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A penny for your thoughts indeed. Around here that would be a raise.

What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

Oh-- and please welcome God to the APW team. We're thrilled and humbled to serve as His earthly vessel.

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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.


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On the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business: Warren Haynes
Saturday, July 31, 2004
This is a piece I posted to a listserv dedicated to the Allman Brothers Band. APW apologizes to our readers for the presentation of material that was not originally composed for this forum. But be advised, all 5 of you, that any time APW posts content that has been in any way re-cycled, it will be similarly disclosed.

*******

So Alan R made a comment about all the bands sort of starting to sound the same because Warren was in them all-- Mule, Dead, ABB, PLQ. Actually I'd add a 5th act to that list: Warren Haynes Solo.

My first reaction was to disagree. But it kind of stuck with me, and I can see Alan's point. I mean, any of these acts is capable of busting out "Beautifully Broken," "Into the Mystic," "Soulshine." Yes, you could also point out that we have the Derek Trucks Band, Great Southern, the Peacemakers, etc. so there are plenty of other worthy bands-- but there is no getting around it, the Warren acts command a remarkable share of the head space of the music we collectively basically like.

I tend to take the reverse perspective to Alan, but that may be because I'm an almost Margot-level Warren fan. (One difference: I wouldn't do him.) I first understood the heroic quality of Warren at the indelible One 4 Woody show; the man was onstage for all but 2 songs, and it remains the most athletic performance I've ever seen a musician give. Then after the Summer of Jimmy Herring, when Warren tentatively rejoined the Brothers for the 2001 Beacon run, he so filled the hole that it seemed as if the stage was tilted toward him (necessary at the time, but a phase they had to navigate past before shooting for greatness.)

I'm finding the sheer mass of work that Warren does, and that is made available, to be similarly athletic, similarly heroic. (How many soundboard shows with Warren have been around over the last few years, including "official" releases, Instant Lives, MunchMusic, and the PLQ/Dead freebies? Dozens?) There is something almost Paul Bunyanesque to me about him; seeing a Warren show feels a little like seeing a Springsteen show at the Boss's peak, when he had ascended to almost mythic status. (Like, I'll be telling my grandchildren, "Yep, yep. Saw Warren Haynes, I did. Stood 8 foot 4 in his stocking feet, yessiree...")

Now, I don't want to get to the point where I DO call them Warren shows. Here's where I agree with Alan; I want Mule to be Mule, the ABB to be the ABB, the PLQ to be the PLQ, and the Dead to feature Bobby less. But I'm finding art in the sheer magnitude of fitting into all these bands, hearing what the Brothers do to "Rocking Horse," hearing Warren lead the PLQ through "Low Spark," his bringing songs like "Cortez" and "One" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" into the Dead's repertoire (here's hoping for "Wasted Time," in the second set "China Doll" slot.)

As for solo and the Mule, I think Warren's songwriting has unfolded profoundly over the past few years. He can write a really good, truly sad song, and that is not an easy thing to do. One takeaway from the recent solo shows was how solidly songs like "Beautifully Broken," "Banks of the Deep End," and Patchwork Quilt" hold up, even totally stripped of all but acoustic guitar and interpretive vocal. Even "Tastes Like Wine," far less obviously a singer/songwriter vehicle, lost little of its power in the solo setting (although he did use electricity and effects. But still.)

The prospect of the pending Mule studio release-- with Warren writing for this line-up, and featuring all songs thus far never played live-- is especially enticing. He's at a particularly fertile, breakthrough time in his song craft.

So yeah, when it comes to Warren I wear my heart on my sleeve. (Derek too, in a less emotive, jazzier sort of way.) But his ubiquity, I've decided, pleases me more than it troubles me.

Differing opinions are of course equally valid, because this one is entirely subjective. Although be advised that spelling and punctuation count.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 3:24 PM  2 comments


"A President Who Believes in Science..."
Friday, July 30, 2004
Kerry hit a home run with his speech earlier tonight (a grand slam according to Barbara Boxer, but I think she has the hots for him), making A Penny's Worth even more confident about our prediction of a Kerry-Edwards November victory. If you're Dubya, you've got to be shaking in your boots about the debates, because let's face it, Kerry's going to eviscerate him. While he may be flawed-- apparently even his friends say he's tough to warm up to-- he's clearly a very smart guy. Whereas Bush... likes pretzels. Last time around in the debates, Gore was a boring policy wonk while Bush talked tough and seemed sincere. (Indeed he faked sincerity almost as well as Clinton.)

I have a friend who says that what America wants for our president is Captain Kirk. Clinton was definitely the Kirk against both Bush the elder and Dole; you could easily see him having sex with the 6 foot 2, blue-skinned blond chick in the groovy mini skirt, then getting back to the bridge just in time to blow up the Klingon battle cruiser. In 2000, Dubya was the Kirk; Gore was Spock. Sure, he was smarter than Bush. But the class nerd never beats the football captain for president, no matter what he got on his SATs. This time around Kerry, who APW would have called as the Dem nominee in February if we'd been around at the time based solely on his hair, will be the Kirk; Bush will be the Alfred E. Newman (What? Him worry? He dudn' even read the paper.) Kerry has the combination of smarts and command that always plays well with the voting public. Bush next to Kerry will look sadly un-presidential.

Of course APW must point out that Kerry called on Bush to run a mutually fair and positive campaign-- after taking every shot in the book at him, from Enron to the Saudis. To which APW says, good for Kerry. Politics is a dirty business, you have to play hardball to win, and Kerry continues to demonstrate that he is not above doing so, and that he just might be good at it. Whereas Gore grew a neat beard after losing.

