Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Twenty Album Thing, Part The Fourth(16-20)

16. Eagles, Hell Freezes Over-Another semi cop out. Kind of a greatest hits package from their reunion, but it includes "New York Minute", which was a huge favorite, only redoubled when it was featured, brilliantly, in a "West Wing" episode. A couple of clunkers, but overall a great record that I still enjoy the hell out of.

17. U2, Rattle and Hum-No doubt about it. This album got slagged in the press-absolutely nailed-but I have always loved it. This was the album that got me "into" U2- I was certainly aware of the Joshua Tree and the Unforgettable Fire, but never as nuts about them as most people. I was a little too young, I think.

18. The Police, Synchronicity-Loved the symphonic quality of it, the way it just kind of swept you along towards the finish, repeating themes and such. The first album I ever heard that was an album, not just a bunch of songs. (I hadn't heard Abbey Road yet.)

19. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon-I shouldn't need to tell you how great this is. But this one rings true for me because a certain someone in my past made me take her to the Pink Floyd laser show at the Hayden Plantarium in Boston, Massachusetts, once. I have never forgotten her, or the show, or the album.

20. Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation-the first Aerosmith studio album I was really into heavily, and the first really good one after they decided to come out of their drug induced stupors. Again, a couple of hits-"Angel" and "Rag Doll" and "Dude Looks Like A Lady", with a lot of strong, though forgotten, other material. "Pump" is a close second.

The Twenty Albums Thing, Part Three (11-15)

11. Elton John, Live In Australia

Elton is hard-so many excellent songs, but so much filler on his studio albums. I'm cheating a little here by going with a Live album, but it is one I listened to constantly, and wrote short stories by the yard while listening to it. I think it is the first one I bought after Greatest Hits.

12. Les Miserables, the Complete Symphonic Recording

Again, a little bit of a cheat, but it's long...really, really, long....and totally singable. Sorta. As long as "good" isn't a prerequisite.

13. Chess, American Cast Recording

An absolute crime that this hasn't become a movie or a bigger hit musical-ask anyone who likes it, they will tell you how great it is. Very in the car singable, too.

14. Paul Simon, Graceland

Again, something I listened to a TON, and it has very listenable songs other than the ones you've heard.

15. Bon Jovi, New Jersey

Guilty pleasure time. I hated Bon Jovi, at least partially because they weren't cool. But, for some reason, I think the video for "Wanted Dead or Alive", turned me. So I bought this one when it came out, because that's what you did, and loved this thing. Every track-even the mushy ones-ate it up WHOLE.

The Twenty Album Thing, Part Two (6-10)

6. Metallica, ...And Justice For All

Toughie here. It would be a cop out to just say, "Live S^&t", and you would cover most phases of their career. And their newest, "Death Magnetic", is no slouch. But this album was IT for me towards the end of high school. Remember when they used to brag about how long albums were on the cover sometimes? That was this one-a brutal, unrelenting assault of a record, twisting and complex and messed up and fast and furious.

7. Tesla, Five Man Acoustical Jam

I know, a hair metal band. But this is a really, really great live record, including acoustic versions of their best songs, plus covers of Beatles, Stones, and Dead songs. I listened to this one to the point of wearing the letters off of the tape label.

8. REM, Out of Time

Yeah, yeah, Losing My Religion. But this one, for me, is another album where the unrecognized B side gets missed. A whole lot of gems on here, and I always felt like I was smarter after listening to it.

9. Evita, Original Broadway Soundtrack

Complete and utter LOVE for this musical. I can't even really explain why, exactly. I have just always loved it, and have killed a lot of long car trips playing it and singing along.

10. Guns N Roses, Appetite for Destruction

Another great singalong album for driving fast while you are really really mad. Other than "Jungle" and "Sweet Child", a lot of good songs with some nonsensical lyrics that really feel good when you're screaming them into the woods.

The Twenty Albums Thing, Part One (1-5)

Thanks to the absurdly talented J-Money, ( I was finally inspired to do the Facebook-y, Hack-y, Lame-y, Twenty Albums That Changed My Life Thing.

