Monday, January 30, 2006

January CD Mix

This month I started a mix CD swap with my cousin over at Literary Girl (link on the right). It started when she was matching up penpals on her blog, and while I didn't really want to write postcards and letters, I was happy to make a mix CD each month. So here are the "Liner Notes" for the first CD, which I sent her Friday:

1. So Long, Astoria - The Ataris
2. Boys of Summer - The Ataris

So Long, Astoria, an homage to Goonies, is discussed a couple blogs below. Boys of Summer is a kick ass power-pop remake of the Don Henley classic. It's the song that actually got me to buy this CD, which is a great disk.

3. Philosophy - Ben Folds Five
4. Gracie - Ben Folds

Had to give her the song from which my blog title comes. And, the second is a song from Ben Folds latest solo release which is great. He wrote it for his daughter (he penned a song on his previous solo CD for his son). This'll be the song I dance to with my youngest daughter when she gets married.

5. See a Little Light - Bob Mould
6. Gee Angel - Sugar

See a Little Light comes from a great solo CD by Bob Mould entitled Workbook. I believe it is his first after the break-up of Husker Du. And it is quite the departure from the band. An excellent CD from start to finish (what wouldn't be with songs like "Brasilia Crossed With Trenton" and "Compositions for the Young and Old"?) Gee Angel is a classic power-pop song from the second CD with his second band Sugar. Had to put some Sugar on there since she'd seen them live. Now, though, she can actually hear the melody. And besides, it's a song about buying a set of wings in order to try and be with his angel, but then when he tries to return them because they don't fit angel won't take them back. Heartbreak in 3:56.

7. Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now) - Cracker
8. Sweet Magdelena of My Misfortune - Cracker

Out of the ashes of Camper Van Beethoven came Cracker, a band that mixes quirky cool lyrics with a southern rock alternative sound. Teen Angst was their first single, and includes the great line "What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head." Sweet a more recent track (2002) which is a modern power ballad that hearkens back to the sound of another Cracker track, Euro-Trash Girl. Again, heartbreak in 3:35.

9. Valley Winter Song - Fountains of Wayne
10. All Kinds of Time - Fountains of Wayne

While most of the world will know them primarily for their ode to lusting for your girlfriend's mom (Stacy's Mom), they should know them for their brilliant song writing and significant catalog of awesome pop music. Valley Winter Song is a touching piece about winter in New England. Chief Running Miles relates all to well to this song, since it was written about the region of New England in which he lives, and shovels snow. All Kinds of Time is in fact about a QB dropping back to pass and finding that he has "all kinds of time" to find his receiver. So what does he do? "He thinks of his mother, he thinks of his bride to be. He thinks of his father, his two younger brothers, gathered around the wide screen TV." The NFL actually used this song a couple years ago to promote its cable station. Simply brilliant word play.

11. Why Georgia - John Mayer
12. Bigger Than My Bottom - John Mayer

Because of a hit called Your Body is a Wonderland, most think of John Mayer as a lightweight singer/songwriter. But digging into his CDs, and more importantly seeing him live, you realize he is not only a solid songwriter but an incredible guitarist. Need to turn a phrase? Listen to John.

13. Jagged - Old 97's
14. Murder (Or a Heart Attack) - Old 97's

Old 97's are an alt-country outfit from Texas, and their CD Fight Songs is one of my favorite CDs of the last 10 years. It's a perfect balance of pop, alternative and country. The first song, Jagged, takes an adjective that isn't normally applied to a mood, and applies it. The second is a catchy ditty that upon a closer listen to the lyrics one realizes it is about a lost cat.

15. As Far As I Know - Paul Westerberg
16. Achin' To Be - The Replacements

Paul Westerberg helped write the book on lyric writing and although he isn't a megastar by any stretch of the imagination, he and The Replacements were highly influential on a vast number of 90's alternative groups. As Far As I Know is from his most recent solo work, Folker, which he played every instrument on and recorded in his basement. Achin' To Be is from The Replacements' second to last album and illustrates his knack for story telling and phrase turning. Watch the end, here comes the turn...

17. Moment to Soon - Tommy Stinson
18. Something's Wrong - Tommy Stinson

At age 11 he became the bassist for The Replacements, because his brother Bob was the guitarist and they needed someone. So Tommy's been in rock-and-roll for 26 years of his short life. Once freed of the bonds of the band after its demise in 1991, Tommy has created some of the best rock-and-roll of any of the former 'Mats. First with Bash and Pop, then with Perfect, and now on his solo disk Village Gorilla Head. This was one of my favorite - if not THE favorite - CDs of 2005. Oh, and by the way, for the past 8 years or so he's been the contract bassist for Axel Rose's remade Guns & Roses. Hey, it pays the bills.