I do wish Kerry would say who he thinks the terrorists are. I'd feel better if I thought he knew, and I'd like to ask him. But taking a shot at the Saudi oil princes-- that goes a long way around here.

The Great Comunicator himself, Ronald Reagan, beat Jimmy Carter by asking a simple question: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" When an incumbent runs, the election is always a referendum on the last four years. Do people feel safer from terrorism and war now than they did four years ago? Do people feel better about their economic outlook than they did four years ago? If Kerry asks these questions-- and if the answers are no-- he'll waltz in. Note he did not ask these questions tonight.

Finally, there is the issue of the 3 TV networks not covering the conventions. Frankly, I don't blame them. It used to be that the conventions were real live, newsworthy, historical events. Now the nomination and Veep selection are nailed down weeks in advance, there is absolutely nothing going on at the conventions, and the whole thing is a giant half time show, an infomercial (and that goes for both parties.) (I'm just glad there was no sign of Hillary's breast.) I mean, Springsteen as Kerry entered ("No Surrender;" excellent choice) and U2 to exit ("Its a Beautiful Day.") The Republicans will be hard-pressed to pick better songs. And you'd best believe APW will be all over their musical selections if they are as lame as they might be. I mean, Toby Keith is a definite possibility.

But if the conventions have morphed from living history to infomercial, cable is where they belong. And I wouldn't steer you wrong, for a very good reason. I'm the president of the company. What possible reason could I have for steering you wrong about my product?


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Posted by: --josh-- @ 12:19 AM  0 comments


Bill Clinton a Featured Dem Speaker in Prime Time
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
But then, readers of APW aren't surprised; in predicting the Kerry-Gore win in November, APW noted last week the value of Clinton on the campaign trail, and in the hearts and minds of the American voter.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 1:08 AM  0 comments


On The Effect Technology Has Had on my Relationship With Music
Monday, July 26, 2004

It should come as no surprise to regular APW readers that I am an avid purchaser and listener of music. Lately I’ve been thinking about the way new technology profoundly changes the way we interact with music. In particular, I’m thinking about how two sets of innovations have radically altered my own behavior: the whole downloading/burning thing (make your own CDs); and, the portability of the MP3 player.

The advent of the gramophone had an unimaginable impact on the way people dealt with music. Before Edison, music consumption generally meant buying sheet music. You can imagine the turn-of-the-century board meetings at the sheet music houses with terms like “paradigm shift” being tossed around, and early 20th century music fans being blamed for their abandonment of the traditional business model (Did they have PowerPoint back then?)

In my own life, the switch from LP to CD was a quantum change. With LPs, we listened to music as albums arrayed into roughly 20-minute sides. Music was a 20-minute slab; albums were programmed accordingly. The advent of the CD gave the artist the ability to put out a single 75-minute chunk (a privilege too many are abusing, although Todd Rundgren’s Liar for example takes great advantage of the lengthy format.)

I still miss the warmth of the analog LP (although great strides have been made) and the sides, but I wouldn’t want to give up the opportunity to load 5 discs into the changer and program 6 hours of music for myself. Or the glorious “shuffle,” whereby you put 5 similar albums into the player and let it randomly cycle through them. Love that shuffle.

I think the critical mass year was 1986. Paul Simon’s Graceland was big that year, and while it has two distinct sides, it plays well as a continuous work. But I generally think of the Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms as the first album recorded to be a CD; it came out on vinyl, but the CD features longer versions of many of the tracks, and the work really opens up in the CD format. And I remember my friend Chris the cameraman telling me he liked album Peter Gabriel’s So-- “especially 3, 7 and 10.” Chris, and I think all of us, stopped knowing the names of songs with the advent of the CD format; now we tend to know track numbers.

So on to the matter at hand.

When I talk about downloading music, I’m not talking about MP3s to amass a collection of music (wither legally or otherwise.) I’m from the camp that MP3 is a lossy format; that by using a tenth of the data of a full CD track, MP3 is costing us music. Sensitive ears can hear the loss (a metallic edge, and maybe a swirling, and a slurring of the “S” sound, at the high end.) Me, I like a lot of data in my music.

No, I’m talking about the rampant availability of what we used to call bootlegs—unreleased demos, live shows in top quality, available for download in lossless form (shorten, or .shn; and FLAC). I’m not inclined to offer a tutorial on using these formats; you can get that at a couple of places, including eTree, which also has links to all the software you’ll need. Suffice it to say you’ll need high bandwidth.

But I swear, every week I’m trading for or downloading two or three absolute gems. My favorite source is Sharing the Groove; everything good ends up there eventually. Some of the gems I’ve grabbed:

--SIX (!?) CDs of studio quality outtakes of the Stones Voodoo Lounge sessions. One of the discs, an alternate mix of the album, would have been the best Stones album since Some Girls if it had been the version they put out. And one is just Keef, messing around in the studio.

-- Five, count’em, five unreleased albums and/or sets of demos from Ryan Adams: the Fucker demos and Forever Valentine (both from Whiskeytown); and 48 Hours, the Pinkhearts Demos, and Suicide Handbook, all solo.

--All kinds of great FM or soundboard concerts from my favorite era of the Stones, the Ronnie Wood years.

--Only the second known soundboard recording from Prince of an aftershow, from 10-25-02 (the first, the legendary Small Club from 1988, has been there too but I had it.)

