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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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March 31, 2006: Thus Spake Me
Friday, March 31, 2006
(God's column appears in this space every Friday.)

As I’ve said once before, Let there be light!

I hadn’t planned on taking time off this past month—you’d think a Supreme Being would have time totally sussed, and yes, I do—but let Me admit, a little sheepishly, that I read some of Josh’s Allman Brothers reviews and got so hopped up that I too spent most of the month camped out at the Beacon. The two things I love more than just about anything else are math and music, two of My greatest inventions, and indeed two sides of the same coin. (and in case you’re wondering: yes, I do like King Crimson.) Music and math are the dual languages of life. Music communicates the essence of life to your heart and soul; math to your brain (well, probably not YOUR brain; unfortunately you need to be real smart to get that buzz from math. Like, Stephen Hawking smart.) The Allman Brothers did indeed paint a sonic canvas full of the beauty and magic and light of life. But read Josh’s reviews; he says it better than I ever could.

ITEM: Gospels of Prosperity.
Apparently there are some very popular pastors preaching a gospel of prosperity; the idea is that God “wants you to be rich.” Let me clarify that. I don’t much care if you’re rich or not; indeed I’ve observed an inverse correlation (Dang, I do love Me My math!) between wealth and Godliness. What I want is for you to be as good a person as you can, seek truth, treat each other well, and remember to call your mom. I understand the appeal of the notion that God wants you to be rich—you can use religion to excuse your own materialism, which is an ugly, ugly trait no matter what you choose to clothe it in. But remember the thing about the camel and the eye of the needle?

And too, why is it that the prototypical Good Christian is always some bland generic milk-fed character who looks like a closeted homosexual? Don’t take my word for it; look at this guy. Or this guy; apparently he and the family have their hair done in 1984.

ITEM: The Bible Doesn’t Justify Anti-Gay Bigotry.
You might be inclined to believe that something in the bible tells you that you, personally, should not be gay. That’s on you, and hey, your call. But surely there is no passage that suggests that you should prevent homosexuality, or that you should in any way alter your conduct towards someone who is gay. The conduct stuff you will find is all “turn the other cheek,” “love thy neighbor,” stuff like that. So if you read the bible and conclude it justifies your own anti-gay bigotry, well, that’s something you bring, not something you find.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:38 PM  6 comments

Prince Turns it Up
I'm a big fan of Prince, and his new record is a blast. Here's the review I wrote on Amazon; I said it was his best since Sign O' the Times, but I think maybe I need to amend that to, his best since Emancipation (3-CD, 1996):


I'm leery of the hype of this record as a return to 80s form, for the simple reason that Prince has never stopped recording and releasing outstanding music, never stopped evolving. Rainbow Children and the One Night Alone piano record, for example, are both fine records he's released within the past 5 years, and while his work may have lost consistency in the 90s, that was largely because he was putting out so much of it, not due to a decline in the quality of the best of it. The peaks were as high as always.

But indeed 3121 does hearken back to his classic middle-80s period, the run from Purple Rain through Sign O' the Times, when the music was as colorful as it ever was, and when Prince painted with his broadest palate. Here we combine the usual rock-solid funk, that glorious colorful music, and modern recording technology; this last point keeps the record from sounding like it was recorded back in the day, which is to say, it does not sound dated.

What we have here, basically, is a fresh and vibrant album that evokes the color and style of Prince's most prolific, best-loved era. 3121 is a return to a particular sound, style of work. The vocals are rich and layered, with a heavy sense of female presence (sometimes Tamar, sometimes Prince himself); the instrumental backing is invigorating and creative and lush, and the playing, as if this even needs to be said, is right in the pocket. Something about this music sounds "revolutionary" (wink, wink.) And it can't be a coincidence that recently he has played live with Wendy, Lisa and Sheila E.

I'd swear that was the old Prince alter ego Camille singing with him on this opening track "3121," a song that merges the insistent prince funk with the sonic colors of his mid-80s work, both released and unreleased. Dream Factory anyone? "Lolita" is a naughty call-and-response that invokes the Lovesexy album. "Te Amo Corazon" has gotten some lead play as a single, and it is smooth and easy on the ears, a little bit of Latin cool with lush orchestration and some tasteful Prince guitar.