19. LaLuna - Nine Volt Mile

One of the great Portland bands that never broke big. They had the sound, the writing chops, and even the rock-and-roll attitude, but in the end they went the way of so many really good indie bands. Of all the bands I've seen live, it is safe to say I saw them the most. This homage to a former Portland-area rock club is on here because it was here that Literary Girl saw some loud loud rock-and-roll with me. Long live rock.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Media Brilliance

Actually heard on the 11pm news tonight:

"Beavers aren't unusual in this area, in fact they were here before we were."

No kidding? You mean they didn't come across the Oregon Trail in covered wagons with the settlers?


Finally saw Goonies last night. Yes, despite it being (apparently) a seminal movie of my generation, I'd never seen it. Well, it was a fun romp, good flick. One of the reasons I watched it is that my next screenplay is aiming for that demographic, a pre-teen to teen adventure. And I'd been telling people it was going to be my 'Goonies' movie, even though I'd never seen it. So, now I have.

Perhaps just as important, the lead track from the Ataris' 2003 CD entitled "So Long, Astoria" is an homage to the Goonies, which was filmed in the northern Oregon coastal town of Astoria. Now, lines from that song make more sense. Here are the lyrics for you Gonnies fans, it's a good tune:

So Long, Astoria

It was the first snow of the season
i can almost see you breathin'
in the middle of that empty street

Sometimes i still see myself
in that lonesome bedroom
playin my guitar
and singing songs of hope
for a better future

life is
as good as the memories we make
and i'm taking back what belongs to me
polaroids of classrooms unattended
these relics of remembrence
are just like shipwrecks
only they're gone faster
than the smell after it rains

last night while everyone was sleepin'
i drove through my old neighborhood
and resurrected memories from ashes

We said that we would never fit in
When we were really just like them
does rebellion ever make a difference?

life is
as good as the memories we make
and i'm taking back what belongs to me
polaroids of classrooms unattended
these relics of remembrence
are just like shipwrecks
only they're gone faster
than the smell after it rains

So long astoria
i found a map to buried treasure
and even if we come home empty handed
we'll still have our stories
of battle scars, pirate ships and wounded hearts,
broken bones, and all the best of friendships

and when this hourglass
has filtered out
its final grain of sand
i raise my glass to the memories we had
this is my wish
this is my wish
im takin' back
im takin' them all back

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Random Thoughts

- Bought two CDs this week that are pretty different, and both are great. Yesterday, I bought Husker Du "Zen Arcade" (see the long post below). Then today, I picked up a Johnny Cash restrospective "The Legendary Johnny Cash." The latter I got at Starbucks after receiving a $10 gift card as a thank you. I always try to spend those on music. Why waste it on coffee?

- I haven't blogged over at my Brett Elliott site for a long time, mostly because I got too busy with movies, political campaigns, screenplays, and, oh yeah, my real job. So a quick update: Brett played in both the Las Vegas All American Bowl and the Hula Bowl, both all star games for seniors. He really shined in the Hula Bowl, throwing the East Team's (why he was on the East is anyone's guess, but the important thing is he played) only TD pass in route to a 10-7 win. Commentators had some nice things to say, too. One draft projection website ranks him the #17 QB out of 83 available in the upcoming draft. I'd love to see him end up at a top team as a #3 QB in a system where he can learn and eventually take over. (Nudge, nudge, Seattle and New England...who both could use a good third string QB. Heck, the Pats still have Doug Flutie at #3!)

- At the gym today, on the eliptical, reading the latest Sports Guy column (see below) and listening to, yes, "Zen Arcade" from Husker Du, and a young pregnant woman gets on the eliptical beside me. She's a regular, and I've watched over the last 7-8 mos as she continues to walk the treadmill and do the eliptical even while pregnant. She's in great shape. But one thing I always end up doing while on the eliptical is comparing my pace to the person next to me by watching their feet. And when she first got on she was going faster than me. So I had to speed up, even though I'd been on there 25 mins already and she had just started! Can't have the pregnant woman outworking you.

- Great interview over at between the Sports Guy Bill Simmons and Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. A must read if you are a baseball fan at all. Schilling is a true warrior and a great guy.