--The last Paul McCartney & Wings show, from 1979; eclectic setlist, and I think the source for that Kampuchea album. “Cook of the House” rocks as a 20-minute jam (just kidding).

In addition, Phil Lesh—former Grateful Dead bass player and leader of his own combo, affectionately known as the PLQ for Phil Lesh Quintet-- has made maybe 15 3-CD soundboard shows available for free download. If interested, try looking here or here.

The upshot is that every week, in addition to whatever CDs I might have bought, I generally have 2 or 3 live shows or unreleased albums in heavy rotation. I still buy CDs; but they have more competition for my share of listening.

The second development is the portable MP3 player. Now, I know I’ve just ripped MP3s a new bunghole (did you get that awesome pun about “ripping”?) To me, the utility of the MP3 is twofold: (1) trial. Download a band’s MP3, see if you like it, buy the album. I don’t think record companies—who are terrified of technology—have done an adequate job of selling the benefits of CD quality. The jamband festival Bonaroo is selling downloads of artists’ sets this year; in an ingenious marketing move, they price the MP3 version lower than the lossless audio version. Check here to see a place that could teach the record industry something.

Where was I? Oh yeah, twofold utility of the MP3. Bullet (2) is portability. Man, do I love my iPod. Its my second MP3 player, with a 40 gig hard drive and brilliantly engineered. I encode at 192 kbs; typical is 128 kbs, which just means my MP3s are 50% bigger than the norm, for more fidelity. Right now I have the equivalent of about 450 albums on the thing (although I generally avoid ripping whole albums, and prefer to pick and choose tracks. Then I create thematically or sonically unified playlists and listen to them set to shuffle. Love that shuffle.) And the thing is a little over half full.

Imagine! 450 albums worth of music in my brief case, or breast pocket, or clipped to my belt. And all stuff I picked because I like it. It is really quite awesome. One thing it does, of course, is it renders radio pointless as a source of music. Riding the subway each day, it seems like almost everyone has headphones—there really is a headphone revolution going on, maybe greater than the walkman revolution of the early 80s—and no one is listening to the radio through those headphones. Indeed my wife bought me a little connector that plugs into the headphone jack and broadcasts the iPod to an FM radio; on a recent business trip I lulled myelf to sleep with my soft rock mix coming out of the hotel clock radio.

So what’s the point here? Well, I’m not entirely sure. I am a heavy music purchaser, and so my behavior is atypical. On the other hand, shouldn’t the record industry be targeting heavy purchasers—like, oh, I don’t know, EVERY OTHER business does? And what’s happening for me is that I don’t WANT CDs to go away, I don’t want to be suckered into a new format, I don’t want my expensive collection to become obsolete (they pulled that scam with me once, LP to CD, and I’m not having it again.) And music must be free—not as in, you don’t pay the artist for it, but rather, as in unfettered, allowed to travel wherever it wants to. If I buy your album and the 5 tracks I really like end up on my MP3 player, just go with the flow. And I really don't want to see the lossy MP3 format become the standard for distributing music; as I say, I like data in my tunes.

I linked to Todd Rundgren’s Patronet site above. I’m a fan, but I have to admit that he’s not really made the thing live up to its promise. But I still vividly remember the day in 1996 when I downloaded the song “Surf Talks” from his website onto my work laptop; dashed home (after a quick stop at Radio Shack to buy the right cable); plugged in the laptop to my tape deck to record the song; and played it over my speakers and big stereo. Sure, this seems ludicrously cumbersome now. But at the time it was an epiphany on the order of “Watson, come quickly, I need you.” Todd had managed to make a song at his place, and get it to me, and I was listening to it at my place—and no one, no infrastructure, had to hang between us to facilitate the transfer.

With all the improvements in digital technology since then, I still look back fondly to that moment. It truly was the dawn of a new age, and nothing in music has been the same since.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:44 PM  0 comments


APW Exclusive: Kerry-Edwards to Take Election in November
Thursday, July 22, 2004
A Penny's Worth is prepared to call the 2004 presidential election in favor of Kerry and Edwards. Note that this is not an endorsement; it is a prediction. I like Kerry. Not in the sense of, "Does she like me like me or just like me?" More in the sense of, "Who do you like in the third at Aqueduct?"

Consider:

--Gore was inept as a candidate, and he still won the popular vote. He "lost" (wink, wink) Florida by a hair, and he lost Tennessee and Arkansas as well. And he didn't use Clinton in his campaign at all, despite southerner Clinton's popularity, because he wanted to distance himself from the impeached receiver of oral copulation.

--Kerry is willing to play hardball-- nasty ugly hardball-- in a way that Bush and Rove do and Gore didn't seem to have the organization (or stomach?) for.

--Clinton: he's ba-ack! His place on the familiar cycle of fame in America-- rise, fall from grace, redemption, book tour-- places him squarely ready to be an asset to the Kerry campaign. In the southern states where Kerry may not play well, he can send in the Clinton-Edwards team. Man, Hillary must be simmering in her juices over that one.

--More on Clinton: He is now an elder statesman who is well-positioned to second-guess Bush's policy on the Middle East (he's already spoken publicly about how he warned Bush that the Wahhabis in Al Qaeda were his biggest security concern, but that Bush seemed intent on setting his sights on the Ba'athist Iraqis.) Clinton has a way of attacking without attacking. I mean, hell, he FEELS your pain!

