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"Before you know it as the years go by, you're just like other people you have seen, with all those peculiar human ailments. Just another vehicle for temper and vanity and rashness and all the rest. Who wants it? Who needs it? These things occupy the place where a man's soul should be." -- Henderson the Rain King

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mao II

2 more books left to reach my goal of reading 50 books this year. Tonight I finished book #48 Don DeLillo's Mao II.

Mao II (named after the Warhol painting of the same name) is not an easy book to explain. In the most basic sense it's a novel centered around a recluse author named J.D. Salinger...er I mean Bill Gray who lives in a secluded house with his assistant/ex-groupie Scott and reformed Moonie Karen. Bill has decided to come out of seclusion a bit allowing photographer Brita Nilsson to visit and take his picture. From there things get complicated. The plot wanders as we follow Bill out of his seclusion into New York, London, Athens and finally Beirut. Along the way DeLillo manages to stretch the story to work in themes of terrorism (more interesting given the book was written in 1991), imagery, and individualism, navigating around pitfalls that would easily trip up a less talented writer.

Having just finished the book, I'm not completely sure yet what I think of it. The story itself isn't super compelling, but it's been awhile since I've read a novel that's managed to pack so many ideas into so little space. I have a feeling this will be one of those books I look back on a few months from now and realize just how good it actually was. That or it will have faded into the oblivion of a hundred other decent books.

I haven't read any other Don DeLillo novels yet, but I will definitely be giving some of his other books a try. I think the next one I'll read is White Noise which seems to be everyone's consensus favorite.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cover-Mania

Here's three somewhat Halloween themed covers (mp3 style), plus a gratuitous Ryan Adams song cuz you know I like me some Ry-Ry. Enjoy.

Magnolia Electric Company covering Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London"

Ben Gibbard covers Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

White Stripes cover Tegan and Sara's "Walking With the Ghost"

Ryan Adams covers Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone"



Michael Jackson when he was sane(?)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Happy Pooky Night

WikiPedia has more info than you could ever want to know about Halloween. For instance, did you know that Anoka, MN is the self-proclaimed 'Halloween Capitol of the World'? Or that in Scotland kids say '"The sky is blue, the grass is green, may we have our Halloween" instead of "Trick or Treat"? Am I blowing your mind?



Seriously Dude, where's your costume?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?

Book #47 on my 2005 reading list was Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver (who is not to be confused with Raymond Chandler).

Reading this book reminded me of watching a masterful boxer toying with an unworthy foe. Round after round, story after story Carver delivers body blows to anyone challenging his reputation as a short story master. Condensing 22 stories into just under 250 pages, Carver cuts right to the point delivering emotional Hemingway-like slice of life vignettes that are sure to be taught in Lit 101 classes for years to come.

If you're a fan of short stories I'd definitely recommend checking this one out. I haven't read any other Carver works yet, so I don't know where this ranks in relation to his later output. It looks like Where I'm Calling From would also be a good place to start since it's sort of a greatest hits compilation of his stories (including several from Will You Please Be Quiet, Please).

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

iTunes World Series Player Picks

iTunes has a list of favorite tracks selected by members of the White Sox and Astros. Looking through the list the first thing that stands out is that baseball players apparently listen to crappy music. Some of the less than sterling selections include:
  • Orlando Palmeiro - 3 Doors Down "Kryptonite"
  • Damaso Marte - Britney Spears "Oops I Did It Again"
  • Jeff Bagwell - Toby Keith "As Good as I Once Was"
  • Mark Buehrle - Godsmack "Awake"
  • Geoff Blum - P.O.D. "Youth of the Nation"

Saliva, Staind, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, and O.A.R. all show up on the list as well leading me to believe that baseball players are still stuck in that late 90's post-grunge testosterone driven rock era. "You can take away my steroids, but don't touch my music, man". Kudos to Bobby Jenks though for ratcheting it up a notch choosing Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls". Way to raise the bar Bobby, nicely done.

