Friday, December 29, 2006

The Revolution Will Not Be Motorized

I rode in the Critical Mass ride tonight in Boston. Typically 100-200 bicyclists will turn out for these events, but the holiday week and tonight's cold weather kept most sane people home. Before the ride started I estimated the crowd at Copley Square to be somewhere near 50-60 people. This small crowd was less about the two-wheeled circus that usually defines a Critical Mass ride, and was more about keeping one's fingers and toes warm. Once the ride began, we circled downtown and Boston Commons twice, passed through the theatre district, down Newbury Street, and across to Fenway before finally splitting up near Kenmore Square. The police were out, but only once did they try to divert us from the financial district. It was a futile attempt really, they sent a few police cars down the street we were on, but I think it was more a show of force than anything else. I have to say that the solidarity of riding in such a group is quite empowering. Usually we cyclists are alone and vulnerable on the road, I know that I ride by myself 99% of the time. To be surrounded by so many other like-minded people gives you a feeling of power in a situation where the car and driver are usually in control. I met a guy who is now living in Portland, Oregon and we got talking about the differences between the bike culture in Portland and Boston. Unlike Boston, Portland has embraced cyclists of all sorts, not just students and the occasional commuter. He stated that Critical Mass rides in Portland have become something of a joke- hundreds of people show up, the cops plan for it, they know the usual routes, and for the most part leave the cyclists alone. Portland is such a bike-friendly town, and it is clear that Boston has more of a need for events like Critical Mass, even more reason to turn out for these rides. There is still plenty of work to be done here to make the public aware and the streets safer for those of us on two-wheels. There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding Critical Mass, and I can see both sides. Some argue it does little for passing new laws that help bicyclists, not sure if that is the intent. In the past some riders have been known to break laws; running red lights and confronting/harassing drivers. Not a good thing if you are trying to change the opinions of drivers and show bicycles as viable alternatives, but I also think that any attention to bicycle transportation is a positive move, even if some choose to bend the laws a bit while doing so. I didn't see any blatant breaking of laws tonight. We didn't move over for anyone who was over zealous with their horns (it's their way of saying, "Hi, I love bikes too!"), but we stopped at major intersections, and followed the rules of the road. Did we make a difference? Who knows. If one person thinks twice before cutting off a cyclist, then we did something positive. I would like to think so.

Luckilly, these guys were not leading the ride tonight-- insane stuff:

Listening to: My Morning Jacket- It Still Moves

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wasting Time With LineRider

As if all of us weren't busy enough this time of year, but this is just too much fun to pass up. If LineRider had been around when I was in college, I highly doubt that I would have graduated. With the weather in Massachusetts in the mid-50's these days, this may be as close to sledding as I am going to get anytime soon.

And when you start feeling like a badass, check this out:

Happy Holidays to all of you!

Listening to: Los Lobos- Kiko

Monday, December 04, 2006

What I Really Want For Christmas

I love the holidays; time off from work, good food, and hopefully some playtime. For me, having a week off to spend with my family and friends is the greatest gift of all. You can keep your cable-knit sweater, I'll take a lazy week where hopefully I will get to stay in my pajamas all day. Tonight I was helping my three-year-old write a letter to good old Saint Nicholas, and out of nowhere she asks me, "Daddy, why don't you write a letter to Santa?". So here you go:

What I Really Want For Christmas

1 lb. of Stumptown Coffee
I've been living in Massachusetts for almost 7 years now, and I must say that I am close to calling myself a New Englander. I love the seasons, root for the Red Sox, and love living near the ocean, but one thing I miss about the northwest is the coffee (and the beer, but more on that later). Sure we have Starbucks, but I am talking about finding a cup of great locally roasted coffee that kicks you into high gear like the way a cup from Stumptown does. I drink Dunkin' Donuts coffee like everyone else here, but I do it out of necessity, there are just very few alternatives. It is cheap and available everywhere, and that is about it. Have you ever been in a DD store? It is like walking into a McDonald's, except McDonald's has better coffee now.

Tickets to My Morning Jacket the next time they come to Boston
My friends and I missed out on getting tickets for MMJ's show in Boston last Saturday night. We hoped to pick up some tickets from scalpers, but after about ten minutes of standing outside in the cold, we realized it was nothing more than an excercise in futility. Instead, we spent the night drinking beer and whiskey at the People's Republik in Cambridge. It was still a fun night out, but this morning I read in The Boston Globe that the concert may possibly go down as one of the best live shows ever to be played in Boston.

Burton Malolo 162 Snowboard
I don't snowboard near as much as I once did, I'm lucky if I get out once a year now, but this is one of the coolest looking boards I have ever seen- artwork by Thomas Campbell; self-taught painter, photographer, filmmaker, writer and surfer. Very cool.

