PBS on Georgia O'Keefe, Jackson Pollock and Others

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I haven't spent more than an hour in my lifetime exploring art (by art, I mean the kind to the left). Tonight on PBS there was a fascinating feature on Georgia O'Keefe, Jackson Pollock and other great artists of the 20th century. I was ready to QUICKLY flip to another channel but was immediately drawn in by these incredible images of Georgia O'Keefe spending some time in New Mexico. They then went on to show some of her work and I'm suddenly hooked. I've spent the past hour looking up her work as well as others around her time. Absolutely beautiful. To finally acknowledge that these folks have a lot in common with many of my artistic heroes (e.g. Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy, Albert Camus, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Haruki Murakami) will likely lead me to explore. The world of art, in all its forms, is just endless.

Does iTunes have this? :)

Empty City

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Boy was today bizarre. Our company decided to give us the day off Friday as opposed to Monday. This morning I headed up 280 and felt like I was driving along I-80 in Nebraska (does I-80 run through Nebraska?). My commute, which usually runs about 90 minutes door-to-door, today was 45 minutes tops. When I approached the lot I park in each day, there was nobody. The gates were open, but there was a mere ONE car in the lot. No attendees. No notices. I just parked and walked to work. No charge. As I made the two-block stroll to work there was literally not a soul on the streets. All restaurants/cafes/Starbucks, etc. were closed. No joke, I seriously had to stop and think, "Wait, is today Christmas? Is it Sunday? Where the heck is everyone?"

When I got to the front door of my office building still nobody. I headed up the elevator and as the door opened there sat a number of our HR/Admin. folks. Ahhh, life! The office was about half full but the mood in the office was secluded yet focused. Everyone appeared to be buried in catch-up work.

The last time I saw a major city that quiet was in NYC at about 1130pm on 9/11/01. I remember heading home from the Upper East Side to Brooklyn that night filled with emotion and looking around and finding/seeing no one. Although today was the day after Christmas and the city was peaceful, I was somehow transported back to that day.

Christmas

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When I realized that the new job, a move and a lack of cash was going to prevent me from spending Christmas with my family, I admit that I was a bit upset. This was the first Christmas that I would be spending alone. Nevertheless, for some reason it turned to be quite alright. I knew that I could make it through Christmas day fine, it was the Eve that worried me. Christmas Eve has always carried a lot of emotion for me.

Yesterday afternoon I figured I'd reach out to some local folks to see if they were around. Much to my surprise, my buddy Ryoko was interested in meeting up for a few drinks. We landed in a bar in Sunnyvale. There were four people on hand: the sullen bartender, a distracted barback, Ryoko and myself. For a few hours we chatted about this past year, the happiness she'd found with her new boyfriend and how our lives had matured in the past year. I drove home around 11pm and felt great. Small things.

Today I received a few unexpected calls, spoke to my parents (and step-parents), a few of my siblings (left a message for ya John) and it turned out to be a pretty nice day. I had some great laughs with a buddy from back East, as well as an ex-girlfriend. Regarding the latter, although things may not work out in certain senses, it's humbling and well, touching, that you can somehow get past that and still care for each other. We laughed, we reminisced. We both wished each other well.

Inspired by my younger sister, I had intended to spend some time today doing some volunteer work. Well, as I'm *still* getting my possessions together for the move to the city, I realized that I was running out of time. Since I didn't spend much on Christmas gifts this year, I wanted to do something. To that end, I made a small donation to the Carter Center. I realize that the former president is coming up a lot lately in my thoughts, blogs, etc. Why? I can't say for sure. I just know that his spirit and ongoing commitment to the good left me with a good feeling on Christmas Day. Knowing that, I wanted to show some support.

Merry Christmas to all. And thanks for the well wishes.

