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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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The Way I Walk is Just the Way I Walk
Monday, October 31, 2005
Oteil Burbridge is probably best known as the bass player with the Allman Brothers, a slot he has occupied since 1997 (he also leads his own band, the Peacemakers.) He is a man who always brings a smile and warmth, and who is often seen onstage during a particularly moving jam when the band is locked in, his head tilted back, eyes shut, rocking and beaming happily toward the heavens.

Oteil is a devout Christian, and his faith informs his music in a highly positive way. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him a little (I review his new album, Believer, in the upcoming issue of Hitting the Note.) He has instilled in me a message about faith that is, I think, both profound on a personal level, and useful on a political one.

He hasn’t put it into exactly these words, but what I’ve learned about faith from Oteil is this: Faith is about the way you move through life. Faith is the walk you walk, not the talk you talk. As the Native Americans say, “Feel your feet on the ground.”

Faith is about accepting and embracing and inviting and welcoming in the things that come your way. It is how you meet the world, meet life, as it comes whooshing at you. And while we often think of faith as a religious concept, it needn’t be one; faith may be put in God, but it may be put in other things as well. If religion isn’t singing to you, then have faith in the universe. Or in yourself. Or in music. But by all means, have some.

You know how some people seem to be perpetually downtrodden, committed to the idea that each time the world rotates it will kick them in the ass on the way by? (Dr. Phil would ask them, “How’s that working for you?” I hate Dr. Phil.) That’s faith too, but faith poorly placed. Faith is some heavy mojo; choose wisely where you put yours.

I find all this to be a very profound lesson, on two levels. First, on a personal level. This message of faith suggests that you must internalize whatever it is you believe in—- whatever is, as Jack Palance says so memorably in City Slickers, your own “just one thing.” (Please tell me you saw City Slickers.) Find that thing and internalize it, because it won’t imbue your life until it has soaked through you and is oozing out of your pores. Spend five minutes with Oteil and you will feel yourself basking in his faith. He really can’t contain it. But he isn’t preaching to you; its there in his laugh, his smile, his spirit, his music, his soul. He walks the walk.

Second, on a political level. It is no secret to any of the loyal readers of APW that we are wary of the Religious Right and the power they seem to wield among Republicans to turn their hatred into law. This political movement we call the Religious Right is just a well-organized mechanism for furthering an extreme, reactionary social agenda. It is neither religious, nor right. Their hate speech (and that is all it is) could not be further away from faith in the teachings of Christ. So let’s stop letting them get away with claiming God for their side, OK?

I found a cool post that provides another neat spin on this theme; its here, and you should check it out.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:51 PM  2 comments


Today's Winner of the "We're Living in a Bizzaro World" Award
Friday, October 28, 2005

Advertising Age (but you need to register) reports that Martha Stewart Omnimedia losses increased to $78.7 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, from $52.3 million for the same period in 2004. The reason? According to the sub-head, "Print Ad Sales Improve but Post-Prison TV Shows Suffer."

Hmm. That's odd. One would have naturally assumed that a company based on the premise of marketing the lifestyle of its CEO would suffer no ill consequences at all if said CEO was arrested for a felony, subjected to a very public trial, found guilty, and sent to prison.

Although APW hears that she sent lovely embossed, hand written thank you notes to the prison guards. (APW does not know what “embossed” means.)

Sometimes you just trip over a headline that makes you stop for a second, step back, and ponder how much sheer absurdity marks our collective, defining landscape each day. Reality is a construct defined by what a critical mass of us can agree on. Meaning, if you look at a thing but your perceptions of it diverge from consensus, you are by definition insane. Insanity, like genius, is merely an outlier.

But reality is a lowest common denominator sorta thang. And therein lies the scary part. Its why we can live in a country where 42% of the population choose not to believe in evolution (read God's thoughts on the topic here.)

Why does it surprise us that Martha Stewart is less marketable now that she is a former federal felon? How many convicted felons do you know? How many of them run successful companies?

