31 October 2009

Your Daily Photo (Yes, I've Used This Shot Before, But Seems Appropriate Today Edition)

20090516_022 Greystone

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation: Week 8, The Picks

BS Picks (which he posted a day late, and I'm using that as my excuse as to why all of my usual Friday posting also got screwed up, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it)

My Picks (only 4 televised games because NBC doesn't schedule a night game against the World Series, so I'm throwing in Denver at Baltimore cause that's the most intriguing game not on TV in Los Angeles this week)

BALTIMORE RAVENS (-3.5) over Denver Broncos (BS: DEN)
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-12.5) over San Francisco 49ers (BS: IND)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-16.5) over Oakland Raiders (BS: SD)
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3.0) over Minnesota Vikings (BS: MIN)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-11.0) over Atlanta Falcons (BS: NO)

I can't believe I'm picking all five home favorites in these contests, yet there it is in black and white pixels (unless you have your monitor set in some bizarre way, but if you do, I don't want to know about it).

Baltimore are better than their record, each of their losses having been games they could have won, while Denver are worse than their perfect record indicates, as they've gotten some very good breaks in a few of their wins.

Indianapolis are beasts right now, and San Francisco are not capable of putting up too much of a fight on the road, so the big spread doesn't matter.

Likewise, Oakland has given up, so a road trip down to San Diego won't be inspiring enough to get them going, and San Diego ought to win by four TDs or more, not just the 16.5 points the bookies set the spread at.

The big, big, huge, really, really significant game of the week is the rematch of the Minny Favres vs the Green Bay Ex-Favres. I think the Ex-Favres will have the upper hand, even if half the stadium still end up wearing their old #4 jerseys out of habit while lustily booing their former religious icon.

On Monday Night Football, New Orleans are going to light up the score board, again. Atlanta doesn't have a defense that can slow down the Saints, and they don't have an offense that can keep up, so the Saints should cover that 11 point spread without breaking a sweat, or resorting to having Reggie Bush leap six yards in the air along the side line while just skimming the ball inside the end zone marker (though he may pull off that ridiculous feat, just for the fun of it, video below, at least until the No Fun League asserts their copyright on the clip).

30 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (22 of 22) Bob Dylan, Christmas in the Heart

Damn straight I'm reviewing Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart to close out this 22 reviews in 22 weekdays during October project I set before myself.

Above, Must Be Santa Claus, and yes, that is Bob Dylan rocking out with the Polka arrangement (first done by Brave Combo). Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on your accordion tolerance level), there are no other polka versions on this album, one is unexpected campy fun, more wouldn't be.

Given that all the songs are well known standards that just about every major commercial artist under the sun has taken a crack at, there are a few questions any performer has to ask of themselves before hitting the recording booth (unless they're just after a holiday-themed paycheck, in which case, the only question is how to promote the sucker and get prominently displayed in all the major retailers).

Those questions:

What would be unique about my performance?
Do I love and respect this material?
Will my existing fans enjoy this excursion down nostalgia lane?
Will this appeal beyond my own fan base?

As far as Dylan goes, I think only one of those questions mattered to him personally, and that is, "Do I love and respect this material?", and his answer is a pure unadulterated yes. I don't think there's ever been a more sincerely felt Christmas album released, period. There's a palpable sense that Dylan loves this music with a simple, open hearted sincerity.

As far as the other questions go, "What would be unique about my performance?", well, Dylan's vocal style, matched with these ultra traditional arrangements is definitely unique. Whether that's a plus, or a minus, is up to each listener to judge. For me, while the concept seems discordant, the results are harmonious. The super slick and old fashioned arrangements are at such odds with his gravelly and eccentric phrasing, that there's an unexpected tension brought to every line that's sung. His presence brings a new context to each of these songs, even as he presents them in the most traditional of arrangements and orchestrations.

As far as the third and fourth question, "Will my fans like it, and will I attract new fans", I think this album will be considered a failure. Dylan fans aren't likely to appreciate how sincerely he loves the kind of music that they themselves likely sneered at as teens and adults back in the 60s and 70s. Like his excursion into Gospel and Country, that Dylan is not the Dylan that most Dylan fans adore and respect. The people that would enjoy the unabashedly pre-rock era feel to the musical arrangement (and especially the back-up singers, who sound borrowed from Mitch Miller, or Lawrence Welk) will be turned off by Dylan's gravelly growl.

Personally, I like the tension between these two things, a straight up Dylan folk album has no appeal to me personally, but neither does a traditional Christmas album with a sweeter voiced singer in the lead. This jarring melding of two styles that would seem to have little in common, or little likelihood of mating easily, actually gives this album its appeal.

This album succeeds (at least to my ears), because of Dylan's sincerity. If there was a hint of ironic detachment, or if it seemed Dylan was just trying to cash in on Christmas spending, this would be a disaster. There's none of that, the title of the album is apt, Dylan loves this music, wholeheartedly, if he didn't have "Christmas in the Heart", he wouldn't have been able to pull this off. There are moments that almost sound ridiculous, but Dylan's enthusiasm saves him from sounding like a bizarre karaoke act.

I think it's that sincerity that turns off some reviewers (like the one Althouse linked when the album was released two weeks ago), but that review was a review of the concept of a Dylan Christmas album rather than the particular execution of such a project. There is no conceivable convergence of Christmas album and Bob Dylan that a reviewer like that one would have liked, so he used his review as an excuse to try out a few one-liners.

This album's not for everyone, but, it's unique, and once you get past the shock of the concept of it, I think it begins to make sense, and it has the benefit of being the product of an unaffected joy, coupled with love of the material. That kind of purity of purpose you don't come across every day when shopping for Christmas tunes. So, you could do worse, or you could dig up the original versions of these tunes if you can't get past his voice with these songs, but as a collection of traditional tunes, presented affectionately and passionately, you aren't going to do better.

Your Daily Photo (No Sea Shell Pasties For This Mermaid Edition)

20091001_019 Wilshire

(I knew I forgot to do something yesterday, we'll all pretend this was really posted on Oct 30th, and everything will be OK)

29 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (21 of 22) Dead By Sunrise, Out of Ashes

Out of Ashes, from Dead By Sunrise is the first album from the side project of Linkin Park's lead singer, and members of "death pop" band, Orgy.

Not the most auspicious of lineage, yet this album does rock pretty damn hard.

Crawl Back In, above, is pretty typical of what you get on the rest of the album. There's more than a touch of 90s grunge, there's a fair amount of 80s hair metal hooks, and for good measure, a hint of 00s flavored emo, all thrown into a blender, topped with Chester Bennington's solid vocals.

It's slick stuff, but in a good way. If you've got a hankering for well executed pop flavored hard rock, you could do a lot worse than download this beast.

Your Daily Photo (Pull Up a Seat, If You Can Find It Edition)

20090503_007 Backyard

28 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (20 of 22) Tegan and Sara, Sainthood

Hell - Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara MySpace Video

Tegan and Sara's latest, Sainthood, came out this week, and it's a mighty fine album. Above, the video for Hell. This song gives you a good idea of the hook driven nature of the whole album. The album is available to stream at myspace, so give it a listen.

It's an enjoyable album, one I think other reviewers are crediting with complexity and depth that isn't actually there. A song like On Directing is well written with a nice hook, but when I first heard it, my thought wasn't that is some groundbreakingly complex alterna-pop, my first thought was, this would be a lot more interesting if it were on the Selena Gomez album (and there are a lot more similarities with that album, and this one, than there are differences)

This whole album is well done current version art pop, that has a tendency to sound an awful lot like well done early 80s version art pop. Good thing I like early 80s art pop. The best summary I can think of for this album is that it's "art music for pop people", and it's "pop music for art people". What makes this album interesting is that there is no tension between those two states, it's both those things at the same time.