"Black Sweat" is a funk groove that sounds a little like "Kiss," except that it stays on the one chord. Prince plays every instrument on this and several other tracks, and you can hear it. However, Prince (along with Todd Rundgren and Stevie Wonder) is one of the few musicians who has a distinct and articulate voice as a one-man studio band. He plays all the instruments, and he plays the studio. "Incense and Candles" is a breezy and confident piece that erupts into a sweet vocal burst at the end. "Love" is a tasty poppy trifle (a good thing) with funk guitar chords, burping synths, and handclaps, but at precisely 4:20 Prince says, "Let's skate," and the song flips over into a sweaty funk stomp, suddenly nasty, an extended playout that vaguely evokes "Le Freak." Both these two songs are all Prince, save for protégé Tamar on vocals. (After catching the Tamar gig featuring Prince at Nokia in NYC, I've already wishlisted the upcoming Tamar record.)

"Satisfied" is one of those falsetto Prince love song testimonies (e.g., "Slow Love"), and you know what I mean, and it'll give you chills; here the horn section is added to the mix. "Fury" is instantly recognizable as a Prince rocker, lush fervent keyboards laying out the groove, Prince's rock God guitar searing over the top. "The Word" hasn't yet grabbed me, although yet again, nice guitar work. But next up is the sublime "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed," his duet with Tamar, which can only be described as old school soul of the very finest kind. Just note-perfect from beginning to end.

"Dance" is a pleading, sad, haunting eminently listenable minor key tune that (a signature move) goes major on the chorus; like most of the record, just Prince on the track. The final track, "Get on the Boat," is a classic old school funk workout featuring a percolating drum and percussion section, and the stellar Maceo Parker on horn. This is a funk played live, not machine-made; the sound is different from much of the record because it features a full band. The brassy horn section and Latin groove of the percussion make this one feel like a dance party in your head.

I liked Musicology; and I really liked One Night Alone (the solo piano thing) and Rainbow Children. It is hard to be sure this soon, but I think this will wear as the most enduring and consistent Prince record since Sign O' the Times. So maybe it IS a return to something.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:06 AM  1 comments

Unmitigated Gall
Thursday, March 23, 2006

The administration is out in full force with the message, “It’s the media’s fault.” Apparently, the message goes, Iraq is going just swimmingly, and anyone—by which they mean, the media—who tells you different is, I guess, committing treason. Don’t believe what you see, goes the message; believe what we tell you.

Surely I can’t be the only one who finds that level of gall both frightening, and an affront on everything that makes America great?

And then, there’s the attack on Feingold and other Democrats who might want to, say, hold the president accountable for his actions. This too is unpatriotic, apparently. The new speaker of the house suggested that, since he wants to censure Bush for breaking the law, and because he had the stones to oppose the Freedom Elimination Act (let’s call the Patriot Act by what it is), Feingold must care more for the welfare of terrorists than for Americans.

Now let me see if I have this straight. If you want to impeach the president for breaking the law, its not unpatriotic if you do it in the middle of 8 years of unbridled peace and prosperity, and if the transgression was sufficiently trivial so as to not affect anyone or anything (e.g., lying under oath about getting head from an intern.) But if you want to censure—not even impeach, censure—a president for illegally spying on Americans during a mismanaged war, apparently THAT is somehow wrong.

How can the same people who gleefully impeached a sitting president of the United States for a BS transgression call it un-American when someone wants to censure the president for breaking a serious law? Or is it just plain OK to throw shit on a Democrat.

Really, you have to wonder how much longer unmitigated gall will work as a right wing political strategy. But it has worked well, and I think it will keep working until the Democrats come up with a strategy of their own. And wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air? An actual point of fact Democratic strategy?