Or have we simply come to a point where reality can accomodate the notion of Miss Manners getting jailhouse ink from Linda Blair? In which case, I guess, color me insane.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:31 AM  2 comments


Miers to President: Good Grief, Charlie Brown!
Thursday, October 27, 2005

Am I the only one who thinks of Peppermint Patty's Marcie whenever I see Harriet Miers talking about George Bush? There's something about how she always refers to him as "sir," with such butch devotion, that reminds me of Marcie.

So I see Harriet withdrew her name from consideration for Supreme Court nominee. Interesting development. Will this taint Bush, make him stronger, or have no general impact? Time will tell.

Things do get interesting now though. Who comes next-- the wacko crazy extreme right wing creationist, as sop to the Religious Right? And if so, does that make Miers a bait and switch kind of thing? My guess-- because it would be good strategy-- is that the next pick is decidedly un-vanilla; somoeone who draws a whole lot of the media glare. Maybe Gonzolez. Maybe some social miscreant I've never heard of. But someone spicy. Someone who can take up, say, 25 minutes of a one-hour news program each evening.


The Democrats are trying to walk a very fine line, the goal clearly being to blame Bush for picking an unqualified candidate, AND SIMULTANEOUSLY to blame the Republicans for making that candidate withdraw. I think they're going to have to pick one or the other. The positioning is exemplified by Ted Kennedy, who says, "The nominee deserved better." As in, deserved not to have been nominated?

APW ANALYSIS: THE BOTTOM LINE. In the wake of Katrina, the country is turnung away from the Republicans. And the party is responding so badly you'd think they were-- well, Democrats. See, maybe 30% of the population always votes Republican; another 30% always votes Democrat. That leaves a middle 40% who determine elections. All along, the general impression this middle 40% had of the administration was, "Well, they seem to know what they're doing." And in American politics, that goes an awful long way.

Then comes Katrina, and tens of millions of people are doing a double take at the TV. "What the f--?" Even Anderson Freaking Cooper is incredulous! And if it turns out that the administration doesn't, in fact, really know what they are doing, suddenly everything else starts to matter a whole lot more.

WHich makes the Miers withdrawal another ill-timed example of the White House very publicly not to seeming to know what they're doing. And the common thread of cronyism (Miers, Brown) that links this bungled nomnation with FEMA and Katrina makes it worse.

For 5 years Bush has walked the razor's edge between cocky and clueless. He almost had us fooled.

Now the Democrats are keeping very mum. Because once they open their mouths, it will become obvious that they don't know what they're doing either, and everything will go back to the way it was. If only they could keep Kennedy and Feinstien off CNN.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 3:06 PM  0 comments


Beatles for Sale?
My McCartney post seems to have generated some controversy, so I'm plugging it to give it some play here up top the blog-- or "upside" the blog, as the kids might say. In this post I opine that he plays too many Beatle songs in concert; I seem to be in the minority. (Some of the feedback came via email, not comments.) Anyway, see what you think.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 1:36 PM  0 comments


Former Monkey, and Proud of It
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

First off, I want to say how thrilled I am to welcome God to APW. His people were totally great to deal with, and I'm hoping we have Him back again soon.

Anyway, God got me to thinking about the whole Intelligent Design (ID) vs. Darwinism debate. And He made me realize, there is no such debate. Literalists aren't just opposed to evolution; they are opposed to anything that might suggest the world is older than 6,000 years old (like, say, carbon dating of dinosaur bones.) The Literalists want nothing less than to criminialize scientific speech that conflicts with the letter of the bible (and remember, when science is criminal, only criminals will have science.)

Remember that it is indisputed fact that the world is four and a half billion years old, and that men walked the earth 20,000 years ago. The Literalists find these ideas to be about as reprehensible as Darwin's theory of evolution. And by the way, the fact of evolution isn't actually in question either; merely the how of it. Hence Darwin's theory of evolution, as opposed to for example alernative theories of evolution.

