Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Well, Never Mind Then

OK, I just deleted a recent post because I have reason to believe that the information I'd been given was, um, let's just say it may not have been totally accurate. I'd known at the time that it might not be 100% right, but I trusted the general sense... had believed that the gist of the message was on-target. Now I find out from folks who know more than I do, that, well, maybe not so much.


Never mind.

(Although I stick by one thing I'd written in that post: you have to see 28 Days Later, if you haven't already. For that matter, watch 28 Weeks Later, as well.)

(And having nothing to do with anything: Snakes & Arrows, the latest Rush album, is just all kinds of excellent. Significant portions of it [e.g., right from the start, "Far Cry"] sound like something they might have put out 30 years ago.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

eBay Savings

I spent most of my Sunday in front of the computer hunting for bargain records on eBay. Not something I plan to do very often -- if I do, I ask now that someone stage an intervention -- but it was fun to pick up some good albums for very little money. Best of all, most of the albums are new to me: stuff I've liked over the years but never bought. By this morning, I'd won 11 auctions for 16 albums, all from reputable sellers and all listed as being in either Very Good or Mint condition. Total cost was $83.60, including shipping. That's not bad.

Beat Farmers - Poor & Famous
Beat Farmers - Van Go
Big Joe Turner - Boss Blues Live
Eleventh Day Dream - Praire School Freakout
Frank Zappa - Jazz from Hell
Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart - Bongo Fury
Hoodoo Gurus - Mars Needs Guitars
Hoodoo Gurus - Stoneage Romeos
Johnny & Edgar Winter - Together
Johnny Winter - Johnny Winter
Johnny Winter - Nothin' But the Blues
Johnny Winter - Still Alive and Well
Monty Python - Contractual Obligation Album
R.E.M. - Document
Robert Cray - Strong Persuader
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Soul to Soul

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Charles

Number 200, dude. Congrats and enjoy. Have a couple of shots and then kick a little Ben Stein ass.

(Oh yes, and happy 200th to you, too, Abe.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another Minute, Another Sucker

In an email mentioning Obama this morning, Google displayed an ad titled "New Obama Stimulus Checks." You know that I just had to check that out.

The main page is fairly staid, at least compared to what I'd expected. It claims to be the personal blog of Jessica, a single mother who had been drowning in debt but who was saved thanks to a $12,000 grant from the feds (yes, a grant: this is not a loan! It's free money!) and is now getting $5,000 from Google each month for very little work that is all done in her spare time. Yep, it's the standard horseshit about making big bucks while sitting on your ass, compliments of the Google Home Business Kit. Still, given the title of the ad that lead me here and the domain name (, I was expecting lots of references to the stimulus package and maybe a pic of Obama in the old Uncle Sam recruiting poster but with the slogan "I WANT YOU TO HAVE THIS MONEY!" But no, instead, I see a somewhat understated site.

But then there's the link to apply for your government grant. First of all, there's a $1.99 "shipping fee," which seems just a bit strange, but this is the Small Business Administration, and everybody knows that the feds just do things kinda backwards. I mean, this is grant money to start your own business, so we must be talking about the SBA, right? Then there's the little matter -- still on the main page -- of the photo of the $12,000 that this blog owner received. Of course, it's very difficult to make out much detail from the check, but one thing is obvious: this is not a government check. Finally, there's the linked page itself. Here's where we find the over-the-top references to government money, including a pic of what appears to be a real-fake government check (as opposed to the fake-fake check on the main site). Here's the pic of Obama, left hand on Bible, right hand raised, pledging that this is a great deal, "Honest Injun!" Here's where they hint that this has all been reported on -- meaning, approved by -- CNN, MSNBC, and CBS News. But wait, this is not a one-time deal: you may qualify to receive grants repeatedly. But wait some more, it turns out that you don't have to use this money to start a business: you could also use it to go to school, buy a house, pay down your debt... hell, I'll bet you could use it to buy a truckload of beer and a couple of cases of beef jerky and pork rinds! And look how easy: you just type in your name, email, and phone number to get the Grant CD! Oh, but you'd best hurry, cause we switch domains and hosts this week! Er, no, I mean that the government offer expires this week!