On the bright side, Lance Berkman chose a Robert Earl Keen song. Not only can the man hit, but apparently he knows a good tune when he hears one.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Elliott Smith B-Sides

This site has a ton of links to great Elliott Smith demos including the recently leaked "Basement II" demos. Good stuff!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Scrobbler 1000

I finally reached 1000 tracks on LastFM! Here's what my Top 25 artists look like so far (if you're scoring at home you can compare to my post at 500 tracks):
  1. Ryan Adams
  2. Wilco
  3. Neil Young
  4. Whiskeytown
  5. Uncle Tupelo
  6. Townes Van Zandt
  7. The Long Winters
  8. Damien Jurado
  9. Pixies
  10. Grant Lee Buffalo
  11. R.E.M.
  12. bloom.
  13. Nirvana
  14. Danger Doom
  15. Son Volt
  16. Steve Earle
  17. Frank Black
  18. Lucinda Williams
  19. Johnny Cash
  20. Bob Dylan
  21. Gram Parsons
  22. Now It's Overhead
  23. Holopaw
  24. For Squirrels
  25. Hank Williams

Speaking of great music, as a reward for bothering to read this, here's links to a live White Stripes show and some new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah tracks.

Get In The Van

46 down, 4 to go! Henry Rollins' Get In the Van: On the Road with Black Flag was the latest addition to my 2005 reading list.

The book is a collection of Rollins' journal entries chronicling the bands insane tour schedule from the summer of 1981 to the band's demise in 1986. The two main things I learned from this book were 1) Henry Rollins has anger management issues and 2) Black Flag was the hardest working band in show business.

You could seriously flip to any page in the book and I'd bet 90% of the time there will either be a reference to Rollins punching someone in the face or a story showing just how insanely intense Black Flag tours really were (sleeping at random people's houses, riding in the back of a U-Haul, barely having enough money to buy gas to get to the next town, etc). In fact let's give that a theory a try.

Randomly selected page #85:

"Some guys were throwing squashed beer cans at the Meat Puppets. I grabbed this one guy and nailed him pretty good. It would be great to be able to shoot these people on sight."
Wow. Okay that worked way better than expected. Let's try again.

Randomly selected page #178:

"Some guy jumped onstage and kicked me in the head real hard with his boot. I grabbed him and punched him in the face. Don't hit the singer in the head because he will try to punch your lights out."
Whoa. I think I might have just invented the world's coolest drinking game! Let's try one more for good measure:

Randomly selected page #62:

"Last time I played here sucked real bad. It was in 1981. I got punched out by a skinhead. I had my back turned and he hit me in the back of the head and I went down."

Nice. 3 for 3! And that's just counting punch-out references.

I found the first 50 or so pages of this book quite fascinating. Lots of crazy rock and roll stories that you just can't beat. There are also interesting references to other bands like The Minutemen, The Ramones, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Bad Brains, etc. After awhile though the book really started to drag for me. There's only so many times you can read about punching someone's lights out before it stops being a novel idea. If you're a big Black Flag fan you may enjoy devouring every page, but if you're just a music fan looking for a general chronicle of the underground scene, punk rock, DIY, etc. I'd highly recommend starting with Our Band Could Be Your Life instead.

You can read an excerpt from Get In The Van here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Come Into Our World

Found Magazine #4: Come Into Our World is out now and is awesome. I found a copy at Bulldog News, but you can get it online too.

Found creator Davy Rothbart also has a new book out, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. I haven't read it yet, but it looks like it's going to be good!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Danger Doom

The wickedest MC in hip-hop (MF Doom) + the best thing on TV (Adult Swim) + that dude that pretty much invented the mash-up (Dangermouse) = my favorite new album of the moment. Grab it here while the grabbing's good.