Posted by: --josh-- @ 5:57 PM  3 comments

Hey, I Totally Miss You Guys!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I want to apologize for the scandalous lack of content of late. You might assume I must be very busy with productive things. But you'd be wrong. I'm neck deep in march Madness, the Allman Brorthers band's 14-show run at the Beacon. I missed 2 shows of the 10 so far, and I'm not missing any others. They've been great, and after a while the music eminating from the stage starts to feel like food, and the process of soaking it up begins to feel like photosynthesis. Or at least I think it does; if they hadn't stolen the biology regents exam in '74 I would probably have failed it.

If you miss me, my writing energies the past 2 weeks have gone into my now insanely popular concert reviews. The band has been good enough to feature them prominently on the website, right over here. Check them out if you miss my mellifluous turn of phrase. Also, let me know if I've spelled "mellifluous" correctly. (Annie, I'm looking at you...)

Some people who have sat in with the brothers so far this run: Hubert Sumlin (Howlin' Wolf's guitarist), Peter Frampton, jazz drummer Roy Haynes, Leslie West from Mountain, Taj Mahal, Ben Harper, Susan Tedeschi (who happens to be married to the guitarist on the right), the Asbury Jukes horn section.

I am surprised that God didn't post last Friday, but hey, its not like I have someone to complain to. I pray He will deign to gace us this week.

Also: Drop by Courting Destiny and read the Post, "The Koufaxes and Moi," for info on how to vote for Pia in the blog Koufax awards. She's a good egg and I think her blog is art. Honest writing goes a long way in my book.

See ya soon.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:04 AM  3 comments

Spanning the-- well, some news stuff
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Item: Iran "ready to talk" to US; Bolton: "We have nothing to say."
In a nutshell, this encapsulates the incompetence and arrogance of the current administration. Because when someone is ready to talk to you, you don't HAVE to have anything to say. All you have to do, is listen.

Bolton's comment betrays an attitude that nothing of consequence on any issue muight emminate from the mouths of anyone else outside the administration; if it isn't from us, it isn't worth hearing. And too, listening is one of the most valuable leadership skills... and one we learned long ago, and many times over, this administration lacks.

And this guy is our top diplomat. Grand.

Item: Bush approval in the low 30s.
Three separate polls; 36%, 35%, 33%. And these weren't polls with a heavy "no opinion;" all three had disapproval in the 60s. And we're talking Pew, CNN Gallop, and the NY Times.

We've said it here before, but we'll say it again. The Katrina debacle was the beginning of the end for this administration. Until then, the "middle 40%" was largely supportive of the president. (30% of the electorate, we figure, are hard left; another 30% are hard right. The middle 40% decides elections.) Sure, they may have felt troubled by the Iraq war, by the WMD fiasco, by any of a number of wrong-headed policies (the Patriot Act, the gutting of the environment, the no-bid contracts to Haliburton, the government subservience to the lunatic fringe Religious Right, the incomprehensible border protection policy, or lack thereof.) But through it all, the middle 40% felt like at least these guys seem to know what they're doing; they seemed like leaders, like they are competent. They sounded good, and they wore nice suits.

But Katrina gave lie to that dangerous misconception, and ever since, everything the president has done actually looks as dumb as it is. Quite literally, the emperor no longer has any clothes. Take the Dubai ports controversy, for example. How tone deaf could this administration possibly be? Maybe 18 months ago Bush could have gone on TV, said something about freedom and evil-doers, called his opponents traitors, and this thing would get pushed through. But now he can't even muster support on the right for his bonehead moves. I mean, could Republicans in congress BE running away from the president faster on this one? Again, the twin themes of incompetence and arrogance, with the latter exacerbating the former. For 5 years, that formula worked; the arrogance covered up the incompetence. Post-Katrina, things have changed-- and everyone seems to know it save for the president, his closest advisors-- and a third of the population.

Item: Russ Feingold moves to censure the president.
And the dems in the senate hang him out to dry. The reps call this political grandstanding. Well, the senator from Wisconsin, who also had the stones and the conviction to oppose the Patriot Act, has, in my view, grandstanded himself right into the pole position for the '08 nomination.