So, heretofore, in no particular order, The Twenty Albums That Changed My Life Forever, Approximately, So Far, Thing.

1. Billy Joel, Turnstiles

The easy thing to do would be to say "Billy Joel's entire catalog" and be done with it. But I'm going to make myself stretch a little bit-one per artist and no "Greatest Hits" copouts unless absolutely necessary. This one makes it because of the presence of my single favorite song of his, "Summer Highland Falls", and even despite the presence of "All You Wanna Do Is Dance", a rare clunker for him. Everything else on it is a gem. For me, this was always a contemplative album, made for looking at the ceiling and wondering things.

2. The Beatles, Rubber Soul

Now, you could say Revolver. I wouldn't say you're wrong, necessarily. This is supposedly right around the time they discover pot. (According to books I've read, Dylan introduces it to them. That's not impossible, but it's just too NEAT to be true.) They haven't gotten totally wierd yet, but the grooves are miles deep-Ringo coming up with amazing fills and little riffs, and the guitar playing is top notch. This is a sing along while driving somewhere fun sort of album. This is going to ROCK when Beatles Rock Band comes out. And, dude-Norwegian Wood. Norwegian WOOD. If I had talent, this album would have made me want to be a musician.

3. Nirvana, Unplugged

Cobain's death, of course, gives it a patina of importance that it might not really have. But it's really good, edgy and raw while still being unplugged. The last song, though, raises the hair on the back of my neck. It's a Leadbelly cover, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night", and Cobain simply kicks the ever loving shit out of the song. He's in the zone, and he lends more emotional weight to it than you can possibly imagine. I remember clearly listening to the CD(I missed the TV special when it was on) , then just going back and listening to the last track again and again. He goes to a scary, raw place to get that noise out of his throat, and once you hear it, you won't forget it.

4. Led Zeppelin, Zoso

Hard to argue with an album that has Stairway to Heaven on it. What got me about this one was that literally for years, I would play the first side of the tape-Black Dog, Rock and Roll, Battle of Evermore, and Stairway-until one day I flipped the damn thing over. Imagine my surprise! "Misty Mountain Hop", with that enormous, scary, I'm coming to get you drum sound. THAT would be fun on Rock Band-once. I would absolutely break the thing playing this song.

5. Original Broadway Cast Recording, "Rent".

Now, those of you who know me know that I don't cry. I'm a guy, and we don't do that. It's one of the rules. It is the merest coincidence that at the end of the Rent show my wife and I attended, a whole lot of dust got in my eyes all at once.

My wife can't stand the movie-I thought it was OK-but the musical is better, no question. I can't describe how great it is-it's like very light pop metal, except good. The fact that the composer is no longer with us is one of my Arguments That God is Dead.

My road-trip mix tape

What this country needs is...

a good ten cent cigar.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Rod hurt his hip humpin' your mom last night...

In news that is good for Red Sox fans, but bad for baseball fans, Alex Rodriguez apparently has a serious hip problem which may put him out not only for the World Baseball Classic, but for a portion of the regular season. The word at first was anywhere from ten weeks to four months, but the very latest appears to be that they are going to try to nurse him through the season without surgery.

As a Red Sox fan, on one level, I want him to fall into the Endless Hole in Springfield from the Simpsons episode-anything that makes the Yankees easier to beat is okay by me.

But seriously? I don't wish the man ill. Besides, if he does play, it makes it all the more sweet when we just up and beat them anyway.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

If you have an hour...

A brilliant, cogent, easy to understand account of the banking crisis.

I can't help myself...

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

No Line on the Horizon

So U2's new album (do we even say "album" anymore?) is out. I'm finally listening to it for the first time, just letting ITunes pick the running order. I don't know how ITunes does this-when I try to listen to a comedy album, which needs a sequence, ITunes just can't seem to handle that idea. Plus I'm not sure the concept of a running order makes any sense these days.

