Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Smithereens

And now for a change back to pre-grunge, east coast, pounding 1980's basement rock, courtesy of The Smithereens, from Carteret, New Jersey.

The name Smithereens comes from a Yosemite Sam catchphrase, "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!"

The Smithereens were good.  They should have made it big, except for two things.

First, that damn grunge music.  Grunge wasn't actually a type of music, it was just a form of rock played by dweebs from Seattle who dressed like lumberjacks.  But it sucked the air out of the rock business for three years, until the weed in Seattle ran out.

Second, 1970s punk rockers, notable bands like The Ramones were morphing into mainstream quasi-legit rock bands.  Punk was real, not just rock re-done with stage and wardrobe special effects.  And punk hit the mainstream big just as The Smithereens were taking off. 

Or just as The Smithereens were expecting to take off.  Because they didn't, apart from some following from what were described as "underground" radio stations; mostly on university campuses.

They were good, they are still good, and they continue to play.  Older, wiser, balder and heavier, the group is still active and tours frequently. Their next studio album is scheduled to be released in Spring or Summer 2010.

We Only Get What We Give

I've always like this song and its uplifting message. I'm thinking about it lately in the context of my son who is entering puberty and will have a rough time of it as we all did. He's definitely got the "dreamer's disease".

Here are the lyrics:

Wake up kids
We've got the dreamer’s disease
Age fourteen, we got you down on your knees
So polite, we're busy still saying please

Frenemies, who when you're down ain't your friend
Every night they smash a Mercedes-Benz
First we run and then we laugh till we cry

But when the night is falling
You cannot find the light
If you feel your dreams are dying
Hold tight
You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget we only get what we give

I’m comin’ home baby
Your touch-give it to now

Four A. M. we ran a miracle mile
We’re flat broke but hey we do it in style
The bad rich
God's flying in for your trial

But when the night is falling
You cannot find a friend, a friend
You feel your tree is breaking, just bend

You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget we only get what we give


This whole damn world could fall apart
You'll be OK follow your heart
You're in harm’s way
I'm right behind
Now say you’re mine!

You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget we only get what we give
Don't let go
I feel the music in you

Fly high high!!
What's real can't die
You only get what you give
You're gonna get what you give
Just don't be afraid to live

Health insurance, rip-off lying
FDA, big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes, run to your mansions
Come around, we'll kick your ass in.

Don’t let go
One dance left
Don’t give
Can’t forget…..

Friday, March 26, 2010

More Of The Cat Power Hour

The song "Metal Heart" originally appeared on Cat Power's 1998 "Moon Pix" album. Her Jukebox remake here can be considered a cover version I guess.

To me, the song speaks to growing up and growing a real heart. Some people are born with one (my daughter for example). Others, like the Tin Man, have to ask for them.  And some people never seem to find or grow one at all, or they harden or give out too early.

Here are the lyrics:
Losing the stars without a sky
Losing the reasons why
You're losing the calling that you've been faking
And I'm not kidding

It's damned if you don't and it's damned if you do
Be true 'cause they'll lock you up in a sad sad zoo
Oh hidy hidy hiding what cha tryin to prove
By hidy hidy hiding you're not worth a thing

Sew your fortunes on a string
And hold them up to light
Blue smoke will take
A very violent flight
And you will be changed
And everything
And you will be in a very sad sad zoo.

I once was lost but now I'm found was blind
But now I see you
How selfish of you to believe in all the meaning of all the bad dreaming
Metal heart you're not hiding
Metal heart you're not worth a thing
Metal heart you're not hiding
Metal heart you're not worth a thing
And here is the original version:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Just Words

Did you ever wonder where the word "dickhead" came from?

It was the nickname given to noted swimmer Richard Wilson Head by his fellow team mates.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Costs Of This Debacle Will Be High

Amba tweeted a link to this very nice Op-Ed piece written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin):

Costs Of This Debacle Will Be High
by Paul Ryan

The legislative victory among Washington's political class comes at a high cost for Wisconsinites forced to swallow this bitter pill.