Back on the main page again (I'm too chicken to actually fill out the form for the govt grant CD, even using false info), there's the link for information about the Google Home Business Kit, which has a $3.00 shipping fee. (What, Google charges more than the feds? Christ, no wonder the government has racked up $10 trillion in debt!) This link takes you to a page on the domain, so many of your remaining fears should now be allayed since this is an educational site about getting rich. As expected, this site is similar to the govt grants site in how in-your-face it is but at the same time, reassuring, because, well, why would Google want to rip you off? And what's more, it says right there on the page that this has been endorsed by CNN and MSN. Now, I'm not certain why Microsoft's Web portal would be in the habit of endorsing business opportunities with a rival, but I guess that means that this opportunity is really that good. It's just amazing that we've been given this opportunity to... wait, what are you looking at now? No, don't look down there. That small print at the bottom of the page doesn't say anything important and might cause permanent damage to your eyes if you try to read it. Besides, it's just a bunch of junk that lawyers make us put on here, and who wants to read a bunch of legal crap when you instead could be excited about your new business!! Besides, there are only 46 kits left and you only have another ten minutes to fill out the form to see if you qualify: this is such a great opportunity but it will disappear forever if you fail to ACT NOW!!

Back yet again on the main page, the blog comments are from people testifying that it really was as easy as Jessica said. Heck, Patty got $40,000 to help pay off her mortgage. Unfortunately, comments have been temporarily disabled, no doubt because Jessica has been overwhelmed by all of the people writing in to say how grateful they are to her for leading them down the path toward FREE MONEY!!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Feels Good to Feel

Odd and fun video. And watching Paul (of Waxing Poetics near-fame) clown around is awesome: you kinda get the impression that the man might half enjoy what he does for a living.

FWIW, the song title is "Feels Good to Feel" on their MySpace page where they make the album available, and that's also the song title on the Fleshtones' Take a Good Look album where it was originally done. On this video, however, they give the name as "Feels So Good to Feel." Hey, it's their song and video, so I guess they can call it whatever they want.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Years, Baby

Today marks two years since I smoked my last cigarette. That's 17,544 smoke-free hours. That's approximately 18,275 cigarettes that have gone unsmoked. That's somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 saved.

I've not experienced a single nicotine fit since I stopped. I get sudden urges for a smoke on a regular basis, but those are either habit-driven or simple wants (as opposed to anxiety-laced needs associated with nicotine withdrawal) that are easily and quickly denied when I remind myself how pissed off I'd be at having to start the smoke-free count back from zero again.

Here's the email I sent to some former co-workers about two hours before I had my final smoke (what I hope will prove to be my last smoke ever... I don't want to start thinking like a real ex-smoker because I've known too many people who fell off the wagon many years after stopping):

Date: Mon, Feb 5, 2007 at 3:52 PM
Subject: D-Day Minus One

While on vacation last month, decided that it was time that I finally get serious about giving up cigarettes. Went to the doc who recommended a fairly new drug called Chantix that's designed to stop dopamine production in reaction to nicotine intake. Supposed to take this for seven days before I actually stop smoking. It finally started to take affect on Saturday about lunchtime (day 5): I went through just short of the normal number of smokes that day, but with only one or two exceptions, I would take maybe five or six puffs before realizing that I wasn't getting that little nicotine buzz and put it out. Sunday, same thing but went through only half a pack (100% behavioral: would realize that I'd lit a smoke without intending to while drinking my morning coffee or working on the PC or watching TV or sleeping or breathing or . . .).

Today (day 7), I've had two cigarettes in 10 hours -- none at all in nearly 7 hours -- and only did a few puffs on those.

This Chantix is some pretty cool shit.

Tomorrow is when I'm supposed to really quit, and as recently as Saturday morning I was kind of worried whether I could do it, but my confidence is now increasing. I've bought a mound of gum and mints for the apt, car, and office. At the moment, I'm taking a break from cleaning the apt, which means that any last smokes will have to be enjoyed outside in the comfort of our zero-degree wind chills tonight.

So anyway, I'm just kinda bragging some. Maybe within a month I won't get winded and start coughing at the mere thought of physical activity (whatever that is).

Monday, February 2, 2009

No, They Do Not Jam Econo

UPDATE (4 Feb): The eBay auction for the Minor Threat EP that I had mentioned on Monday has ended. The winning bid was $1,313. Holy crap!!

