Friday, January 23, 2015

Band Review: George Cole

I came across George Cole when Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong tweeted a link to Cole's song "Riverside Drive" this week. I was charmed with it and Cols' other songs. The music was also a nice counterpoint to my other review, so Cole gets the Friday spot.

I am including a link to his Wikipedia entry, because there is a broad and varied musical history there:

My listening centered on the Soundcloud page and the Youtube videos. Based on that, elements that stood out included a sound that was both retro and fresh (reminding me a bit of Foxboro Hot Tubs) and the clarinet, bringing to mind Benny Goodman. There is good use of the tall bass. That gives the first impression - this is delightful and should be danced to (some waltz and maybe some quickstep).

On the second time through I was really struck by the guitar. The delicacy and intricacy initially made me think of Spanish guitar, but I think it is more reasonable to see some influence from Django Reinhardt. Based on Cole's involvement with a festival honoring Reinhardt and St├ęphane Grappelli, that may be the most logical inference, other than assuming there has been exposure to and absorption of a lot of music. Harry Connick Jr. fans would probably enjoy, but the potential audience should go far beyond that.

So this was a really good find. I owe Billie Joe. It makes future listening and exploring probable, and it's nice to know there is a lot to work with.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Band Review: Buck Marley

I did not enjoy listening.

There were some interesting elements. The background often incorporated chime-like sounds, and I felt like there was a reasonable sense of musicality there. In that way he reminded me a bit of Lando.

The problem was with the lyrics. The vocabulary was repetitive, and using the same offensive words over and over can make a point, but it doesn't automatically do so. It never felt like this was saying something.

Possibly one reason I thought of Lando in comparison is that there were several instrumental tracks. If you are better at coming up with music than words, music only is a reasonable option.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thoughts on Duck Football

Yesterday I mentioned various reading lists, and for those I meant the ones that I have grouped together and entered into this spreadsheet that I use for organizational purposes. There are many other books that I plan to read, and some that I kind of know will be grouped together. This includes some football-themed books.

One of the football books is Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series by Dan Wetzel. Published in 2010, I am sure a lot of it will be out of date, but I assume that there will be some history there, and help in analyzing what they are doing now. I guess that is my way of saying that I am interested in football but not always up on it.

In college there was time to follow sports, and even for a while after, but I am so busy now, and watching a football game is not just a time investment; it is also really stressful. I was working during the Rose Bowl, so I kept the ESPN page up to check the score. We actually watched most of the Championship game, and that is why I have thoughts in the first place.

First of all, I am just thrilled for Marcus Mariota and the Heisman win. Yes, I know he has other trophies too, but that is a big one, and he is such an outstanding athlete while being such a good team player and leader that this is how it should be. Totally appropriate and deserved.

I'm not sure how I feel about there being a championship. I would probably be more thrilled with it if the Ducks had won, but I have been against extending football seasons in general because of some of the things they are finding with brain injuries. Also, decades ago I read an opinion piece by someone who loved that both the Orange and Rose Bowl winning teams would have signs "College Football Champions". The writer found it amusing and kind of charming, and it swayed me. Now you essentially have one more team that will end their season with a loss. It doesn't take away what came before, but still.

There was not a brain injury that I saw, but there was something flagrant, when Mariota was tackled after passing. It got an unsportsmanlike conduct call - which it deserved - but if anyone questions his decision to go to the NFL now, no, it's really logical for him to do so. You never know how long you will be able to play.

I get the concerns for the team about losing a strong player, but there are strong players left. I was really impressed with Marshall, Tyner is still around, and I have seen a lot of quarterbacks come and go.

Back in my day, Bill Musgrave was a really good quarterback, and he felt like a shining hope, but O'Neil did okay after that, and Harrington really wowed them, and had his own Heisman campaign, and it just continues.

It's the same with coaches. Rich Brooks was a step forward, and an important one, but the team continued to improve under Bellotti. I loved both of them. I took Football Coaching in spring of 1991, and every single coach taught a session. That's why I knew and liked them (as people, not just as coaches), but it also gave me a familiarity with the names, where years later I would still be hearing about Aliotti or Zoumboukos, or I would see Ratcliffe on the sidelines (still with 0% body fat). I liked the loyalty. I believe that the sense of continuity, and promoting from within, has strengthened the organization.