Your Daily Photo (There's a Beauty Hidden in All the Ugliness Edition)

20091024_006 60 FWY

27 October 2009

Your Daily Photo (Some Photos Move Edition)

After my fever broke, I headed out to the backyard to try out taking short video clips with my camera mounted to a monopod. Results vary, even with a monopod, it's difficult to be steady enough to shoot unshaky shots with a telephoto lens. Still, it looks pretty good in 720p, and when I was in focus, it's sharp. Flickr has a limit of 90 seconds per clip, as their philosophy on hosted video clips is that they are more of a photo+ deal, rather than a real video service like YouTube.

And anybody tells you all the bees have died, are full of crap, they aren't all dead, there are plenty buzzing around the groundcover in my backyard.

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (19 of 22) Wolfmother, Cosmic Egg

Above, the video for New Moon Rising from Wolfmother's latest, Cosmic Egg.

It's a fine album, even after a major line-up change, the same Wolfmother formula comes through. The songs are propulsive, hard, and perfect for when you want some uncomplicated metal noisiness in your life.

The Deluxe edition is 16 songs of crunchy chorded goodness (double CD in physical media, but if you follow the above link you can buy the mp3 download for the same price as the 8 song version, so go ahead and treat yourself to the extra album of material). None of the songs are exactly essential, but none of them are throwaways, either. It might have been tighter as a single 10 or 11 track CD, but the I wouldn't be able to decide which tracks to cut, so I'm glad they just put them out there for folks to hear.

26 October 2009

RESULTS: Weekly NFL Related Humiliation: Week 7

The Picks:

San Diego Chargers (-4.5) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (BS: KC)
Minnesota Vikings (+4.0) over PITTSBURGH STEELERS (BS: MIN)
Atlanta Falcons (+4.0) over DALLAS COWBOYS (BS: ATL)
NEW YORK GIANTS (-7.0) over Arizona Cardinals (BS: ARI)
Philadelphia Eagles (-7.0) over WASHINGTON REDSKINS (BS: PHI)


San Diego Chargers 37 (3-3), Kansas City Chiefs 7 (1-6) (Woohoo!)
Blowout win by the Chargers on the road against a division rival. Would have meant more had they pulled off this feat this past Monday against the undefeated Broncos rather than the lowly Chiefs. If this version of the Bolts shows up again the rest of the season, they have a chance to catch Denver, but hard to trust them.

Minnesota Vikings 17 (6-1), Pittsburgh Steelers 27 (5-2) (D'oh)
Minnesota drops their first game, and the Steelers quietly move up to 5-2, despite looking mediocre in most of their games. Both offenses struggled, each producing a single TD in the game, but a 77 yd fumble return for a TD, and an 82 yd TAINT (touchdown after INT) by Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter made up for their offensive ineptitude. Minnesota dominated the game statistically on offense (386 total yards to 259), but couldn't overcome those turnovers. Still don't think the Steelers will make the playoffs, and still expect Minnesota to make it to the NFC Championship, but they'll have to take care of the ball, and do a better job with scoring in the red zone (1-5 against Pittsburgh).

Atlanta Falcons 21 (4-2), Dallas Cowboys 37 (4-2) (D'oh)
Atlanta's secondary made Tony Romo look brilliant. Won't get easier for the Falcon's defense as they're traveling to New Orleans on Monday. If Tony Romo can pick them apart, then Drew Brees will anihilate them. Wouldn't get too excited about Dallas just yet, they're still decidedly mediocre.

Arizona Cardinals 24 (4-2), New York Giants 17 (5-2) (D'oh)
On the bright side for the Giants, they were terrible, yet had a chance to tie the game in the 4th quarter, before Manning let loose his 3rd INT. Arizona aren't looking like a team that's likely to make it back to the Superbowl, but they have to feel good about their chances to keep their division lead in the weak NFC West.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 (4-2), Washington Redskins 17 (2-5) (Woohoo!)
Despite the score, the Eagles stole this game. Their offense was inept, producing zero trips inside the red zone, but they got TDs on a trick play, a long pass play, and a TAINT. Had the Redskins defense shown a bit more discipline and prevented a few big plays, they could have ground out a 14-6 win. The Redskins have a lot of talent, but when 17 points is the best your team can manage (3 times, all losses), can't expect too many victories.

Mostly a lousy week of football. Bill Simmons tweeted a link to this Matt Youmans column about the bookmakers getting beaten up by the bettors because of all the blowouts on Sunday. The way I pick which games to pick (the televised games), means that most of these horrible teams aren't part of my five picks, so I don't get the benefit of fattening up my record with obvious picks against St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland.

Another bad week of picks, totals up to a 2-3 week for me, and an equally bad 2-3 week for My Nemesis, Bill Simmons. For the season, I fall to 14-21 while Bill Simmons total is slightly less impressive than last week, but still decent at 22-13.

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (18 of 22) Q-Tip, Kamaal/The Abstract

Q-Tip's follow up to his 1999 solo debut, The Renaissance, was originally slated to come out in 2002, but Kamaal/The Abstract got shelved by the label cause they didn't think a jazzy-fusiony-electronicaish release from Q-Tip had much commercial potential.

Luckily, with the massive downturn in music sales, suddenly modest sales goals seem worth pursuing.

It's a fantastic album, it's more in line with the kind of acid jazz that was almost popular in the early 90s from the likes of US3, Digable Planets, and Brand New Heavies.

Currently, you can stream the whole album at Q-Tip's myspace page, so give it a spin. It's far heavier on the jazz side of the equation than it is on the hip hop, but it's well executed, well performed, hook driven, jazz, so nobody should let its jazziness scare them away.

It's a shame there's no market for this kind of stuff, but seems the musical vocabulary that's acceptable within radio friendly hip-hop/rap has been extremely narrow for the past couple of decades. The sound changes, but whatever the sound of the moment is, that's the only sound you'll hear on the radio, so any 'rap' artist that tries to expand those boundaries is going to get shut out, and other outlets also are dismissive of embracing a 'rap' artist, assuming all they're putting out is the currently popular style.

Only four weekdays left in BLOGTOBER, I'm hoping to listen to Wolfmother's new album tomorrow, and I'll wind up this project by reviewing Dylan's Christmas album on Friday, you'll just have to tune in and find out what Wednesday and Thursday will bring.


Incredible, CNN's abyssmal ratings from 7-11pm ET has nothing to do with how boring their programming is, it's all Lou Dobbs fault (according to the first four commenters at the NYT Media Decoder blogpost on the subject).

Nevermind that Lou Dobbs is only on from 7-8pm, and while his numbers are terrible, they're in line with the rest of the lineup.

I'm sure whatever CNN replaces Lou Dobbs with when he leaves, will do even worse (can an Andrew Sullivan Hour be far behind, they could replace one fake token 'conservative' who hasn't been a conservative for years with another 'conservative' who no longer believes in conservatism).

I don't like Lou Dobbs personally, his brand of populism veers into many bad territories. While there's some areas where libertarians, populist, and social conservatives agree, the populist are the most likely of those three to demand government 'does something' about the things they don't like. I disagree with much that comes out of the social conservative movement, as well, but for the most part, their solution is, let us be and don't force us to pay taxes to fund acts we find reprehensible, more than, let us use the massive apparatus of government to impose our will on others (though as far as progressives are concerned, not spending government funds on something is tantamount to prohibiting that thing).

Lou Dobbs might sound like a conservative or libertarian to the 'progressives' who enjoy the rest of CNN's programming, but he seems to me more like an opportunistic populist who takes whatever position will sell his current book.

Rumor is he wants on Fox Business, but if Fox was smart, they'll leave him alone.

Your Daily Photo (Mega-Gandhi SMASH!!! Edition)


I know it's supposed to be a statue dedicated to peace, love, and all that crap, but something about this Gandhi statue suggests a rampaging Kaiju like figure to me, more than a man of peace.