1988- '90 FJ62 Toyota Landcruiser
This is my favorite vintage of Landcruiser, after 1990 they changed the body style and seemed more geared towards soccer moms. This car has soul.

The Bose Wave music system
Big things do come in small packages. In the age of digital music, I sometimes still want to listen to an entire album.

Circle A Cycles cyclocross frame
Custom bicycle frame building cooperative out of Providence, Rhode Island.

Six-pack of Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale
There is no shortage of good beer here in New England, but I really miss Mirror Pond (and the equally outstanding Black Butte Porter).

1952 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle
"Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a '52 Vincent and a red headed girl
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do
They don't have a soul like a Vincent '52" -- Richard Thompson

iMac 2.33GHz with 24 inch widescreen LCD
Living the digital life pipe dream. Serious computer envy.

Barack Obama in 2008
'Nuff said.

Happy Holidays to you!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I've Been Riding With The Ghost

Finally finished the single speed conversion on my Stumpumper the other night, and I must say I am quite pleased with the results. My goal was to do the conversion for less than $130, and the parts came in around $135.00. I am no bike tech but it was fairly straightforward, big thanks to Sheldon Brown and the good folks at Surly for all their help. I removed the old 8 speed cassette and replaced it with an 18 tooth Surly cog, the spacers are from Gussett and the tensioner is a Surly Singulator. The hardest part of the whole conversion was spacing the rear cog to get a decent chainline, and finding a 38 tooth/94 bcd chainring that fit my old Deore LX cranks. I was going to buy new brake levers, since the originals were the shifter/brake lever combos, but since I was trying to do this on the cheap I decided to just cut the shifters off, it turned out pretty slick. I grinded them down and you can't even tell.

Surly 18t cog- $20.00
Race Face 38t chainring- $40.00
Surly Singulator chain tensioner- $30.00
Chain- $25.00
Seat- $20.00
New chainring bolts- free from local bike shop

Listening to: Songs:Ohia- The Magnolia Electric Co.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jeff Tweedy's "Sunken Treasure" Movie Streamed Live Tonight

Tune in here tonight from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. to view the world premiere of Jeff Tweedy's "Sunken Treasure" movie. It is due to come out on DVD tomorrow. The film includes songs from Tweedy's 2006 solo tour and includes footage from Seattle's Moore Theater, Portland's Crystal Ballroom, Eugene's McDonald Theater, Humboldt State University, and The Fillmore in SF.

Full track listing: Sunken Treasure, Theologians, The Ruling Class, How to Fight Loneliness, Summerteeth, The Thanks I Get, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, ELT, Shot in the Arm, In a Future Age, Laminated Cat, (Was I) In Your Dreams, Airline to Heaven, Heavy Metal Drummer, War on War, Acuff Rose.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Commuting Update

I've been commuting to work on my bike for six weeks now, and it is better than I ever imagined. Every September for the past three years I have set a goal to ride to work, but until this year I have never followed through. My original goal was to ride twice a week, but it so much fun I have only driven to work 4 times since the school year started. Part of my motivation comes from my "new" ride. Actually it is my old Specialized Stumpjumper that I recently converted into a single speed. I love riding a single speed, the lack of gears frees my mind to enjoy the ride more. Part of the reason I bike to work is for the exercise, and riding a single speed provides a little better workout. There are only two hills that I encounter and I can usually climb both without getting out of the saddle. I'm still playing around with the gear ratio though, right now I'm set up with a 42/18 drivetrain, but I just ordered a 38 tooth chainring, so we will see. It's an easy commute, and if anything I wish it were longer.

I've been toying around with the idea of listening to music as I ride, not sure where I stand on this one yet. I like the idea of taking in the world around me (ocean, wind, birds, etc.) as I pedal, but one day last week I borrowed my friend's iPod and blasted TV On The Radio's new album on the way home. Not only did rocking out make me feel like a superhero, but I cut five minutes off my best time. I question the safety of it though, because my mind was definitely into the music, and I am sure I was less focused on the traffic. The jury is still out on this one.

Most motorists in my town are oblivious to cyclists, and the fact that there are no bike lanes I assumed riding to work would be like playing Russian roulette, but I feel totally safe. Most people give me enough space as they pass, even if they throw me an angry look from time to time, but usually they just look confused. Once in awhile you get the jerk in the huge-ass SUV who sees how close they can get to you as they fly by, to be expected. The route I take follows the ocean for 4 out of the 6.5 miles, and this road is not only more scenic than the more direct route to work, but it also has much less car traffic, especially at 7:00am. Riding to work gives me more energy for the day and the ride home is a great way to unwind, so much better than getting in a car. I know that not everyone could ride to work, I live in the town where I work, and I can dress pretty casually (no need to shower when I get to work).


