Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Remember to take a break if your arms go numb!


MPR's Bob Collins had a link that caught my eye on his News Cut Blog today:
4) THE FUN OF SNOW DAYS
A Rochester Post Bulletin columnist makes a great point today. Kids don't have the fun of snow days we used to have when technology was in its relative infancy.

While the snow fell outside, we would go to bed with our radios within arm's reach. In the morning, as soon as our groggy little eyes opened, we would snatch the radio and lay huddled in our beds waiting for our school to be announced. The moment we heard the name of our town, we would fly out of bed and get dressed faster than we ever would on a regular school day. At that point, we would race back to the radio to listen for the next round of announcements. We just had to hear it a second time before we could celebrate with certainty.
It's also what introduced generations of kids to the value of radio.
I had the same experience in upper elementary school through high school (late '80s through the mid '90s), waking up excitedly to find out from Steve Cochran whether I get to stay home to eat my Halloween candy and watch TV. I have fond memories of epic sledding expeditions with friends in the neighborhood (I think it was on a snow day that my brother found $42 in cash in an alley we were trudging through), often followed by sessions in front of the Nintendo in soggy snow pants.

I wonder how many kids just don't listen any more, even those who, unlike the Rochester writer's example, don't have access to the internet. Melissa is a Minneapolis high school teacher, and her school told the faculty that last Monday a couple dozen kids showed up for class. That's a couple dozen who were not in proximity to an operating locally-tuned radio that morning. In my day [holy crap what am I becoming?], the radio in general, and KDWB in particular, seemed inescapable in the schoolyard culture.

This is the kind of thing about which I'd love to do a study: ask the students who knew about the snow day how they found out about it. It should be a longitudinal study, collecting data at the same handful of schools every time there's a snow day over a matter of decades (starting three decades ago). When I become independently wealthy, this is the sort of thing I'll do with my time, as well as funding a serious linguistic study investigating the origins of "Duck Duck Gray Duck" and its unique isolation in this state.*

* Please note: comments that claim or imply the "correctness" or "superiority" of childrens' games with the word goose in their names will not be approved. This dictatorship is benevolent, but I have my limits. Please note that I previously approved a spam comment because it was in Japanese Kanji script, and I thought that was cool. So that's how much I value your opinion on Duck Duck Gray Duck: less than Japanese spam. Sensitive much? Yes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

So... dentists aren't people?

On the occasions that I walk through the St. Paul skyway to my car at the end of the work day, I pass by this dentist's office. The slogan (motto?) on the window always cracks me up when I read it or think of it. The ellipses here are the apex of comedic suggestion. Don't let your dentist get... too comfortable. Apologies for the blurriness:

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Annotated Beukemix 2010

This year's Beukemix progressed a little strangely: I had an unusual number of candidate tracks before 2009 was even out. By the 5th of January, I already had seven tracks on the list -- one third of a typical mix. Not all of those songs made it on here, but the first quarter of the year is quite well-represented.

Here are liner notes! As usual, the links are to mostly-representative versions of each song, which may not be the exact version in the mix. Be forewarned.

(HS = Horn section. There weren't enough hand claps to justify a count this year, sadly.)

1. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
I know, I know. It's played out. But it's such a good song. I intended to put this one at the end of the 2009 Beukemix, having first heard it on The Current on a morning commute, but I forgot it at compilation time last year. I will say this: I cannot handle watching video of the group performing this song. Too earnest. (HS)

2. Prisencolinensinainciusol – Adriano Celentano
Saw the hypnotic, almost disturbing video for this song late in December, was hooked. At the time, it was bouncing around the internet as "this is what American English sounds like to Italians." Seems that might not be true. Apparently, Celentano, a comedian, wrote the song in the 60s about the difficulty of modern communication. It's gibberish, but may not be intended as gibberenglish. The older, black & white video suggests a hellish Logans-Run-esque dystopia in which you must dance ... to live! (HS)

3. Take It In – Hot Chip
Speaking of vague menace, here comes this song. Heard it first on The Current.

4. Love and Happiness – Al Green
The Robinson Caruso Organization got this song ready for our January shows, and I fell in love with it. The post-chorus has my favorite horn part of any of the songs we play. Amazingly, the evening I set out to learn this song, I had NPR on, and they were replaying Fresh Air interviews with Al Green and producer Willie Mitchell on the occasion of the latter's death, and they played it. As I was putting the chart on the music stand. (HS)

5. You Keep Me Hanging On – Diana Ross and the Supremes
In January I caught up with Pitchfork's Top 200 songs of the 1960s, which is a great list. This was one of several Supremes cuts on the list, and it inspired me and Melissa to an impromptu dance party in our garage upon our return from a Super Bowl party. Holland, Dozier & Holland do good work. Instrumentally, it's terrific, especially the opening guitar chatter,  which reminds me of a less disco-y 3-2-1 Contact. I also love that Ross' vocals are double-tracked, and the two takes they used are slightly different, and don't always line up (perhaps in suggestion of the used woman's mental anguish). (HS)

6. This Will Be Our Year (Mono version) – The Zombies
Also on the Pitchfork list. I was previously unfamiliar with it, but I thought it was a sweet and beautiful and hopeful message. And the song was right. It was our year. [Note: upon final compilation, I discovered that there were supposed to be horns in this song. During the 1997 stereo mixing of the album (Odyssey & Oracle)—the recording I had—they did not include the horn parts. WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? So I found the mono version. Enjoy.] (HS)

7. Sixteen – The Heavy
Heard this first on the Current, and wondered why Screamin' Jay Hawkins was getting so much rotation. (HS -- sax choirs count)

8. Perfect Day – Lou Reed
Produced by Bowie! I heard a lot of this in February because of this commercial featuring US snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler that aired repeatedly during the Winter Olympics. It's the prettiest song that's maybe about heroin that you'll ever hear. (HS -- it's subtle)

9. Tightrope – Janelle Monae
2010's Number One Summer Jam first came to me by way of my college friend Robin. Accept no versions of the song that do not include the Classy Brass, the Funkiest Horn Section in Metropolis. As my brother notes, this is the first time his and my year-end mixes have overlapped. (HS)

10. Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants ft. Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band
A clip of this was in the TMBG documentary "Gigantic (a Tale of Two Johns)." For years I've wanted a recording. Thanks to the rippability of Youtube videos, now I have one! I can only imagine how incredibly mind-blowing this must have been to fans of the band in 1990. I carefully edited Jay Leno out of the copy on this mix. You're welcome. (HS)

11. Oh My God – Ida Maria
I love how, at the song's climax, the singer barely has control of her voice, and then finally lets go in a primal yell. Somebody in the liberal political blogosphere (ah, it was Matthew Yglesias) linked to this song in 2009, and I liked it. I next heard it this year upon the announcement of the track list for Rock Band 3. It took some effort to get a version without Iggy Pop clumsily shoehorned into it.

