Monday, December 19, 2005

Best of 2005

I didn't buy that much new music in 2005, but here are a few of my faves from the past year. There are many others (Magnolia Electric Co., Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Iron & Wine, just to name a few), but the following have seen high rotation at home and in the car this year.

Son Volt - “Okemah and the Melody of Riot”
I blogged about this one when it came out in July. I wasn't expecting to be blown away. Jay Farrar's last two solo albums were good, but nothing like his earlier Son Volt albums. To be honest, when I heard that this new disc was done without the Boquist brothers I was expecting another Farrar solo album. Thankfully "Okemah" sounds like something new while still holding onto that Son Volt sound circa 1995, best thing Farrar has done since "Trace".

The New Pornographers- “Twin Cinema”
I came on board late with The New Pornographers, but have been a fan of Neko Case since “Furnace Room Lullaby”. There is not a bad song on this album, great musicians and probably as close to perfect as you are going to get this year. I have heard their live shows are not to be missed.

Sleater-Kinney- “The Woods”
What is this, their 7th album? I consider myself lucky to have seen this threesome a few times in Olympia and Portland years ago, so their new one, and first on SubPop I think, was welcomed by me. Corin Tucker’s lyrics and furious guitar work are hard for some to handle, this is not a daily listen, but it has its time and place. Some of the hardest drumming I have heard in a long time, Janet Weiss resurrects Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker. Favorite track: “What’s Mine is Yours”

My Morning Jacket- “Z”
Like a big, bold red wine, can’t get enough of this one.

Paul Weller- “As Is Now”
I just picked this one up, his best since “Wild Wood”, but not better than “Wild Wood”. It’s growing on me with every listen.

Crooked Fingers- “Dignity and Shame”
Eric Bachman's best yet.

Coldplay- “X & Y”
My wife bought this for my birthday. The critics didn’t like this one, but I have to say it keeps finding its way into my cd player. We all have our guilty pleasures.

The Mountain Goats- “The Sunset Tree”
I really wanted to see TMG play when he passed through Boston, but missed out. In my opinion John Darnielle really comes into his own on “Sunset Tree”, I appreciate the production and his lyrics are brilliant.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- “Howl”
Departing from their Brit Pop sound of earlier albums, BRMC goes bare bones and heads south. I read somewhere online that this album is “Johnny Cash meets Love & Rockets”. Good enough for me.

Daniel Lanois- “Belladonna”
I was lucky enough to find this one in the used bin at my local record shop. This was playing when my son was born in July. Will always remind me of the beach and summer.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Make Mine Mod

One of my interests is architecture and I am always on the lookout for cool and innovative designs. I stumbled across this website from the L.A. based architecture firm of Marmol Radziner that designs and sells these solar powered modular houses. Their prices start at $215,000 for a 1,000 square foot one-bedroom home. Not exactly affordable housing, but with today's rising real estate and construction costs, these modern designs might catch on in some locales. Looks like a cool company as well. The prefab has come a long way for sure.

Marmol Radziner & Associates AIA

Listening to: Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder- Talking Timbuktu

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pirates and Crackheads

I'm sure you have all heard about the cruise ship getting attacked by pirates. I don't know about you, but I find some comfort knowing there are still pirates out there. I do think if you are going to call yourself a pirate though you should have to carry a sword and wear an eye patch.

You gotta read this. Too funny!

Listening to: Talking Heads- Fear of Music

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Head of the Weir 2005

Rog and I competed in the 18th Annual Head of the Weir in Hull on Saturday. We had planned on doing this race last month, but it was postponed due to heavy rains. This open water rowing race is open to all rowing boats, mostly lifesaving rowboats and ocean rowing shells, but there were about 10 kayaks, including us. A raucous and friendly crowd for sure, everyone was out to have fun and nobody seemed too serious, well except for that one dude in the spandex tights.

Because of the heavy fog on Saturday, the course had to be adjusted some. Originally we were supposed to go from the Weir River in Hingham, across Hull Bay, and ending at the Windmill Point Boathouse in Hull. The new course began in the Weir River, we then paddled to the mouth of the river, out near Bumpkin Island where we turned around and paddled passed the tip of World's End, and ending at the town pier in Hull. The paddling was fun, though the fog made it tough to navigate. The fog was so thick at times that I couldn't see the boat in front of me, in fact I almost missed the finish line. We finished in just under an hour, which I think is pretty good, considering the fog. Official results should be posted in the next couple of days.

This was a great event, cool people and a challenging course. We will definitely be back next year.

Listening to: Calexico/Iron and Wine- In the Reins

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Lilac City Remembered

Spokane, Spokanistan, SpokeVegas, the 'Kane, Spokaloo, call it what you will. I called Spokane home for three years, from 1991-1994. Actually, I lived about 15 miles from Spokane, but spent most of my time in the city. I have always rooted for the underdog, and there is no greater underdog in the Pacific Northwest than Spokane. This city of 200,000 is usually described by most who visit as tragically unhip. Located on the dry, eastern side of the Cascades, Spokane is all too often in the cultural rain shadow of Seattle or Portland. I believe this is due to the conservative politics that dominate the region, stemming from its history as a mining and farming center. Spokane does have a small core of dedicated Democrats and libertarians however, sharing the West's live-and-let-live philosophy. A very small core.

Like the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team, Spokane has had it's moments- the World's Fair was held in the city in 1974, which many believe was Spokane's 15 minutes of fame, and they are probably right. Waterfront Park, built for the World's Fair, is in need of a makeover, though I hear there have been some improvements to this downtown park since the last time I passed through (in 1999). If you ever find yourself in downtown Spokane, get out of the car for a moment and check out the waterfalls. The waterfalls on the Spokane River are impressive.

