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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bad Cable

One of my new year's resolution was to keep it positive (not really a big time resolution, but something I continually work on). Too often I find myself delving into negativity and sarcasim. As the Byrds have said again and again, there's a place for everything. But the positive feedback loop of negativity is something that I try to steer clear of.

That being said, I'm greatly enjoying Buffalo Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005. The inclusion of Robert Novak and Johnny Damon are no brainers, but there are a few that I didn't automatically think of, but sit perfectly on the list. Example:

48. Larry the Cable Guy

Charges: The absolute nadir of the American South's baffling cultural hegemony. A middle-class Nebraskan, raised in Palm Beach, whose parents sent him to private school, masquerading as an Appalachian mutant and making millions off the nine-toed cyclopes in his audience by calling his material "blue collar," when it's really just a celebration of proud ignorance. The latest in a long line of "entertainers" propagating the lie that real talent is elitist. The South has risen again—just long enough to grab the rest of the nation by the legs and pull it back down to its Lovecraftian depths. Isn't even "bad funny." Makes Jeff Foxworthy look like Chris Rock.

Exhibit A: Ostensibly humorous catchphrase translates into "complete the task."

Sentence: Sent back in time for the sole purpose of having Mark Twain's cigars extinguished on his face.

Thanks =A= for the heads up.

Block Party - Positive Tension (Blackbox Remix).mp3 (via Veritas Lux Mea)

Crime in Central Vermont

Firewood stolen from Calais home
CALAIS — Vermont State Police are investigating a report of firewood stolen from an Old West Church Road residence. Individuals plowing the snow in the area observed fresh tire tracks leading up to a wood shed located on the property of the house and called the state police. The homeowners reported wood stolen last month with similar tire tracks found leading up to the wood shed. State police said witnesses did not see tire tracks on Friday but did see them on Sunday at about 4 p.m. The amount of firewood stolen is unknown, police said. Anyone with information is asked to contact Trooper Hunnewell at the Middlesex State Police Barracks at 229-9191.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Raising Cain

I was blown away this past week by Raising Cain. I don't mean the 1992 film with John Lithgow of Harry and the Hendersons and Footloose fame, but the PBS documentary based on the best selling book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys. The documentary, Raising Cain: Boys in Focus, is hosted by the book's co-author, child psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., and explores the emotional development of boys in today's society.

I've always considered my upbringing to be fairly successful - I had engaged and supportive parents & siblings where our basic needs were taken care of, and I was shielded from trauma. But that didn't make growing up easy, especially under the shadow of three older sisters. Even when I was young, I have always been fascinated with the development process, specifically that of boys. In college I wrote papers on the process that boys go through to become men. While in Lesotho, I was able to interview men that had, and had not, gone through the male initiation ritual that had been custom for the Basotho for as long as anyone had remembered, but was being lost under western influence.

Now that I am a father of a spirited 1.5 year old boy, I find myself more interested then ever in the psychological development of boys. I see all around me boys young and old with short fuses, full of anger, struggling in a world that appears to provide them with limitless opportunities. What can be done to create a society of strong, responsible, and open men? What can I do to raise a son that is solid and full of goodness and light - and will bring those elements out of others?

This two-hour documentary is a start. It's an honest and refreshing look at the state of boys in America today, giving insights into how we have gotten where we are. Most of all, it provides a few tactics that parents and adults can take to better understand and raise our children.

The documentary was premiered on January 12, 2006. Check here for re-broadcast information. I've taped the program and am more then willing to pass it around to any who are unable to catch it on the TV.

Raising Cain: Boys in Focus - Trailer

Monday, January 23, 2006

Karma. You got to love it.

As noted last week, the indie rock levy recently broke in Central Vermont. We have been free of good (or any) acts for months and then Ok Go w/ Apollo Sunshine & Controller Controller are scheduled to play at Higher Ground this Wednesday followed by The Walkmen w/ Mazarin & Lobot the following night. Being a responsible parent/husband, I decided to choose between the two, but have struggled with the decision for over a week.

Friday afternoon, while in the midst of deciding which would be the best show, I receive this email: CONGRATULATIONS! You have won a pair of tickets to see The Walkmen with Mazarin, and Lobot on January 26 at Higher Ground.

Jeezum Crow! The contest is part of Seven Days' Hot Ticket promotion where they highlight an upcoming act and give away a pair of tickets.

I guess that answers my question. I look forward to posting pictures and a review. I'm still in shock.

Suggestions on how best to keep the good karma going?