BLOGTOBER 2009: Feverish, Yet Brilliant Ideas Edition

Maybe it's the fever talking, but after reading this Jezebel article that would suggest Christina Hendricks might be free to do another series, I have the perfect pitch for her.

Christina Hendricks as SHAFT.

Now here me out, the 'origin' story for a buxom red-head playing the private dick who is a sex machine to all the chicks would go as follows:

Hendricks plays a woman who beds the aging, now in his 70s with a heart condition original model John Shaft (getting Roundtree to reprise his role would be a must), and in the culmination of their passion, he dies, but his spirit and mind transfer to Hendricks in that final climax.

So, you have Christina Hendricks running around finishing all of Shaft's unfinished business, and behaving like an all around badass. So part of the series is her being her, and her being him, and the conflict that causes. I'm confident that she wouldn't do a Dushku (see, series: Dollhouse) and not be able to pull off such an acting challenge.

It would mainly be your usual 'quirky' cop show (like two thirds of all scripted TV that gets produced currently, it seems), but having the twist of a hot chick with dual personalities at its core.

Explain to me how this wouldn't be seventeen different flavors of awesome?

25 October 2009

Your Daily Photo (This Is What Happens When You Forget to Exfoliate Edition)


Above, a California Sycamore, with a skin bark condition. Below, a slideshow of the whole set of shots I snapped at the UCR Botanic Gardens on Saturday.

24 October 2009

Your Daily Photo (It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas, Even Though It's Only Oct 24th! Edition)


Taken at Mission Inn, Riverside, they can't wait for Christmas, apparently, skipped right past Halloween and Thanksgiving.

23 October 2009

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation: Week 7, The Picks

BS Picks: (in a sidebar, the column is part 1 of his NBA preview, part 2, here)

My picks (home teams, ALL CAPS)

San Diego Chargers (-4.5) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (BS: KC)
Minnesota Vikings (+4.0) over PITTSBURGH STEELERS (BS: MIN)
Atlanta Falcons (+4.0) over DALLAS COWBOYS (BS: ATL)
NEW YORK GIANTS (-7.0) over Arizona Cardinals (BS: ARI)
Philadelphia Eagles (-7.0) over WASHINGTON REDSKINS (BS: PHI)

It's an almost all road team week with my picks (the exception being the GIANTS on Sunday Night). San Diego can't be as bad as they looked recently, and the Chiefs are one of the bottom six teams in the league, so even if the Chargers suck, they don't suck so hard where they can't beat up on the lowly Chiefs. Minnesota will maintain their spot in the unbeaten club as they slip by a so-so and unmotivated championship team, that previous year Superbowl hangover is a tough thing to fight. Recent NFL history is full of stinker seasons the year after Superbowl success (New England, the exception in 2004 when they repeated). Atlanta ought to be able to make easy work of Dallas. Arizona will struggle more than the Giants will in foul weather at the Meadowlands, though Eli's history with wind makes this a riskier pick than at first glance. Monday night brings a stinky bit of NFC East craptacularity. The Redskins have given up, they want their coach fired, and they'll make a solid case for it when they fall by more than 3 TDs to their division rival, Eagles.

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (17 of 22) Kings of Convenience, Declaration of Dependence

Declaration of Dependence, the latest from Kings of Convenience, Norway's favorite indie folk-pop duo, hit stores this week.

The track, Boat Behind (video above), gives some idea of their style. They make excellent use of strings, an acoustic bass, on that track. There's a nicely executed organic feel to the whole project, and their voices blend perfectly. Two part harmonies that sound this effortless are rare to come by. Mrs. Cold is another fine track, all the elements work together really well.

This sort of pop is easy to get wrong, these Norsemen manage to keep it simple, and simply beautiful. Their style is extremely economical, nothing is wasted, there's no fat, just the good stuff (I'll try and do the same with my review, in sum, the whole album is full of good stuff, if either video appeals, you'll like the rest of it).

Your Daily Photo (A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell Like Today's Daily Photo Edition)


If I could post this photo in 'scratch and sniff' mode, would that be sweet?

22 October 2009

RESULTS: Weekly NFL Related Humiliation: Week 6

Oops, almost forgot to tally my results from Week 6 NFL Related Humiliation. It was another so-so week.

The picks:

Baltimore Ravens (+3) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS (BS: MIN)
NEW ORLEAN SAINTS (-3) over New York Giants (BS: NO)
NEW YORK JETS (-9.5) over Buffalo Bills (BS: NYJ)
Chicago Bears (+3.5) over ATLANTA FALCONS (BS: ATL)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-3.5) over Denver Broncos (BS: DEN)

The results:

Baltimore Ravens 31 (3-3), Minnesota Vikings 33 (6-0) (Woohoo!)
Baltimore's comeback fell short in the win loss column, but they made it where it counts, against the spread. The Vikings rampage to 6-0, but have looked beatable in many of their games. Baltimore continues to struggle defensively, while their offense looks pretty good. If they tighten up a bit on defense, they could finish the season strongly, or maybe they've gotten old and teams will continue to be able to exploit their overly aggressive schemes.

New York Giants 27 (5-1), New Orleans Saints 48 (5-0) (Woohoo!)
New Orleans were far more impressive in staying undefeated than the Vikings were. They appear unstoppable on offense, and opportunistic on defense. Brees has been incredible, while Eli looked more his like late career father, Archie, rather than nearly perfect at the moment brother, Peyton. I guess you can't go home again, don't think Eli enjoyed his first game at the Superdome much. New Orleans will find a way to lose a few games this season, so New England's recent 16-0 season isn't in jeopardy, and by playoff time, other teams might have enough tape on this offensive juggernaut to find some ways to attack in on defense, but at the moment, the Saints offense makes them nearly unbeatable. As far as the Giants go, I blame Joe Girardi, he over-managed in that game (even though he's a manager in a completely different sport, he managed to screw up the Giants, too, this week).

Buffalo Bills 16OT (2-4), New York Jets 13 (3-3) (D'oh)
The Bills are in disarray, they were on the road, and their rookie QB was poised to come back from a couple of bad weeks, or not. Jets stink. Buffalo stink only slightly less.

Chicago Bears 14 (3-2), Atlanta Falcons 21 (4-1) (D'oh)
Bears moved the ball (383 yrd offense, 33:54 time of possession), but 3 turnovers (2 in the Red Zone) turned what should have been an impressive Bears victory, into a defeat. Any record from 6-10 to 11-5 could be possible for that team. The Falcons continue to look really good, and should be considered the favorites to snatch the top wildcard slot in the NFC (they aren't catching New Orleans in the NFC South, so a 12-4 record and a wildcard playoff spot is the best they can hope for)

Denver Broncos 34 (6-0), San Diego 23 (2-3) (D'oh)
I give up on the Chargers. As far as the Broncos go, they continue to win, running their record to a surprising 6-0, behind solid work from Kyle Orton. Given their schedule, they could still drop 6 of their next 8, so that playoff spot isn't theirs yet, but if San Diego doesn't turn things around, nobody else in the AFC West will catch them, and even if they stumble to a 9-7 record, they'd still win their division.

I ended up 2-3, while My Nemesis, Bill Simmons, went 3-2. Another week of mediocrity brings my season total to a still craptacular 12-18, while BS runs his record up to a still impressive 20-10. I've got work to do to catch up.

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (16 of 22) Sherwood, QU

One of the side benefits of this project I've assigned myself of reviewing a new(ish) album each weekday during the month of October, has been that I've gone deeper into the ZunePass catalog, listening to bands that I might otherwise have skipped.

Some, have been deleted quickly after the first run through, others have found their way into my current rotation, and a few others have lead me to seek out older work from that artist, cause their latest is solid work.