Bottom line, A Penny's Worth thinks that Kerry may leave something to be desired as a candidate (like say a position), but that his tactical abilities, debating skills (Gore was a snore), hard-ball-playing organization, and asset of Clinton and Edwards on the campaign trail, will enable him to hold the democratic base Gore took despite himself (which was greater than 50% after all), and add a state or two (Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee are southern states which Edwards will help place in the win column, especially with Clinton's help). That adds up to a win for the Democrats. Unless another "failure of intelligence" (wink wink) leads to a terrorist attack on American soil between now and November, timed to allow Bush to position (as he loves to do) any thought of political opposition to his policies as treason.

By the way-- and this may be a hedge-- but Al Qaeda and the Wahhabis believe they disrupted the political process in Spain with that train bombing; right after, the "Get Spain out of Iraq" guy won the election. So it would be no surprise to see them attempt a similar move in the US in an election year. Of course, they hate Bush and his relationships with the Saudis (Wahhabis want all infidels off the Arabian Peninsula, and the Bush/Saudi ties are in direct opposition), so any such attempt to disrupt our process may only serve to assure that the guy they hate gets 4 more years. If only lunatics were logical...

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:31 AM  1 comments


Another Album
Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose: Fascinating combination. Jack White of the White Stripes produced and is all over it; apparently he's a fan. Loretta makes country the traditional way-- songs from the heart and from the hills, without those telegraphed idiotic cliched hooks that Nashville and country radio seem to love so much. This is Patsy Cline country music. But White gives it a modern bite, a stiunging undertone. Indeed my wife calls it "hocking;" this isn't always bad, as she thinks all of King Crimson is hocking. But it says here, the combination-- trad country from a down-home lady; the stinging underpinnings of White's surprisingly (to me) tasteful but hard guitar-- make this a true sleeper record of the year. Of course it is probably too edgy for country fans, and too mellow for White Stripes fans, and it'll fall through the cracks. But I dig it. Plus, it clocks in at a tasteful 38 minutes and change.

And now I have to go and do something I thought I could avoid-- check out the White Stripes.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:29 AM  0 comments


Say It Aint So! Anti-Gay Bill Largely Backed By Republicans!
On July 21, the "Marriage Protection Act of 2004" (H.R. 3313) was
"reported" in the U.S. House of Representatives. Let's see who's sponsoring this lovely little piece of bile, shall we? Hmmm... not surprisingly, looks like its brought to you by the people who still aren't crazy about blacks and women voting. It's purpose is "to
amend title 28, United States Code, to limit Federal court jurisdiction
over questions under the Defense of Marriage Act." (Thanks Jerry G for all the swell facts.)

I love how we defend marriage by denying it to people. What kind of sick marriages must these people have that they feel this is somehow defending them?

H.R. 3313 Sponsors:

Mr. AKIN (R)
Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina (R)
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland (R)
Mr. BISHOP of Utah (R)
Mr. COLLINS (R)
Mr. CUNNINGHAM (R)
Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia (R)
Mr. TOM DAVIS of Virginia (R)
Mr. DEMINT (R)
Mr. DUNCAN (R)
Mr. FORBES (R)
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey (R)
Mr. GOODE (R)
Mr. GUTKNECHT (R)
Mr. HALL (R)
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington (R)
Mr. HENSARLING (R)
Mr. HERGER (R)
Mr. HOSTETTLER (R)
Mr. HUNTER (R)
Mr. JENKINS (R)
Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas (R)
Mr. JONES of North Carolina (R)
Mr. KING of Iowa (R)
Mr. KINGSTON (R)
Mr. LEWIS of Kentucky (R)
Mr. MANZULLO (R)
Mr. MCCOTTER (R)
Mr. MILLER of Florida (R)
Mr. NEUGEBAUER (R)
Mrs. NORTHUP (R)
Mr. NORWOOD (R)
Mr. OTTER (R)
Mr. PAUL (R)
Mr. PENCE (R)
Mr. PETRI (R)
Mr. POMBO (R)
Mr. RAHALL (D)
Mr. ROGERS of Alabama (R)
Mr. RYUN of Kansas (R)
Mr. SESSIONS (R)
Mr. SIMPSON (R)
Mr. SMITH of Michigan (R)
Mr. STEARNS (R)
Mr. TERRY (R)
Mr. TIAHRT (R)
Mr. WAMP (R)
Mr. WELDON of Florida (R)
Mr. WILSON of South Carolina (R)

Hey-- didja catch the democrat in there?

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 7:46 AM  0 comments


Three Albums
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
So I made it through three of the albums on my list yesterday. Quick takes:

King Crimson, live, 7/30/82: From the King Crimson Collector's Club, which puts out "official bootlegs." (Doesn't that sound kind of like "certified pre-owned?") Perhaps the best live release to feature the early 80s quartet of Fripp, Belew, Levin, and Bruford. (There was a time there where Belew was on everything coming out; notably Remain In Light.) This is a great record (yes, I still call them that) to listen to while working, if you like nervous frenetic music driving you like espresso for your ears. But its also oddly beautiful. Nervous, frenetic, and oddly beautiful describes Crim's best work. A total keeper.

New Pornographers, Electric Version: I didn't go for their first one, but my friend Minty and others seem to be ga-ga for this one, and it was Magnet's #2 of 2003, so I figured I'd give it a try. I found it to be oddly compelling on first listen (and Magnet said you still find hooks after 100 listenings.) I'll have to re-visit the first in this light. Called Power Pop, but I'm not quite sure; the hookiness is far more off beat than traditional Power Pop. Beguiling.

