Friday, October 31, 2008

Vinyl creeping into Best Buy

Nope, this is not a Halloween post (screw that festivity, I'm watching "Nixon" after I get back from the gym).

The creeping that's happening here is of the vinyl variety. Or "records," or "albums," to those of you (like myself) who still think there was nothing wrong with the old vernacular. I mean, this isn't siding for your home or a cover for the seat of your car. This is an actual document - yes, a record - that we're talking about. Or several, as in this case.

I just find it amusing that there are still folks out there who insist that records don't really exist anymore, as Frank Nicotero recently did on Chelsea Lately in discussing the recent announcement of the imminent arrival of Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy. I believe the exact quote was, "it's been so long since they released anything, their last album was an album!" Um... Live Era was a triple record, in 1999. Yes, 1999.

You kind of have to look at store shelves to know these things, though. And I know it can be hard sometimes, but not at Best Buy these days.

These photos were taken yesterday at the San Francisco Best Buy location on Geary Blvd and Masonic:

Right in the front entrance, here we have a display hawking Elton John's new The Red Piano live album - as a triple vinyl LP. Priced at $39.99. Way to welcome a vinyl hound!

Metallica's Death Magnetic - double LP, $24.99. I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a Metallica album that wasn't released in the vinyl LP format.

Coldplay's Viva La Vida. I'd never buy this one, but still, yay for the format.

This one's a beauty, though you can't really tell from the photos: a 50th anniversary edition of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, which would be a great coffee table piece for someone with a coffee table the size of a bed. Two CDs, a DVD, a 60 page 12x12 book, and a 180 gram vinyl LP of the original Kind of Blue album on blue vinyl. Sweet! $99.99.

This one here's truly amazing, and a great way to get fans of the original Queen to buy the new album with Paul Rodgers, even if they never listen to it. This $120 box includes the new Queen + Paul Rodgers album The Cosmos Rocks both on CD and double LP, as well as LP repressings of four of the original Queen's '70s albums: Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera, and A Day at the Races. There's a live DVD in there too. It's totally excessive, but looks like it would be a really fun package to tear open on Xma$.

So there you have it - records aren't just for indie retailers anymore. Now go get yourself a turntable and take those annoying, tinnitus-inducing iPod headphones out of your ears!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Office politics

As seen in the copier/kitchen area of my workplace:

The sign at the bottom reads, "Distressed Homeowners Mortgage Relief Fund"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Palin's here to stay?

No matter who wins the election next week (and you already know who I'm rooting for), we'll likely be seeing Sarah Palin on our TV sets and computer screens for a long time to come. She seems to have become a pop culture hit, especially with the way Saturday Night Live has taken to her, which will assure her a place in Hollywood for years to come. Bulldog Reporter's Daily Dog reports:

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Hollywood Has Its Eye on Palin: Should GOP Fall Short on Nov. 4, Don't Be Surprised to See Sarah Hosting Talk TV

Issue Date: Daily 'Dog - October 27, 2008

As campaign managers for Sarah Palin plot last-minute tactics to get her elected, Hollywood bigwigs are convening strategy sessions of their own. Their goal: finding the ideal on-air vehicle for the VP candidate if and when she exits politics. But as more and more polls cast doubt on the McCain-Palin ticket, producers and agents across the entertainment world are discussing possibilities for capitalizing on her fame, ranging from an Oprah-style syndicated talk show to a Sean Hannity-like perch in cable news or on radio, the Hollywood Reporter reports.

"Any television person who sees the numbers when she appears on anything would say Sarah Palin would be great," said veteran morning-show producer Steve Friedman, citing the double-digit ratings gains her appearances on "Saturday Night Live" and "CBS Evening News" generated. "The passion she has on each side, love and hate, makes television people say, 'Wow, imagine the viewership,'" he added, report HR writers Andrew Wallenstein and Steven Zeitchik.

Although none of the execs has — at least as far as anyone is admitting — made direct overtures to the Alaska governor, they are readying their battle plans if she decides to give up her day job. Of course, even if the McCain-Palin ticket loses, the Tina Fey look-alike still has a job in politics for at least another two years as governor of Alaska.

But the candidate has undeniable onscreen charisma as her "SNL" performance proved last weekend. And though the Palin Express sometimes veers off the tracks — as it did in her notorious interview with Katie Couric — Americans enjoy celebrities as much for their contretemps as their talent.

Cable news is a possibility, particularly Fox News Channel, if Palin wants to keep her conservative bona fides intact. There's a well-worn path between the Beltway and TV, from Pat Buchanan to as recent an example as former presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, who just began his own weekly series on Fox News.

A weekly cable news berth also could be a less demanding side gig to occupy while still in office in Alaska, though losing the election could dent her credibility among conservatives.

Eric Wattenberg, an agent at N.S. Bienstock, a New York-based agency that counts many news anchors among its clientele, believes syndication is a safer bet. "I could see her getting more traction as an Oprah than as an Anderson Cooper," he told Variety.