I had no memories of Chip Kelly, and as he started closing practices and things like that, I never grew fond of him. It felt like the program was becoming colder and more business-like. However, the team continued to do well, and he wasn't the end either, because now Helfrich is doing well. If you want to know how to build a strong football program, look at Oregon's history.

I also love that the NCAA agreed that helping parents attend the game was okay. There is so much money in football, and it could often be spread around better, but this was a good step.

I think that's pretty much it. I hope people aren't shunning Carrington too much. I hope he felt horrible and has learned something, but I hope everyone is moving past it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy Book Day!

Saturday was my birthday. I wish I had been in a better place emotionally for it, but there were still three things that were good about it.

There were a lot of Facebook greetings. Facebook will tell you who is having a birthday that day, and there is a pop up box where you can type your greeting in, making it really easy. Even knowing how easy it is, it still means something that someone does it, and when your timeline is full of people wishing you a happy day, it feels good, which I needed.

There were even some Twitter greetings. The Twitter greetings were mainly from people whom I am connected to on Facebook as well, which allowed them to know. Some people re-tweet their birthday wishes. If you do that more people will see it is your birthday, so you can get even more well wishes, but I did not feel comfortable doing that. I only clicked "Favorite" and replied "Thank you!", as well as liking all the Facebook posts, because they did make me happy. I just felt like re-tweeting would be too self-promotional.

Another thing that was good was dinner with friends, which I think I will post about separately, but it is related to the other good thing, which was books.

I am not finished with my Christmas books yet, but now I have more, and even more on the way. Karen gave me an Amazon gift card and Sonya gave me a Powells gift card. There is also the stack of library books that I have, so it all feels like progress.

I have written about my various reading lists at different times, and this relates to that, but let me also talk about Goodreads for a moment. Goodreads is how I know I read 100 books last year (and why being so close to 100 led to me reading two children's books on December 31st.)

As the new year started, Goodreads prompted me to set a new reading goal for 2015. Well, my first thought was 144, which is ridiculous, but reflects how many things I want to read and learn. The average was 64 though, so I set that. Perhaps it seems low for someone who read 100 the previous year, but a lot of that is because of comics - though I really do want to read a lot of comics. Still, if I read 64 regular books, plus 2 Caldecott winners and at least one graphic novel per month, then that is 100 again, and would probably be about right. It's still ambitious, but not impossible. I think.

Looking at the breakdown of the smaller reading lists, it gets much better. I had down four gardening books, and I got two of them for my birthday. They were books that the library had, but I think they will be handy as reference, so owning them seemed desirable, and I needed to add things to my wish list.

There were three books that I wanted to finish before starting my 2014 Native American Heritage reading. I just finished one, have one here, and I think I know when I can read the third. There had been three books that were part of pre-Halloween reading that the library didn't have and that were kind of expensive, the gift cards and new used copies showing up in stock means they are all on the way, as well as two really hard to find academic books that are starting to feel necessary to read sooner rather than later.

So, here's how I see things going down. Right now I am reading The Secret History of Dreaming and it will be followed by Sometimes a Great Notion. Then I am going to read the heck out of those Pre-Halloween books. I should then be ready for 1493. When that is done I will start alternating gardening and Native American Heritage books, then the pre-Italy and Black History books.

That is putting the drawing books on hold, but I feel like I need to do that until I have more time to draw, or the lessons get lost. I will probably get them back into the rotation in May, along with the books that are feeling necessary sooner than later. (I assume they will be pertinent to things that are coming up, but they are not directly related to each other in any obvious way.) I think I am going to order used copies of the other two dream books now, too, because the library doesn't have them, and this should be a good paycheck.

At that point I will be able to start working on fleshing out my education, so that's pretty exciting. All of the smaller lists combined equal 58 books, so if I read 64 this year, that means I can be caught up on those and into the School list of 98.

