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Monday, March 31, 2008

10 (+1) Great Covers

Steve talks cover songs and I can’t help but think about some of my own personal favorite covers. While it’s true that it’s very rare for a cover to outshine the original, I think it’s just as true that many cover versions bring something new out of the song. Update: And check out Jed’s post (and thanks for the link) on the subject.

These are a few of my favorite things, although I’ve done it with a twist. Every other song is something covered by Mark Lanegan or a Lanegan-related group. If you don’t like his voice, you might want to skip those; if you do like his voice, they would make a tremendous EP all on their own.

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
Leonard Cohen penned a beautiful song, but Jeff Buckley’s voice and arrangement made it into something as near perfect as can be. It’s not often that I would call a man’s voice angelic, but Buckley’s qualifies. The entirety of Grace is worth hearing, but “Hallelujah” is tremendous.

Twilight Singers - Live with Me
Massive Attack’s “Live with Me” is a sort of mutant cross between electronica and blues with Terry Callier on vocals. Great stuff. Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers slow it down a bit, bring out the full-on blues experience, and gives Mark Lanegan the chance to make it more desperate and earthy than the original.

Slobberbone - To Love Somebody
The Bee Gees’ wonderful “To Love Somebody” has been covered by more people than I can remember. Some of the best--and, to me, most surprising--were Janis Joplin, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Slobberbone. And it’s Slobberbone’s version that I like the most. Slobberbone turns the R&B number into a slow, warm country ballad. Great stuff.

The Walkabouts - Feel Like Going Home
When Charlie Rich sang “Feel Like Going Home”, it came out pretty and nice. When The Walkabouts sing “Feel Like Going Home” it becomes something more personal and the weariness of “everything I done is wrong” becomes more real. Mark Lanegan’s voice comes in on the third verse ("Cloudy skies are closing in...") like an old man facing his death after a long life and wanting the release. It would be brutal if it weren’t so pretty.

The Gourds - Gin and Juice
Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” wouldn’t normally seem like a perfect fit for a bluegrass makeover, but it is one of the most fun songs to come from the 90’s alt.country (whatever that means) movement. Enjoy the groove and laugh when you hear the heavy accents singing about ghetto thug life.

Mark Lanegan - Carry Home
The original from the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce is a little rock number from The Gun Club’s album, Miami, but Mark Lanegan makes it his own. From his album of covers, I’ll Take Care of You, “Carry Home” becomes a sparse slice of Americana that is hardly recognizable as the original--just a simple guitar framing Lanegan’s rich, deep voice. 

Johnny Cash - Hurt
When Nine Inch Nails recorded “Hurt,” I would never have imagined that Johnny Cash could turn it into a deeper lament than the original. But his aging voice and emotional reading of the lyrics stand as one of the most blatant and affecting looks at failure, regret, and mortality.

Screaming Trees - Darkness Darkness
Basically a throw-away from the song from the Trees for the True Lies soundtrack, their cover stands well against The Youngblood’s original. It’s fun to hear Lanegan and company hitting full rock stride with a song that fit beautifully with their own work. A perfect fit.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole - Hawai’i ‘78
Best known for his shockingly pretty cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole also covered “Hawai’i ‘78”, a song originally recorded by The Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau. Iz’s voice was truly special; sadly he died far too young from complications related to his morbid obesity (at one time weighing well over 700 pounds).

Soulsavers - Blues Run the Game
If you’ve heard “Blues Run the Game,” it was probably Simon & Garfunkel’s pretty cover of the little-known Jackson C. Frank original. The Soulsavers trade the folk guitar in for gentle piano and cello. Folkies will always love the original, but for the rest, the Soulsavers created a song that won’t ever be stuck in one time zone. Others have covered the tune, but none quite so effectively.

