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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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Location: NYC

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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Spinnin' and Grinnin' (part 1)
Friday, May 19, 2006
With my stereo boxed and put away, and my computer on the fritz for a while, I was without music (save for the trusty iPod) for longer than any time since… well, the 70s. But the new records kept coming in and piling up, unplayed. (Yes, I still call them records. They have, indeed, been recorded.) So let’s run down some of them; I’ve been listening on the computer, which has a pretty good sound system for a glorified typewriter. And my wife and I gave some of these a spin in her car.

Grumpy Old Men
Neil Young has received a lot of attention for his quickly-- one might even say “hastily”-- recorded and released Living With War, as damning condemnation of the Bush administration. The conservative pundits, of course, have railed against him; “Where does a Canadian get off criticizing our country?” (Why don’t conservatives understand the difference between criticizing the president and criticizing the country?)

While I’d be inclined to agree with Young’s politics, and I love Neil Young’s work, especially when he straps on the ax and cranks up the fuzz, I find this record to be… well, my initial take was, “it’s a little preachy.” A lot of folks who embrace the politics are lauding the music, but I find it to be at best a mediocre Crazy Horse-style release. Find me one thing here that, for a moment, approaches the majesty of “Cortez the Killer.” Sure, not a fair test; most artists go a career and never touch that sort of height. Well, how about this? I thought Greendale was a better record; similar in musical style (Young’s guitar, bass, and drum with backing) and even political. But this sounds to me too much like uninspired sloganeering for me to get a boner from it. A shame, too.

We were in the car, Neil wan't working for us, and we had four CDs with us to check out. So we decided to pop in the new Paul Simon. That augured well; while his last (You’re the One, 2000) was a snooze, the new one (Surprise) features the sonic soundscapes of Brian Eno, one of the most gracefully aging of all the rock era musicians. Soon though, I was put in mind of a cranky old Jewish man, complaining about the soup. You’re going to think I’m making these lyrics up, but I’m not:

“Its outrageous a man like me stand here and complain. But I’m tired. Nine hundred sit-ups a day. I’m painting my hair the color of mud, mud, OK? I’m tired, tired. Anybody care what I say? No! I’m painting my hair the color of mud.”

Oy! You call that a piece of fish?

If he was mumbling these sentiments on a park bench, you’d discretely move away from him.

Now, if only Eno had produced Graceland…

(to be fair, it is true we yanked the Paul Simon record a song after the above-cited “Outrageous.” Subsequent listening has revealed the charm and complexity of the Simon/Eno collaboration, which I’d say kicks in on about the fourth tune. Three whiners, then it’s a keeper.)

(Wait. I just looked at the cover. Four whiners.)

So we turned to old reliable, Bruce Springsteen. His new one, We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions, is all covers of songs written by or associated with Pete Seeger. All I can say is, at least I heard the concert was fun. (Plus, it’s a damn Sony Dual Disc, so assume it won’t actually play on your CD player, especially if the CD player is a Sony.)

Kid Rock
So at this point we only had one CD left with us, and that one I’d brought for our daughter: Jack Johnson’s soundtrack to Curious George.

If you’d told me that the soundtrack to Curious George would be better than the new releases by Young, Simon, and Springsteen, I would have thought you were delusional (or under the age of 8.) But damn if you wouldn’t have been right. Whereas each of the previous three records is but an echo of the best work of the artist, easygoing surf bum Jack Johnson’s easy breezy whimsy goes just right with the George oeuvre. Happy strumming, never in any hurry, and with cheery little stories and lessons embedded into the lyric, which you don’t even have to pay attention to. (Annie, it’s on Napster, check it out.)

Dan Zanes was in the Del Fuegos, part of the great 880s roots rock revival. Now he has a yellow suit and floppy hair, and he had videos on the Disney Channel after the Wiggles. So when I saw his new record, Catch That Train! By Dan Zanes & Friends, at Starbucks, I figured maybe it would be as much fun for the whole family as the Curious George was. I was right. This is kids rock in the same sense that the Beatles were when I was a kid; bright silly happy bouncy sing-songy songs. Nothing free to be, no learning, no deeper meaning; just a bunch of train songs (sample title: Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie.”) He isn’t like Mr. Rogers at all; more like your kind of cool, sloppy, fun-loving uncle who still reads comic books at 45. Which is, of course, the kind of uncle I’ve always endeavored to be.

Also, Zanes reminds us that you can never have too much African chanting or ukulele.

To sum up: Neil Young, thumbs down; Paul Simon, thumbs up on tracks 5 through 10 of the 11; Springsteen, thumbs down; Jack Johnson, thumbs up; Dan Zanes, thumbs up.

More to come in part 2…


Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:01 PM  

At 5/22/2006 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...   

Sorry Josh, I no longer Napster. My computer, MP3 player, Drivers License and bloodtype have been changed to iPod. I actually have to vote iPod now, put down iPod as my race and gender on job applications, and use iPod toothpaste. I must renounce Napster and all its works.

At 5/23/2006 5:06 PM, Anonymous --josh-- said...   

And rightly so.

Me, I've got iTunes and an iPod, AND a subscription to Napster. I like to use Napster to listen to music for free (well, for $10 a month), and then decide if I want to buy the record ro not. So far my $50 spent on Napster have saved me almost $60.

At 5/24/2006 2:22 PM, Anonymous Annie said...   

What--ten seconds isn't enough for you?

At 5/24/2006 2:26 PM, Blogger --josh-- said...   

10 seconds? Did I say anything about sex?

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