That's the case for Sherwood, their latest QU, is a solid bit of indie-rock goodness. They come from up the coast (SLO town, reprezant!) and for the past few years they've put out a couple of excellent albums.

Above, the band running through, You Are, from QU, it's a live run through, a little different from the recorded version, but not much. It shows off their style, and strengths. Solid musicianship, decent hooks (I'm really into hooks lately, can't help it), and the occasional harmony.

Another lively live session for their song, Not Gonna Love, and the same strengths can be heard on this track. The studio version on the album has a lot more pop polish, and in this case it helps, but the version in the video is pretty good, too.

Their sound isn't groundbreaking, but it's got a freshness, openness, and sincerity that a lot of other indie bands lack (I'm looking at you all you 'cooler than thou' bands that come out of the various boroughs of NYC). In press, they cite The Beach Boys as a major influence and inspiration, and it's evident in their approach.

It's indie music, without any darkness, it's sunny, and laid back, just like the town that spawned them.

Your Daily Photo (Unicycles Really Don't Seem Like the Most Convenient Rides for the Purposes of Commuting Edition)


Spotted on Wilshire Blvd, this past Saturday, snapped from the passenger window as we drove by. Seems difficult enough to use one of those things unencumbered, but riding those, on one of the busiest streets on the Westside, on the road, while carrying things, seems foolhardy, at best.

The fanny pack, visor, and bicycle shorts, complete the look, however.

21 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (15 of 22) MoZella, Belle Isle

In today's edition of BLOGTOBER Music Reviews, I'm trying out MoZella's Belle Isle.

Above, the video for Magic (Oh Oh Oh), if you are wondering why it sounds familiar even though you've never heard of MoZella before, it's cause this song is on a Verizon commercial. Her big break a few years back was when Mercedes picked one of her songs for a big campaign, and her music has been used for Nivea commercial, too.

The whole album is background to a commercial or Teen Drama friendly, and that's not meant as an insult. Each song has a strong hook, well performed vocals, and an easy feel. Nothing wrong with an artist getting paid, and with the collapsing music industry, artists have to get their voices heard any way they can.

Can't imagine this being anyone's favorite album, but it's also not an album that you can find a lot of faults with. It's middle of the road in every way, but it's perfectly executed middle of the road music, and there's a place for that sort of thing (as a nice hook to hang an ad campaign on, apparently). This is a very solid album, polished in every aspect (maybe a touch too polished, for my tastes).

She has a series of "Under the Covers" videos posted on her YouTube account, and they're pretty interesting. She's got a nice vocal style, that holds together when stripped down to just her and a guitar. In some ways I like her in stripped down coffee house mode better than the studio stuff, her voice is compelling enough to not need everything else going on around it.

Every Time a Blogger Links to Fox News, A Kitten Dies!!!

Good thing I hate cats... (here are today's top three links that are certain to kill kittens and piss off the Obama Administration)

Cheney: Obama's Afghan War Strategy 'Bears Striking Resemblance' to Bush's
Cheney stating the obvious. Unfortunately, the obvious sometimes needs restating, given the urge to ignore and bury the obvious that seems to persist throughout large chunks of those that are supposed to report on what's happening in the world. At least Pres. Obama got Karzai to hold a runoff, I can't say I approve of the tactics he used. Inflicting Sen. John Kerry on poor Pres. Karzai would seem to me to be a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Obama's Appearances at Fundraisers Outpace Presidents Bush and Clinton
This is just evil spin from that evil Foxnews. While it's true that Obama seems to have remained in perpetual campaign mode as President, whether it be fundraising, making speeches better suited for the stump than for a President, or inserting himself into state political races, it's wrong to point out these facts. He's going to need that money to get re-elected in 2012, and getting re-elected is far more important to him and his administration than actually governing effectively.

President Obama, Don't Create an Enemies List
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander chastised Pres. Obama for his apparent Nixonian habit of having an enemies list (a list, which I'm proud to say, I was on, at least as of Jan 24th, not sure where I stand now, though I suspect LGF has dropped off the list). The Administration sent out their jackals to the Sunday shows this weekend to specifically name Fox News as a non-news network, even Nixon wasn't so bold. If it hadn't already been apparent that was how he and his administration would operate from the beginning of his campaign, this would be shocking. The only shocking thing is that it has taken this many months for more people to realize how Nixonian the Obama Administration behaves.

Your Daily Photo (That's Just Your Every Day Baby Blue Harley Sighting Edition)


20 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (14 of 22) Bebel Gilberto, All In One

Bebel Gilberto's new album, All In One, came out last month, and it's a good one.

At this time (don't know how much longer), Ela (On My Way), is available for FREE from Amazon, so at least download that track.

It's a bit retro-bossa nova, a bit retro-soul, a bit jazzy, and it's all held together by Bebel's breathy vocals. She's better singing in her native tongue, than in English, but that's not to say her songs in English are bad, they just aren't as good as the songs she sings in Portuguese. This album respects its musical predecessors, without being confined by the genres that spawned it. It's both original and familiar, and throughout there's a playfulness that's refreshing.

All the songs go down easy, like a [insert simile here that evokes a Carioca street scene, and depending on your tolerance for dirty talk, may include references to prostitution, or if you a more PG-rated simile, a perfectly mixed Caipirinha].

Your Daily Photo (They Fixed Flickr So I Can Post Today Edition)


Shot at the Exposition Park Rose Garden, this past Saturday.

Flickr went down for a bit, but it's back up, no big deal.

19 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (13 of 22) Karen O and the Kids, Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack

Karen O, of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, has put together a bunch of original songs to go along with the recently released Spike Jonze adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are.

At first blush, it seems as odd of a choice as Spike doing the film in the first place, and looking for music that stands on its own outside of the context of a kids movie is also something that seems like a bad idea.

In this case, though, it's not. The tracks created are interesting, varied, and are enjoyable as songs in of themselves. I think the constraint of trying to fit her style into this context has actually helped Karen O's performance and musical instincts. Her singing is sweeter, less affected than what you find on any Yeah Yeah Yeahs' album, and while the same 'indie' spirit is evident to the arrangements, the melodies are generally more emotionally connected than her other work (and I say that as a fan, they are great at what they do, but there is a coolness and an overtly mannered disaffected pose at work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs that isn't present here).

The main theme, All Is Love, is a standout track, as is the quieter more contemplative, Hideaway, and the song Animal hits the right rumpus-y tone, without going too far crazy with it.

There's a twanginess to Karen's vocal delivery that suggests she has an amazing rootsy/rockabilly country album in her should she ever decide to go in that direction for an album or two.

So, even if the idea of turning Sendak's short (and narratively extremely simple) children's book into a completely different Hollywood film appalls you, you shouldn't let that keep you from checking out the soundtrack.

Your Daily Photo (A Bodacious Day for Buddies of the Bud, or Maybe Not, Edition)

20091001_056 Wilshire

US Attornery General, Eric Holder, claims his Justice Department will back off on prosecution of potheads in states where they've legalized medical marijuana.

This sort of half-assery is not a solution. Sham 'medical' dispensaries, like the one above, are a joke (I don't know for a certainty that the above shop is shady, but given the name, the storefront doctor right next to it, it's location near UCLA, all signs point to shaminess). People who want to get high shouldn't have to commit fraud to do so (in conspiracy with shady doctors). Either stuff should be legal, or not, the 'medical' marijuana loophole is ridiculous.

There's still too large of a grey area, and with that grey area you get selective enforcement. The feds are deferring to states, but even within the states that have legalized the sticky icky, you are going to get politically motivated crackdowns by law enforcement officials who want to burnish their 'law and order' bona fides. The same day the AP reports on AG Holder's new guidelines, there's a story about Los Angeles County District Attorney (and likely 2013 mayoral candidate) Steve Cooley stepping up raids on shops that are suspected of playing a bit loose with the 'medical' aspect of medical marijuana.