12. Strangers – The Kinks
On the 2007 Beukemix, I included the Kinks song from the Darjeeling Limited soundtrack that had most grabbed my attention, "Powerman." My attention has a short span, I guess, because "Strangers" really is the best of them. I was too blinkered to notice this error until Wye Oak covered the song for The AV Club's "Undercover" project this summer. This song is beautiful, especially the tom-tom heartbeat that is finally left, naked and alone, at the end.

13. Superfast Jellyfish – Gorillaz
Originally I was going to put "Stylo" on the mix, but I was a bit underwhelmed by it.*  I got a copy of Plastic Beach, and was hopeful for something that would grab me like "Clint Eastwood," "Rock the House," or "Feel Good, Inc." Melissa and I were driving from Pismo Beach to Monterey, listening to the album, and when this one came on, I decided we had a winner. Still, every time De La Soul do a Gorillaz track, I miss Del. [*That said, do check out the wonderful and ridiculous video for Stylo.]

14. Never My Love – The Association
The Association are underrated; I offer the bass line of this sweet, gorgeous song as proof.

15. Bang Bang Bang – Mark Ronson & The Business Int'l ft. Q-Tip & MNDR
Every year there's at least one song that drops my jaw moments into the first time I hear it. This year, this is that song. The synthesizers remind me in a weird way of Alvin & The Chipmunks in the 80s. Q-Tip does a typically great job of making other people's songs awesome.

16. Georgia – Cee Lo Green
"Fuck You" is a great song, but it the internet's overenthusiasm made short work of its shelf life. Hilarious Grammy nomination aside, it's kind of a gimmick. I heard this one about the same time, and preferred it greatly. Soaring horns, a message of hometown gratitude, and Cee Lo singing his guts out.  (HS)

17. Femme Fatale – Aloe Blacc
Robinson Caruso frontman James Rone linked to this one on Facebook a few months back. I was sold. (HS)

18. You're a Cad – The Bird & The Bee
Heard this in a California Pizza Kitchen where Melissa and I were having lunch and planning our baby shower after seeing The Social Network. Jotted down enough of the lyrics to google, and discovered that The Bird & The Bee would be making their return to the Beukemix.

19. Musica di Uscita (Per un Film) – Spaghetti Western String Company
This summer, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls put together an EP of her ukulele covers of Radiohead. Exit Music (For a Film) jumped out at me, and I went back to the original, which I'd always liked, but now found emotionally devastating upon review. I planned to put that version on here. Then, the SWSC covered this at their final concert, bringing this already operatic song into opera's home language. I was going to put a rip of that live performance on here, but the band graciously put it on their farewall album (Farewell Verse), so here's a Minnesotan alt-bluegrass band covering Radiohead in Italian.

20. Palaces of Montezuma – Grinderman
I find this song very sweet, and enjoy the weird collection of literary and cultural allusions.

21. Whole Lotta Love – Tina Turner
The Current did a Thanksgiving Time Machine Weekend, and mistakenly lumped this cover in with 1969, the year of Zeppelin's original (a longtime favorite of mine). It's actually from 1975, but I forgive The Current, because they informed me of the existence of a cover of Whole Lotta Love by Tina Turner.

FINAL SCORES
Horn Sections: 11 - a majority. Motion carries.
Accordions: 2
Clarinet: 1
Ukulele: 1

References to JFK's spinal cord: 1
Songs in Italian: 1
Songs in Italian gibberish: 1
Covers: 2
Songs whose choruses accuse you of keeping me hanging on: 2

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kind of a Huge deal

Minneapolis now has its first dedicated long-form improvisation theater. Today will be a day long remembered. Huge Theater was founded in 2005 by five of the Twin Cities' most prolific improvisers as "an artist-led company dedicated to supporting the Twin Cities improv community through performance and education." Since then, they've produced dozens of shows including their own showcase "Huge Wednesdays," annual improvised monster movie "Creature Feature," "Overheard in Minneapolis," based on the website of the same name, and the Twin Cities Improv Festival. Coupled with all of this excellent output was a desire to create a home base for the artform in the city.


For about the past decade, as the improv community here has grown, there have been theatrical institutions that feature improvisation: Stevie Ray's and ComedySportz largely showcase short-form improv games, like you'd find on Who's Line Is It Anyway?, and the Brave New Workshop features improvised scenes and stories, typically as a chaser to their scripted satirical sketch comedy. If you were producing an improv show, you rented space, either from one of these theaters, or the Bryant-Lake Bowl, Intermedia Arts, The Varsity Theater, or something more exotic like a café with a performance space like the Acadia, or some weird café-gift-shop-theater hybrid like the Old Arizona. Huge and the members thereof produced shows at all of these locations in the past. Now, they have a place to call their own: 3037 Lyndale Avenue South (above), in the space formerly occupied by the Lava Lounge. From overpriced clothing to affordable, quality entertainment; definitely a major improvement to the neighborhood.

Huge started their lease at the beginning of September. Following a flurry of renovation, the theater opened its doors last night for its first performance, appropriately the Improv a-Go-Go (4 groups, one dollar, every week — beat that). They've got a full schedule, with seven shows, six days a week, all cheap and all good. So, go check out some shows and share in my congratulations to Nels, Jill and Butch (pictured) on this momentous occasion. I look forward to playing in the space myself. Thankfully, I don't have long to wait, as tonight is Show X, featuring these three, plus up to nine more of the city's best improvisers. We go on at 8, and the show is only five dollars.

That being said, I really want to plug the hell out of the show that happens on Wednesdays (8PM, $5). Fingergun's style, developed over a decade of work, has been described as "controlled chaos." Will we gang up on each other in scenes of reprisal and belittlement? Will there be an orphan boy dreaming of a better life? Will there be scenes about cops? Probably. We hope you'll come find out. Also, get yourself over to Fingergun's Facebook page and Like us. We're currently at 154 followers. If we get to 500 by the end of Christmas Day, we will release another photo like this one:


You're welcome in advance.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"could have a giant distorting effect on our politics"

"Actual represents the actual distribution of wealth. Estimated is what people think the distribution of wealth is."