A Year In Song

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you are a runner, and i am my father’s son :: wolf parade
blinking lights (for me) :: eels
i feel too young to die :: south san gabriel
10 :: m.i.a.
fading :: kenny roby
modern music :: black mountain
radio campaign :: m. ward
the dark don’t hide it :: magnolia electric company
simple hello :: damien jurado
fistful of love :: antony & the johnsons
sometimes always :: brakes
what a wonderful man :: my morning jacket
the two sides of monsieur valentine :: spoon
decatur, or, round of applause for your stepmother! :: sufjan stevens
when i go deaf :: low
i can’t help you anymore :: aimee mann
devils & dust :: bruce springsteen

Losing My Religion

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I was raised catholic. Well, sort of. After my parents divorced, my mother via my grandmother, tried to instill catholic 'values' in me. My mother was working too hard to support two young children to put much effort into educating us about religion. We didn't go to church on sundays, however, my mom did enroll us in catholic education classes fairly early. I was baptized. I had my communion. But unlike the other kids in my town, I wasn't sent to church, temple, etc.

Now 32 I still don't know my feelings on religion. I certainly have a strong sense of spirituality. That said, I'm not quite sure who I pray to, who I look to or who I'm speaking to. Around 2000 was the first time that I started to truly explore my religious beliefs. This was the same time that George W. Bush became our president by hijacking naive christians across America. This is unfortunate. At the time, given some setbacks in my life, I was in need of a deeper spirtuality and I was strongly considering diving in and exploring my faith. Where was I going to start? Well, since I was loosely raised catholic, this is where I'd planned on heading.

George W. Bush changed all that. It's now five years later and our president has temporarily (permanently?) destroyed my interest in exploring christianity. Naive on my part? Probably. Nevertheless, when I look at the things that drive our president (e.g. greed, money, war, narcissism, power, etc., etc.), I feel absolutely ill that he uses christianity to reach these ends. And if believers in christianity consider him a leader of their values and faith, then I want absolutely no part of it.

Former president and everyday humanitarian Jimmy Carter has spoken to this. President Carter has always been pretty open about his faith and his beliefs. President Carter also exemplifies the values that *should* be associated with this religion: honesty, humility, love and most importantly relentless concern for others. He is a great man.

As I continue my search for a religion that can provide some fulfillment and further my spirituality, when considering christianity, men like Jimmy Carter will be the impetus behind this search. Mr. Bush and his choir of zealots, well, deep down they know what they represent.

City To City

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Today I began packing up everything for my upcoming move to San Francisco. Man do you find odd things when you're trying to clean out old crap: cards from girlfriends past (and I mean LONG past), articles about bands I loved in the early 90s, pictures from high school, the list goes on. Some of these things I tossed (with some hesitation), while others I've thrown into a trunk. I'm sure I'll go through the same exact process whenever I do move again. I suppose we all (or me) gradually feel ok parting ways with these memories. I'm about 5% done packing up my crap (and boy do I have a lot of crap); I'm sure I'll stumble upon some more stuff that'll bring me back. I know I'm keeping my eyes out for some cards sent by my now-deceased grandmother. I also need to find my grandfather's wallet (an absolute treasure to me (and not because of the $3 that he had in his wallet when he passed away)).

In a matter of days or weeks I'll be a resident of the great city of San Francisco......

"Feathers fall around you and show you the way to go..." -Neil Young

The Spirit of Rock n' Roll

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d
Golden Smog

Irving Plaza, NYC

1998









Chip Robinson
Liberty Lunch, Austin, TX
1999


More 2005 Favorites/Memories

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Books: "My Friend Leonard" by James Frey. I really dug "A Million Little Pieces" but this one's even better. A great, great story about friendship, overcoming addiction, acceptance and understanding.

Movies: I can't think of one. I need to see "Syriana" and "Good Night, Good Luck" (is that the title?). "Capote" was good but not memorable - outstanding performance by Hoffman but the story was a bit erratic.

San Francisco: A city I'm slowly starting to love. I've met some incredible people here, I couldn't be happier at the new gig and the music scene's pretty, pretty nice.

Aliya Huprikar, Amelia Negri and Hudson Galik: Three of my close friends have children and it's changed my perspective on a lot of things.

The Wrens: Reignited not only my love for live music but my faith in recording artists.

Brooklyn: Not a day goes by that I don't miss not only Brooklyn but my great friends and family back in the NYC area.

Postcard: Just a wonderful place. I've received countless treats this year (Haire's First Ave. gift, Tampakev's Centro tees, B Mike's live cd package, etc., etc.) and rarely does anyone ask for anything in return. A great place to talk music, politics, sports, about yourself.....

There's so much more but that'll do it for now. 2005's been a great one; hopefull 2006 will bring similar smiles.

The Democrats

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It's no secret that the current state of the democratic party is, well, bordering on laughable. Ever since Rove and his arsenal of assholes convinced the country to re-elect W, I have drastically decreased my time spent following U.S. politics. All told, I just couldn't stand watching what was happening in this country. Sure that seems apathetic, but I found myself drowning in misery whenever I followed events here. Iraq. Katrina Aftermath. Tax Cuts. Environmenal Ambivalence. Torture. Plame Leak. It's just one damn thing after another with this despicable administration.

So I ask this: Where are the folks that DO represent some of what I believe in? When I volunteered for the Kerry campaign last year, I felt like there was a voice that stood for some of what I stand for. Sure folks didn't take to Kerry, but had Americans had the chance to see him speak in person, I think the turnout would've been very different. I digress. As this country continues to slide into chaos, where are the democrats???? John Edwards? Hillary Clinton? Where the hell are you people and why are you not speaking up? STOP with the political mapping and SPEAK THE HELL UP!

There are very few democrats out there who can inspire me. There are probably fewer than there are fingers on one of my hands. John Kerry inspired me (yes, that was intentionally past tense). Barack Obama has his moments. Bill Richardson and Joe Biden have had some impact on me at times. But overall, it's disgraceful. If the Dems don't step to the plate soon, and I mean very soon, the party will have squandered a huge opportunity to show this country that there are options outside of right-wing crooks. Unfortunately my gut (and recent history) tells me that they'll keep quiet. That is not only a shame but it's a slap in the face to those who support your party. Or rather, did support your party.

SF Skies

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Johnny Cash & Jimmy Carter

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It's odd how these two have suddenly collided to provide inspiration. I'm not talking about anything in the news; I'm simply talking about personal inspiration. Wasting away on the couch tonight, I found my way to a little tribute to Cash on Larry King. During one of the bumpers they played a live clip of Cash doing "Delia". That led me to actually turn off the program and fire up "American Recordings" from top-to-bottom (I'm at "Why Me Lord?" right now). While absorbing this fantastic record, I stumbled upon a piece about Jimmy Carter and all that he continues to tirelessly do to help the down-and-out. While the man in black empathized with the down-and-out, the peanut farmer has dedicated his life to helping those in need. One was a musician. The other was a president. In many ways, they both served us all.

Top 20 Records of 2005

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#1






Aimee Mann :: The Forgotten Arm

#2








M.I.A. :: Arular

#3








Eels :: Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

#4








Bob Dylan :: No Direction Home

#5









Bruce Springsteen :: Devils & Dust

The rest....
6 Sufjan Stevens :: Illinois
7 Spoon :: Gimme Fiction
8 Damien Jurado :: On My Way To Absence
9 Antony & The Johnsons :: I Am a Bird Now
10 Brakes :: Give Blood
11 M. Ward :: Transistor Radio
12 Low :: The Great Destroyer
13 Wilco :: Kicking Television-Live In Chicago
14 Beck :: Guero
15 Son Volt :: Okemah & The Meldody Riot
16 My Morning Jacket :: Z
17 Stephen Malkmus :: Face the Truth
18 Josh Rouse :: Nashville
19 LCD Soundsystem :: LCD Soundsystem
20 Franz Ferdinand :: You Could Have It So Much Better

The Wrens @ Slims, SF

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2005's been a slow year as far as live music attendance on my end. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm about an hour south of the city, maybe it's the fact that I'm getting a bit older or maybe there just aren't many bands truly inspiring me lately. It's probably a combination of all of those. Last night that all changed.

The Wrens's ages range from about 33-41. They've recorded two full-length albums in the past ten years, the most memorable being the indie-pop masterstorke, "The Meadowlands" (2003). Last night this foursome played their second straight show in the Bay Area. Hailing from 3,000 miles away in South Jersey, The Wrens absolutely floored a packed crowd at Slims in SF. They played ballads. They played all-out, balls-out rockers. They played like a band that'd been touring for a decade (without being jaded). These guys were loving every minute of it. And it was real. "Four balding fat guys from Jersey" (as the lead singer referred to the band) put the fire back in me. This is a band to love. Apparently these guys aren't dropping their day jobs (two or three of the four have families to support) and that's understandable. Let's just hope they don't give up their part-time gigs.

www.wrens.com

Year End

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Top Ten Records of the Year will be posted shortly (perhaps tonight). It's been a great year for very good records (translation: no classics). Tomorrow night I see The Wrens for the first time.

Songwriting

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There are countless songwriters whose writings, voices and visions have changed my life in some way. Some leave a momentary mark, while others continually offer guidance, support or empathy, whenever I need it. Many spring to mind: Jeff Tweedy, Bruce Springsteen, Gary Louris, Matthew Ryan, Damien Jurado, Neil Young, Elliott Smith, Richard Buckner, Lucinda Williams. All of these writers, along with tens of others have stood by my side many times througout the years.

Whenever I think about the greatest songwriters/voices of the past decade or two, one of the first to come to mind is a virtually-unknown musical genius from North Carolina named Kenny Roby. Many years ago it was Roby's band 6 String Drag that revealed to me that straightforward music can at times be the best music. No frills. Simple songwriting, a charging guitar and seeping passion. That was Kenny Roby's 6 String Drag. They were shortlived, but Kenny charged on. I've heard numerous times that he's considered bailing on making music. But he always comes back. And I for one, thank god for that. Since the Drag's demise, Kenny's released two fanatastic records, his latest, "Rather Not Know", pays homage to his late father. However, instead of a record drowning in sorrow (which would certainly be understandable), Roby compliments the heartbreaking tunes with songs ranging from an overweight, yet determined woman named Thelma ("Not Gonna Give Up") to traditional downhome numbers like "I Need a Train".

There are many great songwriters out there, but as far as the unsung heroes go, there are few as talented and heartfelt as North Carolina's Kenny Roby.

A Tale of Two Cities

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Tomorrow afternoon I return to NYC for the first time since June (and only the third time since moving to the Bay Area in January). This is the first time that I am truly excited to return home. Having spent the last 11 months living in Sunnyvale, CA, I am desperate for big city spirit. Once I return next week I will be only a few weeks shy of my pending move to the big local city, San Francisco. Now that I'm working up in SF, I can honestly say that the city has started to grow on me considerably. NYC was always a bit too much for me; SF seems like it might be just right. Nevertheless, tomorrow I return home to the city that'll never leave me.

np Alejandro Escovdeo/Velvet Guitar

Born To Run 30th Anniversary

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I think it's safe to say that this record changed my life. Sure, peoople throw such statements out too easily, but for me, I truly believe it's the case. I vividly recall hearing "Backstreets", "Night", "Jungleland" and the five remaining tracks oozing through the walls of my Ramsey, New Jersey bedroom as a child. Although my father's late-parties often left me red-eyed and blue, the wail of "Born To Run" always gave me comfort. Whether it be as guests arrived or as the booze and drugs had fueled the hangers-on at 5am, "Born To Run" often accompanied the madness downstairs.

Now at the age of 32 I find myself working in the music business and fueled not by the booze and drugs but by the music. Springsteen led me to Neil Young which brought me to Uncle Tupelo which guided me to Damien Jurado and Elliott Smith. For over twenty years music has been the cornerstone of my life. And how I got here can be attributed to those late, sweltering nights in Northern New Jersey. In the deep heart of the night, it was "Born To Run" that gave me hope. And nothing's changed.