For the Caldecott Medal winners I am working from both ends. I just finished the 1938 inaugural winner, and I have the 2014 winner ready to read tonight.

For graphic novels - and I am saying that instead of comic books in this case simply because they are so far all more novel-like, this month is NonNonBa, which is on my shelf as I write, and next month I want to do Anya's Ghost. If there is another MOOC that could change the order around, and that would be fine with me. I find things through the MOOCs that I wouldn't find otherwise.

I admit my excitement level about this might be ridiculous, but it's there. Books! Come to me my pretties!

Also, for a long time, no matter how many books I read my to-read list was always three times as large as my read list. Well, a lot of it is just remembering books that I had read but never added, but I am getting close to having the "read" list equal half the "to-read" list, and I feel good about that. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

43 photographs

I am entering Phase II.

Phase I was having the songs of the day consist of a countdown, by year, to my birthday. That led to one blog post, but I often put additional details for why a song mattered for that year on Facebook. There were songs that almost made it and didn't, but mainly it was a matter of reviewing and remembering.

There was a lot of pain there. As I work on healing, a lot of that involves dealing with the past. At some point while I was counting down the songs I realized that the next step would be participating in Throwback Thursday.

If you are not familiar with the concept, it is a social media thing (Facebook and Twitter for sure, probably Instagram, maybe others) where on Thursday you post photos from the past. I have posted one here and there, but never participated on a regular basis.

There were 43 songs for 43 years, and I kind of want to do that again, but it won't be as clear-cut. For one thing, a lot of the pictures aren't dated. I know approximately when they happened, but not for sure. Also, there may be some years where I am not able to find any pictures. The number is definitely going to be 43, and they will be posted mostly chronologically, but I can make no guarantees beyond that.

This will be considerably harder than the songs. Well, it will start out okay, but it will get progressively harder. However, I am only doing it once a week instead of daily, so that should help.

The reason it will be hard is the same reason that I will not be able to find pictures for every year - I have always hated pictures of me. It's like, I knew that I wasn't attractive anyway, but then a photo would simultaneously flatten the image, thus making me wider, and create a record, so there was proof. I've hated that.

That being said, I do remember when I was younger looking at pictures from previous years and thinking that they weren't that bad. I had hated the picture in its year, but two years later it would be okay.

That may indicate that I was just becoming more hideous at a dramatic enough rate that it made the relatively recent past look benign by comparison, but there could be some other things going on there. Obviously, there's going to be a lot to unpack.

For right now, it's just one photo per week for the next 43 weeks, and getting comfortable with that. I'm sure the following phase which will involve selfies in some way will be more traumatic, but one step at a time.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Band Review: Woodie Alan

In July I read Alan Paul's book Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing. The subtitle is important, because the book is not just about the band: family, work, and the ex-pat life are also important topics. The band was important too, though, and I eventually wanted to review them.

The CD, Beijing Blues, is available through Paul's web site (all of the links are specifically for Paul), and can also be listened to via Spotify.

It is a very respectable blues offering. Much of what struck me in the book was about the guitar, and that does stand out. I know that Woodie Wu plays dobro as well as regular guitar, and that may be how some of the effects were achieved, but they get great sound.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at the use of harmonica and horns. There is always a good balance of the different elements to make the song feel right. "Got Love" is a good example of that, but they cover a wide range of ground. There is the funk of "Sri Lankan Sunset", the aching beauty of "Anjing Shenghuo", and a high quality live recording of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go", which was my favorite.

The only real misfire, in my opinion, was a blues cover of the hymn "Will the Circle Be Unbroken". On the first listen I really hated it. After listening three times I was over hating it, but I still don't love it. It may just not work for me as blues.

Woodie Alan nevertheless works really well for blues, and they have a good story. I recommend the book and the band.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Band Review: Jude's Way

Jude's Way has a nice little funk going on. An electronic alternative duo from Baltimore, they currently have an album, Out of the Blue,  available on Bandcamp.

Songs tend to be instrumental and very danceable. I especially enjoyed the video for "Told You Not To Go There", which reminds us that not everyone is equally comfortable getting funky, but when you give in it does feel good.