Somthing To Du

Husker Du is one of the seminal indie rock bands of the '80's. Some might call them punk, but their music was broader than that. In college and graduate school in the early 90's, I got into the solo work of Bob Mould, guitarist and singer for HD, as well as his post-HD band Sugar. Oddly, though, I had never worked my way back to Husker Du. (Being a major fan of another Minneapolis band from that era, the Replacements, makes this even more suprising.)

A month ago, my cousin over at Literary Girl blogged about one of her prominent mid-90's memories being the Sugar concert I took her and a friend to up in the big city. They were young college students going to their first small club rock and roll show. It was THE loudest show I've ever been to, and it kicked ass. At one point I saved them from being sucked into a raucous mosh pit. But her post got me thinking again about Husker Du. So I emailed a good friend of mine who is even more passionate and knowledgable about music than I am. (For example, he worked for a couple years at an indie start-up label after receiving his PhD and establishing himself as a national expert on the internet and the music industry...dude even testified before Congress during the Napster brouhaha.)

His answer was great. So I wanted to share it. Maybe it'll get you into Husker Du one day:

Q: Don't have any Husker Du, always wanted to pick some up but didn't know where to start. Recommendation?

A:There's a very easy answer to your question and a very complicated answer.

The easy answer is for someone wondering what is the one record by the band to own. Their masterpiece (think Sgt. Pepper, Quadrophenia, Exile on Main St.) is Zen Arcade. This is a very challenging record but one of the most rewarding records I've ever heard and one I go back to time and again. It has a very vague plot line as a loose rock opera, but more significantly, each side (it was originally a two-LP set) has a separate musical character. On the first few listens, that fact might not seem all that distinct because by this point in their career they were already a very mature band and had a very set style; they sounded like nobody else. But in a vaguer sense, side one is the rock side, side two is the thrash side, side three is the psychedelic side, and side four is an experimental finale.

The more complicated answer is for someone interested in perhaps going though a "Husker Du phase" and becoming familiar with at least three or four records. Husker Du I think of a lot like the Beatles in that they went from thing to thing so fast and changed so much from record to record that what to start with is a tough question. The easy part of the answer is to not start with the very earliest stuff (Land Speed Record, Everything Falls Apart) because -- with 25 years of perspective -- we can now see that while they have their moments their value is more historic than anything else.

I'd advocate these four and leave it to the listener to decide an order.

The first very good Husker Du record is a seven-song EP called Metal Circus. This is shockingly good, and I only wish an 18 year old could hear it today with my 18 year old ears. There was NOTHING like this -- a song called "Real World" had the intensity of the hardest punk rock but the mature songwriting of the Who. It really gave me the chills. That and "It's Not Funny Anymore" made me feel like a slightly different person after the first time I heard them. I knew this music probably didn't have a chance of changing the world, but I knew that it had just changed me.

Next the band hit its critical hayday -- the equivalent of the Replacements' Hootenanny/Let It Be period. First came Zen Arcade -- discussed above. Then came New Day Rising, an LP that runs less than half the time of Zen Arcade but manages to squeeze in as much quality. Thus, a more resourceful record, but not as sprawling and theatrical (let's face it, there's a place in rock for being sprawling and theatrical) and thus this record is not quite as awe inspiring as Zen Arcade. But judging only *song-for-song*, New Day Rising is arguably stronger. There's a tune on there called "Celebrated Summer" that -- honestly -- I once saw make two different people in a live audience cry. The third album in the trio of records that make up the band's critical hayday is Flip Your Wig, which has some GREAT songs ("Divide and Conquer," "Every Everything") but in my humble opinion doesn't hold a birthday candle to the other two records' flamethrowers. To be fair, some people would kill me for saying that.

The band's third phase was it's major label period, which brought them their widest audience, biggest sales and most mature records. The first one, in my opinion, is their weakest record, Candy Apple Grey. The next, Warehouse Songs and Stories, is a huge, huge improvement and a very good record (see "Could You Be the One," "You Can Live at Home"). An OK place to start with the band if your desired approach is to begin with the self-destruction of a band at the apex of its maturity and work your way backward -- a perfectly valid approach though that has never been my way of doing things.

Good luck soul searching through the hard rock,

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


My cousin over at Literary Girl (link at right) posted three questions and asked people to pick one an answer it. After much thought I selected this one:

Tell about a time where you failed, big time. What happened, what lessons did you learn, what would you do differently.