The Walkmen - Wake Up.mp3
The Walkmen - We've Been Had.mp3
The Walkmen - The Auld Triangle.mp3 (Live in Harvard Square - April 2005)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Eliza Lynn - Frisky or Fair

Eliza Lynn is a singer. Not just a singer in a band, but someone who sings, is always singing. Always. I spent three months traveling with her throughout Southern Africa in the 90s and I don't think I ever heard her stop singing, humming, moving, drumming, playing. But she doesn't sound like other people - well not small framed red heads hailing from Illinois. There is soul in her voice that speaks honestly and directly. Add an oil well of depth, a necessity to sing, an ear for roots music (old time, West African drumming, jazz) and a drive to share all this with others, and you get her magnificent debut album: Frisky or Fair.

The album's sound is somewhere between jazz, blues, gospel, and oldtime, but that's merely the setting. When listening to tracks I find myself taken by her full and rich voice and the resultant cat and mouse game that she plays with Rayna Gellert's fiddle or Dale Roberts' cornet. The songs unravel tales of happiness, naivete, and love cloaked in loss and pain.

The album could easily be played at dessert parties for 30 somethings, but there's much more sitting below the surface waiting to be discovered.
so listen to yourself sing,
as you wander down the road,
you'll breathe in a sweet patience,
and exhale your lonesome load.
- Tunnel

Review of Frisky or Fair at the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

Eliza Lynn - Honeysuckle.mp3
Eliza Lynn - Frisky or Fair.mp3

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Bittersweet Longing For

I'd like to take this moment to highlight today's (yesterday's, actually) post by Said the Gramophone. Said the Gramophone is a top notch mp3 blog that's been in this game for some time now (even if the cast of writers have rotated). A Bittersweet Longing For shows off the blog's ability to craft top notch entries that beautifully bring across the feeling of the highlighted tune.

I had a pretty indepth post on this subject and it was lost. I'm trying to let go of it, but I'm still a bit bitter.

Camera Obscura - Suspended from Class.mp3 (via bows + arrows)
Camera Obscura - Anti-Western.mp3 (via bows + arrows)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Who said we don't have Indie Rock in Vermont?

Ok, so it was me. The fine folks at Higher Ground are doing their best to make me look the fool (or answering my plea, depending on how you see the glass, or vase, or whatever). They have gone and booked two very exciting shows for the spring:

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - April 11 - $13/$14
The Books - May 13 - $12/$14

Hallelujah! If nothing else, 2005 was the year of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. This four piece from Brooklyn bursted on the scene labeless, but with something to prove. Their sound is uber catchy and reminiscent of some of David Byrne's best work. It easily found its way on my top ten albums for the year. Click here to read False45th's write-up on the world's most blogged band. Listen at their MySpace page.

The Books' debut release in 2002, Thought for Food, brought something new and exciting to the indie world - and continues with release number three from last year. This hard working duo does all the work themselves (sample collecting, composing, writing, recording, mixing, and mastering in home studios and no producer or engineers) mixing acoustic music and various samples of found sound. The final result is a kaleidoscope of sound that is intriguing yet focused. All three of their albums may be streamed through their amazing website. A great review of their first album can be found at Dusted Magazine.

Thank you to Nick for bringing these shows to my attention.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood.mp3 (via Badminton Stamps)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Blue Turning Grey.mp3 (via Anablog)
The Books - Be Good to Them Always.mp3 (via tmwsiy*)
The Books - It Never Changes to Stop.mp3 (via tmwsiy*)
The Books - Venice.mp3 (via tmwsiy*)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Grateful Dead - Playboy After Dark, 1969

They say that three is the magic number, so here's my third post in one day that could be categorized as hippie.

I came across a great video of the Grateful Dead playing Mountains of the Moon and St. Stephen on Playboy After Dark from March 22, 1969. It starts with a great conversation between Jerry Garcia and Hugh Hefner with Jerry explaining that the purpose of the dual drummers was for "mutual annihilation" and that they "chase each other around, it's like, it's kinda like the serpent that eats its own tail" and "if you could stand in between them, uh, they, they make big figure eights in side of your head." This is quite the valuable piece of footage, if not for how sharp, vivacious, and engaged the Dead are, then at least to see the dancing Bunnies, the dudes in tuxes, and the overall squareness of the crowd.

Playboy After Dark was a late-night variety series, which featured popular musicians and comedians performing on a stageset built to look like a Penthouse apartment filled with Playmates. Hosted by Hugh Heffner, the short lived series only ran for 2 seasons. During that time it featured musical performances by Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly, Taj Mahal, B.B. King, Canned Heat, Linda Ronstadt, The Byrds, Sir Douglas Quintet, Steppenwolf, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Fleetwood Mac, Ike & Tina Turner, Country Joe & The Fish, and James Brown.

The above photo is from a Haight-Ashbury show in 1969. My deceased uncle is pictured in the audience above the snare. No joke.

