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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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FIghting the The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Who do you think is going to get the Democratic presidential nomination? Hillary, right? Or else maybe that Irish fella, O'Bama. But why? Well, they're ranked 1-2 in all the polls, and ranked 1-2 in the fundraising. And the news media have anointed them winner and runner-up, so they get the most press.

But why?

Let's stick with Hillary, who as we apparently all know, will be the next president of the United States. Why exactly are her poll numbers so high? Well, because she has the most money, and she gets the most press. That's reflected in the polling. And why does she get the most press? Well, because her poll numbers are so high, and she's raised so much money. And how has she managed to raise so much money? That's right-- because she gets the press and has the polling numbers. People want to support the winner; no one wants to throw good money after bad.

Notice anything missing in this upward spiral? Yup. The voters. Hillary Clinton has been anointed the Democratic nominee for president, and not one vote has been cast in a single primary.

Is this really how democracy is supposed to work?

This isn't a knock on Hillary; she knows how to play the game. From the beginning, her campaign was based on creating and sustaining an air of inevitability, not on merit or policy (she's neither the most experienced or the best at policy; why she refuses to admit her Iraq vote was wrong is beyond me.) It has been all about the juggernaut, about the polling and the money and the press coverage, because sadly, that seems to be how elections are won in America these days. She has the best team in place, and they know how to win.

With states tripping backward over one another as they move up their primaries and caucuses in order to be "first" and to "matter," a case has been made that the disproportionate importance traditionally held by votes in Iowa and New Hampshire somehow perverts democracy. The argument goes that bigger, more populous states ought to go first and carry the disproportionate weight. I could not agree less. If New York and California were the first two primary states, then yeah, the Democratic race would be over. Because the kind of money you'd have to spend to compete in these media markets would essentially eliminate the sleeper candidate; if you didn't have tens of millions of dollars to spend on spot TV (in New York and LA yet, where that gets expensive fast) you'd already be wasting your time.

In Iowa and New Hampshire, though, you campaign the old fashioned way. You kiss babies. Drink coffee at the diner. Speak in peoples' homes. Shake tens of thousands of hands. It is precisely because these states are small that they need to go first-- so that we can at least cling to some vestige of hope that voters still matter, matter as much as polls and coffers and CNN. The voters in Iowa and New Hampshire take their politics seriously; they endeavor to make informed, committed decisions. Maybe, just maybe, it is still possible for someone to come out on top in these two states without having the most money or the highest national name recognition.

Take a look at Joe Biden on This Week With George Stephanopoulos today. Around here, we think he's far and away the best candidate in either party. But be honest. Does it make any sense at all that Hillary stands, depending on the poll, at forty-some-odd percent, and this guy is floundering in the single digits? Watch that video, and then tell me he isn't the best candidate in the Democratic field. He doesn't waffle, he isn't calculated, he has command of every issue, the right position on every issue, he's the only guy with a plan for Iraq. He smiles when he's amused, not when his handlers think a smile would soften his image. But he isn't inevitable, so you probably think I'm crazy.

Which brings us back to Iowa and New Hampshire... because maybe, just maybe, Joe can finish, let's say, second in both Iowa and New Hampshire, behind Hillary in one state and O'Bama in the other. Suddenly he's a player. Suddenly all bets are off, and he becomes the juggernaut, gets his face on Time and Newsweek at the same time, like he's Springsteen or something.

I like to think we live in a country where something like that can still happen. Watch the video, and tell me you disagree.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 8:03 PM  3 comments

It Takes a Red Headed Woman...
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Even my lovely, dark-haired wife knows about my long-time obsession with redheads. Some of the stupidest decisions in my life have been closely associated with the presence of a redhead (Carrie, I'm talking to you.) So I probably don't need to say much about this clip, from the classic 50s rock'n'roll movie The Girl Can't Help It (or "hep it," as Little Richard sings in the title song.) The movie stars Jayne Mansfield, and I'm probably the only one in the world who thinks she is the second-most smoldering woman in the film-- after Miss Julie London.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 12:34 PM  2 comments

Aint That America
Monday, October 01, 2007

I've finally gotten around to finishing my post on this tear's Farm Aid, held September 10. It goes something like this...