This massive health care overhaul - a remake of one-sixth of our economy - will exacerbate the very problems this reform effort sought to address. It will dramatically alter our deteriorating economic and fiscal conditions for the worse and may irrevocably impair the American identity.

Sky-rocketing health care costs are drowning families, businesses and governments in red ink - leaving millions priced out of the market and without coverage. This legislation - with its maze of mandates, dictates, controls, tax hikes and subsidies - pushes costs further in the wrong direction.

Premiums in the individual market would rise from 10% to 13% for families. Our debt and deficit crisis - driven by $76 trillion in unfunded liabilities - would accelerate from the creation of a brand new entitlement and an increase in the federal deficit by $662 billion, when the true costs are factored in. National health expenditures will increase by an additional $222 billion over the next decade, according the president's own chief actuary, and $2.4 trillion in the decade after the new entitlement is up and running.

The passion against this intrusion goes beyond the mind-numbing numbers. Health care affects each of us in an intimate and personal way. The American people's engagement is driven by our deep aversion to the federal government's unprecedented reach into our lives. The entire architecture of this overhaul is designed, unapologetically, to give the government greater control over what kind of insurance is available, how much health care is enough and which treatments are worth paying for.

The massive expansion of the federal government into the personal health care decisions will drive providers out of business and force employers to dump their workers on to government-controlled exchanges. Because Washington doesn't approve, millions of Wisconsin seniors will lose their Medicare Advantage plans and millions more will lose the consumer-friendly high-deductible health plans they enjoy.

There is another personal cost to this deluge of new government spending and control. Wisconsin remains in dire need of sustained job growth and robust economic recovery. This legislation will hit our economy with $569 billion in tax increases - tax hikes that will hit workers, families and job-creators alike.

The true shame of this debate is that there are real problems in health care that need to be fixed. Almost a year ago, I introduced the Patients' Choice Act to fix what's broken in health care, without breaking what's working. I've spoken with Wisconsinites for years about patient-centered reforms that would make possible universal access to quality, affordable health care with the patient and the doctor - not the government or insurance companies - as the nucleus of the health care market. These alternatives were ignored by Democratic leaders in Washington - and the concerns from Wisconsinites and an engaged American public were dismissed by Washington's political class.

The yearlong partisan crusade - right through its ugly conclusion - revealed that this debate was never about policy but rather a paternalistic ideology at odds with our historic commitment to individual liberty, limited government and entrepreneurial dynamism. The proponents of this legislation reject an opportunity society and instead assume you are stuck in your station in life and the role of government is to help you cope with it. Rather than promote equal opportunities for individuals to make the most of their lives, the cradle-to-grave welfare state seeks to equalize the results of people's lives.

We must begin anew on mitigating the disaster from this health care debacle. Let's repeal the costly missteps before they hit with full force. Let's make certain we do not simply retreat to an earlier point on the same path to decline. Let's chart a new direction that will restore the promise and prosperity of this exceptional nation - and let's do it together.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Even More City Government In Action

The City Government I talked about in that earlier post had a severe absentee problem, even though everyone (in a site that had thousands of people working there!) had to punch a time card. The time card measured things in terms of tenths of an hour, or 6 minutes. Management decided that since people had to punch in and out, even for lunch, and if they were late, they could dock their vacation in tenth of an hour increments.

This meant that people could take vacation in 6 minute increments. So they did. Several times a day.

Your boss wants you to do something at 11:15, and you've booked vacation from 11:12 to 11:18? You could look him in the eye and say, "No, I'm on vacation." And there wasn't much they could do about it. Imagine thousands doing this everyday, several times a day, at random times.

Management decided on living with the absenteeism.

This Happened To Me

While in my thirties, I was making a headlong, full-energy climb up the corporate ladder.  I was employed by a Fortune 1000 company, and by age 33 had become that company's youngest VP. 