Here's what I said on the subject of decriminilization during the election when past statements from then Candidate Obama were making the rounds

I've always found that position asinine. Either something is legal, or not. Decriminilization is a dodge, sets people up for selective prosecution or fines, and makes the job of police and prosecutors more, not less, complicated.

(and if you follow that link, please ignore what I wrote about that Fairey poster, I was very wrong about that one, didn't expect so many to be so eagerly gullible for an Obama-centric cult of personality)

18 October 2009

Your Daily Photo (Why Do It In the Road? Edition)


Snap of a CHP officer running a traffic break to clear I-10 of some debris. Didn't really seem like the kind of debris that warranted shutting down the freeway, but people do swerve to not hit stuff, and that in of itself can cause problems.

Still, if I was stuck just behind that Crown Vic, and saw that all the officer was picking up was bottles and other trash, I'd be a bit perturbed. If he's going to stop traffic, I want at least medium sized mammal carcasses or a sofa to be the obstruction being cleared.

And if you do choose to do it in the road, please pick up after yourself...

16 October 2009

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation: Week 6, The Picks

BS Picks:

My Picks

Baltimore Ravens (+3) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS (BS: MIN)
NEW ORLEAN SAINTS (-3) over New York Giants (BS: NO)
NEW YORK JETS (-9.5) over Buffalo Bills (BS: NYJ)
Chicago Bears (+3.5) over ATLANTA FALCONS (BS: ATL)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-3.5) over Denver Broncos (BS: DEN)

I expect Minnesota to not play well after their bye week, while Ravens will bounce back from consecutive close losses.

The other early game is the game of the week, and a possible NFC Championship preview. New Orleans looks too powerful on offense, and they have a suddenly decent defense to go with it, so they should match whatever the Giants try to do on either side of the ball.

The Jets have a big spread to cover, but against the woeful Bills, they should have no problem doing it.

Da Bears will look like Da Bears for a week, and Atlanta will only be so-so.

The Chargers will finally make the Broncos look average, some team has to do it at some point, I simply can't fathom the Broncos being 6-0 after Monday Night.

BLOGTOBER 2009: Britons Not So Great Anymore, But At Least Their Government Takes Bovine Hapiness Seriously, Edition

Today's edition of You Couldn't Make It Up comes from Yorkshire, where a farmer has been fined £150 for 'failing to meet the psychological and ethological needs' of a cow.

I still can't believe I've just written that sentence.

Ronald Norcliffe's offence was to keep his cattle in a barn without electric light. When did that become a crime?

Richard Littlejohn speaks truth to bureaucrats in his latest "Debate" piece for the Daily Mail.


(and I feel so mature for not making any "Dick Littlejohn" jokes, though I know there's a 'Dick Littlejohn is Daily Mail's Master Debater' joke in their somewhere)

BLOGTOBER 2009: Uncanny Valley, Even Monkeys Hate It...

Science Daily has a write up on some Princeton researchers who get a thrill out of freaking out Macaques.

That researchers enjoy freaking out monkeys shouldn't come as a surprise, freaking out primates is as fun as a barrel full of monkeys on acid laced viagra, but what's interesting about this particular monkey freaking out, is that they find evidence that the well documented human aversion to almost human like objects and images can be found in at least one of our primate cousins (and by well documented, I of course mean anecdotal and purely hypothetical, yet of such obvious trueness that even without experimental data to back up claims the ring of truth resounds on this particular hypothesis).

(via Freakonomics)

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (12 of 22) MeShell NdegeOcello, Devil's Halo

Above, a recent interview with the greatest bassist alive, in support of her latest, Devil's Halo.

This is MeShell in pissed off bitter mood, like her album from a decade ago, the aptly titled Bitter.

Like on that album, these songs provide equal doses of sadness, bitterness, and beauty. It's not a concoction for everyone, nor is it the kind of album you're going to throw on at a party or make a part of your workout mix.

What you do have is amazing musicianship, well crafted grooves, and silky vocals.

It's easy to run out of superlatives when trying to describe how incredibly well she does what she does, and how raw and open she is in her songwriting and vocal performances. There's nobody else like her.

Yet, that doesn't mean I expect everyone to download this album, it's challenging stuff, and people use music in their lives for a variety of personal reasons. So you may be turned off by all the things that I find so amazing.

Your Daily Photo (Aloha, Bet You Were Expecting Another Shirt, Edition)


Your expectations? I like to thwart them.

I pushed the color curves, and added the palette knife filter in photoshop to give this a semi-Turneresque look.

I think I was semi-successful.

The 'as shot' version is below


15 October 2009

Happy Birthday, Fela (Fella)

It's Fela's birthday, here are three tracks dug up on YouTube to celebrate.

First up Zombie, that Fela fella could seriously play the horn. This song has everything, and then some.

Next up, a live performance of Black President.

Last up, Sorrow Tears and Blood.

And if you are in NYC, go to FELA! on Broadway, already...

(has there ever been a bad musical theater experience that ended in an exclamation point?)

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (11 of 22) Nellie McKay, Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day

If you like this album, you're probably a racist!

Nellie McKay doing the tribute album thing with songs popularized by Doris Day is an interesting choice. Vocally, and stylistically, there's a fit, but content-wise and narratively speaking it's a big shift in attitude compared to her past work.

There has to be something different enough about the 'tribute' versions to make them compelling enough not to dig up the original recordings. Rather than trying to out sing Doris Day, McKay sticks with a traditional vocal style while surrounding those vocals in stripped down settings when compared to the big band sound of the original recordings.

Here's a direct comparison of their differing approaches on The Very Thought of You

It's a smart approach, it works well, and it makes this an album both a worthy tribute to an artist she clearly admires, as well as a work that stands on its own as something new and fresh.

Bet you were wondering when I'd get around to explaining the first sentence of this post. Well, the above video is Ms. McKay explaining why then about to be inaugurated Pres. Obama needed to resist the inexorable lurch rightward experienced by left of center candidates once they take power.

Wonder if she's pleased or upset with Pres. Obama in the near nine months that have passed since then?

Wonder if we'll see a story soon about an 'inaugural baby boom' as lefty Obamatons got so caught up in Hope n' Change last January that they couldn't keep their hands and genitals off of each other?

(unlike folks on the left, I can enjoy an artists work, irrespective of their political viewpoint, and I respect their right to voice that opinion, and wouldn't attempt to limit their business opportunities just because I don't like their politics)

(that's as close as I'll come to commenting on the Rush Limbaugh/St.Louis Rams nonsense)

(if this makes it more likely that an L.A. based group will get control of that team and bring them here, all I have to say is, YOU BASTARDS!)

And if it isn't obvious, anyone who likes Doris Day music from the 40s and 50s must be a racist given that I bet a bunch of those evil segregationist loved Doris back in the day and bought her records over buying superior versions of the same songs by artists like Nat King Cole, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald.

So, while this is a good album, Nellie McKay must be a racist, or is cynically trying to snap up the racist dollar (and since so many Americans are still racist, that's a good business move), or else she would have made a tribute to Ella or Billie, instead.

This is a fine album, but it's just the kind of thing that if some country singer who had made some odd comments about Pres. Obama, then Nellie McKay and her like would have called them racist.

Britons Not So Great Anymore, Pub Crawl Edition

I could make Britons Not So Great Anymore a daily feature with all the horrible and lurid accounts of their skidding culture posted over at Dailymail.co.uk.

But, urinating on a war memorial, that takes the cake.

(also, I find it amusing that they pixelate the stream)

Your Non-Daily Video (Dockweiler Beach Edition)

I forget my camera also does video. Because of the rolling shutter problem, shots where the camera stays mostly stationary are best. Also, since you have to focus manually, that places another limit on the kinds of scenes you can capture, on top of that there's a five minute limit to recording, so it's a limited tool (also, I don't have proper editing software for video, and now that record companies have gotten much better at finding their material used in clips, means you have to go with boring rights free music, the live sound at the scene, audio free, or come up with my own tunes a la James Lileks).