Distance (roundtrip) in miles: 13
Traffic lights: 1
Record (to date): 26 out of 30
Rainy days: 1 (caught in heavy downpour on ride home one day, it sucked)
Mechanical difficulties: 1 (chain fell off twice in the same day)
Weird shit thrown at me from passing cars: 1 (Budweiser bottle)
Obscene hand gestures administered: 3
Obscene hand gestures received: 1 (observed)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Patti Smith: Horses

This classic Patti Smith album has had plenty of reviews written about it over the years, so I will not spew on about the relevance and importance of it in the history of rock & roll. I will say that Horses has been playing nonstop in my car for three days now, and I still feel like I am listening to something new every time. It's probably been said a thousand times, but Smith is the female Lou Reed. I have been on a mid to late 70's New York kick for some time now, and I'm having a hard time getting a grasp on what it must have been like to have seen Smith and her band during that time. Insane. Horses is so much more than Smith's angst or her aching voice and lyrics, I am equally pulled in by the piano of Richard Sohl and the smoking guitar of Tom Verlaine (of Television fame) on "Break It Up". I am tempted to buy the 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition, which is basically a live cover of Horses, and includes Verlaine on guitar and John Cale on bass, but I know after a few listens I would return to the original. You know what they say, if it ain't broke...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dylan @ McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket

This past Thursday I saw Bob Dylan at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI. I have seen him a number of times over the years, and it is common knowledge that you never really know what kind of show you are going to get with Dylan. The last time I saw him in Boston, just two years ago, he sat behind the piano with his back to the audience and only played songs from his last two albums. So be it, I guess when you are Bob Dylan you can do whatever the fuck you want.

The past couple of years Dylan has been playing minor league ballparks. I missed him last year when he played in Brockton with Willie Nelson, but this year my brother-in-law came through with some tickets. McCoy stadium is home to the Paw Sox, the farm team for the Red Sox, and home to the longest game in baseball's history, something like 33 innings! It is also a cool place to see a legend, and Dylan must have been feeling good, because he pulled it out and showed those of us standing on first base that he still has the stuff. Check out the setlist below:

Pawtucket, Rhode Island
McCoy Stadium

August 24, 2006

Cat's In The Well
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Just Like A Woman
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
Masters Of War
Highway 61 Revisited
Shelter From The Storm
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Tangled Up In Blue
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Summer Days

Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower

Barn Burning and my Single Speed Obsession

This past week I finally made the time to see some live music, it has been way too long. A few nights ago I drove into Providence to catch Barn Burning at Julian's. It was my first time to see them live, and I was impressed. Definite early-REM and Pavement influences. It was an acoustic show, which allowed the foursome to play around a little. Providence is a rather small city, and musically often gets overshadowed by Boston. I prefer to see music in Providence, there is less of a scene, it is cheaper, and not so polished. Julian's seems to be the place for Providence's art school crowd, lots of tattoos and vintage t-shirts. Bike messenger chic as my buddy Tom referred to the crowd. Anyhow, it was great to see some new music, and if you are near Providence on September 16, check out Barn Burning at Jake's Bar & Grille (w/ Willard Grant Conspiracy).

Before the show started I stopped by the Trinity Brewhouse, one of my favorite hangs in Providence. Walking in I notice this amazing single speed bike from Circle A Cycles locked to a meter. Now I have had bicycles on the brain since getting back into riding this summer, but now I really have the single speed fever bad. The team at Circle A turn out some of the coolest custom bikes I have ever seen, serious bikes with no attitude. Not everyone gets the single speed thing, especially the dude at my local bike shop who wants to sell me a new bike. For me I like the idea of a superlight bike that is so simple to maintain, nothing really to break or adjust. Who needs 27 gears when you live in one of the flatest places in New England? I would love a new bike though, my 14 year old mountain bike is getting tired. With two little ones I have more hobbies than I have time for and I have decided that it would be better to focus on one thing for now. Freetime is rare these days, and when I do get a couple of hours to myself I prefer the simplicity of hopping on my bike and going, plus cycling is something I see myself doing forever. So for now you will find my kayak, surfboard, XC skis, and skateboard on craigslist. The money I get will be used to convert my mountain bike into a single speed, or if I sell everything, maybe a sweet cyclo-cross bike from the good folks at Circle A. Donations are now being accepted.

Listening to: The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin

Monday, August 14, 2006

Upcoming Shows

Summer is the busy season here, and although I am not working as much we seem to be always on the go. These days I definitely do not get the chance to see as much music as I would like. It's just as well, I'm not really into the big summer stadium shows that pass through Boston, but fall usually finds some of the smaller bands that I dig out on the road. Here are a few shows that I am going to try and catch in the upcoming months:

Campo Bravo - August 17 @ PA's Lounge (Somerville , MA)
Barn Burning (Acoustic Show) - August 22 @ Julian's (Providence, RI)
Jason Molina & MEC - September 15 @ The Middle East Club (Cambridge, MA)
Built To Spill - October 2 @ The Roxy (Boston)

I am also going to go see Bob Dylan on August 24, the last time I saw him in Boston I left a little disappointed. I am going with my two brother in-laws, who are huge Dylan fans. We'll see how it goes, he's playing in a minor league ballpark in Providence, so that should be cool.