Back in late 2001, I decided to try and go back to school to get my PhD. I'd completed my Masters degree in 1995 with no real intention to continue on. However, after teaching several classes as an adjunct professor at Linfield, I decided that teaching fulltime is something I wanted to do. Plus, my job at that time was OK but not terribly fulfilling. My wife and I talked a long time about it because it would be a huge change in our lives. Our kids were three and one at the time, she would have to return to work and support the family, and I'd have to juggle school and kids. We did decide that the only way we'd do it is if we could stay in Oregon.

That left me one choice for schools: Univ. of Oregon. They are the only university in Oregon that offer PhD programs in my area of research. Plus, we have family there, so that would help. So I studied up for the GRE, which I had to retake because my scores from 1992 had expired. Took it and did pretty well. I applied for both the Journalism School and the Political Science school. (My undergraduate degrees are in Mass Communication and Political Science from Linfield, my Masters is in Communication with an emphasis on political communication from the Univ. of Washington). I thought I was a pretty good candidate. Real world experience in my field, teaching experience in my field, Masters degree from a school well regarded for its Communication program, even a glowing recommendation from the chair of the Linfield Communication Department, who's father had been a prominent professor in the Univ. of Oregon program.

I got the rejection from the Journalism School first. I even called to ask why and got the stock answer of "We only had 5 slots and it was very competitive". I actually cried when I received the rejection. We had set ourselves up emotionally to make this change.

Then I got the Political Science rejection. By then I was over it. I was comforted by two friends who had also been rejected for graduate programs at the Univ. of Oregon. One is perhaps one of the smartest people I know. She ended up with a PhD from Harvard, and now teaches at Boston Univ. The other didn't get into the law school at Univ. of Oregon, but did get into Willamette Univ. and is now a practicing attorney and civic judge in southern Oregon. He'd also been rejected for a Masters program in science at the Univ. of Oregon. His exact words: "Everything I ever sent them they just wiped their as**s with."

As I talked to more people it became clear that generally there is a bias at the Univ. of Oregon against students from inside Oregon for graduate programs.

We thought briefly about going for a slot back at the Univ. of Washington, because I still had time to apply, but ultimately decided against it. We didn't feel like moving to Seattle.

Life didn't get much easier a couple months later when I was laid off just a couple weeks after we closed on our new home. Oh, and we still owned our old one (and would for about five more months). I did have work through August, but after that I was unemployed.

What lessons did I learn? Well, I probably could have done more to lobby for a slot by visiting with professors there. That might have worked. Other than that, not getting my hopes up would probably be the best thing I learned. And finally, that everything happens for a reason. Which is why we decided to stay here, buy a new house, and be happy with our lives as they are.

In the end, I got a new job and started Sept. 1, 2002. I am still at that position, and it is one that is five minutes from home, offers me the opportunity to use a variety of my skills, and is one that allows me the time to do things on the side that are intellectually and creatively stimulating. Pay is pretty good, too.

And we did sell our house. Don't ever carry two mortgages, it just ain't worth it.

How Statesman-Like

If anyone questions the level to which civil political discourse in this country has fallen they need only watch the Alito hearings. Democrats attacked him so much today that his wife began to cry and had to leave the hearing to compose herself. See the upper left of the still above from CNN.

Wonder why good people thing twice, nay 20 times, before agreeing to any kind of public service whether elected or appointed?

Hope the red meat the Democrats delivered today to their interest groups was raw enough.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My Dog

My wife has a nice post about the only other male in the family - our dog Chester. My girls actually call him their brother. Check it out on her blog by clicking the Croppin' With Kate link on the right.

Thin Current - Finished

Few months ago I posted some pics and info on the film I was making with my friend Devon. Well, we are finally done. The Monday after Christmas we laid down the music track, Devon did some last minute color correction and sound correction, and voila. Soon, I'll let you know where you can get a copy of this cinematic masterpiece. And we will be entering it in film festivals, so if we are successful at that I'll let you know.

Now, it's on to #2...a short (8mins or so) sci fi flick. Script is mostly done.

Ignore the Man

When are people going to realize that Pat Robertson is crazy and just ignore him? Seriously, what an embarrassment to, well, anyone who considers themselves human.

Why do tele-evangelists always turn to the Old Testament whenever they want to have God kick ass? And conveniently forget the New Testament, where Jesus turned everything upside down?