Still, guess I can post the occasional video, but the things I do well with this camera when taking stills do not serve in shooting video, and the subjects I like don't lend themselves to video, either.

Thank You, California Energy Commission for Enacting Regulations That Will Enable an Exciting and Profitable Side Business...

Idiocy, pure idiocy.

Intended consequence, lower energy usage, more efficient TVs being sold, and the reintroduction of unicorns into the wild.

(I may have made up the unicorn part)

Real world effects:

An exciting new business opportunity for TV smugglers. Their regulatory reach only extends to the sales of new televisions, not to the possession or ongoing operation of less efficient designs. Someone needs to tell our commissioners that California isn't an island, that there is no part of the state that is more than a 4 hour drive from some other state where you will still be able to buy any kind of TV you want (assuming Oregon, Nevada and Arizona don't get stupid and join our commissioners in their ill thought out bit of regulatory overreach).

It won't take many TV smugglers driving to and from their homebase to a neighboring state with big ass TVs in their gas guzzlers to eat up the supposed energy savings by limiting consumer options on larger TV screen purchases within California. So, say good bye to high end sales in state, and say hello to a steady stream of large TVs being ferried by private parties after being purchased elsewhere.

If energy use is too high, then quit subsidizing electricity and folks will figure out that a 46 inch TV that doesn't produce a massive electrical bill is a better value than a 58 inch TV that leads to massive monthly costs.

They're attacking the problem from the wrong end. Energy is the life blood of modern economies, rather than micromanaging folks' choices in how they choose to equip their entertainment center (first they came for the big TVs, next they'll go after high powered audio systems, those crank out huge wattage, as well), the California Energy Commission should commission and fast track the building of more power plants. The greenest, cleanest, and potentially cheapest power available with current technologies remains nuclear power. If it's good enough for France, Japan, India, and even Brazil, then it damn well is good enough for the people of California.

If we create a robust energy grid that produces no carbon, then we can be green, while also charge far lower energy rates than our neighbors, thereby making California attractive for industry again. As an added bonus to the 'build lots of nuclear plants' approach, we can handle the added demand on the grid should electric vehicles take off, and make the operation of them vastly cheaper than traditional vehicles (right now they are about three times cheaper per mile than an efficient gas powered car, but with all the other headaches, they aren't an attractive choice, make them ten or twenty times cheaper, and then folks will be more willing to put up with the tradeoffs when compared to gas powered vehicles)

But, that's too reasonable an approach, and nuclear power remains demonized, so instead our commissioners commit the kind of micromanaging stupidity that makes California a place to visit, and not a place to stay, for more and more folks.

(I'm avoiding ranting about how the LAT article reads like a press release from the Commission, how it parrots the assumptions made by the commission without question, and how it doesn't address how these sort of bans will just drive sales to neighboring states without changing consumer habits, it's the usual job of slanting coverage through what's not said that anyone who chooses to pay attention comes to expect from the usual suspects)

But, driving an Element as I do, I figure with the back seats out, I can carry 4-5 big screens at a time, so thanks for the business opportunity. The proceeds from a monthly smuggling run should be able to pay for hotel and gaming fun in Las Vegas about once a month, so I really should be thanking you fellas for coming up with such a great idea.

Your Daily Photo (Aloha, and That Green Shirt is Really Green, But Also Has Plenty of Gold, Edition)


(at some point in the near future, I may have to post a 'daily photo' that isn't a snap of a hawaiian shirt, but today's not that day)

14 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (10 of 22) The Flaming Lips, Embryonic

...and now for something completely different, it's The Flaming Lips with their latest, Embryonic.

It's a big sprawling mess of an album, in a good way.

How messy? Messy enough to include the above song (which is charmingly messy, in my opinion). Tells you a lot about this band that they choose this as their first official video from this album.

It's rare for me to be at a loss in trying to describe what other albums and acts a particular new release resembles. The Flaming Lips are pretty unique, and like all things unique, they aren't for everyone, nor are they trying to be. There are hints of other bands, but only hints, and the overall feeling is all its own.

This album does not invite you in, it seems to exist primarily for the amusement of the musicians themselves. This is not a radio friendly (not even NPR friendly) unit pusher, nor will you be hearing these tracks selling electronic devices or in the background of your favorite show on network television.

Not that there's anything wrong with music that is radio or CW show friendly, but sometimes it's interesting to explore music that isn't.

This isn't an album I can recommend or not recommend, it's something you kind of have to listen to yourself to decide if it's an indulgent mess, or a courageously risky expression of artistic individualism.

Your Daily Photo (Aloha, and That Blue Shirt is Really Blue, But Also Has Plenty of Orange, Edition)


13 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (09 of 22) Worldwide Groove Corporation, Midnight Sessions


More chillout downtempo music being reviewed by me, as well. Can't help it, I love me some downtempo chilled out acid jazz action.

Worldwide Groove Corporation's, Midnight Sessions is a series of standards, like the embedded Fever+Don't Fear the Reaper mash up above. You can be assured that any downtempo jazzy combo that has the musical sensibilities and sense of humor to mash up a standard like Fever and mash it up with Blue Oyster Cult and then call attention to the need for more cowbell is a band that I will endorse heartily.

All the songs on this album were previously released on Chillodesiac Lounge, Vol. 1, looks like they've been picked up by a different label, so they've reordered the songs a bit, dropped in one extra remix, and are trying to see if folks out there are willing to actually buy copies of this album rather than just steal them.

Missed them before, noticed this 'new' release now. They're worth noticing, it's very well done for what it is. I guess they went with the Midnight Sessions name to make it sound less like a compilation, and make it more obvious that these are songs designed to set a sensuous mood.

But really, at least buy yourself a copy of the Cowbell mix of Fever, that stuff is genius.

Your Daily Photo (Aloha, and That Orange Shirt is Really Orange, Edition)


12 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: I May Have to Stay at a Wynn Property This BLOGTOBER...

Wow, preach it Steve, preach it baby.

(via Drudge)

Now, it's just a matter of when, and which Wynn property to book.

The newer Encore, or its near twin Wynn, Las Vegas?

Decisions, decisions

(you'd make my choice a lot easier if you'd be really generous in my tip jar)

(what? I don't have a tip jar, dammit, I'll accept checks made out to "cash")

And speaking of Steve "No not Hotel Steve, I'm the Real Steve" Wynn, Hotel Steve Wynn would never have a diary entry like this:

I'm sitting on the couch at home in New York and watching the Vikings against the Packers. Linda is a few feet away, sewing and cheering for Brett Favre. That alone is disorienting. It's also disorienting that she's sitting to my right. In the van she was always on my left. This is how I know I'm no longer on tour, not to mention the fact that Taqueria Del Fonda just delivered a big order of chilate (spicy chicken soup). That never happened in the van.

I remain jealous of a rockin' burgundy crushed velvet smoking jacket he used to wear on stage throughout the 80s and 90s (and later, possibly, I haven't seen him in concert or around town since then, used to see him alot back in the day, and he would often have on that awesome smoking jacket of which I could never find an equal for myself).

Your Daily Photo (Aloha, and That Pink Shirt is Really Pink, Edition)


BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (08 of 22) The Raveonettes, In and Out of Control

Going a bit 'rockier' with today's BLOGTOBER 2009 music review. Columbus Day only counts as a holiday for banks and government workers, so I'm here toiling away at trying to describe what's to like about The Raveonettes latest, In and Out of Control.

I guess the first question to ask is, "which parts of this album are in control, and which are out of it?"