Bonus - Megadeth - These Boots
Nancy Sinatra couldn’t pull off the rocking attitude that comes with Megadeth’s speed-metal version of her rebellious classic. To be fair, Dave Mustaine will never be as cute as she was when she sang the song, but his growl does have a certain charm.

Big Bonus Territory
In the extended entry is an assortment of the songs and artists listed here. Where I couldn’t find an original or a cover, I went with something by the covering artist. And, yes, Megadeth is there at the end.

Enjoy.

Read the Rest...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Congratulations

Congratulations and best wishes go out to two of my favorite people in the world, Beth and Matt, for the arrival of Lily. I’m sure she’s beautiful and I know she couldn’t have hoped for two better parents.

Because Self-Defense is the Most Basic of Human Rights…

...I would have imagined that Pizza Hut would encourage their drivers to not only arm themselves but provide firearms safety courses and assistance in acquiring concealed carry licenses in those localities where such is legal.

But what the hell would I know?

“We have policy against carrying weapons. We prohibit employees from carrying guns because we believe that that is the safest for everybody.”

Again, I would have imagined that it would be safer for everyone if the bad guys knew they were risking a bullet every time they did something stupid. Might cut down a bit on the stupid.

Whatever the case, I’ll be raising a glass to Mr. Spiers tonight.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Music for the Nathans of the World

Enjoy.

False Accusations as a Cautionary Tale

There are some takeaways from Think Progress’ discredited accusation of plagiarism against McCain, and they apply to more than just the folks at that site.

The first thing to learn is that searching Google for an answer shouldn’t qualify as due diligence when accusing someone of misdeed. In a comment on the post after it was learned that the accusation was completely wrong, 5th Estate had this to say:

The link provided in the update did not appear to show up in my specific Google search. I didn’t notice any link to McCain’s website in the returns I got from Google–they all appeared to be general blog posts and reiterations of the words relating to the latest Mar 29 2007 speech.

Now if you advance search the phrase, there are 371 links ( I just tried it). I guess I though checking 50 out of a hundred possible source constituted due diligence. Apparently not. I didn’t present my original research as irrefutable fact, but rather a high probaability that deserved further investigation.

I think that anyone who might imagine themselves to be a journalist (citizen or otherwise) might realize that doing a Google search isn’t enough when you’re accusing someone of plagiarism. After doing the initial checks, these folks should have called the McCain campaign and asked for an explanation. That might have saved a good bit of embarrassment.

The second thing to realize is that extreme partisanship and an urge to get the big story before someone else does leads to bad decisions. It was a bad decision to make these accusations before properly exploring the information and that’s a caution to all of us. This isn’t just about bloggers--the New York Times and the LA Times have had similar problems in recent months, which, to its credit, the LA Times owned up to their mistakes.

Drudge makes a living off of linking the “breaking” news before it’s been properly vetted--Edwards’ supposed affair leaps to mind--and writing often mildly misleading headlines for his links. With the exception of the traffic and the money, though, I don’t imagine most of us want to emulate him in the least. Unfortunately, when we try to get that big, shocking story first instead of getting it right, all we’re doing is a sort of long form of precisely the same thing that Drudge is doing. Or, if you prefer, we’re doing precisely what 60 Minutes did when it failed to properly vet the documents and sources of the accusations in the Bush - Texas Air National Guard story that it ran in 2004.

I know I’ve been caught at least once saying something that I later had to retract, but that was during the last presidential election cycle. When I wrote a few articles for publication this year--the ones I actually got paid for, although unfortunately for a publication that doesn’t seem to have survived--I did everything I could to get the story right even to the point of leaving out certain things when I couldn’t find documentary evidence to support what I thought I knew. It weakened my story in one instance, but I knew that I wouldn’t have to apologize for something that proved to be incorrect.

What Think Progress did was to make an easy mistake. To their credit, the people involved have apologized and taken responsibility, but mistakes like this damage credibility. I’m trying to internalize this lesson so that I don’t have to find myself in their place, apologizing for something because I was too eager to get the story up and not eager enough to find out if my words were correct.