Some combination of talk and news could even be in the cards: One agent recommended News Corp. let her hone her chops for a few years on Fox News in anticipation of rolling out a broader-appealing talker over Fox's stations after 2010.

And then there are those who are thinking outside the box, as in reality television. One producer floated the idea — only half-joking — of taking advantage of the curiosity surrounding the entire Palin clan and their Alaska setting and packaging "The Palins": Think "The Osbournes" meets "Northern Exposure."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Catching up: some recent reviews, August-present

I'd like to draw attention first to the two recent live reviews that ran at Popdose, as well as my most recent Popdose Guide:

SEPTEMBER 4, 2008:
Making a Joyful Noise: The Happy Hollows @ The Knockout, San Francisco
This has got to be the best band in L.A. right now. Check out their fearless leader Sarah Negahdari's blog. The girl's a riot and a half!

AUGUST 28, 2008:
L.A. ’s Best-Kept Secret: The Parson Red Heads @ Kimo’s, San Francisco
This is also the best band in L.A. Seriously, between the Happy Hollows and the Parson Red Heads, my musical soul has been given a major jump-start.

AUGUST 18, 2008:
The Popdose Guide to Juliana Hatfield
Her entire catalog reviewed. Book review coming soon...

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...and here's the heap of analysis I've contributed to Bullz Eye since August. Maybe you can find some early Xma$ shopping ideas in here somewhere:

OCTOBER 17, 2008:
The Clash "Live at Shea Stadium"
John Coltrane "Soultrane" (vinyl edition)
Dressy Bessy "Holler and Stomp"

OCTOBER 10, 2008:
David Gilmour "Live in Gdansk"
Bill Evans "Waltz for Debby" (vinyl edition)
Yusef Lateef "Eastern Sounds" (vinyl edition)
Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (vinyl edition)
Sonny Rollins "Saxophone Colossus" (vinyl edition)

OCTOBER 3, 2008:
The Replacements "Pleased to Meet Me (Deluxe Edition)"
Santana "Multi Dimensional Warrior"
Do You Remember the First Time? (This is a fun little feature in which the Bullz Eye staff recall their first concert experiences.)

SEPTEMBER 5, 2008:
Joseph Arthur "Foreign Girls"

SEPTEMBER 2, 2008:
Jimmy Witherspoon featuring Robben Ford "Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival"
Shirley Horn: Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival
Cal Tjader: The Best of Cal Tjader Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival

AUGUST 29, 2008:
The Verve "Forth"
Pork Pie "Transitory"

AUGUST 15, 2008:
Juliana Hatfield "How to Walk Away"

AUGUST 8, 2008:
The Parson Red Heads "Owl and Timber"

AUGUST 1, 2008:
The Beach Boys "U.S. Singles Collection: The Capitol Years 1962-1965"

Heart "Playlist: The Very Best of Heart"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guns N'Roses, Obama, a kidney

In the spirit of employing the power of positive thinking, I am putting out this thought to the universe...

Three things I want to see by year's end:

3) Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy

Nine years ago, it had already been long enough since The Spaghetti Incident? dropped in '93. That was when "Oh My God" appeared on the End Of Days soundtrack. And the Live Era double live CD came out. But Chinese Democracy didn't appear. In December of 2002, I saw Guns N' Roses at the Fleet Center in Boston (this was the tour that was cut short after Axl Rose caused a riot when he failed to show up for a gig in Philly), where they performed new-ish songs "The Blues," "Chinese Democracy" and "Madagascar" alongside the classics. It looked like they were setting us up for the album. But no... I saw them again two years ago at the Warfield in San Francisco. More new-ish songs were performed ("I.R.S." and "Better"), but still no album. But it looks official now, what with Billboard reporting a November 23 release date (exclusively at Best Buy) and the album showing up in a search on Best Buy's web site. It may not be the same band anymore, and maybe calling this band Guns N' Roses imposes a whole new idea of what "Guns N' Roses" actually is, but I agree with Sebastian Bach -- the songs are epic, which is exactly what I like. I, for one, am glad they're not writing "It's So Easy Part 2" or "Welcome to the Jungle... Again." Not to take away from those songs, but given the choice these days, I'll take the epic stuff like "November Rain," "Estranged," or that mystery song whose real title we'll know in five weeks over most of Appetite for Destruction. That album did sound pretty awesome in 5th grade though, let me tell you...

2) Barack Obama for President

More than his policies (yay to repudiating "trickle-down economics"), more than his stance against the war in Iraq (yay to ending a war that never should have been started in the first place), more than his positive message of hope and change, I'm most impressed by his unwavering ability to keep his composure. I have watched all three debates, and this is what struck me the most. Even tonight, when John McCain was at his most fiery, Obama didn't take the bait. He remained calm, and laid out his words logically and coherently. I was struck by McCain's audacity to point to this very quality of Obama's and try to turn it into a negative. As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly the kind of person I want to run the country. He'll be catching hell from other political adversaries, and he'll be tested by unstable leaders from parts of the world who intend to do us harm. I think his inner strength will allow him to stay calm and think his decisions through in a sensible way, which will minimize the possibility of errors in judgement. This is what it comes down to for me: character. He's got it. The polls are in his favor right now. Let's hope that this translates to victory next month!