Short answer, it's all well under control, in a somewhat fuzztoned, hook-filled way, there's not a whole lot 'out' of control on this.

Above, Last Dance, their first single from this album, it's suitably raved up for your listening pleasure. I think this song is merely joyous, rather than a posed sort of postmodern ironically 'joyous' song (unlike the video which is very much self consciously 'faux' joyous).

There's a whole lot of wall of sound action on this album, basically a slightly twee version of early Jesus and Mary Chain is the association that comes to my mind, but your mileage may vary.

Despite the light touch, they do tackle serious subjects, Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed) is a simple little anthem about dealing with rape. It's catchy, and it's got a beat you can dance to, which is kind of odd considering it's a song about rape.

If a bouncy song about rape isn't your style, howabout a bouncy little tune about Suicide? Suicide is another catchy song, this one is about not committing suicide, so its bounciness is sort of appropriate. Some nice fuzzy surf guitar action in this song keeps it moving along.

D.r.u.g.s. is another bouncy ditty, but this time it's about dee arr gee you esss. It's not a pro-drug song, it's more or less about addiction, but mostly it's about a tight little groove with some barely there vocals whispered over the top.

If you like your vocals barely there, your guitars fuzzy, your hooks catchy, and your lyrics simple, this is your band.

No new ground for them, they do what they do, and they do it well, it's appealing on many levels, even while being a bit forgettable.

RESULTS: Weekly NFL Related Humiliation: Week 5

Woohoo! Complete, total, and utter humiliation. Weeks like these are always a bracing reminder that picking games against the spread should be done strictly for entertainment purposes only, absolutely no wagering.

The Picks:

Oakland Raiders (+15) over NY GIANTS (BS: NYG)
Dallas Cowboys (-8) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (BS: KC)
New England Patriots (-3.5) over DENVER BRONCOS (BS: DEN)
TENNESSEE TITANS (+3.5) over Indianapolis Colts (BS: IND)
NY Jets (-1.5) over MIAMI DOLPHINS (BS: MIA)

The Results:

Oakland Raiders 7, NY Giants 44 (D'oh)
I guess I have to accept that the Giants (5-0) are the best, or at least one of the top three teams in the league. And that whole bit about Oakland (1-4) being surprisingly frisky for one game, nevermind. Right now there are rumors swirling that both the Raiders and Rams might be angling to get back to Los Angeles (or City of Industry to be more precise). I think I can speak for all of Los Angeles in saying, thanks, but no thanks, we prefer both of those teams just where they are.

Dallas Cowboys 26, Kansas City Chiefs 20 (D'oh)
Missed it by that much. Once it went into overtime, then the game was over as far as the spread was concerned. And in a game pitting one awful Kansas City (0-5) team verus one slightly worse than mediocre Dallas (3-2) team, there's really no caring about this game other than from a gambling aspect, as neither of these teams will be getting even a whiff of post season action.

New England Patriots 17, Denver Broncos 20 (D'oh)
I managed not to tweet any 'yellow in front, brown in back' flavored jokes throughout this game. I feel like that's an accomplishment of sorts as those Denver Broncos (5-0) throwback jerseys were fairly hideous in HD. I've always like the late 70s to mid 80s New England (3-2) jerseys, that goofy football snapping dude in the three cornered hat on their helmet was sort of endearing. As far as the game goes, Orton keeps on getting the job done, so maybe it's time to start believing in the new and much improved Broncos. Either that, or New England just isn't very good right now, and they need to make no mistakes against decent teams if they hope to beat them.

Indianapolis Colts 31, Tennessee Titans 9 (D'oh)
Tennessee (0-5) have collapsed as a team. They are anemic on offense, and porous on defense. That'll earn you a 0-5 start in the NFL. Meanwhile, Indianapolis (5-0) are riding one near perfect Peyton Manning performance after another. If he keeps this up, the Manning v Manning in the Superbowl hype is going to get crazy by week 10 or so. In a scheduling quirk, the Colts get consecutive bye weeks coming up, and don't play a real game till November (OK, not really, but they are off week 6, and play St. Louis week 7, so that's as close to back to back bye weeks as you can get), after that they are going to be involved in some real games, so don't expect an undefeated season from them, and even after this fast start they could stumble to a 10-6 record.

New York Jets 27, Miami Dolphins 31 (D'oh)
New York (3-2) have dropped two in a row, and allowed Miami (2-3) to ram the wildcat down their throat in the closing minutes to snatch away a game that looked like the Jets should have won. Also, who knew Ricky Williams was still capable of being Ricky Williams? When their gimmicks work, Miami looks pretty good, and they have a solid defense, they probably aren't very good overall, but they can compete, and replacement Chad is probably an upgrade over old Chad, so they might be looking at a sort of respectable 8-8 or 9-7 year. The Jets are going to have to tighten up and play the kind of defense they did in their first three victories if they want to look like a playoff team again.

So, that was that, a perfectly dreadful 0-5 week, while My Nemesis had a perfect 5-0 week. I probably wouldn't have picked the Raiders, but for noticing that all my other picks went against Bill Simmons' picks, so I flipped that one just for the heck of it, and I thought there might have been a chance that the Giants would overlook the Raiders, but that didn't happen. At least his beloved BoSox got swept by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, there is some small comfort in that (along with the real Los Angeles baseball team, Los Dodgers, also sweeping their series).

Season totals, I drop to a craptacular 10-15, while Bill Simmons leaps to an impressive 17-8. Next week I won't pick against him just to pick against him.

And I didn't lie, last week in the results I wrote, "Im done with mediocrity, next week I'll bring some spectacularity to my picks.". You can be a spectacular success, or a spectacular failure, in being spectacular I didn't fail, and in failing I was spectacular.

11 October 2009

Your Daily Photo (Yes You Can, Use This Photo As an Excuse to Link Classical Values Edition)

20090511_005 Long Exposures

Here's more on the Pepsi-Obama convergence and what it means to market a President as if he were a soft drink, or what it means to sell cola using political ideology, or whatever (my May 11 daily photo was of a different shot of the same billboard)

And speaking of Pepsi, this continues to be the best pop cultural reference regarding Pepsi (in my opinion)

10 October 2009

Your Daily Photo (Traffic on the Ten Edition)


Above, taken last week. Went to Westridge-Canyon Back Park today, but too hazy for good pics, chance for rain next week, so that might help make the scenery a bit more photogenic.

09 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (07 of 22) Zero 7, Yeah Ghost

It's another downtempo/electronica outfit that's been putting out interesting stuff since the late 90s/early 00s. This time it's Zero 7's turn to pump out some fresh sounds with the release of Yeah Ghost.

Here's a link to a live session of Medicine Man from their new album. Gorgeous video, good song, gives you a sense of the feel of their latest work.

A lot of the songs are pretty damn soulful, a few are a bit twee, all have a swirl of interesting textures throughout the production. They really are masters of downtempo and moody electronica.

This is another case of a solid band doing what they do well, but it doesn't surpass their best work, and a better introduction to their work would be to seek out their fantastic first album, Simple Things (still in the running for best of 2001).

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation: Week 5, The Picks

BS Picks:

My Picks

Oakland Raiders (+15) over NY GIANTS (BS: NYG)
Dallas Cowboys (-8) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (BS: KC)
New England Patriots (-3.5) over DENVER BRONCOS (BS: DEN)
TENNESSEE TITANS (+3.5) over Indianapolis Colts (BS: IND)
NY Jets (-1.5) over MIAMI DOLPHINS (BS: MIA)

That's right, I'm picking against every Bill Simmons pick, and I bet that'll be a successful strategy for the week. This might be the worst slate of games in a long time. The televised games are mostly dreadful, and the contests not being broadcast are even worse. Only the Sunday afternoon game might prove to be mildly interesting, the rest are easily ignored. It'll be a good Sunday to head somewhere to take some snaps, hopefully the weather will cooperate.