(Source: Matt Yglesias)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wet Blanketry: The Twins


I'm worried about the Twins. I hope I'm wrong.

But the Magic Number is 2! The Twins are likely to clinch the division tonight, the earliest they've done it since 2004 (I think)! Since August 26th, they've only lost 3 of 19 games! Jim Thome (pictured) has in the last month moved up a couple spots to 8th on the all-time Home Run hitter list!

So why am I worried?

Both the Twins and the Vikings have in the last decade been beneficiaries of being in the particular Division/Conference in which they play. When you lead your division against the likes of the Indians, Royals, & Lions, there's likely to be some grade inflation going on. And the Twins' record this year tells the tale. As of this morning, they are an MLB-leading 44-20 (.688) in their own division. Against the AL West they're an AL-leading 24-12 (.667). But against the AL East they're a measly 14-18 (.438) and in interleague play they only went 8-10 (.444). And it is from the AL East and the National League that their post-season opponents will come.

Think of it: if the Twins' record against the AL Central was their overall record, they would have already won 103 games. If they carried it for a season, they'd win 111, more than they ever have (best season was 102 wins in 1965). If their record against the East was their overall, they'd be, well, smack in the middle of their division, thanks to the bar-lowering of the Indians and Royals.

God, I sound like some asshole from ESPN.com explaining why Mauer or Morneau didn't deserve the MVP, or why Bert Blyleven should never be in the Hall. But given the Twins' postseason in this century, fatalism comes easy. And what worries me is that every time I watch the Twins play the Yankees, especially, that pessimism seems to come easy to them too.

The Twins' season had a big trough in the middle, starting in mid-May when they faced the Yankees and lasting until about the All-Star break. Their record in this period was 23-30, meaning that about 1/3 of the season produced half of their losses thus far. It was during this time that the bulk of their play against the AL East and all of their interleague games fell. So, did they suck then because they were playing against better teams, or was there something significantly different about the team? It wasn't Morneau's injury, because that didn't happen until a week before the All-Star game.

Conveniently, this is a rhetorical question, because I have the answer! The Twins played badly in that period of time not because of the might of the teams they face, but because they were simply playing poorly. There is definitive proof, demonstrated the evenings of June 1st-3rd. On those nights, the 2010 Minnesota Twins (.600 on 9/21) were swept by the 2010 Seatle Mariners (.383, same). There was clearly something wrong with the Twins at that time. QED!

Twins over Rays in 4, Twins over Yankees in 7 thanks to a dramatic extra-inning HR by Thome, Twins over Reds in 5, in the World Series with the lowest TV ratings of all time. Let's hear it now for the team that came to play!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fox News says: Follow the money-- wait, no, not that way!

In case you didn't see this elsewhere, when the Daily Show ends up doing actual reporting, it's pretty brilliant. Basically, Fox News is characterizing the Park51 project near ground zero as ill-intentioned because it has the financial backing of the Kingdom Holding Company, who they paint as anti-American. But the Kingdom Holding Company's owner is Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, AND is the second-biggest shareholder in News Corp., owner of Fox News. Hilarity ensues:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Here's the Wikipedia entry on Al-Waleed bin Talal, an interview with him from Bloomberg/Businessweek, and a Forbes article from 2005, when bin Talal increased his stake in News Corp. (he was at the time at least #3 shareholder, perhaps lower) and voiced his confidence in Rupert Murdoch.

Update: Daily Finance was all over this connection a week ago, before Fox started specifically name-checking their co-owner's company.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Speech! returns to MN Fringe TONIGHT - more show music

Photo by Alex Wohlhueter from the 8/7/10 MN Fringe Slideshow
As previously mentioned, Speech! returns to the Rarig Thrust stage tonight at 5:30 after four days of blissful slumber. I hope you'll be there. Since last we talked, the CityPages gave us a very nice writeup. Spoiler alert, as usual.

Speaking of spoilers, I wanted to write up the music used in the show as a companion to the playlist I posted the other day. What follows will be self-indulgent, procedural, and full of spoilers, so don't read it until after you've seen the show. Seriously, go see our show before you read this. Go.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fringe - 1st weekend down. Also: Speech! playlist

Wobbles the Kitty, MN Fringe mascot.
Congrats to the MN Fringe Festival on another record opening weekend, with another ticket record broken. Congrats also to all the show writers, producers, directors & performers who put them together. Our show, Speech!, had a terrific opening pair of shows, with long lines and big crowds who quite seemed to enjoy themselves. As of this writing, we are in a tie for the second-most-reviewed show on the Fringe website. The Pioneer Press named us a must-see! And the notoriously dyspeptic Fringe Famous gave us a rare five-star review! Yowzah!

I'm really proud of the show and everyone involved, but of course it's not over! We have three more shows,Thursday at 5:30, Friday at 10, and Saturday at 7, the last of which features Audio Description for the vision impaired. Ten dollars to anyone records the Audio Description for me. Seriously.

(Incidentally, if you're going to click on the reviews above, you should know: OMG SPOILARZ ALERT! Really, many of the audience reviews and both of the press bits above give away several moments that would otherwise be a surprise in the show. As does Saturday's Fringe slide show, featuring some lovely shots from the production. Kudos, by the way, to Fringe Famous for spoiler-warning the reader.)

((Also incidentally, what have you seen? I've seen six shows so far, all worth your time for various reasons: The Quest, Bite Me Twilight, Zombie High School [biggest surprise in the bunch so far], Cosmo the Musical, Match Game Minnesota, and Mike & Matt. Melissa also saw Can Michael Come Out to Play, and loved it; I hope to be able to fit it in before we skip town later this week.))