I like the way Lawrence Krauss puts it. Especially this paragraph:

In fact, the "fairness" argument is itself disingenuous. Scientific ideas that have become sufficiently mainstream to be taught in high school have survived a gauntlet of stringent tests. The first takes place when proposals are published in peer-reviewed journals, often resulting in severe criticisms that must be addressed. After publication, the proposals must be compelling enough to prompt exploration by other researchers. If they survive perhaps 20 years of testing against evidence, they may make it into high-school texts. ID proponents wish to bypass these messy steps and go directly into classrooms. Key aspects of other theories such as relativity and quantum mechanics remain hotly debated in the literature, yet there is no call to 'teach the controversy'.

Read the whole essay here.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:45 AM  4 comments


A Guest Editorial From God
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

According to the Pew Research Center, 42% of Americans believe that life on Earth has always existed as it does now. 48% believe in evolution; of these, a subset of 18% (that's 18 of the 48) believe evolution was guided by a supreme being.

Congratulations to those 18%. That is exactly right.

Please quote Me, the Lord thy God, on this. Thus spake Me. Evolution is one of My most brilliant achievements. And trust Me to know; I am after all omniscient. I took carbon and water and dirt, heated it up into a goopy soup, and four and a half billion years later here you are, reading a blog. Not too shabby, right? Evolution, dudes. Who's yo' daddy?

Now, those dullards who insist on taking the bible literally-- hey, don't blame Me for them. They may claim to speak for Me, but they do not. My spokespersons have a little more on the ball. I mean, let's face it. I am, after all, God. Who do you think I'd pick to speak for Me? (and remember that I have first dibs on pretty much everyone.) Would I pick Pat Robertson, or Stephen Hawking? Think about it.

The bible was written thousands of years ago, before the printing press, in languages none of you speak. Show of hands: who's seen a first edition copy? No one? Thought so. Check eBay; you won't find one. In the original Aramaic, the Old Testement is sheer poetry. A little heavy on the guilt perhaps, but I was younger then and have since found My voice. But the bible seems to have gotten all garbled up along the way, as you folks copied and translated it manually over thousands of years, and now even I hardly recogniize it. The original, in fact, was quite a groundbreaking scientific text-- just as I intended when I dictated it. (Which reminds me: whatever happened to the Book of Mary Magdeline? But I digress.)

So stop all this nonsense about God versus evolution. Only I could have brought you so complex and profoundly beautiful a thing as evolution. Remember that, the next time you see speeded up nature footage of a blooming rose.

Check out my website here.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 5:16 PM  0 comments


Its the Criminals, Stupid
Monday, October 24, 2005
Both John Stewart and Al Franken showed how Fox News talking heads were spouting the phrase "the criminalization of politics" last week. It was suitably comical to see clips of all the pundits and flaks mouthing what was obviously the Republican party line with Delay indicted and White House staffers up to and including Cheney under investigation. Surely this is, they suggest, the Democrats engaging in the "criminalization of politics"?

Let me provide the answer that should be forthcoming from all concerned, outraged Americans, regardless of party affiliation:

What begats the criminalization of politics, is when politicians commit crimes. Period. End of discuission.

And of course, when criminal behavior is against the law, only criminals will commit crimes. Have the Republican spinmeisters even throught of that?

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 6:53 PM  2 comments


The Password is... qpirtuwh
I've resisted turning on that word verification feature, which prevents spam comments but which requires you, dear reader, to type in the secret word in order to be able to comment. I have been resisting as long as possible-- you, dear reader, your interests always come first here at APW-- but the amount of spam that has been generated as APW goes increasingly mainstream has made it necessary to block these awful purveyors of dieting and HGH and unnaturally long (in duration) erections, in order to assure the best reading and posting experience possible for you, dear reader.

By the way, trhere's some guy who gives banjo lessons...

Posted by: --josh-- @ 1:45 PM  2 comments


When I'm Sixty-Three
Friday, October 21, 2005

So, been a while. You’re all well I trust?