Grateful Dead on Playboy After Dark - March 22, 1969 (Episode: #1.11)

Phish at the Vermont Statehouse

Despite starting to look like a hippie/jam blog, I give you this nugget of information:

Jon Fishman, the vacuum cleaner soloing-dress wearing-drummer from Phish, will be playing with Alexander's Goodtime Band at the Vermont Statehouse. The free event, which will take place in the House Chamber on Wednesday, January 18th at 7pm, is part of the weekly Farmers' Night Concert Series that are held throughout the legislative session. Although it may seem strange to have a member of one of the largest jam bands of all time hanging at the Statehouse, Fishman has turned into quite the environmental activist (ala Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's True Majority Action). Since the demise of Phish, Fishman has become a vocal board member for the New England Coalition and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. I'm curious to see how the politics and music mix next Wednesday. Can't wait to people watch.

Alexander's Goodtime Band - Let Us Try Again.mp3
Alexander's Goodtime Band - Dancing All The Time.mp3

The Gambler

I'd like to highlight the latest post on Poker Bluegill concerning an upcoming Vegas trip. Dewey has been a family friend for as long as I can remember and has weaved a pattern in my mind of great stories and great story telling. I remember having a conversation with him at a wedding some 6 years ago when he told me about his interests in gambling. I was afraid that it was going to be a story of sadness, depression, chasing an impossible dream, etc, etc. But it wasn't at all. He had nearly perfected the gambling vacation.

Dewey's attention to detail and nearly fanatical frugality have allowed him to take Vegas for all that it's worth. Each year he travels to the City of Sin for a few weeks for what ends up being cost-free. As his latest post attests, he has set up 17 days in a hotel for a total of $54! Using potential poker comps, "a library of 2-1 food coupons," and a free airfare from a previous bump, he'll be living cheaper then it would cost to stay at home. But you mention the gambling, he'll loose it with the gambling. Good point, but no. He takes the same approach to card games as he does food and lodging, betting minimal, predestined for specific tables - and let's not forget he's a really good card player.

I spent a night in Vegas back in '99. Throughout the night I bet $12 and made $15. I got loads of free drinks, ate at a $2.99 breakfast buffet, and shared a room on the strip that cost a total of $29. I thought I did good. I had no idea.

Bloc Party - Hero.mp3

Toubab Krewe at The Kennedy Center

The Toubab Krewe have been busy. Since I wrote about them back in October, they appear to have been constantly touring. They brought in the new year at the famous Blue Note in NYC (supposable brought the house down) and later that day drove down to DC to perform at The Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. As with all Millennium Stage performances, it was streamed (I was too slow to post about the show before it happened). Thankfully it has been archived (below).

The horizon is looking bright for these 5 Ashevillians (not quite - the bass player, Dave Pransky, is a Vermonter hailing from Cabot). They have once again been put on the Bonnaroo lineup. The word is that they will be moving from a minor stage/undesirable time-slot to a much larger stage and will be the only performance at that time. Potential audience of 25,000 people! Good for them.

Update: The buzz is officially here. Jambands.com has an interview with ex-Phish bassist Mike Gordon in their 2005 Year in Review section where he has the following to say about the Krewe:
Name one band you discovered (or rediscovered) in the past year?
I saw Toubab Krewe at a late night set at Bonnaroo and, then again, at Nectar’s in Burlington. I really like African music. Also, in Burlington, they had a djembe player sitting in with them from Africa—he was incredible.

Millennium Stage 1.1.06.mov (the music really kicks in after the opening 8 minute drum circle)
MySpace Page (four streaming songs)
August 26, 2005 concert via Archive.org

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Italian Wedding

This past weekend the family and I experienced the Italian Wedding. The high school friend that was getting married had a strict upbringing where both parents grew up in northern Italy (and when I say strict, I mean males weren't able to come into her house, she wasn't allowed to go to her prom, etc, etc, etc). The wedding ceremony took place at an amazing Roman Catholic church (with an even more amazing website), it was crazy formal, the there were chairs for the couple to take a rest - I knew that my 1.5 year old wouldn't make it. Needless to say we stayed 15 minutes.

The amazing thing was the ITALIAN reception. Important to note - I was married in a cove in the mountains of North Carolina, on a Llama farm, with a reception in a tobacco barn. I truly had no frame of reference for this type of event. The reception took place at Mallozzi's (sister establishment of Villa Italia). It started with cocktails and appetizers in a private room including a martini bar, seafood, sushi, champagne, pasta, carvings, an Italian bistro station, etc (I grabbed something that was big and fried thinking it was goodness, and it ended up being cauliflower. So disappointing). Then came the six course dinner in the main ballroom adorned by ice sculptures. After the long introduction of the wedding party and family (two Uncle Tonys), came the waitstaff and food. The staff of approx 30 marched in, dressed to the nines with tuxes and white gloves, and lined up on either side of the dance floor - looking like someone was to be knighted. The food came rolling in on carts and were placed in the center of the floor. The staff began marching towards the food choreographed in a single file that had them criss-cross past each other and reach the other side of the dance floor before coming back to the center to pick up a plate of food, which was then brought to each table in groups of eight. This happened with soup, salad, pasta, sorbet, entree, etc, etc. Between each course was some sort of dance or song. At one point all 200 plus guests were arm in arm singing Dean Martin's "That's Amore" and "New York, New York." I truly couldn't believe it - I though this was only the stuff of the past and Hollywood.