Wilco, A Ghost is Here: I wanted to like this. And I really tried. I haven't tried so hard to like a record since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. But I just don't get it. It sounds like something I ought to like-- as did YHF-- but I just don't seem to get drawn in, by either one. Frankly they lost me at Summer Teeth, which I know people think is great. I am not knocking the band; people whose taste I respect tell me Foxtrot was a classic. I just don't seem to get it. I must not be wired that way. Meanwhile, I still think their alt-country adieu, the double Being There, was brilliant. So what do I know?

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:54 AM  0 comments


So, How 'Bout Them Current Events?
Monday, July 19, 2004
When I started this blog, I figured there'd be no shortage of stuff to spew about. Then my brother the libertarian conservative (see comment here) sent me an article from Wired about blogger burnout. "Not I," I said. "I write this crap anyway; I've just been posting it elsewhere."

What I forgot to figure on was that baby thing. See, usually I'm a news and politics junkie. But since the little bundle of poop-producing love arrived, I've been shamefully in arrears on my upkeep of current events knowledge. What's going on right this second that I can add my pithy penny's worth to? Honestly, I don't know.

So I just grabbed the NY Times (which some would call a liberal rag, and while I might not quarrel, I'd suggest that it is nicely counterbalanced by the Wall Street Journal, a conservative rag, in the national newspaper arena) (for the record, both are fine papers) and I see that Kerry is assembling a network of lawyers for "vote fights."

Soon A Penny's Worth is going to come out and call a winner in the presidential race-- I'm probably going to do it on a Friday because I don't want to cause the stock market to go all crazy when I make the call-- but one thing I think should be noted about Kerry is that, like him, hate him, have no strong feelings either way, you have to admit, he's tougher competition than Al Gore was. The guy plays hardball. I just wish he had, say, a policy, a positioning statement. Something for the good people of America to say besides "He's not Bush" when asked, "Why are you voting for Kerry?" Well, maybe soon...

Anyhoo, I have a stack of CDs to listen to whilst I toil today, and here's what they are:

--King Crimson, live in Philadelphia, 7/30/82 (official release)
--New Pornographers, Electric Version (Minty likes this one so much I had to check it out)
--Paul Weller, Illumination (slowly working my way into his catalog)
--The new Wilco, A Ghost is Born. Which I've played once, and man is it weird.
--Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose; produced by Jack White of the White Stripes

Not all new, but all new to me. Maybe there will be comments on these releases in the days to come. Unless I get to watch me some CNN.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:22 AM  2 comments


Trade Secret: Writing Effective Business Presentations
Saturday, July 17, 2004
I really oughtn't be giving it away like this, but what the heck-- what are the odds one of the five of you ever pitches agsinst me for business, right?  Anyway, I've managed to distill the outline for 90% of effective business presentations into 5 simple bullets.  Here they are:
 
--Shit that's happening
 
--What it means to (us or you)
 
--What we plan to do about it
 
--The expected outcome of the plan
 
--Conclusion: how the outcome deals with the shit
 
And that's really it.  Of course don't actually put "Shit that's happening" into your presentation; call it "environment" or "background" or "situational analysis," or something equally business-sounding.  They especially like "situational analysis."
 
You may think I'm kidding-- I'm told it isn't always clear-- but I'm not.  If you are staring at a blank screen and that big presentation is due tomorrow, work off this outline, and I'm betting you get it done.
 
Usually I get paid for gold like this.  But its yours free, for A Penny's Worth.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:31 AM  0 comments


My Wondrous Baby: Advice for Terrified Dads-to-Be (and the Moms That Love Them)
Friday, July 16, 2004
See that little bundle of joy I'm holding over there in that picture?  That's my new daughter.  She is about 6 weeks old in that (relatively recent) shot.
 
Before she arrived, I was full of trepidation; and frankly as a 45-year-old guy who is set in his ways, I was freaking out about her arrival.  The house will be full of baby crap; we'll never go out as much; we'll start using words like "onesey" and "poop."  Believe me, I had a litany.
 
Turns out everything I feared has come to pass.  Although I have managed to insist that those cloth thingies you put on your shoulder for feeding be referred to as "baby rags."
 
But being a man and not possessing maternal instincts, it turns out I totally forgot to factor in one very important thing: that I'd love the baby.  I mean, love.  Love, love, love.  Look at her.  Look at me.  That's love, folks.  It doesn't get any more pure.
 
And the point is this.  Guys, if you find yourself in this position, trust me.  If you have anything resembling a heart, the kid will arrive and you'll be an instant sucker.  Hell, I'm shopping for ponies at lunch today.  Everything will fade in the glory and wonder of your new live baby.
 
And women-- don't let your husband's fear and apprehension deter you.  You are right and he is wrong (but then, you already know that).  I thank the great Spirit in the Sky every day that my wife didn't let mine stop her.  I will be eternally grateful for the rest of my life.
 
Oh yeah.  My wife.  That's someone else I love.  And I always will.  I just wish she'd read the damn blog so she'd be as up on this stuff as the 5 of you.




Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:41 AM  3 comments


Comments Enabled; Links Section Added
Thursday, July 15, 2004
A Penny's Worth just keeps getting better. The comments function is now set properly. You needn't register with blogger to comment; just click "comment" and choose to comment anonymously (of course you can say who you are, and John McCain, I'm talking to you.) Looking forward to my arch conservative brother calling me out.