As an aside, for the first time in a couple years, I picked up a Sunday Denver Post a few weeks ago. I was shocked at just how slim, just how truly bad, the newspaper had become. All the talk of the demise of newspapers finally hit home and I realized it was true: newspaper journalism is dying a slow death in the United States. This made me wonder a couple things

First, where will people be getting their news ten years from now? Consolidated regional newspapers instead of local papers? Fragmented TV news at the local level? Blogs and talk radio (I shudder at the thought)? News Web sites that don’t carry the same financial burdens as their print counterparts and are able to react more quickly to breaking news? Or do most Americans just want to tune out, go to work, and vote their biases without having to think too much about the process?

Second, where will all the journalists go? The job opportunities in traditional journalism must be shrinking drastically right now. I’d hate to be in that field; it has to be something like being an autoworker in Detroit right now. Ugly.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Little Festival of Happy Links

I’ve much to say about many things--and only self-censorship and a strong will are keeping me from writing pages and pages of posts about Obama, McCain, issues of race in America, and how much I wonder if all the house flipping TV shows and the people who believed that riches were just a quick flip away contributed much to the over-inflation of housing prices in many markets.

To keep myself from wandering these paths, I’m giving a late-night post of links to stuff I found interesting today.

  1. My buddy Shawn--who is, indeed, an okay person--is a traitor. Which comes as a shock to me. You can read the apparently offensive article here. I rather liked it myself.
  2. I’ve owned three Mazdas--a 93 B4000 extended cab, a 97 626 LX, and my 2001 Millenia--and I’ve loved all of them. It’s nice to see someone else recognizing how lovable Mazdas really are.
  3. “In the first place, despite Obama’s denials, John McCain is right.” Yep.
  4. I personally prefer Google Reader.
  5. I dunno. It kinda sounds like she deserved to be Tased, bro.
  6. I’ve had a similar encounter. Not the same, mind, but similar. Ask me to tell you about it at the next blogger bash.
  7. Is it just me or does it seem like we have a very good chance of seeing a Republican in the White House again after President Bush exits the stage? And if it seems something bordering on likely, would you have thought so a year ago? Six months ago? If the GOP does manage to win that race (though just as likely losing ground in both House and Senate), it will be amazing proof of the self-destructive power of the Democrats.

Too Much Karl…

...Not enough Jeff. I say that less often than I say, “Too much Dan, not enough Jeff,” but probably neither of them as often as I simply say to myself, “Hey, where the hell is Jeff?”

Seriously, the site just isn’t the same without Jeff, and, frankly, not even half as interesting.

Beautiful Music

After watching American Idol I like to listen to music that is suits me more than what I hear on the TV. That could be something loud if they’ve been foolishly praising the rock bona fides of some wannabe crooner or it could be the original of something that one of the contestants massacred the night before. Whatever else it does, American Idol helps me appreciate my own record collection more by showing me how bad or cynically calculated music really can be. Not that there aren’t good performances on the show, of course, but the bulk of the stuff is one or another variety of bad.

After watching Chikezie go last night--not a bad choice, although it really should have been Ramiele--I’ve been listening to my Lizz Wright albums. Her voice is amazing and a few of her songs are amongst the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. For that matter, some of her covers are striking, too. You should hear what Zep’s “Thank You” when she’s done with it.

If I weren’t already in love with the most wonderful woman in the world, I’m pretty sure I’d be obsessed with Lizz Wright. Here’s her singing a live version of the gorgeous “Hit the Ground.”


If you like this, I highly recommend buying her albums The Orchard and Dreaming Wide Awake. And if you liked that, there’s a bonus video in the extended entry of her singing Joe Henry’s “Stop.” Madonna covered the song, too, but it’s better if we pretend that never happened.