We left before the cutting of the Villia Italia cake and missed the Viennese Table, but were satisfied with all that we experienced. Even though I tied my knot amongst miniature horses, I'm glad to see that tradition is still alive.

Annie - The Wedding (live mix)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Indie Rock?

I must admit that Central Vermont is fortunate to have served as a stop on tours for many sizeable music acts. I was fortunate enough to catch Bright Eyes, M Ward, Superwolf, Coco Rosie, the Pernice Brothers, and a few other indie acts at the Higher Ground Music Hall in 2005 after it relocated to South Burlington from Winooski.

But their winter schedule has so far been nearly empty of any type of indie rock; instead filled with the likes of RAQ, Strangefolk, and Addison Groove Project. I understand that Vermont has a reputation, and that one is most likely to find similar jammy sounds playing in the local smoke filled dorm rooms, but I believe that the palate of Central Vermonters is larger then this.

This line of reasoning (however selfish) prompted me to contact the owner of Higher Ground in search for an answer. Alex Crothers explained that brining indie rock to Burlington/Higher Ground is a chicken and egg game. Past indie shows have been lightly attended and have resulted in Burlington being seen as a soft indie rock market. Without the actual support for indie shows, they have no option but to book for the masses (hence another Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra show).

I guess I didn't need Alex to explain this to me, but the exercise was worth the opportunity to express to him that the indie market isn't dead, even though ticket sales are down. If we are going to get more indie shows in Burlington, we need to have folks coming out en masse to support the bands that are convinced to play Burlington.

A few opportunities are on the horizon:
January 25 - OK Go - Higher Ground, $10/12
January 26 - The Walkmen w/Mazarin & Lobot - Higher Ground, $10/12
February 8 - Aimee Mann w/ Chuck Prophet - Higher Ground, $25/27 (not necessarily indie, but worth mentioning)

I look forward to seeing folks at these shows. We'll see if we can change things. In the meantime, here are a bunch of shows for those willing to drive north of the boarder:
January 12 - Akron/Family w/ Timber - La Sala Rossa
January 17 - Feist - Spectrum De Montreal
February 1 - Low w/ His Name is Alive & Death Vessel - La Sala Rossa
February 7 - Supergrass - La Tulipe
February 22 - Animal Collective w/ Barr - La Sala Rossa
March 1 - Metric - Metropolis
March 10 - Nada Surf w/ Rogue Wave & Inara George- Cabaret Music Hall
March 15 - Stereolab - La Tulipe

The Walkmen - Little House of Savages.mp3
Death Vessel - Deep in the Horchata.mp3

Netflix - Strong Clown Philosophy

My most prized Christmas gift this year (nudging out the Vermont Frost Heaves beanies) has been a Netflix account. Its awesomeness has exceeded my expectations. Not only does it fill the void that's left after unplugging the Dish, but the process of selecting movies has, astonishingly, become fun. It allows me to rate films, see reviews/ratings from friends, categories, easily view award winners and critics' picks, place movies in my queue that have yet to be released, preview films, and even provides recommendations based on my ratings and preferences.

I'm addicted to the easy to use rating system. At this point I've rated 910 movies. It's enabled me to better understand my movie tastes by causing me to think critically about the films that I've seen. As a goal, I'm attempting to rate every film that I've seen. It's a fun challenge and one that gets harder the further I go along. When rating the B-horror movie Killer Klowns from Outer Space (3 stars), I came across one of Netflix's other great attributes - reviews. This one is by member David Heffelfinger:

This movie is the finest cinematic piece of art ever created! Sure the movie sucks, but there is one performance by a young Zach Woods that sends this movie into the stratosphere. In my opinion Zach is part of the holy trinity of actors: Sir Lawrence Olivier, Willam Shatner (who deserves to be knighted!) and Zach Woods! His performance as Strong Clown brought tears to my eyes and filled me with hope for a better world. This movie has changed my life and now I attempt to live by the Strong Clown philosophy. Please watch this movie!

Ok, so I'm taking member reviews with a grain of salt. I'll keep you posted on how my ratings progress. Curious to see how many films I've seen in my life.

2002 Wired article on the Netflix effect
Manuel's Netflix Journal, which highlights issues with the company and its service

Minus the Bear - This Ain't A Surfin' Movie (Remixed by IQU).mp3