Lastly, to keep you in the musically-contemporary mood for the show, here's the list of pre- and post-show songs lovingly selected for our little play. If you come to the show, chances are you won't hear them, because even though the music volume in Rarig is a little high (especially for folks near the sides and therefore the speakers), the pre-show level is definitely not. And there's definitely no time for this much music anyway. So here's what you're missing (and a YouTube playlist of all of them):

Pre-Show!
  1. Green Day: When I Come Around
  2. Montell Jordan: This Is How We Do It
  3. Ini Kamoze: Here Comes the Hotstepper
  4. Collective Soul: December
  5. Sheryl Crow: Strong Enough
  6. Stone Temple Pilots: Interstate Love Song
  7. TLC: Creep
  8. Elastica: Connection
  9. Blessid Union of Souls: I Believe
  10. Bush: Everything Zen
  11. Dionne Farris: I Know
  12. Freedy Johnston: Bad Reputation
  13. Sponge: Plowed
  14. Melissa Etheridge: I'm the Only One
  15. Pearl Jam: Better Man
Post-Show!
  1. The Toadies: Possum Kingdom
  2. Soul Asylum: Misery
  3. Madonna: Take a Bow
  4. Hootie & the Blowfish: Hold My Hand
See you all on Thursday!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

eYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAH!

Here's a little more 1995 flavor to get you in the Speech! mindset, this time from the whiny rock side of the fence. The Counting Crows' "The Rain King" ends with the ridiculous/amazing (take your pick) cri de coeur transcribed in the title of this post. Enjoy, and we'll see you Thursday night at 7 at the Rarig Thrust stage!



Fringe!

Monday, August 2, 2010

And a merry Fringe Festival to you!


Hail the first week of August and the coming of the Minnesota Fringe Festival! Eleven days of theater binge! The hustle and bustle of the West Bank and its densely-packed theater spaces! The brightly-t-shirted volunteers! The quickie meals at Jimmy John's! The zero-to-five-kitty review ratings! I love it.


This year, for the first time since originating the role of the mayor in JAWS the Musical! ("You yell samurai, everyone says, huh, what?") in 2004, I am involved in a show. Ferrari McSpeedy invited me to direct their show, the first time they are working with a full cast for one of their shows. The show is called Speech!, and it is hilarious.
Drama. Comedy. Flower-print dresses. The world of the high school speech team has it all. Ferrari McSpeedy returns to Fringe with an almost-true tale of competitive forensics.

Fringe Festival favorites, Ferrari McSpeedy do away with their typical 2 person show in favor of a full cast for their new show about the world of High School Speech Competition. Set in 1995 in suburban Chicago, Speech! is a semi-kind of-autobiographical tale about a high school speech team and all of the drama, intrigue and inner demons that haunt them as they compete for spots in the State tournament. Speech! is sure to be a walk down memory lane for former speech competitors, or for that matter, anyone who ever attended high school.
You should come see it. Funny script, great cast, the top hits of 1994-1995; you can't lose.

We'll be performing it on the Thrust stage (above) in this Brutalist beauty, the Rarig Center (MAP!), which, with four stages, has become the epicenter of the Fringe in recent years:


There's a ramp next door. It costs money. Sometimes you can find street parking out on Riverview or beyond.

We've got five shows, all of them in good time slots, so check out our show page, come see the show, tell your friends, and give us some kitties!

Here's a little something to put you in the right time period:

Friday, May 14, 2010

"I'll say it again: Democracy simply doesn't work."

All in favor of the amended Springfield-slash-pervert bill?
Stop the presses again: Congressional Republicans are a-holes; Congressional Democrats are cowards.

So the House Democrats were on their way to passing a science jobs and education bill (a re-authorization of a 2007 law, apparently). Clearly an effort to stem the United States' slippage in math and science education was a political victory that the GOP couldn't allow. But without a filibuster, what's a minority party in a lower legislative body to do? Force the majority to vote for or against something that generates sexy soundbites in an election year.

In this case, the Republican ranking member of the science committee made a motion to recommit the bill. This would have sent the bill back into his committee, delaying it for another round. The specific motion added language to the bill requiring the federal government not to pay the salary of any employee officially reprimanded for looking at porn at work. Which is all well and good, but gave the Dems two options:
  • Vote for the motion, which would delay the measure in another round of committee work (note that the science committee passed the bill 29-8, including GOP "ayes")
  • Vote against the motion, which allows the bill to be voted upon, but lets GOP candidates cut ads about how "Representative Walz voted in support of people looking at porn at work."

It's generally bad policy to bet against Democrats buckling like a belt, so of course half the caucus caved in and voted for. I hope all those Representatives with struggling high schools and high-tech research or industry in their districts are proud. The roll-call is here. Kudos to retiring Rep. Vernon Ehlers, PhD (nuclear Physics, Berkeley) (R-MI) for bucking his party on this one.

Please note that 15 years ago, The Simpsons presented such a situation as satire (see Act Three).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Artcrimes of George Lucas: those prequels


Hey, stop the presses, I'm a white 30-year-old male and I'm about to complain about the Star Wars prequels on the internet.

There's a guy on Youtube, with the handle RedLetterMedia, who specializes in video reviews of sci-fi movies. He came to prominence with his reviews of the Star Trek series, and has recently gained more attention for his lengthy takedowns of the first two Star Wars prequels and Avatar. Lengthy. Like 70 minutes for each of the Star Wars prequels. That length of time could be easily spent on a laundry list of nit-picks and internal inconsistencies, and while there's plenty of nits being picked, he mostly gathers his commentary into thematic sections around larger-scale ideas. Each is an indictment of what George Lucas has become and what he has turned the Star Wars films into. The bottom line that in the intervening 22 years between trilogies, Lucas traded art for commerce, story for plot, and character for plot delivery device. He illustrates most accurately how Lucas' characters do not behave as real people, but like blank-faced zombies, which isn't surprising given how little they had to act with and react to in the films. None of this surprises, but all points are effectively made. They should be required viewing for all aspiring film makers or critics.
If you grew up loving Star Wars, both are worth watching in full, but if you must watch only selections, watch the first and last video of each. The reviewer, in the guise of his disturbing Harry Plinkett character, is incisive, funny, and devastating. It's safe to say that many Star Wars (and Indiana Jones!) fans lost a fair amount of respect for Lucas' sensibilities starting in about 1997. These reviews obliterated whatever was left of mine.

[The one complaint I have about the reviews is for elements of the Plinkett character. The joke is that he's a social maladjust who is definitely a kidnapper and is probably a serial killer. This got pretty tiresome in the Phantom Menace review especially, but was improved upon in the second, in which Plinkett and his hooker captive find a common bond in bitching about Attack of the Clones' awfulness.]