1) A kidney

In February of 2007, my parents had to cancel a trip to San Francisco to visit me when it was discovered that my mother's kidney function was dangerously low. She has been on dialysis ever since. She has her up days and down days, but days are looking better since she started working again this year. Not only that, she has moved up to the top of the list of donor recipients in waiting for her blood type (B). My prediction to her was that she'd have a new kidney by Christmas. Anyone want to speed things up and be a living donor? (Hey, I had to ask!)

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Tangentially... one of my fellow Popdose contributors, a dude known as Scraps who ran my favorite Popdose column, the regular Friday feature/game "Name That Tune," suffered a stroke last week. He is a freelance writer and, as with most such people, does not have health insurance. Donations to cover his medical bills can be made here.

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And finally, a public service announcement: if going to a concert is like having sex, then earplugs are your concert condoms (or dental dams or whatever else you choose to use). Wear 'em every time without fail! I say this because I should have known better than to forget my earplugs before going to see Earthless on Saturday night. My right ear is still ringing, and I'm a tad on the worried side... don't be an idiot like I was.

And this concludes the ramblings I didn't have time to make in the first place...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

An on-the-spot reaction to Jack White and Alicia Keys' "Another Way to Die"

I finally caved in to curiosity and watched the official video for the cynically novel Alicia Keys-Jack White "Another Way to Die," commissioned for the latest installment in the James Bond franchise:

It was tough for me to watch this. Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with the pedigree of music that has consumed me lately. Look at the video in my previous post. Listen to the song. Listen to those lyrics. Even though the quality of the video is ramshackle by Hollywood standards, it's startlingly real. The camera lens could have been channeling your own pair of eyes, had you been standing in that very spot in the club. The sound may be less than perfect, but booming bass approximates what you would actually feel if you were standing by the club's PA. The music itself is unassailable. And the words work not only as lyrics, but as advice you can carry home with you, or to work, or anywhere, really.

And then the Nina Simone box set I'm digesting, and the Dylan set (reviews of which you'll be reading at Bullz Eye in short order) have been skewing my perspective. I clearly have a bias right now for music that comes from a place of relative purity.

Jack White and Alicia Keys both possess pure talent on their respective instruments, true. But this combination is... less than pure. I mean, it's technically good. They do complement each other sonically. But it's clearly novel seeing and hearing them together. It's a natural draw just contemplating the two of them collaborating. Wow, what must THAT sound like?

Well, it sounds exactly like what you'd expect - two monster talents with huge egos and powerful stage presence putting all their energy into projecting their musical personalities into a song that has little use beyond serving the film that catalyzed its creation, and enhancing the respective images of the stars who made it. Look at how they prance in the video. See how much emphasis is placed on Alicia sitting at the piano, Jack playing guitar, and Jack playing drums (which is another novel feature - look at how many instruments he plays!) in between sweet shots of both singers together at their microphones. See how little emphasis and few visual references are made to the Bond film.

What does this all mean, and why do I have this repulsive, empty feeling and an ache in my head after watching this video twice?

Why do I torture myself so?

I don't even care for Alicia Keys all that much. She possesses chops I can only ever dream of having. My issue is with how she uses them. Same with Jack White. I kind of dig the last Raconteurs album and the White Stripes' Elephant, and thought enough of Icky Thump to place it in my top ten albums of 2007, but just like the whiskey, a little Jack goes a long way. But I was curious, and even felt some sort of responsibility to know what these two pop culture titans were doing together, just like I had to hear what Timbaland did to Chris Cornell. Hearing those clips of the latter again, I suddenly feel a little better about Jack and Alicia...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Parson Red Heads "Time is Running Out" @ Spaceland, 10/3/08

I've got a ton of links to share that have piled up over the last month... but THIS is the mother of them all. The band emailed it to me today. It's what I consider to be the best song by the L.A. group the Parson Red Heads. I've bugged them enough about getting this song out, and now - finally! - you can hear it on YouTube:

Is that an instant classic or what? Few songs have touched me in recent years like this one. I say Rick Rubin ought to foist this one upon Crosby, Stills and Nash and make them add it to their forthcoming covers album.

Here's a review of the Parson Red Heads' headlining show at Kimo's on August 23:
L.A.'s Best Kept Secret: The Parson Red Heads @ Kimo's, San Francisco

Hear more at their MySpace profile.

AND... if you're in the area, go see them at Hotel Utah on October 18. I'll be there eating, drinking, cavorting, and engaging in general merry making...