Listening to: Sonic Youth- KCRW 10.06.04

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Live Free or Die

We recently returned from a glorious week in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This was our second year to spend time at the same condo in Thornton, and we hope to make it a yearly vacation. It is a simple place; two rooms, uncrowded pool, river nearby, surrounded by trees, and not much else. It was a week of hanging with the kids, eating good food, drinking good wine, catching up on some reading, and being outside as much as possible. There is so much to do within an hour of the condo that we always find ourselves wanting to stay longer. We live near the ocean, so it was so great to be in the mountains again. People in New Hampshire are different than most folks here in Massachusetts, I dig their "live free or die" ethos in the Granite State. Your next door neighbor in New Hampshire is just as likely to be a NASCAR fan who hunts bears, or a vegetarian whitewater kayaker/ski bum. Both love New Hampshire for the same reasons and they seem to coincide peacefully.

I have a half-baked theory that when it comes to recreation and our creative outputs, most people can be categorized as either "mountain people" or "ocean people"- I thought about this idea a lot while on vacation last week. I am definitely a mountain person. I love being surrounded by the hills and even the smell of the trees energizes me. I can sit and watch the clouds roll over a mountain ridge at dusk, changing the shadows on a hillside, the same way some people sit on a beach and watch the waves all day, but it is more than that. My idea of a perfect vacation involves some activity, I have a hard time laying around for too long. This may be simplistic on my part, but mountain folks seem more intent on doing (biking, hiking, skiing, kayaking, making pottery, building a house, shooting a bear, etc.), while ocean people tend to more introspective and creative when it comes to their downtime (laying on the beach, reading, painting, writing, creating music, etc.).

Most of the people I have met from California are mountain people for sure, while I have met many people from Minnesota with saltwater in their veins. I'm not sure it has anything to do with geography. There are plenty of us mountain people living near the ocean, and the other way around. It goes beyond where you choose to call home, or what you like to do on your vacation, it has more to do with the core of who you are- rock or water. Of course, most of us are a little of both, but I think we lean one way or the other.

So what are you? Would you rather swim in a mountain lake or the ocean?

Listening to: Neil Young- On the Beach


Tonight while giving my daughter (age- 3.5 years old) and son (1) a bath, the boy decides it would be a good time to drop a log in the pool, if you know what I mean. The funniest part was seeing my daughter's face when she saw it floating towards her. It was bound to happen I suppose.

Listening to: Paco De Lucia & Al Di Meola- Friday Night in San Francisco

Monday, July 31, 2006

Getting Out of Dodge

I am heading to New Hampshire tomorrow for a much needed week of downtime with the family. We are staying in a home on the Pemi River owned by some friends of ours- no phones, internet, or TV, just the river and mountains, and the obligatory trip to Storyland with the little ones. It will be good to escape the madness on the Cape for awhile and chill in the mountains. See 'ya all soon.

Listening to: Brad Mehldau- Art of the Trio 4

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Back In the Saddle

Inspired by Fern over at Impervious Surface, I recently tuned up my fourteen year old mountain bike and have set a goal for myself to commute to work on it at least two days a week. I bought my Stumpjumper back in college and it is still as solid as ever, though I rarely ride it off road these days. I looked at some new bikes, and I would love to have this one, or this one, but I just can't justify spending the money right now, plus I still love my old Specialized. The frame and drivetrain are in great shape, but some of the other components were getting tired, and it really needed to be tuned up before I started relying on it to get me to work. I didn't want to spend a ton of money on it, but I did splurge for a nice set of tires, sort of a hybrid trail/road tire that will be perfect for the 12 mile round trip commute. Now if our town would just invest in some decent bike lanes, biking here is sort of like playing Russian roulette.

Listening to: The Be Good Tanyas- Blue Horse

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

New Tunes Tuesday

Is there anything better than free music? I recently received a $50.00 gift certificate for Amazon for completing some educational consulting survey online, took me about 30 minutes. I haven't bought any new music in quite some time so I decided to use it to buy some CD's I've been wanting. I have a list of 20-30 albums I want, but when it comes down to only being able to buy four, the choice isn't so easy. I wanted to get some tunes I wouldn't find in the used bin at my local record shop. So here is what I ended up with:

Destroyer- "Destroyer's Rubies"
Bill Laswell- "Imaginary Cuba"
Neil Young- "Rust Never Sleeps"
Neil Young- "Freedom"

I recently saw Destroyer open up for Magnolia Electric Co. and I was blown away by Dan Bejar, looking forward to digging into his albums, and I figured "Rubies" would be the place to start. I am a big fan of Bill Laswell, I love his interpretations of the music of Miles Davis and his recent journey into the Trojan dub catalog, and I have heard great things about this album, should be a cool album to chill to this summer. The Neil Young albums are ones I have never owned on CD, but have always been meaning to pick up. "Freedom" is the album that turned me on to Neil way back in high school.