I made the haul over to Randall's Island to see Farm Aid on Sunday September 9. Ordinarily I possess neither the endurance nor the attention span for an all-day concert, and indeed this was no exception; but enough of the artists were among my favorites that I made the trek (but arrived about 3 hours into it and split before the end.) Not surprisingly, the Allman Brothers (in whole and in their various disaggregated parts) stole the show... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

In fact, the commute was a pleasure. because I caught the ferry across the East River at 90th Street, a pleasant 15-minute ride under a gorgeous late summer sky that left you virtually at the gate of the concert. I wandered around the family farm-friendly concession booths (which, I was pleased to note, included New Orleans Iced Cafe Au Lait and pork chop sandwiches; Dave Matthews recommended the corn dogs but I didn't see them.), smoked a cigar in the back on the grass, and mostly hung out. It was hot; good hot, but hot; I am glad I was able to bring in my large Aquafina water bottle (which I assume they let slide because I'd thought to empty it out first.) I filled it from the fountains all day to stay hydrated.

The first artist I paid any attention to was Matisyahu, the orthodox Jewish rapper with a reggae beat. I'd heard good things about him but this was my first exposure; his Jewish rasta vibe has the same holiness as Bob Marley, earnest, soulful, true.

Next up is the Derek Trucks band. Derek sports a Junior Wells t-shirt. The band plays a frustratingly brief (3-song) set, opening with a moving and sweet "Soul Serenade," featuring the wife of the guitarist (Susan Tedeschi) on vocals along with the band's regular singer, Mike Mattison. Sweet sublime lines soar out from Derek's guitar and over the sprawling crowd. Tedeschi leaves for "Sailin' On," returns for an in-the-pocket "Key to the Highway." Susan contributes on both guitar and vocals, demurely holding her pick in her teeth as she plays a solo with her fingers. Three solid songs, and the young guitar hero continues his ascent into the pantheon of greats. "Who was that guy?", you hear people saying in wonderment after the set.
Next up is Guster, twangy alt.country, poppy, catchy, likable. No offense Guster, but I got something to eat.

Next up is another Allman Brother, Warren Haynes in a mini acoustic set. Four songs, including a nice and appropriate version of U2's "One," and the inevitable "Soulshine," accompanied by Willie Nelson's hombre Mickey Raphael on harp.

Me, I thought the Counting Crows were great. Singer Adam Duritz leaves his heart on the stage, clearly expends every muscle in his soul. I know people find him, and them, annoying, but I'm a fan. The band opens with "Rain King," a solid song from their classic debut; Duritz manages to sing the entirety of Springsteen's "Thunder Road" mid-song, inserting that lyric over the "Rain King" melody, right to the end of the song, then on a dime, slamming back into "Rain King" ("When I think of heaven...") Showy but effective. They play "Recovering the Satellites," a new song "Washington Square") that fares well, then "Murder of One," one of their best songs, stretched out and milked. Finally Duritz sits at the piano and starts a vocals-and-keys intro, then says "Fuck it!" and leads the band into a perfectly chosen take of "A Long December," the end of which includes a brief snippet of the "Murder of One" coda the band had skipped the song before. I've seen Counting Crows twice before-- once on the tour for their very first record, and once on the tour for their second. They have come miles as a live band, the musicianship of the lead guitar player especially was notable, and I'd pay to see 'em again.

The Allman Brothers were on deck, but Gregg Allman served to tease the palate with a 2-song mini-set. First he duetted with Willie Nelson on "Midnight Rider" (a song Willie covers in his own act.) Willie, who is about as good an acoustic lead guitar player as you're wont to find, highlighted this version. A lot of grizzled road-weariness for one duet. Then Gregg was joined by Haynes and Dave Matthews for "Melissa," Gregg and Matthews trading verses, Haynes playing an exquisite, breezy solo over the outro as dusk falls.