Mullets and bad chain restaurants aside, Spokane will always have a place in my heart. When traveling to new places I always try to search out the local eateries and bars that make each town unique. Even in a town like Spokane there were a few cool spots to eat, drink, and listen to music. I may be going out on a limb here, but here are a few reasons to give Spokane a break:
  • Big Mamu Burritos- Creative burritos with an African influence
  • David's Pizza- 99 cent slices and punk music on the stereo
  • Viking Tavern- Smokey pub with over 100 beers, from Bud to $27 pitchers of Belgium brew. I'm sure I have lung cancer from all the second hand smoke I inhaled while drinking there.
  • Mars Hotel- I heard it recently burned down, but in the day it was a cool venue to see music and had one of the only lounges downtown.
  • 4 Season's Coffee- Classic coffeehouse, great place to hang on a rainy Sunday afternoon
  • Birkebeiner Brewing Company- Great handcrafted beer and blues
  • Browne's Addition- This tree-lined neighborhood built on a bluff has classic Queen Anne style architecture and views of the Spokane River. Still affordable I hear.
  • Minnehaha Park- Rock climbing and access to mountain biking in the city, just be careful of the broken glass and used condoms.

Listening to: The Rolling Stones- Black and Blue

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Who Knew Bobby Weir Paddled?

It's been a hell of a long time since I've posted anything, over a month I suppose. No excuses, been busy with work and the family. We spent last weekend at a friend's condo in Sunday River, Maine. I was hoping to do some hiking with my daughter, but it pissed rain all weekend. We made the best of it though, still good to get away. Driving up late Friday night I hit a deer that was dead in the road. The Subaru came out of it unscathed, the kids never woke up, but it scared the shit out of me for sure.

This weekend I am paddling in the 18th Annual Head of the Weir with Rog, should be fun. It's a 5 plus mile paddle from Hingham, past Bumpkin Island, across Hull Bay, to the Windmill Point Boathouse in Hull. This year the race is open to all gigs, single and double livery boats, currachs, kayaks, and ocean shells. We will be paddling our sea kayaks against some of the best collegiate paddlers from New England and New York, I hope we smoke their asses. It's been raining all week, with no end in sight, so it should make for an exciting race. I will post our results on Monday.

Cheers, and have a good weekend.

Listening To: Thelonious Monk- Straight, No Chaser

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Fall Music Preview

Today, as it does every year in early September, The Boston Globe publishes it's comprehensive lineup of upcoming music and arts. Here are a few of my picks for the Boston area this Fall.

September 25- Paul Weller & Ian Moore @ Avalon, Boston
September 30- Hot Tuna Acoustic @ Narrows Center, Fall River
October 1- The Bad Plus @ Somerville Theatre, Somerville
October 3- Built to Spill @ Avalon, Boston
October 6- Daniel Lanois & Tortoise @ Somerville Theatre, Somerville
October 6- Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra @ Iron Horse, Northhampton
October 19- Henry Rollins Spoken Word @ Berklee Performance Center
October 23- Son Volt @ Paradise, Boston
October 27- The Mountain Goats @ Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
October 28- James McMurtry @ Johnny D's, Somerville
November 2- David Lindley @ Iron Horse, Northhampton
November 3- David Lindley @ Johnny D's, Somerville
December 10- Kelly Jo Phelps @ Narrows Center, Fall River

If I could I would buy a ticket for all of the above, but obviously that isn't happening. I will have to pick two, maybe three shows. Right now I'm thinking of Daniel Lanois & Tortoise, Henry Rollins, and Son Volt. If I'm lucky I may be able to sneak in one more show if it falls on a weekend. I'd love to see BTS and Paul Weller again, both put on fantastic shows the last time they played in Boston.

Listening to: Peter Case- Flying Saucer Blues

Friday, September 09, 2005

W. and Bill O'Reilly have Jumped the Couch

According to, the term "jump the couch" has become slang for "a defining moment when you know someone has gone off the deep end", we can thank Tom Cruise's insane behavior on "Oprah" for this one.

So when did Bush first jump the couch? Personally, I think it was in 2003 when he stood on the deck of that Navy aircraft carrier claiming "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, and how many people have died in Iraq since then? If there was ever any doubt, Bush's actions the past couple of months solidifies his incompetence. The following article by Maureen Dowd (published just days before Hurricane Katrina unloaded on the Gulf Coast) does a good job summing up the Bush administration's leap off the sofa. I don't always agree with everything Dowd writes, but I think this one's worth a read. Thanks to Fawn at Impervious Surface for the heads up and link to this article.

Bike-Deep in the Big Muddy

W. and his administration of spinsters never ceases to amaze me with their shenanigans. The very fact that Bush has spent the better part of the past two months on vacation is enough to make me question his stability. How can Bush and Cheney kick back in Texas and Wyoming, hosting BBQ's and flyfishing, when soldiers are dying everyday in Iraq?
I'm sorry, but when you are President and your country is fighting a war you got us into, you don't get a vacation, it goes with the territory. It has almost gotten to the point where I have stopped listening, I don't know how much more I can take. I have come to question everything they say and do.

This article, also written by Dowd, was published after the hurricane leveled New Orleans, and sheds light on the administration's further incompetence.

United States of Shame

I really despise Bill O'Reilly from Fox News. I can't stand watching him, and I do not understand how anyone can take him seriously. Here is what Bill O'Reilly said a few nights ago about the people who were stuck in New Orleans last week.

"If you're poor, you're powerless. That's why the poor got smashed in the hurricane zone. Columnist Liz Smith wrote that I failed to 'give the poor any advice on how one finds a proper education or a job.' Liz Smith is extremely fair and accurate, so I am pleased to respond to her. The USA has mandatory education, but nobody can force you to learn. If you refuse to do the work, you're going to be ill-equipped, and all the government programs in the world are not going to change that. Every American kid should be required to watch video of the poor in New Orleans and how they suffered because they couldn't get out of town. And every teacher should tell the students that if you refuse to learn, you will be poor and powerless. One does not 'find' an education. Public education is free, libraries are free, and scholarships are everywhere. For centuries charlatans have been telling Americans that government will provide, and you deserve to be provided for. Bull! Depend on yourself - get educated, get smart, and get personal resources. That is the lesson of Katrina."