Item: how dumb are the democrats?
If Hillary ends up with the '08 nomination, we'll have our answer.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 6:48 PM  0 comments

The Allmans: 3 down, a bunch to go
Monday, March 13, 2006
Check it out. My reviews for the first 2 nights are promienntly featured on the band's website.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:03 PM  0 comments

Thus Spake Me: March 10, 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006
(God's column appears in this space every Friday.)

Zealots from different religions are far more like each other than they are like moderates from their own religions. So it is interesting to see the East-versus-West square-off going on right now on Earth, the Muslim world versus what may best be described as the Christian West. Interesting, because the ideologues on the western Religious Right are so convinced that they are “right” and the Muslim extremists are “wrong”… when in fact extremism is all of a piece. Ideologically, it isn't east versus west; it is old versus new.

This video clip (how’s that? A link from a Supreme Being!) from Arab television depicts talking heads playing out the conflict within contemporary Islam; the primitive literalist versus the modern and moderate (and tolerant.) The woman making the case for a reasonable, moderate Islam does a nice job; one wonders where the corresponding viewpoint is in the American, western debate. At one point the Muslim cleric asks her if she is a heretic; surely she is, and his logic is that there is no point rebutting a heretic. In other words, if you don’t agree with his world view, there is no point in engaging you in a discussion. He looks and sounds a lot like the defenders of Literalist Christianity in the west; if you don’t believe the bible word-for-word, how can you be taken seriously?

I think by now you know where We come out on literalism.

You in the west tend to assume your Religious Right is less extreme than the Muslim Religious Right, because they don’t engage in systematic terrorism against unbelievers (or do they?) But the cultural contexts are very different; perhaps if there was a greater collective desperation in the west, the extremists on the religious fringes would get very violent and very organized. It is already there, there, bubbling just beneath the surface; the moral certitude, the raw zeal. With the right circumstances as catalyst, terrible things could ensue; you humans have been invoking My name to justify your atrocities for thousands of years already.

In both east and west, there is a battle raging for the hearts and souls of men and women. It is the battle of the modernists versus the literalists. Those who would limit knowledge to a single book, versus those who would find knowledge in many books. And the future of your civilizations lie in the balance.

Pick a side. Choose wisely.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 4:14 PM  1 comments

On the Ports Contract Controversy
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Like a lot of people, I haven't gotten to considering whether Dubai is any worse than any other country as a manager of some of our major ports. I'm still stuck on, surprise that we outsource so much of this work. With all the glare on exporting of American jobs and the mounting trade deficit, you'd think there would be an American company qualified to do this work.

But then I realized the answer. It obviously doesn't pay well. Because if it did, Haliburton would be doing it.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:04 PM  1 comments

One More Oscar Note
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
George Clooney is the Hollywood celeb I'd most like to get drunk and beat up Heath ledger with.

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

The Academy Awards
Monday, March 06, 2006
Could these have been any duller?

Thank heaven for Tivo. We started taping the show at 8, started watching at about 9:30, skipped the really boring stuff (like, everything after best supporting actor for the next 2 hours), and finished up on time. And, we took breaks.

Can you believe people gather for Oscar parties? I'd sooner go to a Discovery Channel party. Or a C-SPAN II party.

I didn't see Brokeback Mountain (it looked sort of gay.) But oddly enough the missus and I did see Crash. We liked it a lot. We went to I think 4 movies in 2005 (Crash, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Syriana, and King Kong) and saw one '05 movie in '06 (Capote.) Who'da thunk we'd have managed to catch the year's best? I told everyone that Crash was really good, and the unanimous response was, "Say what now? Crash? Never heard of it."

You know what they should do with the Oscars? They should take about 10 of those middle awards, give them out off screen, and add mor acting awards. Best lead/supporting, actor/actress, in a comedy/drama. That's 8 more acting awards right there, and that's what people want to see.`

Reese Weatherspoon is our best actress? Really? I mean, a plucky little sort, sure, but best actress? (Of course I didn't see the movie. But still.)

Two movies I still want to see based on Word of Mouth: Good Night and Good Luck; Match Point.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 3:35 PM  2 comments

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