Paul McCartney played a stand at Madison Square Garden beginning September 30, and I managed to catch the first night. (And next year, when you see dozens of articles about Macca titled “When I’m 64,” remember you read it here first, sort of.) I’ve been thinking about the show, processing it, ever since. I’ve seen him 5 or 6 times, the last time in April of 2002. He’s always been quite the crowd pleaser, and as the setlist will indicate, he is hardly shy about playing Beatles songs. Indeed, if anything, I would have liked to have heard fewer Beatles songs, and a couple more from his solo canon from, say, 1970 through 2001. But we’ll get to that…

One asterisk indicates that this is the first (post-Beatles) tour on which McCartney has played the song; two asterisks indicate first US tour the song has been played. Most of the songs that are new to the set since 2002 (“For No One,” “Flaming Pie,” “In Spite of All the Danger,” “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and “Helter Skelter”) were debuted on his European tour in 2004, which predated the current album and featured none of its songs. Three asterisks indicate songs from the new album.

Magical Mystery Tour
Flaming Pie**
Jet
I'll Get You*
Drive My Car
Till There Was You**
Let Me Roll It
Got to Get You In My Life
Fine Line***
Maybe I'm Amazed
Long and Winding Road

Acoustic:
In Spite of All The Danger**
I Will*
Jenny Wren***
For No One**
Fixing A Hole
English Tea***
I'll Follow The Sun**
Follow Me***
Bouree (Bach) > Blackbird
Eleanor Rigby

Too Many People* >
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window*
Good Day Sunshine**
Band on the Run
Penny Lane
I've Got A Feeling**
Back in the USSR
Hey Jude
Live and Let Die

Yesterday
Get Back
Helter Skelter**

Please Please Me*
Let it Be
Sgt. Pepper Reprise > The End

The show is close to an hour long before the band takes the stage; first a series of paintings, presumably McCartney’s work, cycles through on the video screens. Then some cascading psychedelic screensaver-type video, very Yellow Submarine, accompanied by DJ Freelance Hellraiser, who plays tracks from the Twin Freaks record. This record is a mash-up by Mr. Raiser of McCartney tracks; for example, there was one number that combined the vocal line from “Coming Up” with the riff from “Old Siam Sir.” It’s hard to explain; check it out here. We liked it though. Then a 15-minute film that spanned McCartney’s life, getting faster and faster (say, 12 of 15 minutes devoted to the years through 1970; about the same ratio as the concert), flying at the end through the Superbowl set and his Live 8 appearance with U2, and then right up his nose as he’s walking out to the stage. Then, finally, the concert part begins.

It may have been because at my advanced age I go to very few concerts in hockey rinks, but the first few songs sounded decidedly muddy. It didn’t matter for “Jet,” a great song that he wisely plays every time around. But I thought “Mystery Tour” and “Flaming Pie” suffered; not a lot of clarity in the instrumentation, save for Paul’s booming yet melodic bass underneath.

“I’ll Get You” was an early highlight, one of those real “Beatle-y” Beatles songs from the early 60s. Of course, John sung it back then, and it was unclear why McCartney included it, although I’m willing to concede that this was written in the time when they wrote together, tossing lines at each other in the same room. Similarly, “Till There Was You” was a highlight, nicely rendered in the original Beatles arrangement and sounding more intimate than you had any right to expect in a hockey rink.

Other highlights included “In Spite of All the Danger,” which the Quarrymen (John, Paul, George, 2 other guys) covered in a record booth in the fifties, and which appears in that version on the first Anthology release. McCartney played this solo acoustic (by the way, you can see who played what on each song here.) I also liked “I’ll Follow the Sun,” which featured several reprised endings. Indeed for the most part these early Beatles songs worked far better for me than the warhorses, and therein may lie a problem. I think McCartney is trapped in “Beatle Paul” hell; many people see him largely through the lens of that band’s work only, and the bulk of the house erupts for any Beatle reference. Just his Hoffner bass gets more of an ovation than, say, the Eagles would. And the older he gets, the more skewed the shows are toward the Beatles repertoire, a sort of part-Dorian Grey, part-Sisyphus Greek tragedy he seems resigned to playing out forever.

But if you remember the ’75-’76 Wings Over America tour (and don’t tell me you don’t; you had the triple live album in high school and played it to death), there were 29 songs played on that tour, and only 4 of them were from the Beatles songbook. On the current tour, he plays 37 songs, and fully 26 of them are from the Beatle catalog. Four from the new album, so the years from 1970 through 2004 are represented by 7 (!) songs: “Flaming Pie,” “Jet,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Too Many People,” “Band On the Run,” and “Live and Let Die.” And of these, only “Flaming Pie” and “Too Many People” aren’t ones he trots out every time around (although I’m fine with the three Band On the Run tracks.)