Are you kidding me Bill? Do you really believe this? So the people stranded in the Superdome and Convention Center deserved to suffer and die? While it is true that education is the key to a better life, that is only a small piece of the problem. There is no mention of the institutional racism that still exists in this country that doesn't allow everyone the same opportunities to education. No mention of the fact that our schools (and most major cities) are just as segregated today as they were in 1967. And what about the government's lack of response during those first days?

I'm crawling back into my hole.

Listening to: Bob Dylan- Time Out of Mind

Saturday, September 03, 2005

10 Things To Do #8

A while back I posted a list of ten things, in no particular order, that I want to accomplish before I die. I thought it would be helpful for me to explain each thing on the list, more as an inspiration for me to keep striving to accomplish them someday. I already blogged about goal #3, kayaking the length of the Columbia River, here is #8 on the list.

Spend a month without seeing or speaking to another person.

Of all the things I want to accomplish on my list, this one may be the most difficult. Given the fact that I have a family and a job that requires me to talk to real people I may not get the chance to spend a month sans people for quite some time, but what good are goals that are easy to accomplish?

Why would a sane person want to spend a month without talking to anyone else? Let's just say spending that much time alone allows you the freedom to figure out your own shit. I believe we all need some headspace from time to time, to clean out the garbage that collects in our brains while we move through life.

Back in 1992 I spent 7 days on a solo backpacking trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana. If you have never been to the "Bob", I suggest you put it on your list. It is a wilderness area just south of Glacier National Park, in fact it's northern border is the southern boundary of Glacier. Most people opt to visit Glacier, so the Bob remains relatively untouched. Trails are singletrack horse paths, and it is not uncommon to see more bears than people (I saw one bear, no people, except at the trailhead).

As a college kid back in '92, I didn't really know who I was, didn't know where I was headed, but I never really slowed down enough to give myself the time to figure it out. You spend 7 days alone in the wilderness, and trust me, you get to know yourself pretty well. Driving back to Spokane from that trip I was more sure of myself, I felt like my life had a renewed purpose and I was released from the mental traps that I had allowed myself to be in. No longer did I feel like I had to fit into the mold that my family and society expected from me. It was during this trip that I also decided to move out of Eastern Washington after graduating, something I did two years later. Boise, Salt Lake City, and Bellingham were all places I considered, but Hood River, Oregon won out. Looking back on my six years in Oregon, it was a definitive point in my life, and had I not spent the time to figure out what I really wanted to do after graduation, who knows where I would be today.

So back to how I am going to accomplish this goal. I am lucky to have two months off every summer, so coming up with the time will be easy, but I'm not going to ditch my wife and family so I can go sit under a tree for a month. It is going to have to wait until my two kids are out of the house, which is going to be at least 18 years from now, and I figure by then my wife will be happy to see me go away for a month. So this one will have to wait. I also think once the young 'uns are out on their own it may be a good time for me to do a little soul searching to see what I want to do with the next chapter of my life. I love living in Massachusetts for now, it has a lot going for it, but I'm sure as hell not going to spend my retirement stuck in traffic, but that is a topic for another blog.

The second question is where would I go to get away from it all? If I am going to spend a month alone I would want a purpose or a task, like hiking through to a destination or building something. I'm NOT looking to meditate for 30 days, no dreams of finding nirvana or becoming a Buddhist, I'd go nuts in about three hours. I need to be doing something. I thought about hiking the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail, but I'm afraid I'd run into too many other hikers. I've considered sailing to the Caribbean, but again, it might be hard to avoid any contact. I might need to rethink the whole "not seeing or speaking to anyone" thing, maybe just doing it solo would be enough.

So where does one go to escape for a month? My family owns five acres on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, so that is an option. We built a small cabin on it when I was a kid, and I figure it might need to be fixed up in 15-20 years, so I could spend a month doing that. On top of that the cabin has no running water or electricity, so when I'm not repairing something I could be hauling water, preparing food, playing my guitar, or reading. Not a bad way to live for a month if you ask me. I've got some time to figure this one out, but I would appreciate any thoughts. Where would you go if you could spend a month alone?

Listening to: Son Volt- Wide Swing Tremolo

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hope in New Orleans

I had to shut the television off tonight, can't watch it anymore. It is beyond me what people are going through right now in the Gulf States. Unreal. I've read that power companies are not planning on repairing the damage, it's far too extensive. They're going to start over and redesign the entire power grid. As far as the violence and looting, all I can say is that yes, it sucks, I would hope for more unity and humanity, but most of the people involved are just trying to survive. Who's to say what you would do in a similar situation? The people of New Orleans will be remembered not based on how they act now, in these panic sticken first few days, but how they act in the coming months as the city rebuilds. I found this picture on the New Orleans Times-Picayune website, taken in the Louisiana Superdome on Tuesday, it offers some hope to what seems like a hopeless situation. Thank god kids are so resilient. I am optimistic that New Orleans will recover.

Listening to: Daniel Lanois- Shine

Friday, August 26, 2005

10 Things To Do #3

A while back I posted a list of ten things, in no particular order, that I want to accomplish before I die. I thought it would be helpful for me to explain each thing on the list, more as an inspiration for me to keep striving to accomplish them someday. So here is #3 on the list.

Kayak the entire length of the Columbia River

I am not a professional adventurer, getting out these days means sneaking in a good bike ride or maybe a paddle in my kayak while the kids are still asleep. I would love to climb the mountains of Patagonia someday, or raft a forgotten river in China, but my dream of outdoor adventure is a little closer to home for me. What I really want to do is kayak the entire length of the Columbia River, from its headwaters of Columbia Lake in British Columbia, to where the river spills into the Pacific Ocean. From the Rocky Mountains of Canada, through desert plateaus and basalt cliffs, and finally through the Columbia River Gorge to the mouth of the river. 1,243 miles, start to finish.