What would you buy if someone handed you $50.00?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

School's Out

As of yesterday I am officially on summer vacation. This time of year always makes me feel like a kid again, and I have to admit that having the summer off is one of the reasons I got into education (getting to play kickball on a daily basis is the other reason). Besides planning a trip to New Hampshire in late July, we are staying close to home this summer. I always make a list at the beginning of summer of the things I want to accomplish, usually things I want to get done around the house. Then I finish one or maybe two of them by September, and the rest of the list gets thrown away. Why should this year be any different? So here is what I hope to do this summer:
  1. Finish building the shed I started last summer.
  2. Read.
  3. Spend a week in New Hampshire with the family.
  4. Buy new tires for my bike, start riding more often.
  5. Put up a fence in my backyard.
  6. Teach my daughter to fly a kite.
  7. Build a chair for my sister-in-law's wedding gift.
  8. Go to a Red Sox game.
  9. Play my guitar.
  10. Surf.
I am also hoping to go see some music this summer:
  1. Calexico on June 28 @ The Roxy.
  2. Richard Buckner on July 15 @ The Narrows Center.
  3. Josh Ritter on August 3 @ Copley Plaza.
Sadly, I won't be able to play all summer. I will be working some while I am off. I just finished a basement for a customer, and I have a few small jobs lined up, but hopefully I can keep it to 2-3 days a week. Besides teaching, I have been working most weekends since January on the basement job, and I could really use some time to hang with my wife and kids.

Listening to: Modest Mouse- The Moon & Antartica

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Josh Ritter/Hem @ The Narrows Center, Fall River

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to go see Idaho native Josh Ritter at the Narrows Center for the Arts. I had been wanting to check out this venue for quite some time, they have weekly live shows, mostly blues and bluegrass. The Narrows Center is located in Fall River, a very blue collar town about an hour from where I live. My friend Tom and I met at the Fall River United Soccer Club for chorizo and cheap well drinks, then hit the package store for some Smuttynose IPA, because we were told that the Narrows Center did not sell alcohol at their shows. I was surprised by how cool this venue was, it is on the third floor of an old warehouse that overlooks the river, wood floors, huge windows, and the best part, it is BYOB.

The Brooklyn band Hem opened the night with a stellar line-up of pastoral acoustic pop. Sally Ellyson's moody lead vocals, accompanied by a warm piano, drums, mandolin, and guitar brought to mind the Cowboy Junkies, though Hem's songs bordered more on the traditional country sound, even covering the Johnny Cash standard "Jackson", which finally got the audience out of their seats. Countrypolitan at it's best.

I haven't listened to much of Josh Ritter's music, though I just picked up his newest album, 'The Animal Years', which hasn't left my CD player since I brought it home. Songs of war, wolves, and love. Good stuff. I learned that Ritter lived in Providence and Sommerville a few years back, playing the local clubs. This show seemed to be a homecoming of sorts, his loyal fans turning out to see their old friend, and he seemed happy to be back. Highlights for me included the haunting "Thin Blue Flame", which clocked in at over ten minutes, and his cover of Modest Mouse's "Blame It On the Tetons". You can tell that he loves what he is doing, and still seems a little freaked out that so many people are paying money to see him. After his show he hung out in the audience, drinking beer and talking to people as they exited, very humble and personable.

The music was great, but I really think it was the venue that made this show. The following night both bands were playing at the Avalon in Boston, and I have to think it must have been a very different experience. The Narrows Center felt like you were at a private party, the bands were close, and free to let loose a bit. I'll be back, and next time I won't forget my bottle opener.

Listening to: Stones- Beggars Banquet

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dylan & Cash

I just finished reading Peter Doggett's Are You Ready for the Country, which chronicles the roots of country rock and Americana music. Much of the book is spent on Hank Williams, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, The Band, etc., though Doggett includes contemporaries such as Neil Young, Uncle Tupelo, Beck, and Steve Earle as well. He also includes a recommended list of 100 essential albums, which is cool for a list maker like myself. Related to this, I finally saw Walk the Line recently, and since seeing it I've been listening to more Johnny Cash tunes. I have always been a fan of Cash's music (especially his later stuff with Rick Rubin), but thanks to geting hold of my mom's record collection I am starting to appreciate more of his earlier songwriting. Check out this clip from the short lived The Johnny Cash Show, featuring Bob Dylan and the Man in Black performing Dylan's "Girl of the North Country". They don't make TV like this anymore, if they did I might tune in more.