With Danger Doom's The Mouse and The Mask album and the excellent Sage Francis disc released earlier this year, I think Epitaph is going to end up putting out my two favorite hip-hop albums of 2005. And you thought they were just a punk + hardcore label?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jamie Is Not A Smart Girl

Tonight I went downtown planning on seeing comedian Greg Behrendt who was in town to read from his new book. I've seen him a couple of times before, once opening for David Cross and once at Bumbershoot. His cranky middle-aged rocker act is pretty damn funny so I figured his new book would have to be good. Well it turns this is where that age old adage about reading the fine print would've come in handy. Turns out the book is called Breakup Because It's Broken : The Smart Girl's Break-Up Buddy. Now I know you're probably thinking "Jamie, that book sounds right up your alley", but it actually turns out that not only am I not all that smart but I'm also definitely not a girl (last I checked anyways).

So anyways, not knowing what I'm getting myself into, I show up at this fancy venue downtown wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and a hooded sweatshirt. I walk in take a look around and I kid you not there must have been fifty women in there dressed to the nines and not a single dude in sight. Awkward. Turns out that not only do break-up books not have a large male readership, but apparently going to a break-up book reading doesn't make for a great date. Who knew?

Normally I've got a pretty thick skin for being a bit out of my element, but as I found my seat and started to get comfortable (at least as comfortable as you can get with a whole room staring at you) it dawned on me that being the only guy in a room full of fifty women in various states of break-ups was probably not going to be the best way to spend my Friday night. Realizing I was about to be in for a long night, I ended up doing what any respectable man would do....I high-tailed it out of there. As I was rushing out I was amused to see another guy waiting in line to get in. Poor sap. Hope he made it out okay.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

He's The DJ, I'm The Frapper

Frapper! is a clever wrapper around Google Maps that allows you to create custom maps which display the location of members of a group. For fun I've created one to map out the location of the people who read my blog. If you're reading this why not add yourself to the map here? C'mon, you know you want to. Besides, it only takes a second and surely you've got nothing better to do if you're already wasting time reading this blather. While your looking at the map you can click on any of the push pins to see the info about the person who lives there. Pretty cool.

[Sadly, I do realize that I'm just setting myself up to see the depressing truth that no ones actually reads any of this. But is that stopping me? No. And you know why?....me neither...sigh]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Organizing My Music Collection

I've been spending a good bit of time lately working on organizing my massive mp3 collection. When I started the project I had ~200 GB of music (which equates to about 4,800 hours or 200 days worth) spread across multiple machines, sitting on unripped CDs, archived out on burned data CDs, etc. I've made a ton of progress, consolidating most of the music onto one external Iomega 160GB USB drive , making sure it is all tagged (using MusicMatch's tagging tools) and filing it all based on artist and album name. MusicBrainz and CDDB have also been handy tools along the way for identifying files that were untagged or misnamed previously.

I'm in the S's now (a band called The Soft Boys to be exact) with ~25GB left to go, so I'm finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's been a lot of work, so I may have to get myself a Sonos Digital Music System to celebrate when I'm finally done :-)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005

The 45th book of my 50 book 2005 challenge was The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, a collection of short stories and essays edited by Dave Eggers.

Even if Eggers' foreward was all your fourteen hard earned dollars got you, you would still be coming out ahead on this deal (and I know you work hard for your money). But oh my friend there is much more here than just tales of Captain Rick's knock-off pirate store. There are also stories of both the fiction and non-fiction variety. There are mail-order brides, heavy metal mercenaries, free burgers for life and Beck. Yes that Beck! There is George Saunders, Stephen Elliott, Ryan Boudinot, Douglas Trevor, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, and others. And by others I mean Al Franken. Yes that Al Franken!

These stories may not be required but they are American and therefore it is your patriotic duty to pick up a copy. What are you a commie or something?

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James Campbell High School

Sweet! It looks like they've already named a high school after me! And in Hawaii to boot! Now I just gotta work on doing something to actually earn the honor.

Seriously though, I think I'm going to have to at least get a shirt. How cool would that be? Tooth 'em Sabres!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Field Roast at the Elysian

From time to time I like to post about my favorite places and things to eat in Seattle. Tonight we ate at the Elysian Brewing Company, which in addition to having a great micro-brews, also offers a wide selection of vegetarian options. I ordered the BBQ Field Roast sandwich and a salad with a Wasabi Vinaigrette dressing, both of which were excellent as always.