But between 1970 and the new album, he put out 20 studio albums. That’s a lot of records. For the bulk of the crowd, obviously, he could play all Beatles songs all the time and they’d be thrilled. But I’m actually a fan of Paul McCartney the solo artist (he IS in the Hall of Fame as a solo act), and I like most of those 20 records. I remember the summer of “My Love;” I remember the summer of “Listen to What the Man Said;” I remember the spring of “Silly Love Songs” (I was a high school senior, and it was number one). I remember the summer of “I’ve Had Enough” and “With a Little Luck.” Not to mention “Don’t Say Goodnight,” “Daytime Nighttime Suffering,” “Girls School,” “Beware My Love,” the incandescent “Back Seat of My Car” (an album track off of Ram), or “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” I’m in the camp that says McCartney didn’t start writing weaker songs when he went solo (“Every Night” and “Junk,” for example, were demoed for the Beatles.) Could you imagine what classics “Uncle Albert” or “With a Little Luck” would have been as Beatle songs? Maybe the solo records weren’t as good as Beatle records. But that shouldn’t mark the songs themselves as somehow sub-par for delivery in a live context. Without the rest of the Fabs physically there, they’re all equally McCartney songs.

So see, I liked this show. But I found myself thinking more about the concert I didn’t hear than the one I did. Thinking about this imaginary concert that had a few well-chosen Beatles songs, but which included all the solo stuff above, plus the best stuff off of Tug of War and Flowers in the Dirt, plus “Getting Closer,” “Hope of Deliverance,” and others. I really do wish he’d have the courage to play that concert one of these days. Indeed, on one of the night’s highlights, “Too Many People” (also from Ram), there were scattered but distinct squeals; this was probably the one number most welcome by us solo Paulophiles. And he segued it into “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window;” this pairing was another highlight.

On the other hand, and maybe it’s because I’ve seen him and I’m jaded, but I don’t really need to hear “Hey Jude” or Let It Be” or “Long and Winding Road.” And some of his Beatles stuff, I think, is actually vastly overrated; “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yesterday,” for example, are both much lauded, but I would argue that in both cases it is the string section that really grabs people and defines the song. And while he may have had the idea of adding the strings, I’m sure he didn’t write the string arrangements.

As for the band, they are top notch. Rusty Anderson on lead guitar and harmony vocals was particularly noteworthy. Last time I saw McCartney he was new to the band, and I thought he was sticking pretty close to the original parts on most of the material. This time around it seemed like he was just playing the guitar, putting more of himself into these classic tunes that are imprinted indelibly on your brain. He lent them some bite and catnip. Overall the band is impressive, and Paul himself has, as John Lennon used to remind people, the benefit of having one great bass player on his stuff.

But yeah, a lot of the most familiar Beatle material came off the most lackluster for me. “Helter Skelter,” which I’ve heard others laud, was far too much of a reach for his frayed vocal chords so late in the show, and I thought it was just a miscalculation (on the other hand it might have been a great choice to open with). And I kept mooning over the songs he might have chosen. But “I’ve Got a Feeling” was neat, and ultimately, when he and the band rip into “Please Please Me” or he segues from “Sergeant Pepper Reprise” into “The End” to slam the show to a sentimental close, well, no matter how cynical you are, it gets you, it gets you in the end. At which point, as you know, the love you make…

…When I saw him in 1989 for the first time and he encored with “Golden Slumbers” > “Carry That Weight” > “The End,” afterward the lights went up and most people had tears streaming down their faces. I’ll confess that was a memorable night.

But on this night, if he’d played 10 more Wings songs and 10 fewer Beatles songs, I think it would have kicked that much more ass. With such a Beatle-heavy set, it almost seemed like he was a cover band playing his own songs. At these prices I see why he might feel he has to roll out the classics. But the headline is, he has a lot more classics than he thinks.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:12 PM  7 comments


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