Listening to: Built to Spill- You in Reverse

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hiding Out

Someone recently asked me what the title of my blog meant. Picking a name for one's blog is serious business, you want it to be unique and clever, though it should mean something to you as well. I came up with the name "The Last Hideout" from two sources; a song and a book.

It is a loose reference to a line in the Uncle Tupelo song, "Sauget Wind":

I don't know what I'm breathing for
'Cause the air around here ain't so good anymore
The weatherman says "fair"
But he looks like a lie
Nothing's free in this country
And there's no place to more

I like the idea of having a place to escape to if need be, to get away from all the crazy shit that is going on in the world, a modern day hideout. Sadly though, those places are getting harder to find, but I still know a few. "The Last Hideout" is the title of chapter in one of my favorite books; The Good Rain, by Timothy Egan. In this chapter Egan writes about the North Cascades of Washington State, a place where I spent much time in my early 20's. Nearly twice the size of Yellowstone National Park, the North Cascades contains Glacier Peak and the Pasayten ("Pay Satan") Wilderness Areas. It's a roadless land of clean air, alpine meadows, and sawtooth mountain skylines. In college I used to escape to the North Cascades whenever I could. Outside of Alaska, I can't think of a better place to get lost.

I also get some shit from people when I tell them the web address to my blog. "What the hell is a nooksack?" is the response I get from most people. The best one I heard was someone thought it was a reference to an Eskimo's scrotum. You are one sick fuck if you think I am going to name my blog after someone's ball sack. No offense to any Inuit readers out there, you've got bigger balls than I will ever have. The name comes from the Nooksack River in Western Washington, another place where I spent much time when I lived out west. It's headwaters are fed by the snow from Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, it is one of the most beautiful rivers in the world and it holds a lot of memories for me, so don't go pissing in it.

That's it.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Josh Ritter's "Thin Blue Flame"

I just listened to Josh Ritter's new album 'The Animal Years' online, and when it comes out on Tuesday I for one am planning on picking it up. Brilliant stuff from this Idaho native. Fans of Josh Rouse, Alexi Murdoch, and Richard Buckner will not be disappointed. I've been a fan of Ritter's songwriting since I first heard "Kathleen" on our local Martha's Vineyard station. His lyrics are pure poetry, and in my opinion 'The Animal Years' is his most polished album yet. It's been a long time since a new song has left me speechless, but the tune "Thin Blue Flame" kills me. I've listened to it five times in a row now, and let me tell you, it is nine minutes of near musical perfection. I will need to listen to it five more times to begin to unravel the literary and religious references. The lyrics are some of the saddest I have heard, yet there is hope in his words. Ritter starts off slow, then the building piano, guitar and drums come crashing together into the climax, until they all quietly fall back to earth in a hopeful finale. I haven't heard a song this good in a long time.

I became a thin blue stream
The smoke between asleep and dreams
And in that clear blue undertow
I saw Royal City far below
Borders soft with refugees
Streets are swimming with amputees
It's a Bible or a bullet they put over your heart
It's getting harder and harder to tell them apart
Days are nights and the nights are long
Beating hearts blossom into walking bombs
And those still looking in the clear blue sky for a sign
Get missiles from so high they might as well be divine
Now the wolves are howling at our door
Singing bout vengeance like it's the joy of the Lord
Bringing justice to the enemies not the other way round
They're guilty when killed and they're killed where they're found
If what's loosed on earth will be loosed up on high
It's a Hell of a Heaven we must go to when we die
Where even Laurel begs Hardy for vengeance please
The fat man is crying on his hands and his knees
Back in the peacetime he caught roses on the stage
Now he twists indecision takes bourbon for rage
Lead pellets peppering aluminum
Halcyon, laudanum and Opium
Sings kiss thee hardy this poisoned cup
His winding sheet is busy winding up
In darkness he looks for the light that has died
But you need faith for the same reasons that it's so hard to find
And this whole thing is headed for a terrible wreck
And like good tragedy that's what we expect

That's some shit.

Here is what Ritter's website says about the song:

On "Thin Blue Flame" Ritter steps out of the third person to face his audience directly and articulate his vision of a world in which religious calling becomes a battle cry and everything on earth is sacrificed in the name of heaven. His words combine apocalyptic, gospel-like testifying with dreamy, stream-of-consciousness poetry. As Ritter explains, "The word 'apocalypse' means unveiling, you know, not just the end of the world. In some of the real apocalyptic literature like The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost, or even Gravity's Rainbow or Slaughterhouse Five, a person goes through a long series of trials and tribulations, seeing things and coming back with new knowledge and maybe new warnings. In the past year, we didn't have to go anywhere to see those kinds of things. We all have TV. We all can see what's going on and there's no one who can say it's a good thing. 'Thin Blue Flame' is a trip through what everybody can see. I was just writing down the images I saw as they came to me. I worked on it for a long time, My notebook was filled with 'Thin Blue Flame' for a year and a half."