I grew up in Eastern Washington, fifteen miles from where the Columbia River bends westward towards the Pacific. As a teen I spent summers camping in the Cascade Mountains. In college, I spent almost as much time climbing at Smith Rocks, Oregon and kayaking on the Little Spokane River as I did in class. After college, I moved to Hood River and spent many days skiing on Mt. Hood and hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail. But it was on the Columbia River where I first sought outdoor adventure. It was on the Columbia where I caught my first fish. At eight years old, my father taught me how to paddle a canoe on the Columbia. At sixteen I taught myself to windsurf in the Columbia River Gorge.

My mind returns to the river often, especially now that I live 3000 miles away from it. While in college I paddled a 51 mile long section of the Columbia known as the Hanford Reach with my father, brother, and a friend. The Hanford Reach is the last free-flowing, nontidal stretch of the Columbia. We camped along the banks of the river for two nights, and it was while on that trip that I vowed to return someday to kayak the entire river. My father and I made plans to paddle sections of the river together, but like so many plans in life, it never happened.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of my father's death. My father loved the Columbia, and spent as much time as he could on the river. Two weeks before he died he was fishing on the Columbia. Kayaking the Columbia will help me keep a promise I made to my father fourteen years ago.

Listening to: Hot Tuna- Live at Sweetwater

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Grand Farewell

It looks like Hunter S. Thompson got his final wish. Early this morning fireworks containing ashes of the late Gonzo journalist were set off on his property near Aspen, Colorado. In attendance were about 250 of his closest family and friends, including his wife Anita, Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Sean Penn, Lyle Lovett, and members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. One report I read said Bob Dylan was even seen around Woody Creek this past week. I'm sure it was one hell of a party, just the way the good Doc would have wanted.

I was saddened to hear that Thompson took his own life last February, but I am glad he ended his life on his own terms. I first read "Fear and Loathing" in high school and again in college, along with "Hell's Angels", "The Great Shark Hunt", and most recently "Kingdom of Fear". Of all the literature I have read his writing stands out in my mind as some of the best. To this day everytime I eat a grapefruit and can't keep from smiling, thinking of Raoul Duke. If you are ever in Missoula, Montana, stop by Luke's Bar, where Thompson scratched the words "Death to the Weird" on the wall.

Mahalo Hunter.

Listening to: Beth Orton- Central Reservation

Friday, August 19, 2005

Japanese Carpentry and Yestermorrow

The past couple of weeks I have been doing a lot of reading on traditional Japanese architecture and carpentry. I'm not sure why, I haven't really been into Japanese history or culture before, but being a part-time carpenter myself I find this shit pretty cool. The methods and skills used in Japan to construct a traditional building contrast dramatically with those historically used in the United States and Europe.

The construction of monuments in Europe were almost always made of stone and brick, in China and Korea stone was primarily used for temples and shrines, while those in Japan were usually made of wood. This got me thinking, why did the Japanese builders of the time rely so heavily on wood? Being a volcanic archipelago, with an abundance of earthquakes over the centuries, wouldn't stone be a better choice for building temples and such? What I found out was that as new political regimes came into power in medieval Japan, there was an increase in the support of traditional craftsmanship, part of the reason being economic, and part of it was a way for the new rulers to make sure the workers were kept in check. What really fascinates me is the joinery used in their carpentry. Today we use mechanical fasteners (nails and screws) and hardware to join wood, but the Japanese made these incredibly intricate joints using what we would consider crude tools, no tablesaws or routers. I would never have the patience for that, but I think it is beautiful.

The other thing that fascinated me as I read was the sacred element of building. A tree is believed to possess a spirit, and when a carpenter cuts down a tree he is committing a moral sin of sorts. Because of this, the carpenter believes he must build something of beauty from the wood. Now I am also a realist, and I realize this philosophy doesn't carry over to most building done in the Western world today, but the idea is worth pondering. Afterall, if carpentry is a creative art form, and I believe it can be, then the craftsmen are the artists. Historically, in Japan at least, carpenters were often the designers as well, not so today.

A few years ago I came across a school in Vermont that believes that designers should also be able to build. The Yestermorrow Design/Build School believes that the best built homes depend on the cooperation of designers and builders. Some of their courses include not only design and building basics, but also furniture design, timberframing, metalworking, joinery, and my favorite, treehouse design (I am in the process of building a treehouse for my daughter right now). I have yet to take a course from this school, but plan to in the future.

Listening to: J.J. Cale- Troubadour

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Go Sox!

Lastnight my friend Ed and I cheered on the Red Sox as they beat the Texas Rangers 16-5. I've lived in Massachusetts for six years now and this was my first time at Fenway, so I was excited to check out this historic park. After watching the Sox win the World Series last fall I was psyched to see them play on their home turf. We had great seats behind homeplate, thanks to my sister-in-law for hooking us up. I never would have shelled out the $75.00 for a ticket. Below are a few highlights of the night.
  1. Grabbing dinner at El Pelon Taqueria before the game. Best fish tacos I have ever tasted. Nice cabbage and cucumber salad. If there is one thing I've been missing on the East coast, it's good Mexican food. I'll be back. Cheap and tasty. Definitely beats the crap they sell outside the park.
  2. Great seats right behind homeplate. Couldn't have asked for better seats for my first game.
  3. Barbara Bush threw out the first pitch, and George Sr. caught it. When Sr. walked onto the field a few democrats behind us started booing him. At least George and Barbara were wearing Red Sox jerseys.
  4. Watching the two guys in front of us eat multiple Fenway Franks hotdogs, even more beers, and topping it off with some ice cream, all while wearing suits and ties in the 90 degree heat.
  5. Speaking of Fenway Franks, when you order a dog in Fenway Park, all they give you with it is mustard, you have to ask for ketchup. What is up with this? I've noticed folks in New England don't put ketchup on their hotdogs. Where I come from ketchup is standard. The first time my now father-in-law saw me put ketchup on a dog he looked at me like I was from another planet. He still refuses to put ketchup out when we go over to their house for a BBQ, even though he knows I like it. It must be a regional thing here in Massachusetts.
  6. I paid $6.75 for a beer, but I hear beer is even more expensive in other parks.
  7. The highlight of the night for me was watching Manny Ramirez knock one out of the park off of Texas' Kenny Rogers. I'm glad the Sox didn't trade Manny a few weeks back, I really like him and he is a backbone of the team. I must say that with what the Sox are paying him, he should stop whining and deal. If he wants more privacy for his family I would suggest that he move out of the Four Seasons and head to the 'burbs, it worked for Schilling.
  8. Driving home at midnight, it was a warm night, windows down, rocking out to Uncle Tupelo's "Still Feel Gone", great late-night driving album. I wish I had had the chance to see that band when they were together.
All in all it was a great night out sans kids, it has been a long time since I have had a night like that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