As I say, the Allman Brothers stole the show; I know I missed some headliners, but these guys are not an easy act to follow. They got an hour or so-- more than anyone else-- and made every minute count. I'm saying, my guys was representin'! In a sense they were the closers for part one of the show; all four acts after them were Farm Aid board members.

The boys fell into an opening jam that was reminiscent of the old blues tune "Dimples" (which they have been known to cover.) High, wailing notes soar overhead as the two guitarists trade bluesy, staccato laconic lines that drift off into the twilight. Soon the urgency is amped up... guitarist Derek Trucks spreads slippery slide over a rock solid Oteil bottom, then he glances back at the percussionists. Drummer Jaimoe hits a flourish, and the band falls gracefully, seamlessly into a hard-charging "Trouble No More." Allman snarls out the lyrics from beneath an NYPD baseball hat.

Next up is "Revival," an old song made new by the current band's arrangement and fire. The mid-section gets a long, extended jam treatment, drifting through different spaces, but anchored in slide blues; Derek Trucks tosses in a snippet of "Fly Me to the Moon," then Haynes cranks it up, accelerating until he's pulled the corns right out of their husks with a thrilling climax that leads back into the "Love is everywhere" verse, and a close...

...that segues into a big, dark, Santana-ish intro to the Howlin' Wolf cover "Who's Been Talkin'," a Haynes tour de force. He sings the sad, sad words, then fires guitar lightning straight into your groin. Derek steps up and tells a different story, the band teetering on the verge of falling off the tracks behind him... then pulling back to the smooth groove for the final verse. Haynes says goodbye to his baby, then lets the repeated refrain, "I'm the causin' of it all" hang in the air as he and Trucks dance off together into some nether realm where time slows, stands still, as twin guitar lines fall like droplets of gentle rain.

"Black Hearted Woman" has become a real go-to song for this band over the past 2 years. During the extended jam that morphs into the Dead's "The Other One" riff, Trucks lays on the "My Favorite Things" melody line before falling hard on the riff. The percussionists-- notably Marc Quinones-- accent and add flourishes to the mix as the band shifts back into the "Black Hearted Woman" riff to storm home.

"Statesboro Blues" is instantly familiar and rewarding to the largely non-partisan crowd. The song appears to end, but Derek leads an easy, loping coda that soon erupts into a full onslaught. Oteil now has his back to the house, locking in with the drummers. The band stays on the "one" chord, Haynes and Trucks fall into a jaunty new slide groove over Oteil's sprightly bass lines, then a rollicking finish that just oozes bluesy joy and doesn't want to end. What is usually a rote number, today is a highlight.

The band closes with a rewarding read of "One Way Out" that has everyone in the festival crowd up and dancing, the glow impossible to resist.

After the set, it is gratifying to hear the buzz as I walk among the concession stands and along the row of port-a-potties. The Allman Brothers have conquered Farm Aid, given the crowd a major funky stomp upside the booty.

Dave Matthews and his musical sidekick Tim Reynolds are up next. They play a hit-laden set, from what I gather; that song "Under the table and dreaming" was in there somewhere. They play a nice cover of Daniel Lanois's "The Maker." Nice guitar sounds waft out over the night; Reynolds gets a violin effect going on "Cortez the Killer" that is reminiscent of Television. Nice enough overall, but I don't get the Dave Matthews fuss. I'm sure I'm just too old.

At this point I decide to walk over to the ferry for the ride home; I know I'm missing the headliners, but for me obviously I've seen my headliner. On the way out I hear Mellencamp's set, wherein Derek Trucks sits in a whole bunch, as does the missus, with whom I am sure Mellencamp would like to make time (although, to be fair, who wouldn't?) Suzie T shares vocals with him on "Little Pink Houses," which is great. She wears her glasses, which have the affect of making her appear something like Clark Kent; in glasses she is Soccer Mom; she takes them off and she becomes Blues Mama. Mellencamp is solid, although the dreadfully treacly "This is Our Country" is no less dreadful or treacly live.

I assume Willie Nelson and Neil Young were good, but I'm home before the show is over.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:00 AM  1 comments

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