Josh Ritter is playing in Providence and Boston April 28 and 29, hopefully I will be able to check him out.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Magnolia Electric Co. @ The Middle East

This past Monday I went to see Magnolia Electric Co. at The Middle East in Cambridge. I've been digging Jason Molina in all his incarnations the past couple of years and have been waiting for the chance to see him live. I arrived to the venue an hour or so before the doors opened because The Middle East also happens to be one of my favorite restaurants in Cambridge. At the bar, eating my falafel sandwich, I notice that Molina is sitting right next to me. We got talking and he turned out to be a very cool guy. We mostly talked about Boston and music we both liked, but he did talk a little about life on the road, writing, and Magnolia Electric Co.'s recent tour of Europe. He definitely didn't come across with any rock star attitude, and he didn't seem to mind the company.

Vancouver's Destroyer opened the show, quickly getting the crowd into the mood to rock. I was only somewhat familiar with Dan Bejar's music, mainly through his loose connection with The New Pornographers. Sadly most of Destroyer's music had passed under my radar. No longer. After listening to a few tunes I got into the sonic guitar driven sound that is Destroyer. Destroyer will not let you down. Bejar has a truly unique voice, I had heard that he sometimes sounds like Dylan, which is true, while at other times he seemed to drift off and was barely audible, oh wait, that is when he sounded the most like Dylan. Overall, I was intrigued and look forward to digging into his back catalogue.

When Destroyer left the stage at 10:30, so did half the crowd. It seemed like most of the hipster crowd turned out to see Destroyer and were not going to stick around for Magnolia. This could have been because it was an all-ages gig, and the kids had to catch the T home, or the fact that it was a Monday night and most people had to work the next day. Either way, I made my way a little closer to the stage just as Jason Molina and crew took the stage. I was happy that they played songs from their newest album, What Comes After the Blues, but also delved into older Songs: Ohia material, such as Farewell Transmission and even closing with a cool version of I've Been Riding with the Ghost that left me wanting more. Jason Molina is a great songwriter, one of the best out there today, his images are dark and lonesome, definitely not feel good music, but real. He asked the crowd for suggestions (and played them), and seemed to be having a good time, even when he forgot the words to a few songs. I enjoyed the hell out of hearing how the songs on the albums translated live, if anything they took on a new life and were even better in front of an audience, but I guess that is the case with all music, no? Hope they pass through town again soon (on a Saturday night please).

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sasquatch Music Festival

I was just online checking out some music festivals for this summer, and came across the lineup for the Sasquatch Music Festival (May 26-28) at the Gorge Amphitheatre. Check it out:

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The Flaming Lips, The Shins, The Tragically Hip, Neko Case, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Gomez, Rogue Wave, Sam Roberts, Constantines, Architecture In Helsinki

And this is just the Saturday lineup. I went to quite a few shows at the Gorge in George back in the day, great venue, wish I could make it.

Listening to: Ernest Ranglin- Below the Bassline

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Olympic Rants & Raves

I love me some Winter Olympics, in fact it is one of the few sporting events I actually follow closely. I've been watching the Olympics the past few weeks and for the most part I have really enjoyed the games, there have been some great races, upsets, and drama. Below are a few rants and raves from this year's games:

Back in the day I remember the Olympics being on all day, everyday. I understand there is a time difference, but I would love to be seeing more live coverage, especially on the weekends. If there is ANY event going on, no matter what time of day it is, they should be showing it live. I would watch cross-country skiing or the biathlon if they showed it. It seems NBC has given in to their advertisers and has limited the coverage to prime-time hours only, after announcing the medal winners earlier in the day. Show it live, then replay it during prime-time.

Last weekend I was hoping to catch some of the men's combined downhill, but I couldn't watch it because NBC was showing the Daytona 500 instead. Are you telling me more Americans would rather tune-in to some rednecks driving around in a big circle than watch men bomb down an icy mountain at 70 mph on skis? NASCAR blows.

I don't think the Olympics should allow professional athletes into the games. One of the great things about the Olympics is seeing the young, up and coming athletes. If you sign an endorsement deal with some sunglass company, or play in the NHL, sorry. I'd rather watch college kids who are still passionate about their sport and want to win. Sorry Bode, I like your DIY ethos and live and let live attitude, but you got outskiied this time, stop making excuses.