House Carpenter

A couple of years ago I started a home improvement business which I run during the summers when I am not teaching. In the past I have been doing mostly small jobs; trim work, replacing doors, tile, painting, etc. I like getting in and out in 2-3 days and then moving on to something else. I am not a professionally trained carpenter but I enjoy working with wood and I have been taking on more challenging projects lately. Here a couple of pictures of a deck I just completed for a customer. I am pleased with the way it turned out. It is built on a flat roof and made of mahogany, the white hand rails are a composite material so they should be low maintenance and no worries about rot, it was fun to build as I have never had the opportunity to work with this product before.

Listening to: Kelly Joe Phelps- Shine Eyed Mister Zen

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Newport 2005- Next Best Thing to Being There

Back in 2001 I attended the Newport Folk Festival, and let me tell you it was one of the best music festivals I have ever been to. Fort Adams State Park is a great venue, cool people, and the music is unbelievable. I am not really into traditional folk music, but Newport attracts more of the singer songwriter set. The list of musicians who have played Newport is mind boggling, and to witness some of the history is an experience in itself. I will never forget Patty Larkin rocking out or Emmylou Harris singing "Pancho and Lefty" in the rain. Every summer since then I check the lineup and think about getting a ticket, but I have yet to return. This year's roster of music was stellar as usual; Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, The Pixies, Richard Thompson, Patty Larkin, Jim Lauderdale, Kasey Chambers, Thad Cockrell, etc., but I knew it wasn't in the cards to go again this year.

So this morning while drinking my coffee I decided to tune into the local radio station from Martha's Vineyard, they usually play great jazz on Sunday mornings. I was happily surprised to find that they were broadcasting live from Newport. Old Crow Medicine Show was just taking the stage, a band I'm not that familiar with, I would call them an acoustic roots jug band, playing a mix of old school blues and Appalachian fiddle tunes. They did a rendition of "C.C. Rider" that caught my attention, and I will definitely pick up a CD. Now listening to music live on the radio is not the same as being there, but for someone who doesn't get to see much live music anymore, it was still cool background music for a Sunday afternoon. Later in the day I tuned into Kasey Chamber's set, another artist I haven't listened to much, this Aussie can really let go, she and her band sounded great.

I really wanted to hear Emmylou Harris, I have seen her a few times before and her live shows are amazing, though I wish she would hook up with the boys from Spyboy again. I knew she was going to be closing the day with Elvis Costello, so I tuned in again around dinner time. Turns out Emmylou didn't make it to Newport this year because of some family emergency, but taking her place onstage were Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Now if you are not familiar with this pair, go out and buy the CD "Time (The Revelator)" right now, you will not be disappointed. I saw them in Boston last summer, so it was a treat to hear them play again. David Rawlings is one of the best guitar players out there right now, hands down, and Gillian's vocals are haunting. Sorry Emmylou couldn't make it, hope all is well with her, but Gillian and David had the crowd going.

Here is a review of the entire weekend from The Boston Globe.

I have to give props to WMVY for pulling off this live broadcast, it was cool to hear some live music from one of the greatest venues on the East Coast, just wish I could have been there, maybe next year.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Rio Statics?

During the intro. of "Grace, Too", on The Tragically Hip's album, "Live Between Us", Gordon Downie makes reference to the opening band, but I can't make out their name. The CD was recorded live in Detroit in 1996, so it may be a local Michigan band. I've tried The Hip's website and message boards, but no luck. Anyone know?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

From the Ashes

There is a house that I drive by every day on my way to work that is being restored after a fire spread through it last winter. The owners obviously had great insurance because the newly restored house looks way better than the original. This got me thinking, if all my stuff were to go up in smoke, what would I miss the most? As long as my family were okay, the answer would be not much. Other than some family pictures, I don't really own anything that couldn't be replaced by insurance. In fact, I wouldn't mind getting rid of some shit. Of all my material things, most can be put into one of four categories:
  1. Sporting Goods- bike, kayak, camping stuff, fishing pole, cross country skis, snowboard, surfboard, etc.
  2. Technology- CD's, computer, stereo, TV, camera, etc.
  3. Tools- Misc. power and hand tools
  4. Clothing and Furniture- pretty self explanatory I think
The hardest to replace would be my CD collection. Where would I start? Well, here are the first 10 CD's I would buy with that insurance check.
  1. Wilco- "Being There"
  2. John Scofield- "A Go Go"
  3. Built to Spill- "Ancient Melodies of the Future"
  4. Bob Dylan- "Desire"
  5. Los Lobos- "Colossal Head"
  6. Son Volt- "Trace"
  7. Brad Mehldau- "Art of the Trio 4 Back at the Vanguard"
  8. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros- "Streetcore"
  9. Miles Davis- "Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet"
  10. Talking Heads- "Fear of Music"
Not an easy list to compile, given the constraints, and the fact that I would probably have to buy some clothes, since they were probably destroyed in the fire also. I would definitely have to add some Neil Young and Charlie Hunter ASAP, but they would have to wait. I have not listened to some of these albums in awhile, but these are the 10 that I don't think I could live without. They will get me through about anything.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

10 Things to Do Before I Die

Below is a list of ten things I want to do before I die, in no particular order.