Also, Minty, my blog mentor, has taught me how to put a list of links on the right, over there somewhere ------->. I just put up a couple to test, but it works. I'll add more as patience and your groundswell of demand dictates.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 4:16 PM  1 comments


Flash! "A Penny's Worth" Forces Senate's Hand!
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Just yesterday I posted about my stand on Gay marriage. I was going to update the post with a link to the moveon petition against the ammendment, but then today I hear on the radio that-- one day after A Penny's Worth takes a stand-- the senate puts the kibosh on the constitutional ammendment banning gay marriage! I had no idea so many powerful people were loyal readers! John McCain, if you're out there, you guys did the right thing. And would it kill you to comment?

One wonders if this heralds a split in the Republican party, along con and neo-con lines. Or between the lunatic religious right and the moderates.

By the way, my friend "B", who is a former Jewish lesbian and current monogomous hetero religious nut (she says she prefers the term "Jesus Freak") says she is opposed to banning Gay marriage. I was wondering; you could sort of see where she might go either way. Although I have it on good authority that now she only goes the one way.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:43 PM  3 comments


Musical Name Dropping and Glad Handing
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
I just realized that when I recommended 6 albums in the post "It Won't All Be This Heavy," I actually have at least met 4 of the 6 artists-- Tan Sleeve, Derek Trucks (you'll want to read my interview with him and Allman Brother bandmate Oteil Burbridge in the last issue of Hittin' the Note), Jill Sobule, and Todd Rundgren. So I guess the moral is, if you want me to plug your album, meet me.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:38 PM  1 comments


I'm For Gay Marriage
I feel like Emily Litella from the old Saturday Night Live. What's all this fuss about Gay marriage?

The attempt by the Republicans to add a CONSTITUTIONAL AMMENDMENT banning gay marriage (the first time that particular document would be used to take away a liberty; lovely precedent that) is election year pandering of the worst kind. What is the argument against gay marriage? The only one I've heard is that it threatens the sanctity of marriage. Well, let me say this as a straight white married guy. How about a constitutional ammendment banning hot young sluts from marrying rich old guys for their money? (We could call it the Anna Nicole Smith ammendment.) THAT challenges the sanctity of marriage a heck of a whole lot more in my opinion. But whatever there is between me and my wife, it is ONLY about me and my wife; no one but the two of us CAN effect the sanctity of our marriage. I generally assume that people who adamantly oppose gay marriage must simply not know any same sex couples. I know a bunch. The males tend to be faithful and long-time partners (I know a couple of couples together over 25 years), but childless; the women tend to be much the same, but are more likely to have kids. But to say these people aren't families, aren't every bit as married as straight people-- again, all I can say is, you must not have met any of them.

Is Dick Cheney's daughter married? Does she want to be? does he want happiness for his own daughter? These are things I wonder.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:36 PM  0 comments


Flash! Tan Sleeve are Republicans!
For the 5 of you reading this, turns out I've learned from writing about music and politics that Lane and Steve, the main two guys in Tan Sleeve, are republicans. The point of which is, it doesn't matter. They're both still really cool guys, they're album is still great, and if you can play it all the way through on a sunny day and not feel better its your fault, not theirs. All 5 of you should run out and buy several copies as gifts.

My criticisms of "capital R" republicans-- the ones who are currently running the country-- shouldn't lead anyone to believe I'm a Democrat. I've registered Independent my whole life; I'm still waiting for a political party that I can point to and say, "I wanna be one of THOSE guys!" Besides, I have a theory that if you don't join a party you get less junk mail. Lane, we'll compare junk mail notes in November.

My very own brother is a classic libertarian free market conservative republican. And him, I love like-- well, like a brother.

The point being, hey, unless you're like this big shot congressman or something where it might (I stress might) actually matter, who cares what your politics are? I've got a group of college buddies I still keep in regular contact with, and we have shared experiences and tastes and all still see each other, and we're about evenly split between Dem, Rep, and Indie. It doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. Beer is beer, if you know what I mean. In a very real way, a core underlying tenet of both Conservative and Liberal ideology should be the free exchange of ideas and the respect thereof (which is why Moichael Moore, and Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly, piss me off. No respect for dialogue, for the exchange of ideas. Did you hear O'Reilly wuss out in that NPR interview?)

Look, Dubya, I kid. I kid, because I love.

PS, I am still embarrassed that our president is such a tool. Sure Clinton was a pussy hound. But if I have to be represented by a pussy hound or a tool, and I can only pick one, I pick the pussy hound every time. At least I know where I stand with Clinton (somewhere behind that hot blonde with the rack.)

But frankly, I'm more than a little troubled that the next president will be a member of a wealthy elite family and a legacy of Yale's Skull & Bones. And that's no matter who wins. On some level, this is starting to feel like a choice between Kang and Kodos.*



*I assume if you've read this far you get the Simpsons reference.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:01 PM  2 comments


The Entire Presidential Election in a Nutshell
Now THIS is funny. Warning, it'll take a while to load, and if you don't have broadband, don't even bother. Anyway, if I've done this right, the words jiib jab should appear as a clickable link. If it does, thanks Minty.

This is funny as well: Spiderman 2, entirely in Leggo.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 8:53 PM  0 comments


Prince Tears the Roof Off the Sucka
Prince arrived with his multi-racial, multi-gender band last night (MON) for the first of what I gather are 3 sold out performances at Madison Square Garden. As a member of the fan club, I was able to secure 8th row seats.