In my record hunting efforts, I pass on 99% of the interesting stuff I find because the items are just too damn expensive: I've been paying between $2 and $5 apiece for most everything so far, with a couple for $10 exceptions.

The overpriced items that kill me are the ones for punk records, especially for the DC hardcore bands. On eBay, I'm seeing 7" singles by Minor Threat and Government Issue going for $30, $50, and $100. There's even a Minor Threat 7" currently sitting at $510 with 14 bids.

I understand basic economics, so it doesn't surprise me that some folks are willing to pay $500 for a rare Beatles album. But this is PUNK, fer chrissake! Folks are blowing that kind of money for an album by a band that rebelled against that very sort of excess. Either these people are not fans of the band or they have no sense of irony (or just no sense, period). I have to think that Ian MacKaye would not be flattered by your spending that kind of money for one of his albums; no, I truly believe that he would likely knock you upside your head.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Steve Earle (AKA, Walon from HBO's The Wire)

Steve Earle is another of the artists that the Music Man practically forced upon me during my freshman year of college.

It was 1986 and I'd been talking to Joe (damned if I can remember his last name now), who was the chief buyer for the store, and mentioned that I didn't like country music. Of course, what I really meant is that I didn't know country music outside of the Urban Cowboy crap that was being called country in the 1980s. Joe sent me home with a copy of Guitar Town, the debut from Steve Earle, and a guarantee that I would like it or he'd buy it back from me.

I liked it. Outside of a live album that Steve released 1991 to get out of his contract with MCA ("Shut Up And Die Like an Aviator" is actually an OK record, but see the remark in my rambling BUI post about my general discomfort with live recordings), it would start a streak of 8 studio albums from Steve over a 14-year period that I liked. (And the album that ended that streak, 2000's Transcendental Blues, is actually a damn good one, or it would be if not for the weird production that seems to drag the music and vocals through muddy cheesecloth.)

Here's one of the great things about Steve that makes me such a fan: although with his first album there was much talk about him being a future country music legend in the making, he's not a country artist. He also happens to not be a rocker or a folkie or a bluegrass artist or any of those things, even though he had recorded albums in all of those styles through the years. Whatever the hell he feels like at any given moment, that's what he writes and records. On his last many albums -- those since 1994 -- he will include upwards of half a dozen styles on each. I'm not aware of his having tried jazz, but it wouldn't surprise me if he eventually decides to give that a go, too.

The fact that he also managed to play an interesting (not to mention, somewhat autobiographical) character in The Wire on HBO, my absolute favorite TV show -- I'm telling you, this show ranks with my all-time favorite movies, books, and albums -- hasn't hurt my standing as a fan of the man. Throw in the fact that his 1994 angry rock song "I Feel Alright," was used for The Wire's second season finale montage, and I go from being a fan to being in awe.

Three videos that I'll note.

The first is for "Someday," (click the link to see the YouTube video: Universal has disabled embedding of their videos) one of the singles off Guitar Town. Fantastic song that highlights why Steve was being referred to as the Nashville Bruce Springsteen for a couple of years back there at the beginning.

The second video is for "City of Immigrants," (link to YouTube again: his new label, New West, also prevents embedding) a song off his latest album, Washington Square Serenade. Not only a good song, but it should demonstrate that the man will not be pigeonholed by musical genre. This song features a NYC band, "Forro in the Dark," which takes a type of Brazilian dance music, forro, and updates it with a whole strange mix of influences, including country and hip hop, the sort of thing that almost guarantees a respectful nod from Steve.

The third video (embedded just below: I guess a handful of people still allow it) is a fantastic clip from the Heartworn Highways DVD that shows a 20-year-old Steve at a Christmas Eve picking party at Guy Clark's house in 1975. Steve had just recently moved to Nashville to play bass on Guy's debut album, Old No. 1, which is very much worth the time to check out. He would kick around Nashville as a staff song writer for another 10 years before MCA signed him to a recording contract of his own. This video shows a whole other side of Steve, one that is best documented on his unbelievable Train a Comin' album, which he put out in 1993 after he was released from a six-month stint in jail that included drug rehab, which quite possibly saved the man's life, not to mention allowed him to stage a near-miraculous career comeback.

UPDATED: I just found this video that's part of a Pogues documentary and concerns their collaboration with Steve on his song, "Johnny Come Lately," from his Copperhead Road album.