  1. Travel to Cuba.
  2. Build a house.
  3. Kayak the entire length of the Columbia River.
  4. Really learn to play the guitar, not just the 3 chords I know now.
  5. Surf in Hawaii.
  6. Attend Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
  7. Work at a winery.
  8. Spend a month without seeing or speaking to another person.
  9. See my kids graduate from college.
  10. Retire in Hood River, Oregon.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Rollins' Rants

I am a big fan of Henry Rollins, especially his spoken word and writing. I respect the guy for playing hard all these years, touring almost nonstop for over 20 years, and always giving 100% at whatever he is doing at the moment. In the last year he has done two spoken word tours, hosted a radio show on L.A.'s Indie 103.1 FM, and has managed to visit the troops in Afganistan, South Korea, and Japan. His most recent gig has been film critic. Have you seen his weekly movie review show on the Independent Film Channel? It kills. Most of all, I like the fact that he is a real fan of music, both old and new. I don't think he sees himself as a rock star, but as a fan, like most of us. The following is from his most recent online newsletter, in which he weighs in on some of the events of the past couple of weeks. Hank has always been up on what is going down politically. I think he sums up what a lot of us have been feeling.

"I don’t know if any of you have been following the news, but knowing this crowd, I think the answer is a yes. The aggressive moves China is making for Unocal is interesting. The for and against arguments are really something. Hearing that we would basically be giving a Communist country some really intense technology that could potentially be used against us, (which is a real concern to me and CNN’s Lou Dobbs at least) and the other side, the CATO Institute, that seems to think the sale of Unocal to China would be just dandy and no problem at all. I hope this thing doesn’t turn into a partisan issue."
"Also of interest to me is the Rove leak probe. A lot of people are weighing in on this one and it’s great to watch Scott McClellan fend off the press core and Ann Coulter and the Fox News thugs relegate all this to Liberal whining. I wish the press wasn’t so cowed by the Bush Administration. I wish more people were angry at what’s happening in Iraq."

"Interesting how the press is all over the London bombings story, as they should be, but over 200 people get blown to pieces in Iraq and it’s just some news slotted in a small space under Tiger Woods’ golf shoe."

"Also interesting and disturbing to read James Wolcott’s article, To Live and Die in Iraq, in the August Vanity Fair. In the article he pulls info from USA Today that claims an alarming statistic of vehicular deaths of vets back from Iraq and Afghanistan. “From October 2003 to September 2004, when troops first returned from Iraq, 132 soldiers died in vehicle accidents—a 28% jump from the previous 12 months. Two thirds of them were veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan.” The rate has increased 23% since then. I guess these guys and gals are coming home pretty wound up."

Henry has plans to do a U.S. spoken word tour this fall, hopefully I will be able to catch him when he hits Boston. The last time I saw him in Boston he talked for nearly 3 hours, stopping only once to drink some water. He spent a good hour on his recent USO visit to Afghanistan, and his anti-war/Bush/Cheney/Haliburton, pro-soldier views of Iraq. The funniest part of the show was his six-year "relationship" with Sheryl Crow, unbeknownst to her, and his newest "crush", Ann Coulter. He also told stories of the West Memphis 3 Tour, what it was like to play Black Flag songs again, past Rollins Band tours in England and Japan, as well as spending time with Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer before their deaths. He seemed more upbeat and optimistic than previous spoken word concerts I've heard from the past, and I forgot how funny he could be, I was in stitches the whole time.

Listening to: Peter Tosh- Live & Dangerous: Boston 1976

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Movies that Suck from People Who Don't

I recently saw the movie "Elephant" on DVD. For those of you who didn't see this film, it is the story of a day in the life of an American high school that turns tragic, but the most tragic thing about this movie for me was having to sit through it. I am usually a fan of Gus Van Sant's work (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, etc.), but I really didn't get into this one. Van Sant's imagery and cinematography are usually dead on in my opinion, but this flick had too many drawn out scenes of people walking or doing nothing. There was one scene of a character slowly walking across a football field and into the school, then walking down the halls of the school. The entire scene was shot from behind and lasted for over 5 minutes. We get it, high school is a lonely place.

This movie got me thinking though, what other films were bombs, but either starred actors I admired or were directed by people I respected? Below are two other films that I had high expectations for, but left disappointed.
  • Eyes Wide Shut- This movie was built up to be Stanley Kubrik's Last Testament, his greatest cinematic slap in the face, going "where the rainbow ends". I liked the subtle references to his other films (Clockwork Orange and The Shining), but his casting of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman ruined the film for me. Don't even get me started about Tom Cruise, I have never liked his cheesy films (please tell me, what did people see in Jerry Maguire?), and now the world knows what a dip shit he really is.
  • Lost in Translation- What did I miss from this film? I thought the soundtrack (Air, My Bloody Valentine, and Jesus & Mary Chain) was way better than the actual movie. I usually love Bill Murray, and Scarlett Johansson is easy on the eyes, but I left this movie wanting more. Directed by Sophia Coppola, I think the only reason this movie was so popular was it was directed by a Coppola, the Hollywood elite will always stroke their own.
Please feel free to add to this list.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Newest Member of the Tribe

On July 16 our son, Evan James, joined us at 4:15 in the afternoon. He weighs an impressive 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and is 21.5 inches long. Everyone is healthy, happy, and feeling very grateful. I have a new found respect for my wife. Once again, she labored for over 15 hours and delivered without any interventions or drugs. So much for the second child being easier to deliver. She was in total control of her body the entire time, it was an amazing thing to witness. Music was an important part of the labor, as it was with our first child. Thanks to chw for the head's up on Daniel Lanois' new one, "Belladonna". Lanois' pedal steel guitar and Brad Mehldau's piano were perfect, especially while my wife worked through contractions in the soaking tub. Other music that made the day included Japancakes, David Gray, Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, Ahmad Jamal, and Morcheeba.