My job required a high level of client contact. As a result, I flew more than 120,000 miles annually.  A typical week would include flying out on Sunday night or Monday morning, making several stops, then flying home Friday night.  It sucked, but I thought I was a Big Deal.  These trips were intense, and fatiguing.  I usually arrived home totally burned out.

I had a particularly rough week scheduled. I went to the airport Sunday night and flew to Atlanta for an early meeting Monday morning.   From there it was on to Chicago, and then on Wednesday to Philadelphia.  Wednesday night I flew to Denver, and on Thursday night to San Diego.  I flew home late Friday afternoon.

I collected my luggage and walked to the parking deck where I had left my car.  It wasn't there. I double and triple checked the location, and my car wasn't there.  I walked back and forth for an hour or so, and still couldn't find my car.

The county sheriff's department was in charge of airport law enforcement, so I reluctantly called them to report a missing car.  A deputy showed up and offered to drive me up and down the entire ramp to see if my car was in a different location.  We spent an hour driving and looking; didn't find my car.  The deputy said that the paper work to report a stolen car would take a few minutes to complete, so why didn't I call for a ride while we were completing the report.

I called my wife.  She drove to the airport to pick me up.  I was still sitting the the deputy's patrol car when my wife pulled up.....in my car.  I stammered  "hey...what are you doing with mycar?"

She replied "You drove my car to the airport so I could take your car in for service while you were away, remember?"  Um....no.  The sheriff looked and me and started grimacing, then laughing.  We returned to the place where I thought I had parked my car and there was....my wife's car.  D'oh.

Post script:  I quit that job eighteen months later.  The income was great, the prestige was satisfying, but constant traveling had turned me into and absent parent and husband.  It wasn't worth it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

City Government In Action

I worked in a large City Government bureaucracy but in a technical role. Our group had a student intern who was pretty cool. Hard worker, liked working for the city -- no, really! -- and she wanted to work full time for the city when she finished school. She worked only 2o hours a week for us, but she did so for almost 3 years. Finally, she finishes and applies to take the City Entrance Exam which they used to give to amoebas who walked in off the street. But the City denied her the chance to take the exam! My boss and his boss were stunned; no one had ever been denied the right to merely take the exam. They sniffed around the personnel people to find out why. In a phone call to us we were told that not only should she not be allowed to take the exam, but she should have been fired for being an absentee employee, one who's not even on the clock half the time! We tried to say that she was a student intern, one who's in class for the other 2o hours a week....and were told that "we don't care WHY she's not on the clock. She should have been fired."

She got a private sector job that paid her more than my boss, just coming out of school. My boss and his boss got reprimands.

I Kid You Not...

True story.

A friend (no, it wasn't me, I'd admit it!) was waiting in the foyer of a fancy restaurant for her table with friends. She was wearing a pair of slacks that were dry clean only. Well, you know, you try to get a couple of wearings out of them, right? So she's standing there and one of the guys in her group says, "What's that sticking out of your pants?". She looks, and it's the foot of a pair of pantyhose left inside her pants. Embarrassed, she tugs really hard on the pantyhose, hoping to yank them out quickly and tuck them away.

Well, she does yank them out quickly. But so forcefully, the pantyhose fly up into the ceiling fan above her head and proceed to get all impossibly tangled there! :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Believe In You

OK since Haz the enforcer is in Madison and unable to post over this today, I thought I would sneak in at least one more Cat Power video from her album "Jukebox".

This is a Bob Dylan song called "I Believe In You" that originally appeared on his "Slow Train Coming" album. The entire album was controversial for Dylan as it marked his apparent conversion from nominal Judaism to evangelical Christianity. Make of it what you will:

Here are the lyrics in case you feel like following along [I just realized that she changed things up slightly-these are the original Dylan lyrics]:
They ask me how I feel
And if my love is real
And how I know I'll make it through.
And they, they look at me and frown,
They'd like to drive me from this town,
They don't want me around
'Cause I believe in you.