I really didn't like the prequels, but like many my age I convinced myself for a long time that they were maybe kind of sort of ok. I recently watched The Phantom Edit and its sequel, Attack of the Phantom, in which a professional editor makes very careful and thoughtful changes to both movies, improving both significantly. Watching those versions, I decided that there were indeed better films buried within Lucas' theatrical releases. But you can't really polish a turd, and the Phantom Editor, in his commentary, makes clear his own disdain for what George Lucas has created.

This was on my bedroom wall for 15 years.
For me, the worst thing about the new trilogy, besides everything, is that it shook my appreciation of the original trilogy. I grew up loving those movies, and long considered Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back among my favorite films of all time, even as I grew up and expanded my cinematic horizons. With how terrible Episodes I-III were, I started to doubt those earlier films, and wonder if maybe they were worse than I remembered. I avoided rewatching them. This is going to sound weird, but I found the RedLetterMedia reviews somehow helpful. They crystallized my thoughts and feelings about the Star Wars trilogies in a way that I hadn't quite been able to put into words. They affirmed the reasons I loved the originals, and the reasons why the prequels were different and worse. Thanks, Plinkett. I feel much better.

The upshot of all of this is that I've come to a decision: I'm going to get rid of my DVD copies of Episodes I-III. We've got limited real estate in our DVD cabinet, and I don't need that crap on hand for future viewing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jeopardy: Don't Dream It's Over


Today marks the beginning of the 2009-2010 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. Though I qualified for the field of contestants, I will not be appearing, having been eliminated early this year. There were two major factors in my elimination: (1) there are three college tournament winners for this qualification period, since there have been two college tourneys since the last ToC and they have a leftover champion who couldn't do the last one because the Air Force said so; and (2) there was a quick pace of contestants, this season especially, who won 4 games and were done. Since the qualification ranks players by number of wins first and money second, even a powerhouse three-game winner like Kevin Joyce, who won a crazygonuts $111k in his three games, was eliminated. I should note that if they went by money first and then number of wins, Kevin would be in but I still wouldn't. Cue sad-sack "Christmastime is Here" music.

But: it's OK, because my Jeopardy! experience was one hell of a ride, and the achievement of a lifetime goal! Seriously, a little over two years ago I took the online test for fun, thinking it would be great to be on the show but with no expectations. And I was invited to audition, in my home city no less, and was invited on to the show on my first try. I went on, again with no expectations, and hoping only to not humiliate myself and maybe win a game. And I won three games and got to be in the contestant Hall of Fame, earning a hefty chunk of change in the middle of a tough recession. So, despite the opportunities (and there are plenty) for counter-factual games of "what if I'd remembered What's In My Wallet and won one more game?", I have very little to complain about, and far more for which to be thankful. Hooray!

The matchups for this week's Tournament quarterfinal games have been posted, and I'm excited to root for my fellow Season 25 players Liz Murphy, Justin Bernbach, and Stefan Goodreau.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"And after all, we're only ordinary men"


The street vendor who first alerted the police to the Times Square Bomb is a Muslim immigrant from Senegal.

From Wikipedia: "In philosophy, essentialism is the view that, for any specific kind of entity, there is a set of characteristics or properties all of which any entity of that kind must possess."

Contra the likes of Erick "I called a sitting Supreme Court justice a 'goat-f___ing child molester' and all I got was this lousy job on CNN" Erickson* and Rush Limbaugh, a desire to commit acts of terror upon the United States is not an essential characteristic of Muslims. Nor is Islamic faith an essential characteristic of terrorists.

I say this not to suggest that there is not a dangerous form of violent Muslim extremism that should be opposed and stopped. Rather, when you conflate that goal with a clash of civilizations, you're drawing the Us vs Them line in a way that excludes a lot of people on your team.

* underscores not original to the quote

Monday, May 3, 2010

Inlouriouser and Inglouriouser


[UPDATED 5/4/10 SEE BELOW]

Been meaning to write this one up for a while. There's a feature on the DVD of Inglourious Basterds, my favorite film of last year, about Geraldine Brezca, who operated the clapboard for Tarantino during its making. She apparently enjoys introducing the takes with non-sequitur words and phrases, often with the effect of making actors laugh as the scene starts. Names of arthouse directors from around the world seem to be one of her primary idioms. So if you would find it amusing to hear a woman say things like "Emeric Pressburger" and "Wong Kar-Wai" in a disaffected tone and Italian accent, now's your chance. Thanks, YouTube!




[NOTE ADDED 5/4/10 12:17PM! Reader "Nels" writes to note that every single phrase or word she uses starts with the letter or letters in the SLATE number cell on the slate itself. Dumbly, I wasn't even looking at the numbers. So there is a method to her madness.]

Incidentally, there's another tradition on Tarantino's recent shoots, and that is for the actors to send greetings to Sally Menke, who has edited all of his films. I seem to recall that the Kill Bill DVD may also have had a "Hi Sally" reel on it:



Here's the thing: in the top montage there are at least a couple of shots being clapped that didn't actually make the cut into the movie. There are two in particular that I'm thinking of. The first is of Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, as SS Colonel Hans Landa and August Diehl as Gestapo Major Hellstrom sitting next to one another watching a movie. I suspect that this scene was cut from the "German Night in Paris" chapter, and that they are watching "Lucky Kids" with Goebbels to evaluate Shosanna's theater.

The other is a shot of Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, sitting in a genteel living room in a stupid-looking suit and tie, smiling pleasantly and holding a cup of tea. Now, granted, I thought Eli Roth was the weak link among the cast, and would love to have seen the original casting choice, Adam Sandler, in the part.* But I'd also be interested in seeing this scene that was cut. The rough draft of the screenplay, which is available online, has it: before shipping off to Europe, Donny buys his baseball bat in his Boston neighborhood, then takes it to his Jewish neighbors to have them sign the bat in the names of their relatives still stuck in Europe under the Third Reich. The scene we see here is his sit-down with a Mrs. Himmelstein, played by Cloris Leachman, who also writes, and misspells "INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS" on the bat, giving the guerrilla unit and the movie their title.

There is another entire performance that was apparently filmed and cut, that of Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung as Madame Mimeux, the previous owner of the cinema, ownership of which Shosanna inherits along with an assumed last name. The screenplay draft also includes the scene of their meeting, when Shosanna is homeless in Paris having fled the scene of her family's murder by Landa's death squad.