Some have called the Musicology album and tour a comeback for Prince, but it isn't, because he never really went away. I think it is more apt to call it a celebration-- his induction earlier this year into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame (the show kicks off with Alicia Keys's induction speech as part of what can best be described as a promo film) appears to be serving as springboard for a year-long celebration of his career. When I last saw him-- Avery Fisher Hall in 2002-- he opened with 80 minutes of new music, from the recent Rainbow Children CD, or songs still not yet out. And it rocked like a mofo. At one point in that show he said, "If y'all expecting to get your 'Purple Rain' on, this aint 1984!" Whereas last night "Purple Rain" was the final encore, and he played I think 6 others off that album.

The band is outstanding-- particularly Rhonda Smith on bass, who lays down the funky bottom over which the music rides and twists; and the sax players, Maceo Parker (James Brown alum) and Candy Dulpher (I had no idea she was this good.) In addition to celebrating Prince's career, the show also celebrates live, no-lip-synch, play-the-instruments music. And of course Prince himself remains a monster on guitar.

The first 45 minutes, the band didn't let up once. The show was an orgy of hits, underscoring the breadth of the man's catalog. There were also a few nuggets tossed in-- "The Question of You", for example-- and a lenghy solo acoustic set by Prince in the middle of the 2+ hour show. Another noteworthy interlude, directly preceeding the solo acoustic set, was Maceo Parker's solo, wherein he played "Its a Wonderful World" with keyboard accompaniment.

Prince sang, danced, played searing guitar, and was generally the consummate entertainer. It was a monstrously crowd-pleasing show, save for some concerns I might have about the sound in a hockey rink.

Bottom line, let me add my voice to those praising this tour. But I'll also say, for my money, the One Night Alone tour (the one I caught at Avery Fisher) was better. I'm enough of a fan that I liked the new tunes; most folks-- probably including you-- would probably prefer this show. Oh-- and the ticket comes with a free copy of the new album.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:36 PM  2 comments


The so-called "War on Terrorism"
Monday, July 12, 2004
By now we've all heard that the Bush administration had Iraq in its sights before 9/11. President Clinton reports that he advised the incoming Dubya that Al Qaeda was his number one security threat, and that Bush was mute on the topic. Bush's head of counter-terrorism Richard Clarke, according to a recent Vanity Fair piece, was asked 9/12/01 if the Iraqis were involved in the attacks. When he submitted his response-- essentially, "no"-- the memo was returned to him with the notation, "Please update and re-submit." Sorry Dick, wrong answer.

Ever since 9/11, we've been at war. But with whom, exactly? If you've swallowed the idiotic rhetoric of the president, you'd think it was "the terrorists." But I believe words are important, and a major part of the reason we are mis-handling the Middle East so badly is that the president doesn't know who the enemy is. Terrorism is not a group of people, not a nation, not an ethnicity, not an ideology. It is a military tactic. Saying we are at war with the terrorists is like if FDR went on the radio 12/8/41 (the day after Pearl Harbor-- you know, "a day that will live in infamy") and declared war on "airplanes and those that would fly them." Instead of, say, Japan.

Let me make it abundantly clear. Suppose the Wahhabis (the radical Islamic sect with whom we are actually at war; Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabi state) announced that they would eschew terrorism because they decided it was wrong, and from now on they would use Saudi oil money to recruit, arm, train, and maintain a traditional military force in order to attack the United States conventionally. Would we be rejoicing in the streets that we've won the war on terror? Or would we still have something of a problem? If you opted for the latter, congratulations! You now understand foreign policy better than the president.

If you really want to read how the house of Saud and the house of Wahhabi are one in the same, and how Saudi Arabia is the nexus of funding and ideology of anti-western terrorism, read Stephen Schwartz's The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Saud From Tradition to Terror. Or at least grab it off the shelf at Barnes & Noble, buy a latte, and skim it.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:40 AM  0 comments


It Won't All Be This Heavy
Sunday, July 11, 2004
By the way, it won't all be politics. A lot will be whimsy, and a wicked lot will be music.

In the latter department, let me recommend 6 recent CDs:

Tan Sleeve, Bad From Both Sides: My friend Lane's band. Great, classic power pop in the mode of Beatles, Bachrach, Big Star, Beach Boys, with bite. Buy it at www.notlame.com.

Chris Stamey, Travels in the South: Stylistically, not entirely unlike the Tan Sleeve. Stamey was a founding member of seminal power popsters the dBs, and any time he puts one out, its cause for celebration. This album sounds like a Chris Stamey record. That alone puts it in my top-10 for the year.

BoDeans, Resolution: I thought their last one was a tad weak, but this is a return to form with all the heartland heart these guys bring to the table.

Todd Rundgren, Liars: The whole album-- as synthetic as any I've ever heard-- is a lie. And that makes it great. Thematically about the lies we live with, no one plays the technology like Todd, and this one, no question, is his best in years. 75 minutes, and a hell of a piece of work; you have to keep playing it to get it all, and that is usually the hallmark of a great record.

Derek Trucks Band, Live From the Georgia Theater: Derek is one of the most astounding players around, and this tour de force band record shows why. Last year's Soul Serenade was something as well. You can, I believe, get it through his or Sony's website, and at the Apple store. Derek brings blues, jazz, world music, rock, soul, and funk into one unique blend, and then low-key plays the hell out of it. Currently on tour with his other gig, the Allman Brothers.