They show me to the door,
They say don't come back no more
'Cause I don't be like they'd like me to,
And I walk out on my own
A thousand miles from home
But I don't feel alone
'Cause I believe in you.

I believe in you even through the tears and the laughter,
I believe in you even though we be apart.
I believe in you even on the morning after.
Oh, when the dawn is nearing
Oh, when the night is disappearing
Oh, this feeling is still here in my heart.

Don't let me drift too far,
Keep me where you are
Where I will always be renewed.
And that which you've given me today
Is worth more than I could pay
And no matter what they say
I believe in you.

I believe in you when winter turn to summer,
I believe in you when white turn to black,
I believe in you even though I be outnumbered.
Oh, though the earth may shake me
Oh, though my friends forsake me
Oh, even that couldn't make me go back.

Don't let me change my heart,
Keep me set apart
From all the plans they do pursue.
And I, I don't mind the pain
Don't mind the driving rain
I know I will sustain
'Cause I believe in you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chad Vader - Darth Vader's Underachieving Brother

You probably didn't know that Darth Vader even had a brother, did you?  Well, he does.  Darth's brother is Chad Vader, who is something of and underachiever in the Vader family.

Chad isn't much of a hero.  In fact, his career is pretty much a downer.  He's the day-shift manager at the Williams Street Co-op in Madison, Wisconsin.  He works in ground zero of the paleo-hippie world.

Chad Vader's work life has been serialized by some UW film students.

Here's the first chapter.  The other chapters can be found on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And I Am Breathless Without You

Another Cat Power video. This is one that I tweeted earlier and is called "Breathless". It's song originally written by Nick Cave. She normally did original work, but released a CD of all covers in 2008 called "Jukebox".  Highly recommend.
At one level, the song is about inspiration of the musical sort, or more generally of the "muse" sort (have all the adjectives connoting inspiration by a muse been taken?  Do they all have music music connotations?).

Here are the lyrics:

It's up in the morning
And on the downs
Little white clouds
Like gambling lambs
And I am breathless over you
And the red-breasted robin beats his wings
His throat it trembles when he sings
For he is helpless before you
The happy hooded bluebells bow
And bend their heads all a-down
Heavied by the early morning dew
At the whispering stream
At the bubbling brook
The fishes leap up to take a look
For they are breathless over you
Still your hands
And still your heart
For still your face
Comes shining through
And all the morning glows anew
Still your mind
Still your soul
For still the fare of love is true
And I am breathless without you
The wind circles among the trees
And it bangs about the new-made leaves
For it is breathless without you
The fox chases the rabbit round
Little rabbit hides beneath the ground
For he, he's defenceless without you
The sky of daytime dies away
And all the earthly things they stop to play
For we are all breathless without you
I listen to my juddering bones
And the blood in my veins
And the wind in my lungs
And I am breathless without you
Still your hands
And still your heart
For still your face
Comes shining through
And all the morning glows anew
Still your mind
Still your soul
For still the fire of your love is true
And I am breathless without you
And I am breathless without you
And I am breathless without you

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I know...

...I've posted this elsewhere...but, sure, I'm still willing to make a fool of myself! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New York, New York

Since we're into posting videos of famous songs done by other people, and because I was just listening to this on my iPod and mostly because I saw Cat Power (w/Chan Marshall) perform this nearly 2 years ago at San Diego Street Scenes, but also because it has cool trippy visuals that Michael "Purple" Haz can appreciate--here we go with: New York, New York:

This also goes out to amba and also to Jason (the commenter) who both used to live in New York City.

Johnny Cash Sings A Nine Inch Nails Song - Hurt

This is one of the last songs Johnny Cash recorded.  It is a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt.

Cash recorded it shortly before he died, shortly after he was told that he had mere days left to live.  He was dying of diabetes, blind, and so weak that he couldn't make it to his studio.  His performance was recorded in his home, in his living room.  Only a few trusted friends were with him, plus his closest child, daughter Roseanne Cash.