The Raiders will be surprisingly frisky, and the Giants will play horribly, but win by less than two TDs.

Dallas will dominate a bad team, doesn't make them a good team, just makes them a team that can beat up bad teams.

New England will knock Denver out of the ranks of the unbeaten, and it's about time.

Tennessee will finally put together a decent game at the expense of the Colts.

On Monday night, The Jets will bounce back from last week's loss, and Miami will be woeful at home.

Your Daily Photo (Posted Without Comment Edition)


LOL Obama ?!?

In honor of his recently announced Nobel Peace Prize, I present to you, LOL Obama (been awhile since I've done a 'Commentary by Means of LOL Speak', though there isn't any actual LOL Speak in the caption, if I made a caption that suggested Pres. Obama spoke in LOL style bad grammar, I'd probably be accused of racism...)


(the original can be found, here)

(and I'm ignoring the White House's interpretation of their copyright on this photo, besides, this is a satirical reinterpetation of the original photograph, and falls under fair use as far as I'm concerned)

08 October 2009

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (06 of 22) Air, Love 2

Another release from a venerable Electronica act. This time it's Air with Love 2. Their first album, Moon Safari, was one of the best of its kind more than ten years ago.

Their latest isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. Here's a link to the video for Sing Sang Sung, the first official single from the album. Soak up its mellow goodness.

The whole album is really chill. So, when you want something downtempo but with interesting melodies, this will do the trick.

My favorite track is Night Hunter, it's got a nice tempo and a bouncy little rhythm line working.

Their first album is the only one of theirs that's essential, but this album is better than many of their follow ups, and certainly won't dissapoint if you are already a fan of their sound.

This isn't a groundbreaking album, and they're still a couple of French dudes, but if you can get passed that, and you have a hankering for something a bit chilly, give this album a spin.

Your Daily Photo (That's What a Hamburger's All About Edition)


07 October 2009

There's a Joke Regarding Glow in the Dark Marital Aids Somewhere In There . . .

Great news from University of Missouri (via Gizmodo via Boing Boing)

Batteries can power anything from small sensors to large systems. While scientists are finding ways to make them smaller but even more powerful, problems can arise when these batteries are much larger and heavier than the devices themselves. University of Missouri researchers are developing a nuclear energy source that is smaller, lighter and more efficient.

“To provide enough power, we need certain methods with high energy density,” said Jae Kwon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU. “The radioisotope battery can provide power density that is six orders of magnitude higher than chemical batteries.”

Kwon and his research team have been working on building a small nuclear battery, currently the size and thickness of a penny, intended to power various micro/nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS). Although nuclear batteries can pose concerns, Kwon said they are safe.

The only thing that would have made this story more awesome, was if Raekwon the Chef was involved somehow in developing this along with Jae Kwon the Assistant Professor.

It's Funny Because It's True, BLOGTOBER 2009 Edition

Came across this while reading the comments to this Gizmodo Explains: post on why you should almost never even think about using the flash on your camera (easiest way to link to a bunch of comments is to screencap them)

OK, it's probably not true, but it is funny.

BLOGTOBER 2009: Music Reviews (05 of 22) Basement Jaxx, Scars

Basement Jaxx put out their first album since 2006 last month. Scars continues with their usual slew of guest vocalist, and this bunch is especially eclectic, don't like Kelis on Scars, don't worry, you 've got Yo Majesty on Twerk, or the surprisingly effective Yoko Ono on Day of the Sunflowers (We March On).

The songs are as varied as the guest vocalist, from the spare electro-hip hop of Scars, to the dub step of Saga (featuring Santigold), to the Funkadelic-ish She's No Good (featuring Eli 'paperboy' Reed).

It's a crazy journey, one I personally enjoyed going on, I'm sure this isn't for everyone, but it worked for me.

Your Daily Photo (Mind Your Speed Edition)


Obey all speed limits, at least if anyone who can write you a ticket is watching...

Lakers Chat, Part 2010: The Artestening . . .

The Lakers kick off their title defense with a pre-season match-up against Golden State from the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Last year about this time, I predicted that the Lakers would rattle off 30 straight victories to start the season and not have any losses in the 2008 portion of the 2008-9 season. That may have been a bit optimistic, but looking back on those games, they had only lost 5 by that date, and only the Detroit game was one that they didn't have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

Things worked out, though, they didn't set any regular season records (except for most wins by a team that had no win streaks of greater than seven games, but that's a pretty obscure record, and was a testament to both their consistency, and their inconsistency throughout both the season and the playoffs), but they did win what mattered, the championship.

This year, they are a bit of a mystery. They've made some big changes to their core rotation, and until they play together, there's no way to know if they've improved on a 65 win, championship team, or if the returning players are a year older and a bit too satisfied, and if their new player is too volatile to be helpful when it counts.

Stuff like this (from this SI article), isn't encouraging
Artest, 29, may be one of the league's most well-known players, but he often carries himself like a struggling rapper trying to make a name for himself with a grassroots marketing campaign and a penchant for saying yes to just about anything. Just weeks before the season he was on TV raising money for the Hasidic Jewish movement Chabad-Lubavitch, volunteering at an Iranian basketball camp, walking dogs at an animal shelter and taking some of his Twitter followers to a WNBA game, breakfast and bowling. Every time you turned around Artest was at another event, one more random than the next.

He seems to have made a point to win over Los Angeles one Lakers fan at time, though he doesn't exactly see it like that. "These things that I do aren't for anything. They have no purpose," Artest said. "I'm not promoting anything or selling nothing. I just want to have fun and meet my fans."

There are many things that Artest does that have no purpose. For example, for an interview with SI.com the other day, Artest hired Natalin Avci, a 23-year-old Turkish model he had met recently in a hotel lobby, and a camera crew for a photo shoot for the heck of it. "The only purpose is to have fun," Artest said.

The photo shoot is understandable (just click and check it out, if you are chatting up a stunning model while hanging out in a hotel lobby, you'd probably find a credible excuse to get you and her semi-clothed, as well), the rest is Artest being Artest.

For a championship team, with all but Ariza returning, and his replacement of Artest being an upgrade (at least on paper), the Lakers should be without question the favorite to become the first team since the Lakers "Threepeat" team to win back to back championships.

But Artest is Artest, and unless Farmar or Brown make a huge leap this season, the Lakers are very weak at point guard. Kobe is a year older and despite only being 31 has played an insane amount of competitive basketball the past two years, he played all 82 the past two seasons, plus 23 playoff games in 08 and 21 games in 09, plus the Olympics. Odom's colorful off season (between the contract negotiations and the sudden marriage) might effect him on the court, given that he's always been a bit moody and inconsistent, all that's gone on isn't likely to help matters. Gasol played international ball again this summer, so he's logged a lot of minutes over the past few years (like Kobe), but if Bynum steps up and stays healthy, that takes a lot of pressure off him. The role players need to be consistent so that the starters can play lighter minutes in the regular season, last year they started great, and each had some major slumps at different times during the season.

All that said, they could open the season winning every game leading up to their Christmas battle against Cleveland, or they could struggle to a 17-10 start. They start the season with only four road games in their first 21 games, with only two sets of back to back games, so they again have a solid opportunity to have the longest unbeaten streak to begin a season (the number to surpass is 15 wins by the 93-94 Rockets, and the 48-49 Washington Capitols), or they might drop their opening night game against the not so lowly anymore Clippers.

Preseason might give some answers as to where they are as a team, but on paper, this team could challenge the 72 wins put up by the 95-96 Bulls, at the very least they are (barring injuries) a lock to win at least 60 this year.

And as a reminder to how successful the Lakers franchise has been, if they make another Finals this year (and they are solid favorites to win the Western Conference), that'd make 31 Finals in 62 years of NBA basketball.