Jill Sobule, Underdog Victorious: Not out yet, due from Artemis in September. The single, "Cinnamon Park," is impossible not to love, so pick it up, and then the album, when they're out. Of course, she's also impossible not to love, especially live. This week she played the Living Room in NYC, and I actually joined her onstage for Cinnamon Park, accompanying on pretend trumpet (long story). A singer/songwriter who can sing, play a mean guitar, and whose work is consistently laced with heart, humor, brains, and honesty.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:29 PM  1 comments


Let's Jump Right In: Fahrenheit 9/11
My wife took our 6-week-old daughter to a baby shower this past Saturday, so I had a chance to do something I didn't anticipate getting to do this summer-- go to a movie. I decided that I'd see Fahrenheit 9/11 and make my first blog post about my reaction to the film, because, well, this is a movie that has gotten no play in the media, there is absolutely no buzz positive or negative, no one seems to be talking about it, there is just a general total vacuum with respect to opinions about it, and it is long past time someone chimed in. No?

Regardless...

You should know, before I start, where I stand. I generally find my politics in alignment with Moore's. And I can't freaking stand the guy.

That said, I will be as-- well, no one is really objective, but as honest as possible in my take.

Bottom line, there was no bottom line. I'm sure there was supposed to be a point to the film-- and indeed, many parts were viscerally compelling-- but, despite the consensus among my fellow filmgoers on the way out of the theater, I didn't know what that point was. If pressed, I’d have to say the point was to make Bush out a fool. About 40% of the film was devoted to making Bush look foolish. But is that really even necessary? Isn’t it a little like knocking the books out of the arms of the biggest weakling nerd in school?

There was that bit at the opening about Bush having stolen Florida, and he absolutely did-- but politics is hardball, and what's done is done, and frankly he "stole" it fair and square. (Maybe if that idiot Gore had thought to use an extremely popular sitting southern president to campaign in Florida, or Tennessee, or Arkansas, he would have won one of these southern states, and the election.) (Say what you will about what the Bushes did in Florida, for my money Gore has no one but himself to blame for losing the election.) And there was a bunch about the links between Bush family and the Bin Laden family and the Saudis and the Carlyle Group (all far better documented in Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud) And at the end there was some stuff about how the war in Iraq is wrong. Which it is. But instead of making the case—showing Bush tell us that we had to invade because they had WMD, then showing experts testifying that there were none and the administration knew it—Moore stoops to following around a woman who lost her son in Iraq. I feel for the woman, but this isn’t documentary; its cheap sentimentality in place of solid logic and buttoned up arguments.

A lot of thoughts crammed into a film, but no overarching message. At least not one that I could see.

Basically, Michael Moore is quite literally the Jackass of the left, by which I am comparing him to the aptly named MTV personality. Why make a cogent point when you can pull a buffoonish stunt? Example: showing how foolish Republicans are by devoting film time to members of the administration looking foolish getting make-up applied for TV appearances (Colin Powell, to his credit, was the one guy who looked uncomfortable.) But what is the point here-- that Democrats don't wear make-up on TV? That they do, but don't look foolish getting it applied? Or maybe there was no point at all, this was just part of the 40% of the movie that served only to make fun of Bush.

Then there's the scene where he tried to get congressmen to sign their kids up for military service (if this stunt isn't pure Jackass I don't know what is.) Well, if you're going to do this, shouldn't you ascertain the age of the congressman's kids? I mean, if you have a 12 year old and a 9 year old, ignoring Moore seems perfectly reasonable. There was one guy who reported that he'd personally served in the air force from '68 to '72. At a time when Moore was-- what? Boogying down to Grand Funk? And the guy took the brochure, by the way.

The reason I really can't stand Moore's work is that he picks up the banner for causes I believe in-- for example, the way that this administration has woefully mismanaged foreign policy since 9/11 because they are so close to the Saudi/Wahhabis (Wahhabis being the "evil doers" we are at war with, if you want I can provide a bibliography) that they can't properly execute the so-called war on terrorism. We are at war with Wahhabis; Bush attacks Ba'athists.

Originally I thought that the point of the Iraqi invasion was to free up the oil reserves and put a puppet in place, so that the number two oil producer in the world was our business partner, and we could loosen the Saudis’ grip on the world oil market. Since the Saudis and the Wahhabis are the same people and we are at war with the Wahhabis, this made perfect sense, and I was actually in favor of the strategy. Until I realized that the administration wasn’t going to jeopardize Saudi oil interests—they were actually actively protecting them as a matter of policy. You know, “our good friends the Saudis” and all.

But Moore is so intellectually lazy that the word Wahhabi isn't mentioned once in the movie. Not once. And there is no excuse for covering this topic from his perspective (the left) and not dissecting the relationship between Saudis and Wahhabis (they are basically the same) and the "evil doers" (Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, every 9/11 terrorist, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, all Wahhabi).

Me, I left the theater furious. Not at Bush and his cronies-- it isn't as if I learned something new, I already know he isn’t that smart and his family is in bed up the yin yang with the same people who are responsible for anti-American terrorism. No, I was furious because of the shoddy job this slovenly, intellectually lazy, buffoonish clown of a filmmaker did in making any kind of cogent case. It wasn’t a documentary; it was a soapbox. And he’s too intellectually lazy (I’ve said that now, what, 4 times?) to lay out the case.

But dang, did he make good fun of Dubya. And I guess when you’re a Jackass, that’s really all that matters.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:36 PM  2 comments


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