Hurt was written by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, who said this about the Johnny Cash version:

I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. I felt like I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. Somehow that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure.

The cover was given the Country Music Award for "Single of the Year" in 2003. It ranked as CMT's top video for 2003, #1 on CMT's 100 Greatest Country Music Videos the following year, and #1 on the Top 40 Most Memorable Music Videos on MuchMoreMusic's Listed in October 2007. As of January 2010, the single occupies the number one spot on Rate Your Music's Top Singles of the 2000s. The song is also Cash's sole chart entry on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, where it hit #33 in 2003  . In June 2009, the song was voted #1 in UpVenue's Top 10 Best Music Covers.

The house where Cash's music video for "Hurt" was shot, which was Cash's home for nearly 30 years, was destroyed in a fire on April 10, 2007.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not a Crossover but a Different Treatment

I always liked how a simple change of tempo makes this version by the late Dan Fogelberg so different from the other versions. To me, this actually conveys the emotion and intention of the lyrics. Fogelberg was divorced twice and I wouldn't be surprised if he worked on this shortly after one of the divorces. Also, it's before he became a "super-environmentalist".


Monday, March 8, 2010

Crossovers For Ruth Anne

I really dug the video of Toby Keith singing "Should Have Been a Cowboy" in reggae style. 

I saw this a few years ago and thought Ruth Anne might like it. It's Ziggy Marley and The Chieftains.

And this one, I've not been able to forget.  It's Ladysmith Black mambazo and Dolly Parton singing "Knocking on Heaven's Door".

And even more improbably, Dolly Parton singing, no, killing, Stairway to Heaven. She owned it, as did her bluegrass band in the background.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reggae Toby Keith, for Michael Haz

Way down in the archives, Michael Haz embedded a mullet-wearing bleach-blond Toby Keith and the 'official' video of one of his first hits, 'I Shoulda Been a Cowboy.'

This reggae version is how I heard it when he came to town a few years ago for a concert. I believe I prefer it. And, curiously enough, the video was made in Cadot, Wisconsin.


Your Spot In The Sun...

Find it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Unsolved Song Meanings

Ann Althouse recently blogged about the "mystery solved" with reference to Carly Simon's song You're So Vain: Link.

There are two other songs that I'm curious about:. The first is Fleetwood Mac's Sara:

According to a GQ interview with The Eagles's Don Henley, "Sara" refers to an aborted child belonging to Stevie Nicks and Henley:
I believe to the best of my knowledge [Nicks] became pregnant by me. And she named the [unborn] kid Sara, and she had an abortion and then wrote the song of the same name to the spirit of the aborted baby. I was building my house at the time, and there's a line in the song that says ‘And when you build your house, call me.

To me, the really heartbreaking line in the song with this knowledge in mind has always been the first line:
Wait a minute baby, stay with me a while,
Said you'd give me light [life?] but you never told me about the fire...
Now I admit that I had always heard the word "life" where the word "light" could be. But still, the entire meaning of the song changes somewhat doesn't it?  And Don Henley comes off as a callous cad.

The second song is Talk Of The Town by the Pretenders:

The Pretenders - Talk Of The Town


MySpace Video
Chrissie Hynde has said in interviews that the song was just about some punk kid who was hanging around their recording studio.  But I listen to it and I'm convinced that she wrote the song for/about Ray Davies of The Kinks with whom she had a relationship (and a kid).
What do you think?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sing Out Loud Thursday

The sun's out.  Open the windows and sing, just like you would if you were driving that red convertible with the top down.

Rod Stewart (with an intro by Jack Bauer!)

Build Me Up Buttercup.  You know the lyrics, so jump in.

Awright, you're getting into it.  Ladies, shout this one out.

Where are the coladas?  Grab one and sing.

Tap those boots, cowpokes, and sing along.

There ya go.  Keep the party in your heart and life will always be good.