Remember running order? Originally, of course, albums had literal sides-they were big hunks of black vinyl that you literally had to flip over to listen to the other side of. Like Led Zeppelin IV-Black Dog, then Rock N Roll, then Battle of Evermore, then Stairway to Heaven, and then the mighty thump, track one side two, of Misty Mountain Hop. I can't remember the rest off the top of my head. But there was a texture to an album, to the journey it took you on.

So far, the U2 album is fine-I'm not over the moon about it, but I think the single ("Get On Your Boots") is better than some reviews are saying. It's hard to judge, this being literally my first listen. But I like it.

IGN published a ranking of U2 albums ( which was fair, but it underrated an album that is far and away my favorite, Rattle and Hum.

Monday Memes on Wednesday

Time for the Monday Meme from Miss ( Things To Rearrange In Your Life

1. My weight-I have had to lose a significant amount of weight for several years now. I know this, but like a hitting streak, I can't seem to get more than a day or two of sensible eating before I'm dipping Ritz in the cream cheese.

2. My job-The "temporary" position I was taking "just until I find something I like" is now four years old. I either have to learn how to like it, or get something else.

3. My writing-I have wanted to finish a couple of different writing projects for quite a while now. It's long past time to get one finished.

Not that big of a deal, right?

Pain Heals.


Thanks to Rob Neyer for this-free throw shooting performance has stayed constant throughout the last 50 years. And unlike other stable indices like scoring in golf and batting average in baseball, the act of shooting a free throw is exactly the same-for you and I or Shaquille O'Neal. In fact, you're probably better at it than Shaquille.

An interesting review by my personal favorite, Roger Angell, of Joe Torre's book The Yankee Years. I think I want to read it, but it seems, from what I've read about it, to be less a baseball book than a celebrity book, and I'm not so interested in that part.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Happy Birthday, Tom Wolfe!

Author of Bonfire of the Vanities, one of the best books I've ever read.

And my brother, Chris, as well. Happy birthday, Chris.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Remind me again why markets work so well?

According to this apocalyptic piece in the New York Times, the insurance and banking megalith AIG, which you and I now essentially own, lock, stock, and smoking crater, is about to announce a $60 billion quarterly loss.

Read that sentence again, and try not to throw up in your mouth.

That's billion. With a B. And you, and I, and the guy down the street, HAVE to prop up this mound of stinking fecal matter, or you go to the ATM tomorrow, and there's nothing in it.

"If we let A.I.G. fail, said Seamus P. McMahon, a banking expert at Booz & Company, other institutions, including pension funds and American and European banks “will face their own capital and liquidity crisis, and we could have a domino effect.” A bailout of A.I.G. is really a bailout of its trading partners — which essentially constitutes the entire Western banking system."

But what kills me, the absolute sine qua non of why we should take the whole stinking bunch of them and crucify them, up and down Wall Street, as a lesson to the rest, is this sentence:

"Like everyone else on Wall Street, A.I.G. operated on the belief that the underlying assets — housing — could only go up in price."

Really? Really? Your brilliant plan hinged on prices only going UP?

My nephew Simon is not yet two, and he's got a pretty good grasp on the fact that there is "Up", and there is also this other direction, that we tend to call...oh what is know.....oh yeah, "Down".

Bunch of fracking morons.

From my friends at

What I'm Reading

An excellent account of mathematician David Li and the equation that doomed us all.
How ironic that the one phrase that financial types have been throwing at us for years-past performance is no guarantee of future results-is the one thing the formula didn't account for.

I finished John Updike's Bech books, and also his novel "S.", an epistolary story about a woman who leaves her husband to join an ashram in Arizona and then robs the ashram. Also reread "The Watchmen" today, getting much more out of it this time than I did the first time.

Now moving on to the Ian McEwan novels I got from the library, but I have the Rabbit Angstrom books sitting here too, and the temptation to start them again is pretty strong.

I heard this song in the car today, and I had forgotten how much I liked it, "back in the day".

Which, as Dane Cook teaches us, was a Wednesday.

I think somebody recently discovered how easy it is to embed videos.

Happy Birthday, Roger Daltrey!