Listening to: Built to Spill- Ancient Melodies of the Future

Friday, July 15, 2005

Okemah and the Melody of Riot

I picked up Son Volt's new album today. I have read some pretty stellar reviews of this disc, but I wasn't expecting to be blown away. Jay Farrar's last two solo albums were good, but nothing like his earlier Son Volt albums. To be honest, when I heard that this new disc was done without the Boquist brothers I was expecting another Farrar solo album. Thankfully "Okemah" sounds like something new while still holding onto that Son Volt sound circa 1995, best thing Farrar has done since "Trace" if you ask me.

Potter Heads Unite!

Let me start out this post by saying that I am not a fan of Harry Potter, fantasy is not really my bag anymore. I understand why the Harry Potter books appeal to their readers and there is no arguing J.K. Rowling is a great writer and marketer of her craft. With that said, the newest Harry Potter book is coming out tomorrow, and the entire literature world seems to be in a dither because it is going to break all kinds of records. Supposedly some of the books got loose in Canada earlier in the week and they had to put a gag order on the individuals who had them so they would not tell the ending.

Anyways, tonight my town is throwing a Potter celebration on Main Street. All the stores downtown are taking part in a Hogwart's themed scavenger hunt, with the finale being the two bookstores downtown opening their doors at midnight to all the fans who want to buy the book before anyone else. I must say that it is cool to see kids getting excited about reading what is no doubt some pretty good literature. At least this book may pry them away from the PlayStation for a few days.

Three Harry Potter observations:

  • While buying milk tonight at the store around the corner from my house I ran into a teenage gang of "Potter Heads", all decked out in their wizard costumes. They were buying up all the Red Bull and Mountain Dew in the place. I guess if you are going to stay up all weekend reading the new book you gotta stay awake.
  • A few summers back I happened to be flying cross-country on the day the 5th Potter book was released. Halfway through the flight I look over at the young kids (probably eight and eleven) sitting across the aisle from me, and instead of reading the book they were reading chapter summaries that their mom had printed for them from the net (bad mom). I asked them why they were not reading the actual book, and their response was that it was too long to read it, but all of their friends who did read the book would be talking about it on Monday, so they wanted to know the plot so they could pretend they read it. Frauds, and mom is to blame.
  • I recently read a review about an indie band called "The Harry Potters", made up of two brothers who dress up like Harry for all their shows.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Quote of the Week

While in Scotland for the G8 Summit last week, Bush took a digger on his mountain bike. Here is what he had to say about himself:

"When you ride hard on a mountain bike, sometimes you fall. Otherwise, you're not riding hard."

Wow, brilliant. I'm glad his time in Scotland was well spent.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Wait

My wife and I are expecting our second child any day now (the due date was on the 6th). She has been having contractions for two weeks now, but no signs of real labor yet. The wait is killing us both, we are sitting around all day thinking that the baby is going to decide to arrive any moment. I am done with work for the summer, so I should be happy, but I feel like I can't do anything until the baby arrives. We can't even decide what to eat for dinner. After a week of this I finally started building a shed in my backyard, but I don't know from day to day if I am going to be able to work on it. The only thing I can compare it to is a plane ride that seems to go on forever. You know those flights that never seem to end, you're tired and restless, but you can't get comfortable... This is torture.

Listening to: Coldplay- X & Y

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8 Live

I plan on checking out some of the Live 8 Live music later today, though I don't think these concerts will do a damn bit of good at the G8 Summit next week. Do you really think those involved in the summit are paying attention to what Bono is saying about African debt? I'm sure U2's record sales will skyrocket next week though. I wish there were some more African musicians on the bill, especially since the shows are supposed to be highlighting what is going on in Africa. I would have liked to have seen Ali Farka Toure or Burning Spear added to the lineup. With that said, I am excited to check out Neil Young and Coldplay's sets.

Listening to: Ernest Ranglin- Below the Bassline

Friday, July 01, 2005

Early Musical Influences

I came across the Dischord Records website last night and it got me thinking about some of the bands that I first started listening to when I was in middle and high school. Having an older brother I had already been exposed to The Police, Devo, and The Talking Heads, but it was also around this time that I started listening to Dag Nasty, Minor Threat, Black Flag, and Fugazi. Most of my friends listened to whatever was on MTV (heavy metal hairbands mostly), but our high school did have a small student radio station that played bands that MTV wouldn't touch in the mid to late 1980's. Much of the music played on this station came from the Dischord label, which was started in 1980 to document all the great punk/hardcore music coming out of the Washington D.C area. Most of these bands are not ones that I listen to on a daily basis today, but I still pull out Fugazi's "Repeater" album when I am in the mood (like tonight). During college I started listening to The Rollin's Band, though I enjoy Henry Rollins' books and his spoken word stuff more than his music, but it is the music that keeps him going I am sure. Talk about a guy who gives it his all at whatever he does. I love listening to Henry talk about hanging out with Ian MacKaye in Washington D.C. during the early eighties, that must have been something to be witness to all the great music coming out of D.C. at that time. I can only compare it to the Seattle scene of the early nineties, living in Eastern Washington I was lucky enough to see bands like The Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, and even Nirvana in smaller venues before they broke through. Bands like Fugazi and Black Flag, they had that raw, underground sound and DIY ethos that seems to be missing from much of today's music, or maybe I am not looking in the right places. I have to think that somewhere that fire is still burning.

Top Five Beer Joints

It's 4th of July weekend and I'm waiting for the rain to stop so I can get outside. I like beer, especially handcrafted beers, but I am not against drinking PBR or Molson on occasion. Here are my top 5 places to enjoy a cold one after a long day. You will notice that 4 out of the 5 are in Oregon, which is home to hundreds of great micro (and some not so micro) brews.