I am not sure ice dancing should be an actual event in the winter games. Talented skaters? Check. Entertaining? Check. Olympic event? Not in my opinion. I'm not sure about any event that relies on judges to determine a winner. I suppose you could say the same thing about most judged events (figure skating, freestyle skiing, half pipe, etc.), but there is something about ice dancing that doesn't do it for me. Are we going to see ballroom dancing in the summer games? I like the events where there is a clear winner; whoever crosses the finish line the fastest, or scores the most points.

Two events I totally got into this year were the snowboard boardercross and cross-country skiing. The Olympics needs more events like the boardercross, it went over really well and was a blast to watch. It's funny how the snowboarders turned out to be some of the classiest athletes at the games, you could tell they were just psyched to be riding in the Olympics, very little attitude. I also enjoyed watching the cross-country skiing, those guys are some hardcore athletes, thirty plus miles, mostly uphill. It wasn't as exciting as the boardercross but there was some definite strategy to what they were doing, almost like a game of chess.
Overall, I have enjoyed watching the games this year, and I will be looking forward to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Stock up on the Molsons.

In other Olympic news, if you haven't seen "Murderball" yet, check it out. Those guys are badass, and an inspiration to get off your butt and do something. Great movie.

Listening to: Thievery Corporation- The Richest Man in Babylon

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Neil Young's "Freedom"

I've been listening to a lot of Neil Young lately, can't get enough it seems. Neil is the real deal. I read an article in Rolling Stone recently about Young, and it got me thinking about how I first started listening to his music. My first introduction was in 1989, when I stumbled across Young's album "Freedom" quite by accident. I was a senior in high school and I was mainly listening to The Cure, Concrete Blond, and anything else that I thought the cute, artsy girl in my creative writing class would think was cool. That didn't work out, but it was also during this time that my friend Roger asked his older brother to buy him Young M.C.'s "Stone Cold Rhymin" for his birthday. Turns out Roger's brother was stoned when he went to the mall, and couldn't remember the name of the tape. All he could remember was it was "Young something", so he came home with Neil Young's "Freedom", which must have been on the "Just Released" rack. My buddy opened the cassette tape on his birthday, and having never heard of Neil Young announced he was going to throw it away. I had heard some CSNY tunes before and had recently seen Neil on SNL (performing "Rocking in the Free World", with a fury I had never seen before) so I asked Rog if I could listen to it before he tossed it. Long story short, I ended up with it and will never forget sitting in my bedroom that night, alone, listening to the entire album. "Rocking in the Free World" opens the album, and I remember thinking that I was on to something that none of my friends at the time would understand. By the time "Crime In The City" came on, with it's epic story of gangs, drugs, and corrupt cops, I was hooked. I knew I was on to something big, and I had to get more.

It was also during this time that I started buying CD's, and most of my tapes went into a shoebox. I went on to buy most of Neil Young's CD's, and especially dig the stuff Neil did with Crazy Horse. In college I dated this woman who also loved Neil Young, and we were driving to southern Utah for spring break that year, and since I didn't have a CD player in my car, I packed the few cassettes I still owned. We must have listened to "Freedom" a hundred times that week. Whenever I hear the songs "Eldorado" or "Wrecking Ball" today, it always brings me back to that trip to the desert.

I have never replaced my original "Freedom" cassette with a CD, I really should. It is still in my car after all these years, in fact, it is the only tape I still own from high school. The sound quality isn't what it was, but I can't get rid of it. Like "Freedom", I am sure we all have albums that defined moments in our lives and forever burned memories into our minds. Phish's "Rift" comes to mind, I'll never forget where I was when I first heard it, as do albums by The Grateful Dead, Son Volt, and Ben Harper, just to name a few, but "Freedom" was the first.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Falling Sand Game

Have you seen this? It's addictive as hell, make sure you try the manipulatives at the bottom of the page.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I haven't posted anything in quite some time, been busy with work, starting a new side project on the weekends, and spending time with the family. The holidays and the lazy downtime that comes with having almost two weeks off are over now. I will be trying to post more often in 2006.

A couple of things worth mentioning. If you haven't been to Henry Rollin's site in awhile, you should check it out. Henry has been busy adding an online journal (called Dispatches) to his site that he is posting to almost daily. He promises to post a list of some of his favorite authors and books, which I think will be cool to check out. He is also hitting the road again in February for some East Coast shows.

A funny thing happened at work today, I teach 5th grade and my partner and I came across the following typo from one of our students:

Question on test: Name one way the European explorers exploited the native people?
Answer: The explorers would often make the Native Americans ass slaves.

Those little urchins crack me up from time to time. I should write a book with the shit they say.

I can only imagine what kind of anonymous blogger spam I am going to get with the words ass slaves in my post. I'm asking for trouble.

Listening to: Josh Rouse- Nashville