I do wish Tarantino was in the habit of putting more deleted scenes on his DVDs. He's given us a handful here & there in the past, but he's been weaning us: whereas Pulp Fiction's DVD included a handful of scenes removed from the movie, Kill Bill Vol. 2 included a single additional scene of Bill on an assignment, and now the Basterds DVD includes only extended versions of scenes that were in the final cut of the film. Considering that the cut that screened at Cannes early last year was several minutes longer than the theatrical release, I'd be fascinated to see the other bits, if only to see how shortening a movie can strengthen it. Certainly, reading the screenplay, you get the impression that even the over-the-top final product was an exercise in restraint for the writer/director and his overflowing brain full of movies.

*Incidentally, I'm very glad for the other casting changes that became necessary. Though I like Simon Pegg an awful lot, I'm very glad that his role ended up going to Michael Fassbender, who is terrific. And I cannot imagine Leonardo DiCaprio (!) as Hans Landa. Nor, I suspect, can Christoph Waltz.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Civil War revisionism

As you may have heard in the news, last week the Governor of VA declared a Confederate History Month and neglected in the declaration to mention the labor structure that underpinned the entire economic model of the southern United States, defense of which was the goal of the Confederate States' secession, and which was oiled in the blood of a race. You know, or something. Anyway, people rightfully complained, another Southern governor predictably and depressingly doubled-down, and a political bloc, primarily of the right-wing and of the south, continues to pretend that slavery was a "minor" aspect of the Civil War and that the Battle Flag only stands for noble tradition and defense against "northern aggression."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I believe I've linked before (he's a liberal writer for the Atlantic), has written increasingly about the Civil War over the last several years as he continues to voraciously read books on the subject. I've only been reading him for about a year and a half, so I could be wrong, but I think this is a recent interest for him. In any case, he's been all over the more vocal resurgence of revisionism the past few weeks, and has written some good stuff, criticizing Gov. McDonnel's original declaration and, rightly, commending him for his later mea culpa. He aired some fascinating and sad comments from his readers. And now he's dug in to the psychological underpinnings of the Lost Cause. In the process, he wrote one of my favorite sentences I've seen in some time, the second the two I will quote here:
This is about a lancing shame, about that gaping wound in the soul that comes when confronted with the appalling deeds of our forebears. Lost Causers worship their ancestors, in the manner of the abandoned child who brags that his dead-beat father is actually an astronaut, away on a mission of cosmic importance.
Matthew Yglesias of ThinkProgress has also written some great stuff on the subject over the past couple weeks, as well. At the Daily Beast he wrote about the strain within the GOP that celebrates treason in defense of slavery, subverting that party's roots. And on his blog he commented on Ed Kilgore's suggestion of a Neo-Confederate History Month, which he points out would be quite bipartisan in its subjects.

Late-breaking addition: MS Gov Haley Barbour's history-ignorant proclamation of Confederate History Month!

That guy's the WORST.

Just wanted to get this off my computer desktop. Found it in the comments section of a blog post on a sports site during the Olympics:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Not good with needles


As a kid, I was never been particularly good with needles, and I had a mental hierarchy of the awfulness of encounters with them: the regular fingertip pinprick was Bad and Hated, but at the bottom of the scale. That such an easy needle prick was so disliked should tell you how I felt about shots, which were more loathed as needle gauge and depth and volume of injection increased. The worst of the worst, which thankfully I didn't often have cause to encounter, were long intravenous needles.

When I was in my mid-to-late-single-digits, I had to get a particular series of vaccinations, the first two about a month apart. My recollection is that these were thick needles buried deep into the muscle (such as it was) of the outer thigh. They sucked. Anyway, I got the first one, and hated it so much that the next month when I returned to the pediatrician for round two, I decided I'd had enough.

My pediatrician's office at the time was in a small round office building in Edina. This one:


View Larger Map

It was the former home of a savings & loan, and featured a center hallway that circumnavigated the building. The building was small enough that the doctors' office was the only tenant. This layout suggested a strategy: run.

It wasn't an elegant or complete plan, but it did afford me additional, precious, unpunctured minutes as I sprinted around the building. I don't remember whether I made it all the way around or perhaps made multiple complete circuits. You would think I'd be intercepted by my poor mother or the RN or an assistant if I crossed back in front of my assigned exam room. What I do know is that at some point, I realized that I couldn't run forever and made my next tactical move, ducking into a bathroom and locking the door.

Looking back, I can see my folly. If I had it to do all over again, I'd make damn sure that I was out of the line-of-sight of any pursuers or informants before I ducked in there. I'd have opened and shut the door in a smooth motion, as silently as possible, so as to not give away my location. I might have even selected an escape route that wasn't a dead end. But I speak with the benefit of rational hindsight and with years of experience watching the action movies and playing the video games that impart these important lessons to us in our adolescence. And I have the further benefit of better information -- how was I supposed to know they had keys to the bathroom?

Yes, there are plenty of things I'd have done differently if I had known better. I could have spared myself the indignity of being pulled out from under the sink of a darkened bathroom and held down by multiple assistants while the nurse administered the Hated shot. At the time I'm pretty sure I didn't know what my mother was so embarrassed about: she wasn't the one who got caught!

Some time later I got the third shot, and had mellowed enough to just deal with it. By my later teenage years I was just kind of squicked out by needles; Pulp Fiction became a favorite movie of mine, but the close-up interlude of heroin use and later adrenaline shot moment were all but unwatchable (incidentally, hatred of needles is an excellent barrier to entry of IV drug use, not that there weren't plenty of other deterrents). At present I certainly don't LIKE shots, I can reliably go into a zen-like state of acceptance when I have to get one.

PS: All apologies to my mother and to the 198x staff of Edina Pediatrics, especially those whose duties occasionally include twerp restraint.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"And then one day you find / [48 days] have got behind you"


Wow, I made it through all of March without a post? Dang. Gotta get back on the horse.

In the meantime, here's the entirety of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon rendered with an NES sound chip: Moon8. I particularly like the rendition of "Time," which would be at home in a Mega Man game.

Hat tip: Jeremy Parish

Friday, February 12, 2010

What will be stuck in your head for the next two weeks

Time for the Winter Olympics! I love the Olympics in general and the winter games in particular. Perhaps this is because the closely-spaced winter Olympics in 1992 and 1994 occurred for me at that age when your brain's connections are really forming, locking in associations and memories,* or because, to be honest, I was watching a hell of a lot of tv at that age, and saw much of these games. I also have the Minnesotan, growing-up-playing-in-the-snow thing contributing.