1. The Lucky Lab (PDX)- Hands down my favorite place to grab a beer after a long bike ride. Their brews have a high alcohol content so two pints are perfect for catching a late afternoon buzz. Sit at one of the picnic tables out back and enjoy the same bento they have been serving since they opened twelve years ago.
2. The Tugboat Brewery (PDX)- Many Portlanders don't even know this little brewery exists. It feels more like a coffeeshop than a bar. It is located in an alley downtown, just around the corner from the Church of Elvis. Fresh brews and the best nachos in town.
3. The McMenamins Edgefield (east of PDX)- This brewery is located on a former farm. The main building, with guestrooms, is a national historic landmark. There is a restaurant, pub, numerous small bars and an outside grill. Handcrafted ales and wine are made on site. Great place to see local bands as well. This was one of my favorite stops on the way back from hiking in the Gorge or skiing on Mt Hood.
4. Full Sail Brewery (Hood River)- Classic Hood River brewery since 1987, great beer and food. Sit on the deck overlooking the Columbia River.
5. Offshore Ale (Martha's Vineyard, MA)- Peanut shells on the floor, overlooking Vineyard Sound. Some of the best East Coast beer I've tasted. They even have their own band, The Offshore Cycle Band, good time rockin' blues.

Listening to: Neil Young- Live Rust

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Another Reason to Love New England

I woke up this morning and felt a slight tingle on my right forearm. Seeing the four tiny blisters I knew immediately that I had come in contact with some poison ivy while doing yard work this past weekend. For those of you who are lucky enough to live somewhere where poison ivy doesn't grow, it is a native plant here on Cape Cod that causes the worst fucking rash that is known to man. I had it so bad three years ago it spread from my wrist to arm pit, on both arms. If not treated immediately you are looking at six weeks of hell before the rash goes away. The rash starts out with these little blisters about the size of pinheads then spreads into this oozing infestation. The worst part is the oil that causes the rash can be rubbed off onto other body parts, or worse, your spouse and/or children. You want to really piss off your wife, give her a rash she will never forget. I have gone two years without getting into any poison ivy so I guess my number was up. There are many over the counter type ointments that help the itching, and if it gets real bad your doctor can put you on some steroids, but I haven't gone that route yet. My brother-in-law once had it around his ankles so bad that he poured gas on them and lit his feet on fire.

Listening to: Blue Mountain- Homegrown

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pimp My Ride

Like many people I know, I have a love/hate relationship with the automobile. I am not the type of person who needs a new car every two years, in fact I like older cars better than the crap they are turning out today. I see my car as a way to get from point A to B and as a way to haul my shit around with me (tools, lumber, kayak, surfboard, etc). If I could own any car in the world it would be a Toyota Landcruiser, not one of those $60,000 soccer mom assault vehicles, but one built sometime between 1988-1993, when they were still practical and had some soul. I just love the look and feel of them, very utilitarian. I have come to the point in my life where having a reliable ride is necessary to maintain my sanity. I need to know that at 7:00 am my car will start and get me to and from work. I can fix nearly anything around my house, but I am not a mechanic and I don't want to spend every Saturday fixing the family truckster. That being said here is a partial list of some of the cars/trucks that I have owned over the last 15 years; the good, the bad, and the ugly:

  1. 2001 Ford F150- This is my daily driver, I bought it in March. It has an eight-foot bed so it is great for hauling stuff around. I do carpentry work so it holds all my tools.
  2. 2002 Subaru Legacy- My wife and I bought this car new just before my daughter was born. It is the most practical car I have ever owned, no frills family mover. I love Subaru's, this is my second Legacy (see below), the Legacy is not as sexy as the Outback, but for $5000 less I'll take it. I wish this one had a moon roof and a stock CD player, who still plays cassette tapes in a car? With another kid due in July I was thinking we might trade this in on something a little bigger (maybe a Toyota Highlander), but I think we will make it work, at least until we pay it off.
  3. 1994 Mazda B2300 truck- I bought this truck my last year in college. Great truck, super reliable. In 1999 we drove it cross country, pulling a U-Haul trailer. I owned it for almost 10 years, putting almost 150,000 miles on it before selling it to an Australian kid who just moved to the Cape. I recently saw him driving it in town, it's cool to know it is still on the road.
  4. 1986 Subaru Legacy- I bought this car used in 1990 and drove it until the timing chain gave out while driving it from Spokane, Washington to Moscow, Idaho. Cars always seem to break down in the most inconvenient places, like when you are surrounded by nothing but wheat fields for miles. This was my first real car after high school, my friends at the time thought that I was a geek for wanting a Subaru, but this was before they were hip. I'm not claiming to be hip, I loved the car because it could hold all of my windsurfing gear. I camped in this car many times while windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge.
  5. 1973 VW Van- I paid $800 for this van, and owned it for less than a year. In that year I think I replaced almost every part on the engine. I was determined to fix it myself, and I think it was then that I vowed never to own a car that I had to contantly work on. It was great for camping though, I even lived in it one term at college, cheaper than rent.
  6. 1971 Ford LTD- My first car in high school. My uncle gave it to me after he tired of it. It was only a two-door, but was still the largest thing in my high school's parking lot. The hood seemed to go on for miles, and the massive trunk could fit two kegs or three people, just not at the same time. What little mechanical skill I possess today I learned on this car, you could actually climb in next to the engine and work on it. Very simple to maintain, unlike today's cars where you need to be a computer specialist just to change the spark plugs.
What is/was your favorite ride?

Listening to: Patty Larkin- Regrooving the Dream

Why Now?

So why start a blog of my own? Don't I have better things to be doing with my time? The answer quite simply is that my basement (where the Mac also lives) happens to be the coolest spot in the house tonight. I've been spending many hours reading other people's blogs, and I figured it was time to jump on the train. My interest in music will probably be the main focus of this blog, as will be random rants and even the occasional rave. I am a music junkie and collector, and am always checking out new tunes that people turn me onto. I live in a small coastal town about an hour and a half south of Boston, and with only one decent local record shop, my new music purchases are not as frequent these days, so it seems the wishlist grows daily. This is my first blog and it will probably take me awhile to get it up and going.

Litening to: Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot