Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I miss this show

Last year Glee captured my heart with its unapologetic celebration of fine arts underdoggedness. This year, not so much. Too much coupling, too many themed shows, too much unlikable behavior (why did Rachel turn into Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter?) and I think most of all song choices that don't appeal to me. Ironically, though, my favorite moment of second season was during Sectionals when The Warblers performed Train's "Hey Soul Sister," which is a gawful song. But at about 1:10 when Rachel implores a tentative to Kurt to smile, Glee touchstones Season 1 and hits the perfect note of the dumped-upon-show-choir-kids remembering that they're the best support each other will ever have and that the way we perform when we're doing what we love is the best we can show of ourselves, so don't fuck it up. Without further ado ... a horrible song done right by Glee ...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Los Angeles Mortal Coil list 1

After eight-and-a-half years of living in Los Angeles I can now finally say that I've hiked up to the iconic Hollywood Sign, or at least as close as one can legally get. Kevin, Alicia and I did an early Sunday morning hike up from Bronson Canyon to the sign.

Alicia said it was labeled "strenuous" but we all felt that it should have been labeled "moderate." It begins with a good 15-20 minutes of a steep enough ascent to get a good workout, then it levels off for a leisurely 30ish minutes before a final ascent up to the top of the mountain. Great views, though sadly you see the sign from the rear.

That's obviosly the "Holly" and in the upper right you can see the reservoir.

A gorgeous shot of the snow capped mountains. It was a perfect California day—warm enough to go out without a jacket, sunny enough for sunglasses and gorgeously brilliant white snow on the mountains.

In the upper middle of this photo you can sorta make out the seats of the Hollywood Bowl.

Here's a link to the short photo album.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Woe Canada

Growing up in Buffalo so close to Canada had a huge influence on my cultural, specifically musical, development. The Toronto radio station CFNY made a huge impact as noted in this blog several times. Through it I discovered: The Tragically Hip, Spirit of the West, Sarah McLachlan, Single Gun Theory, Moxy Früvous, The Barenaked Ladies, Sloan, Sara Craig, Leonard Cohen and gained a greater appreciation for Van Morrison.

I also was able to watch Good Rockin' Tonight on the CBC on Friday and Saturday late nights. They were more mainstream pop/rock oriented with plenty of American stuff. But they also did their best to promote Canadian acts including the one below. I loved this song when I heard it the first time. It's got a fast beat and excellent (though extremely produced) harmonies. That was apparently enough when my taste defenses were down at 12:30 a.m. and home alone.

Without further ado a musical confession from my pre-snob days also known as the days I thought that listening to major label releases in the "Alternative" section at major retailers made me different, just like the millions of other Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Singles soundtrack fans.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Speaking truth to power OR Journalism should be about huevos

Love this column from Salon's Glenn Greenwald today. In it Greenwald not only defends CNN's Anderson Cooper for using the word "lie" or a derivative thereof when he used it to describe actions of the Egyptian government during his telecast last week, but calls out those who criticized Cooper, namely CNN and The Daily Beast's Howie Kurtz and the Los Angeles Times' Jim Rainey.

I'm going to quote liberally here from Greenwald's column, in which he points out that both Kurtz and Rainey admit Cooper was correct in using "lie," because not only do I agree with his point, but he wrote it with vigor.

Identifying lies told by powerful political leaders -- and describing them as such -- is what good journalists do, by definition. It's the crux of adversarial journalism, of a "watchdog" press. "Objectivity" does not require refraining from pointing out the falsity of government claims. The opposite is true; objectivity requires that a journalist do exactly that:  treat factually false statements as false. "Objectivity" is breached not when a journalist calls a lie a "lie," but when they refuse to do so, when they treat lies told by powerful political officials as though they're viable, reasonable interpretations of subjective questions. The very idea that a journalist is engaged in "opinion-making" or is "taking sides" by calling a lie a "lie" is ludicrous; the only "side" such a journalist is taking is with facts, with the truth. It's when a journalist fails to identify a false statement as such that they are "taking sides" -- they're siding with those in power by deceitfully depicting their demonstrably false statements as something other than lies.

As a proud member of the media, I hope that I never forget and that my compatriots never forget that we are always on a SIDE—the side of the facts. And when those facts lead to inexorable conclusions that one side is also "RIGHT" we damn well better be on that side, too.

I feel like Fox News Channel's use of "fair and balanced" (which we've gutlessly allowed to be misappropriated from actual Truth), couldn't be smarter for them. They've exploited our country's glaring lack of knowledge about how the media operates or its role in a democracy to buffalo far too many of the mainstream press into always allowing the corrupt, the ignorant (Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party) and the liars (Michele Bachmann) an opportunity to offer opinions.

Instead of calling them for their quotes, we should force them to meet a standard of objective facts. Don't let them claim that we're not balanced, instead force them to be educated. If doing rigorous research is elitist then BE FUCKING ELITIST. No more stories about Birther arguments or about how climate pollution isn't happening or about fucking Creationism and the Earth being only a few thousand years old.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Working with teens in an age of social media

I accidentally walked out of my favorite bar Thursday night forgetting to pay my tab. I'm enough of a regular at the amazing Eagle Rock Brewery (L.A. plug) that I'm allowed to run a tab without leaving my credit card at the register. Thursday night a friend of a friend bought me my third and final beer so I never had a chance to order and say, "I'll settle up now," which is what I've always done. I finish my third beer and head home.

I don't remember that I've failed to pay for my first two beers until I'm just about finished with a quick jog. D'oh! I immediately email the owners when I get home. The husband replies early Friday morning saying "no worries." I go to the bar Saturday night for a few beers and pay off my outstanding $10.

After paying I send out a message on Twitter that said: "Paying Beer tab at @ makes me almost as balanced as the populist IPA." Btw, second L.A. plug, even as a non-hops guy the Populist IPA will change your life.

Anyway, this morning I see that I have a Twitter message from one of my former students who is a junior at Harvard asking "What's beer tab?"

I told him that I'll tell him when he's older.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mega playlist for a girl off to college

I made this for Charlene, one of my favorite L.A. Youth students, just before she headed off to college. When Charlene came to L.A. Youth for the first time, she was just finishing eighth grade, though she had the maturity of someone several years older. (When we're talking about teens, a few years is a HUGE leap.) Unlike most students who join the non-profit teen newspaper, Charlene stayed through her senior year, which is longer than any student since I got hired in 2002. By the time she graduated I considered myself her more than her editor, but more like her friendtor. She is one of the few students who ever made me a mix CD, so as she headed off to college I owed her one. Since I'm terrible at music editing, I made her a mega-playlist. Enjoy, kiddo!

Disc 1
"Vox" — Sarah McLachlan: She was one of the artists I discovered through living on the Canadian border and one of the first intelligent songwriters I listened to. This song was from her first CD, which was recorded when she was like 19, and captured like what I felt was coming up next in my life, whatever that may be.
"Goodbye" — The Sundays: I'm still trying to figure out exactly what Harriet Wheeler means when she sings, "As the heavens shudder baby, I belong to you." That the meaning mutates from year to year in my life is the sign of a truly great lyric.

"Make Your Own Kind of Music" — Cass Elliot: This is one of those glorious theme-music-for-life songs that's great to dance to. There's something to me that is very California in its attitude.

"Tightrope" — Yeasayer: Choices, consequences and perhaps regret or redemption. This is what Rock n Roll was made for.

"Albatross" — The Besnard Lakes: A gazy, hazy dream of a song.

"Young Adult Friction" — The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: With a name like this, I was nervously expecting precious, instead got precocious melodies and danceability.

"I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" — Annie: The dance vibe continues with the Swedish pop/dance star's could-be anthem to college. Not that I'm advocating!

"Spin The Bottle" — The Juliana Hatfield Three: A touchstone high school song for me, sadly not because I was playing Spin the Bottle, just because I listened to this song all the time watching Alternative Nation and dreamed of being misfit enough to write a song about doing something so HS cool later on that was half as great as this song.

"Fall On Me" — R.E.M.: Still one of my favoritest bands. Listen to this song when it rains, not because of any literal rain in the song, but to truly embrace the song's title.

"Stockton Gala Days" — 10,000 Maniacs: A Western New York band that made it HUGE playing at Bill Clinton's MTV-sponsored inaugural ball. Bonus points for making a garland crown.

"Stand By Me" — Ben E. King: There aren't many songs I would say are important non-musical markers, but this is one of them. I suspect that you're feelings for this song will deepen when it's dark outside.

"Tumbling Dice" — The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street is a perfect album and this is my favorite song on it.

"Country Girl" — Primal Scream: My friend Dave introduced me to this song, which he calls a great Stones song that they never recorded. I wish everyone friends who will introduce them to songs as kick-ass as this.

"Be My Baby" — Glasvegas: Wall of SOUND with this fuzzy remake of Motown.

"Release Me" — The Like: Sometimes my mom is right and something should just be fun.

"Birthday" — Sugarcubes: Another Mike HS fave. This song got me excited about music not made by people from the US, Canada or the UK.

"Coast Is Clear" — Curve: Mike's HS life continued. An amazing block-out-the-world song from a band that never got as popular as they should have.

"From A Million Miles" — Single Gun Theory: My fave radio station of all time, CFNY in Toronto, introduced me to this band and song from Australia. Not sure that I've made a playlist that didn't include this song, which for my money is more transubstantiational than any other.

"Anthems for a 17-year-old Girl" — Broken Social Scene: Aproposity should be obvious. This is a live version recorded live at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto 7.11.2009.

Disc 2
"Get Out The Map" — Indigo Girls: For anyone starting college this song seems really clear as to its inclusion on a playlist from a friendtor.

"So Young" — Suede: Another UK band that deserved more attention.

"I Can Dream About You" — Dan Hartman: Many of the songs on Disc 2 reflect how your definition of love and courting and dating and relationships can and will evolve.

"Who's Loving You" — Jackson 5: KCRW's Jason Bentley played this after Michael Jackson died and said that when he was growing up this was his "jam." That's a very smart musical man.

"Swimming Pool" — The Submarines: Songs use metaphors and similes all the time. Many of them suck. This one is a perfect fusion of lyric, melody, harmony, song length and idea.

"Dancing in the Dark" — Ted Leo & The Pharmacists: Awesome bootleg of a great Springsteen song. Play this at a party and someone might fall in love.

"All I Want Is You" — U2: I think this is the best. love. song. ever.

"Stay" — Belly: "He sleeps under stairs along with the heirs
Of nothing and nothing means no one who cares
But I love him dear and I love him dear
And I've loved him hundreads of thousands of years."

"Fade Into You" — Mazzy Star: Hope Sandoval's vocal on this song is a perfect match for the ambivalent lyrics.

"Plainsong" — The Cure: Dark dark dark moments of love.

"Chasing Dragons" — Gemma Hayes: over.

"Baby Just Be Yourself" — The Pipettes: Unfortunately, you'll probably encounter too many people in life to whom you want to play this song for. At least the Pipettes have fun with all their songs.

"Political" — Spirit Of The West: Work through the shit in this song and tis the real thing.

"Papa Was a Rodeo" — The Magnetic Fields: Ridiculously beautifully sad song.

"If Love Is A Red Dress" — Maria McKee: Someone's heart has been buffalo'ed. I hope that you never feel like this song, Charlene.

"The Drinking Song" — Moxy Fruvous: Here's what I told the Wude, when I included it on her mix. It still holds. One of my fave bands from high school. This song about aftermath is just about perfect.

Disc 3
"Little Bones" — The Tragically Hip: This is the PARTY disc. Another thanks-to-CFNY song. This song makes even a dorm room sound like a rowdy bar on the Canadian frontier. And what could make a party better? NOTHING.
"California Love" — Dr. Dre and Tupac: When this song stops being welcome at parties, then check the horizon for the silhouettes of four dudes on horses or a red Moon rising.

"Sexy Hypnotist" — Luscious Jackson: I think I always hoped one of these would show up at a party. I had to settle for --------------. You'll hear this story when  you're older.

"This Is The Night" — Jarvis Cocker, Jonny Greenwood, Phil Selway, Steve Mackey, Jason Buckle, Steve Claydon: This is guaranteed to make your parties magical.

"Sukie In The Graveyard" — Belle & Sebastian: The second-coolest concert party moment I've ever seen was at the Hollywood Bowl when B&S closed their show with the LA Phil with this song. Crowd members got up and were dancing around the orchestra pit!

"The Bleeding Heart Show" — The New Pornographers: At 2:40 this song kicks into the greatest overdrive ever.

"Intervention" — The Arcade Fire: The first time I heard this was on a leaked mp3 of its debut on British radio. The DJ said that if this song didn't make you feel something special inside something was basically wrong with you. I could not agree more.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" — Tori Amos: Nirvana's version of this song inspired slamdancing at college parties in 1992. This version is for when the party needs to chill.

"Into the Mystic" — The Swell Season: Van Morrison cover that's a much better song than Brown-Eyed Girl, which is a fun, if grossly overplayed, party song.

"Not Going Home" — The Elected: For when dawn is closing on you and you still wanna outrun it.

"Take On Me" — A.C. Newman: By the end of the song you'll know why this version is a must-include on the PARTY disc. :)

"My Life Would Suck Without You" — Kelly Clarkson: Favorite pure pop star of the decade must be represented. With any luck this is how you'll feel about most everyone you're surrounded by on weekends.

"Love U More" — Sunscreem: This is as techno as I got. Just dance.

"Summertime" — DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince: Be bold and bring it down and everyone will thank you.

"Birdhouse in Your Soul" — They Might Be Giants: A great party has the levity and intelligence of this song.

"Life In a Northern Town" — Sugarland, Little Big Town & Jake Owen: Little countrified version of an 80s classic. I hope that the parties you attend will have people who appreciate some diversity.

"World Sick" — Broken Social Scene: Just listen and fall in love with Canadian music.

"Sometime Around Midnight" — Airborne Toxic Event: Taste of California. I don't know of any songs that charge me up more than this.

Disc 4
"Safe Travels" — Peter and the Wolf: Another alum gifted me this song for the Perfect Song CD project. It's a spare and beautiful song. It's inclusion should be obvious.

"Pictures Of Success" — Rilo Kiley: This is my favorite song, Charlene. It's the song by the band that makes me (an early 30s person) feel about music the way that I did back in high school. Like the best songs, the opening notes immediately put the part of my brain that loves music into a suspended animation, in which exists only the song. Musically, it’s simple but the lyrical and vocal vulnerability as Jenny Lewis contemplates the future and laments the possibility of living a meaningless life ... it coalesces into something that absolutely hypnotizes me. It’s every moment of my youth that I wondered whether there was something beyond Amherst, NY and every moment since that I’ve understood that there is and that I can’t waste it. In short, the purest example in my life of William Blake’s concept of higher innocence—seeing with the unfiltered wonder of a child and understanding with the wisdom of those who have learned to value the fleeting nature of our time.

"Red Dirt Girl" — Emmylou Harris: You've already not become her. Be bold as you venture out and inward.

"Boy 1904" — Jónsi & Alex: Iceland rules as does music from Iceland.

"Us" — Regina Spektor: I hope that you'll feel this way about all your memories, especially of college.

"Elevator Love Letter" — Stars: The way Amy Millan talks about the power of shared memories as she introduces this live version speaks to the ineffable bonds of sharing a beginning.

"To Sir With Love" — Soul Asylum and Lulu: Maybe scratch what I said about "All I Want Is You" by U2? This might be the greatest love song ever. And I actually like this duet version better than the original solo version by Lulu.

"Slow Show" — The National: Another gift song from an alum. You guys have great taste.

"Umbrella" — Rihanna: Don't be like me and forget about great pop music while thinking that cool kids don't like it.

"A Million Tears" — Kasey Chambers: A song the defines a heartfelt plea.

"I Would Never" — The Blue Nile: I believe this is what the wisdom of having healed sounds like.

"Falling Slowly" — Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová: This bootleg is from the movie. This will never cease giving me chills.

"Stay" — Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories: This is one of the most defining songs of my time in college. This video sorta made Lisa Loeb a precursor for Tina Fey's intelligent, quirky hotness. Reality Bites was a crappy movie, though.

"California Stars" — Billy Bragg and Wilco: Don't forget from whence you came.

"Ammæli" — The Sugarcubes: Icelandic version of "Birthday" from Disc 1. I heard this for the first time while vacationing there. LOVED IT.
"Parting Words" — Michael Giacchino: Giacchino's score made the raft scene in the season 1 finale of Lost the most emotional thing I've ever seen on TV. It felt like the closer to this mix, but then I realized that we needed something less poignant.

"Stadium Love" — Metric: fin