Anyway, if you're like me, you're going to be walking around with Olympic music stuck in your head for the duration. Back in the early 90s, I made a copy of a tape someone in my family (either my aunt or grandparents) had of music by film composer John Williams, performed by the Boston Pops under the composer's direction. I was already a fan of Williams' music for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, and knew his Superman theme. But listening to this tape, I learned about Williams' long collaboration with Steven Spielberg and the non-movie music he composed, including the first cut, the "Olympic Fanfare and Theme":



Williams composed this theme for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It has become one of the most well-known themes for the Olympic Games in the US. As it turns out, NBC has an exclusive license to use Williams' music in their broadcasts. So when CBS covered the games in '92 & '94, this music was not used. Williams has had a long association with NBC: he also composed the "Mission" Theme for their nightly news.

At some point Williams re-arranged his 1984 theme as a medley beginning "Bugler's Dream" theme from a 1958 suite of sports music by Leo Arnaud. This has become the most prominent cut used among NBC's musical selections during recent Olympics. Arnaud's piece alone has apparently also been used by ABC when they've had the games.

Williams has composed a few other pieces of Olympic music, used to varying extents by NBC. First is "The Olympic Spirit," comissioned by NBC Sports for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. This is a sentimental favorite of mine from when I was in a brass quintet in high school and we played a fun arrangement of it. Here's the orchestral version:



When the Olympics returned to the US in 1996, it was time for another Williams theme. This one was called "Summon the Heroes," and has continued to be all over NBC's coverage:



I picked up the 1996 Olympics CD even before the games started, and listened to it during a college-shopping road trip with my family while they were going on. That coming school year I was to be the drum major of my school's marching band, and I ended up ordering the marching band arrangement of this piece and splicing it together with some of the other Olympic themes we had in the music stacks for our homecoming halftime show.

Williams composed one more Olympic theme, this one for the 2002 Salt Lake City winter games. It's called "Call of the Champions," and I can't say I'm familiar with it. If NBC uses it for their broadcasts, it's not in an extensive manner:



In 2006 during the Torino games, I noticed that NBC was frequently using one particular piece that I recognized, and remembered liking, but couldn't quite put my finger on. Then it came back in a flash of SIRE (sudden instant recall effect) -- it was the theme from the early-mid-90s FOX Bruce Campbell vehicle, the sci-fi/comedy western, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. The theme, by composer Randy Edelman, fits quite well with Williams' music, and has apparently also been used by NBC for the World Series and MLB All-Star Game when they carry those. I should note that the recording and arrangement of the NBC version are a little less cheesy than the one used in the original series' opening titles:



Finally, there will undoubtedly be at least one overplayed commercial during the Olympic broadcasts that you will have stuck in your head for some time. For me two years ago during the Summer Olympics, it was some local ad for a furniture or mattress store featuring a classic rock sound-alike. Can't remember what song it was imitating, or the store (unfortunately?). In any case, the repeated music is unlikely to be as good as the earworm of the 2006 crop, "Galvanize" by the Chemical Brothers featuring Q-tip, which was in Budweiser Select ads and quickly made it into that year's Beukemix:



*I remember hearing somewhere that there's a theory that because of the timing of neural connections, you are likely to maintain a lifelong affection for the music of your early teens, even if you later decide it was terrible music. Three words: "Informer" by Snow

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Beatles + Charts = an ideal post for this blog

The Charting the Beatles project is a work in progress. They've put up samples of a handful of charts visually quantifying aspects of the Beatles' career. Coming just months after the release of The Beatles: Rock Band and the remastered albums, this is catnip for a nerdy Beatles fan.

The examples include:
  • a circular time line showing the band's working schedules over the years 1963-1966, remarkable for how packed your planner has to be in order to be a prolific superstar group
  • a set of charts showing the breakdown of musical keys on each album, which makes me wish I had gone farther in my music theory so it would mean a bit more to me
  • a chart of references to Beatles songs within other Beatles songs (sampled above) - I've seen similar graphs for intra-Biblical references
  • a set of bar charts breaking down authorship and collaboration in songwriting
I really like this last one for helping to get a handle on the Beatles' output. Unlike the Who, the Beatles had the good sense to grow to hate each other and never really reunite, and they left a rich but compact discography that fits on a poster: 186 songs recorded in the studio in 9 calendar years (just over 7 years of time elapsed).

I'm a little confused by how some of the collaborations and outside contributions are defined. These aren't the songwriting credits as published, otherwise most would be shown as 50-50 Lennon/McCartney. These are based on anecdotes, apparently mostly collected in one particular book. I'd like to note that the Wikipedia entries for each individual Beatles song are full of all kinds of interesting trivia about their writing. The Beatles material on that site is generally very detailed and seemingly well-sourced.

In the chart, contribution of an instrumental solo seems not to count toward the bars, or all four Beatles would be credited on The End, where here only Paul is. Similarly, Eric Clapton isn't credited for While My Guitar Gently Weeps. And Billy Preston's presence in the sessions for Let It Be and Abbey Road don't count, either. So, what do the handful of outside contributions indicate? Based on the pink in Golden Slumbers, I wondered if it was George Martin's composition/orchestration. But if that were the case, there would be some collaboration indicated for Eleanor Rigby, which, of course, is set just to a string octet composed and arranged by Martin.* Maybe the collaboration on Slumbers has to do with the old lullaby from which McCartney used some lines. But then, there are other songs that had that kind of inspirational origin. So I feel like maybe this poster needs some splainin'. Or at least some annotatin'.

The other feature of this particular poster is the measure of collaboration, represented by a red thermometer bar above each. No bar means a solo effort. Full bar means roughly equal participation by all Beatles. I do not understand how the scale works on these. If, like on She Loves You, there is equal partnership between Lennon & McCartney (which was fairly rare, especially after 1963), it seems to rate about 33% on the Collab-O-Meter(TM). Instinctively, I would expect this to rate 50%, since half the band is collaborating. Or, hang on, I get it: the primary songwriter is collaborating with 1/3 of the remaining available Beatles, and using this Beatle to his full potential on the project. So think of the Collab-O-Meter as "how willing was the main songwriter to let someone else in on it." That makes more sense.

Note that there were only two studio recordings for their main discography that had full songwriting participation from all. I would classify both as throwaways of a sort: the instrumental Flying, from Magical Mystery Tour, and the fade-in-fade-out jam Dig It, from Let It Be, which was literally clipped out of a longer session of effing around in Abbey Road Studio. This chart illustrates how truly Balkanized the Beatles were, especially as their careers progressed.

