaining to your wife and children that you lost a job with limitless possibilities for advancement because you were sleeping with a subordinate.
  4. I'm hungry.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Well, that made for a crappy weekend!

Yesterday: Scotland loses to Italy in stoppage time to end their chances of qualifying for Euro 2008.

Today: New England gives up a lead and loses to Houston in the MLS Cup final.

Maybe the Patriots will put a 100 on the board tonight against the Bills to make me feel a little better.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Damage Report

So, as I sit here, sore as hell from playing two hours of soccer on what was little more than fuzzy green concrete, I thought I'd make a list of the damage I have done to myself since birth.

-Chipped tooth: Pretty much fixed, I remembered having it fixed (ground down), but I don't really remember how I chipped it in the first place.

-Fractured left wrist: Elementary school see-saw accident.

-Partially torn rotator left cuff: Soccer injury. Opted not to have surgery. Once in a while I tear the scar tissue and it hurts for a few days, but otherwise, it's manageable.

-Left knee: Soccer injury. I'm not sure what's actually "wrong" with it except that when my legs start to fatigue from playing, hiking, etc., it looses some of it's spring. It is also the cause of the limp that only one person has ever noticed.

-Shins, both: Numerous scars and calcifications. All soccer-related except for one scar/lump the origin of which I shall never discuss.

-Toes: I have broken all of them at least once, and my right big toe so many times that it doesn't bend like it is supposed to.

All in all, not too bad I guess.

It's a girl!

More correctly, a niece!

My brother called me last night to confirm that he and his wife are going to have a daughter in April.

This will be my first experience with "uncle-hood" and I'm looking forward to it.

As I may have mentioned in previous posts, at the moment I am most happy for my brother because his health problems beginning in childhood and lasting through his teenage years had led us to believe that this might not be possible.

So, congratulations to my brother and his wife. I can't wait to be the "good uncle" (bad influence!).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Question of the Day

Why do bank signs display the time and temperature?

Sub-question: Why don't any other businesses do this?

That is all.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's not a word!

"Fustrated" is not a word!

The word is "frustrated."

Thank you.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fact of the Day

Migraine headaches...suck.

Today's has just reached the six hour mark.

Trying to sleep should be fun.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's My Anniversary!

Tomorrow marks one month since I became an "official" commenter at

Feel free to stop on by and see if you can figure out who I am- my screen name will mean nothing to you, but my avatar should be a dead giveaway!

Something Else to Consider

"Hallowed Ground" by the Violent Femmes maybe the most under appreciated album of the last twenty years- it's certainly the creepiest.

Something to Consider

On the basis of only The Joshua Tree, U2 may be one of the best rock and roll bands ever. Of course, they made other albums too...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Reason #7475 Why I can't/don't own a handgun

""I don't want to hear any new music," said art curator Anne Shires, 32, who said she paid $260 for a floor seat."

And who did she pay that much to see?

Van Halen.

I hope she hasn't reproduced.

Boston Sports Round-Up

Red Sox
  • Exercised their option on Tim Wakefield...I approve.
  • Exercised their option on Julian Tavarez...meh.
  • John Farrell declined an offer to manage the Pirates and chose to remain the pitching coach...who wouldn't decline an offer from the Pirates?
  • Oh yeah, last week, they won the World Series.
  • Yankees suck.
  • In case you've been locked in a SAC bunker under the Rocky Mountains, you may have heard that the Patriots and Colts play Sunday. The winner will RULE THE WORLD- or at least the NFL through nine weeks. Oh, and our new overlords will be the Patriots, 42-28.
  • I don't care if they are running up the score- I don't remember a whole lot of sympathy in 1990 or 1992.
  • The Revs play the Red Bulls on Saturday, the winner advancing to the conference finals- will this be the year the Revs finally win it all?
  • Looking forward to next season, will they be able to keep Shalrie Joseph, and will they finally sign a big name/talent player?
  • Just as an aside, for those who feel MLS is not a "major" sport, the Revs averaged 16787 fans per game this season. A "sellout" for the Bruins would be 17565, and for the Celtics, 18624. Not bad for a team that has been around since 1995, as opposed to 1924 and 1946 respectively.

  • I actually watched a Celtics game tonight- not the whole thing, but most of it! This may be the first time I have been able to say this since Larry Bird's final game in 1992.
  • The TD Banknorth Garden, with it's jumbotron, strobe lights, loud music, etc. will never be the Gah-den.
  • A tough break for Patrice Bergeron, but so far so good! Their not the Cam Neely Bruins of my younger days, but they're not longer the shame of the Boston sports scene.
  • The new "retro" uniforms are growing on me even if they are made by Reebok.