In case you've never heard of it, Field Roast is a vegan lunch 'meat' that comes in Lentil Sage, Smoked Tomato, and Wild Mushroom flavors, all of which are quite tasty. We're fortunate enough to have the lunch meats as an option in our cafeteria at work, so I probably eat the stuff 2-3 times a week. It's that tasty. In addition to the lunch meats, they also make a Celebration Roast which functions as a great vegetarian substititue for Thanksgiving (or any time really) Turkey. Although it's produced by a local Seattle company, it looks like they've been expanding over the last few years, so there's a decent likelihood you can find it at a location near you. Well worth checking out if you ever get the chance.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Top 10 CD Update

We're 3/4's of the way through 2005 which means it's time for the ol' quarterly unscientific update to my Top 10 CDs of the year list.

The last couple of months have been a bit of a duldrum for music releases after what started off as a really strong year. Things have picked up in the last few weeks though so hopefully a few new entries in my final '05 list will spring out of the upcoming pre-holiday releases.

Okay, enough blathering let's get to it:

Top 10 CDs of 2005 (so far)
  1. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy - Still my favorite release of the year
  2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - s/t - I'm not much for the dance pop but damn Gina.
  3. Holopaw - Quit +/- Fight - Gainesville, FL reprazent reprazent
  4. Ryan Adams - Cold Roses - Can I just combine all of Ryan Adams' 05 releases into one great CD?
  5. Art Brut - Bang, Bang, Rock & Roll - Technically an import, but too awesome to ignore
  6. Sage Francis - A Healthy Distrust - Best hip hop CD this year...at least until Danger Doom comes out that is
  7. Damien Jurado - On My Way To Absence - Oh Damien, why must you be so awesome?
  8. The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan - Nice change of pace from the blues rock heroes
  9. Black Mountain - Black Mountain - 21st century Sabbath
  10. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning - Hate the player, don't hate the game

Honorable Mention: M. Ward - Transistor Radio, Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell - Begonias, Scott H. Biram - The Dirty Old One Man Band, John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt, Clem Snide - End of Love, Magnolia Electric Company - What Comes After the Blues, Decemberists - Picaresque, Beck - Guero, Fiery Furnaces - EP, Son Volt - Okemah and the Melody of Riot , Mary Gauthier - Mercy Now

Too early to tell: Ryan Adams - Jacksonville City Nights, Neil Young - Prarie Wind

Not sure if this counts as a 2005 release since it's a compilation of old recordings but if so it's going real high on my list cause it's fan-frickin'-tastic: Townes Van Zandt - Be Here To Love Me (Soundtrack)

Disclaimer: I'm probably forgetting some favorites here that I'll kick myself later for not remembering. Also just so you know I'm prone to completely rearranging the list from day to day/week to week.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by fellow blogger Warren St. John was book #44 of my 2005 reading list.

In 1999 St. John, a life-long Bama fan, decided to take some time off from his job working as a reporter in New York (where he would later become the first American reporter to write about the metrosexual craze) to join a group of RVers who travel from city to city to follow the Alabama football team. The book chronicles St. John's experiences on the road with these die hard fans and examines what it means to be so devoted to a team that you would take cheering them on to such an extreme level. Much like Nick Hornby did in Fever Pitch, St. John is able to poke fun at our infatuation with a seemingly meanlingess game without sounding judgemental because he's such a big fan himself.

If you want an insight into just how important football is to Southern culture this book is a great place to start. The book was recently selected by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the Top 10 books ever written about college sports. The book is well-written, funny, and unfortunately did a good job of prepping me for the whuppin' that the Alabama Crimson Tide put on my beloved Gators this weekend. Sigh.

Excerpts from the book can be found here and on NPR's site.

Review blurbs are available here.

An interview with St. John can be found on Gothamist.