I look forward to more work from the Beatles Charters. I'll post it here as soon as I'm aware of it.

* Let me repeat that, since it is easily glossed over: the most popular rock & roll band in the world released, as a single, a song setting for vocalist with string octet. There are reasons that my ex-roommate Dan Hetzel refers to them as "the baddest mofos on the planet." Consider that the same Beatle who wrote that song also wrote songs like When I'm Sixty Four or Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da that even his nominal writing partner derided as "granny music," as well as Helter Skelter, just about the heaviest mainstream metal until Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath hit their stride shortly thereafter.
Hetz is also fond of describing Paul McCartney having developed (earned?) laser vision at the time he wrote Paperback Writer. He damaged his laser vision by writing Fool On The Hill, and it finally went away when he wrote The Long and Winding Road. He was no longer infallible.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Maxwell Edison sure plays a mean pinball


I missed the Who's halftime performance last night, as I was in transit, but I hear it was dreadful, even for people who like the Who. Sadly, this sort of halftime choice seems to be the norm: the last time there were halftime performers less than two decades out from their prime, they plum ruined it for everybody. Since 2004, we've had, in order, McCartney, The Stones, Tom Petty, Prince, Springsteen, and the Who. In fairness, I should note that I rather enjoyed Prince and Springsteen's shows, and neither could be accused of phoning it in. Especially not Springsteen and his bathing suit area.

Anyway, this brings up an idea I had after the passing of Who bassist John Entwistle in 2002. Consider the longtime lineup of the Who:

The Who, 1964-1978
Pete Townshend - lead guitar
Roger Daltrey - lead vocals
John Entwistle - bass, deceased, 2002
Keith Moon - drums, deceased, 1978

Now if only there were a spare British bassist and drummer lying around. Aha, found some.

The Beatles, 1962-1969
John Lennon - rhythm guitar, deceased, 1980
George Harrison - lead guitar, deceased, 2001
Paul McCartney - bass
Ringo Starr - drums

I know that it is much more than a hunch that this group must somehow form a family. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Whotles:

The Whotles, 2010-?
Pete Townshend - lead guitar, self-incriminating research
Roger Daltrey - lead vocals, shirtless fringe vest wearing
Paul McCartney - bass, no-longer-futuristic tape loops
Ringo Starr - drums, allocated one solo per life of band

I've always said that the Whotles would only cover Led Zeppelin. Unfortunately, Ringo's not half the drummer John Bonham was, or Keith Moon for that matter, so they can't do Zeppelin or most of The Who's songs, and Daltrey is no Lennon, so let's go with The Kinks. The Whotles will only play Kinks songs.

Update: Publish or perish. I see others have long since beaten me to putting this idea online.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Congressional Dems: Sound off like you got a pair!

I just sent this letter to my Democratic US Congressman on my lunch break. If you have a Democratic US Congressperson, and also support reform of the health care system, I urge you to do the same:

------------
Mr. Ellison,

I am writing to urge you to continue to push for passage of health care reform. This was a reason MN-5 sent you to Washington. If this fundamental promise is not fulfilled, and you vote to let the bill die, you can not count on my vote in 2010.

In the wake of Mrs. Coakley's loss yesterday in Massachusetts, the Congressional Democrats who have made public statements seem to be utterly demoralized. While the arrival of Scott Brown in the Senate will mean picking off a Republican vote for cloture in order to get anything significant done in that body, *health care reform must go on*.

The House can, and must, pass the Senate bill unchanged. The instinct of some of your colleagues seems to be that this special election was a referendum on HCR. It wasn't: it was a reflection of the economy, and of Coakley being a worse candidate than Brown.

If the House passes the Senate bill, some of the additional provisions of the House bill can be made individually, perhaps through reconciliation if they reduce the deficit. In this scenario, the House Dems will certainly need to defend the bill to their constituents, but at least they will have something to defend. The only worse scenario, for the country, our health care system, and for the Democratic caucus, is for the bill to be dropped. Because the only thing the electorate will hate more than a bill that needs defending is a waste of a year's legislative focus.

A vocal minority of the country may oppose this plan from the right. Another vocal minority may oppose it from the left. But the votes for doing at least much as the Senate bill does is a majority. It is time for that majority to speak. There is no drawing board to go back to. The Senate Republicans will assure that. This is likely the only chance in our generation to get this done. Please take that chance, and GOVERN.

I hope that this email is not necessary. I would expect a solid progressive like you to understand the stakes and the import of the moment. But then, I would have expected the same from Barney Frank and Anthony Weiner, and they seem to have formed the Curl Up And Die Caucus.

Please keep up the fight. The Republicans ran roughshod over the country with slimmer majorities in both houses during most of the Bush Administrations. Democrats must do the jobs they were elected to do.

I am about as reliable a Democratic voter as you can find, but I will vote for a primary challenger and may not vote at all for Congress if you do not fulfill your promise to fight for health care reform.

Sincerely, etc etc.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Robinson Caruso Organization re-organizes


If the last time you saw Robinson Caruso's ten-piece juggernaut play old-school soul & r&b, you saw me play with them, then, fella, you've missed out. While I was busy learning and regurgitating civil engineering, the Organization was busy doing more shows. One of them, outside on the Metrodome plaza the morning of the Vikings-Lions game in November (we play Motown songs, get it?), was a double-long set featuring all kinds of new (to the band) tunes.

Well, the RCO is back, and I'm back with them, and we've got two shows in the span of one week. Great googaly moogaly! No more of this one-show-a-month nonsense. We've got new (to me) original songs written by James Rone Robinson Caruso himself, and more classics from the likes of the Jackson 5, the Supremes, and Al Green.

Maybe you heard about the passing of Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell last week and want to pay tribute. BAMF! We're playing Love & Happiness. Maybe you want to buy a Robinson Caruso t-shirt. SNIKT! There will be those, there, too. Maybe you wanna do The Kangaroo. ONOMATOPOEIA! Now's your chance.

Two. Shows. TWO SHOWS!

ONE!
Friday, January 15, 2010
Fine Line Music Café
Doors at 8, Show at 9, RCO at 11 (so we're told)
$6, 21 & up

TWO!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Lee's Liquor Lounge
Hip Replacement at 9:30, RCO at 10:30
$5, probably also 21 & up