Read the Rest...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Idol: The America Might be Running a Serious Talent Deficit Here Edition

Update: In case you were wondering, Andy and the army in his pants are waging a war against comments and American Idol contestants. Which is sort of odd, but entertaining.

Ramiele heads things up with Heart’s tepid “Alone” and doesn’t sound particularly good. At one point, darling girl shudders, waves her hands in terror and runs away shouting, “She is just off.” She’s right; it was unpleasant. Like Randy, I think it was a bad song choice that didn’t fit her voice or her limitations. Good on ye, mate. Paula loves Ramiele’s big voice and incredible bravery, which says nothing for the song. Simon says it wasn’t Randy bad; which is wrong. Simon says she’ll go through; I have my doubts.

What follows is a few minutes of useless banter between Randy, Simon, and Seacrest followed by useless adoration from Paula. America, listen to me: Ramiele isn’t very good at this and if she survives another week it will probably be because you voted for cute instead of talented. Kind of like if Obama wins the general election.

Heheh. Kidding. Mostly.

One could make the case that Jason Castro and his dreads of doom (who whines a bit about his birthday and his passing cuteness) could be worse than Ramiele. But that wouldn’t be right. See, choosing Sting’s pretty “Fragile” was a good move. He has a wispy voice that doesn’t quite do the original (or Sting’s voice) justice, but it fits his limitations and his personality beautifully. It also give him the chance to crawl back behind the guitar where he looks a little more comfortable and purposeful. Good song, good choice, decently performed.

Good Lord, man, cut that hair.

Randy is impressed, but only a little. Paula loves him because he is a precious little flower. Or something equally useless. Simon says no, take it more seriously--clumsy, too laid back, stuck in his own world, and like a busker performing on the street. I don’t fully agree, but at least the critique has some bite. One thing I think is interesting is that Randy says he’s looking for a “breakout vocal performance” from Castro and he’s not going to get it. Jason isn’t a great singer and his voice isn’t going to knock anyone out. He’s playing very smartly within his limitations.

Make Syesha never do the fake baby cry again. It knocks her down a few pegs on the official Zomby Cute-O-Meter every time she does it. Luckily, she earns back those points by looking extra gorgeous tonight and singing Alicia Key’s “If I Was Your Woman” pretty darned well. The song is a little monotone until the big bits at the end, but she sounds good almost all the way through and performs it like a pro. Nicely done.

It’s the first time that Randy perks up and says that it’s her best of the show so far. Yeah, I’d go with that, although maybe with a little less gushing. Paula is wearing her Modonna “Like a Virgin” fingerless gloves today. Which is about all you need to know about what she said. Simon tempers the others’ compliments a bit and asserts that Syesha was bumping up against the limits of her voice. I’d agree, but I think she stayed just in those boundaries. Just.

I like Chikezie. I like Chikezie’s parents. This has little to do with his voice (although he’s had some great moments) and lots to do with a great personality. “If Only For One Night,” a Luther Vandross song seems like it would be a good choice. For me, though, it was too slow and he isn’t as good a crooner as he thinks he is. He’s better when he lets loose--his sense of enthusiasm and excitement come through so beautifully that it’s hard to enjoy the more subdued side, especially since his voice isn’t the best possible fit. He has control issues.

It isn’t bad, it’s just boring.

Randy didn’t dig it and thought that it sounded too old. Paula thinks that it was good old school. Simon just didn’t like it at all and doesn’t see much originality in the performance. I can’t disagree with that.

I love Brooke White, but y’all knew that already. Although she flubs the opening of “Every Breath You Take,” she recovers to sing a nice version of the song. Not perfect, not inspired, but pretty enough. She has a really nice voice--nice as in pleasant to listen to, pleasant to here, something I can imagine wanting to listen to it outside the show--and one of the few voices that is memorable to me.

Randy wasn’t overly impressed, but that’s made up for by Paula’s unconditional love. Simon says it was better than last week, good enough to keep her in, but not as good as it should have been. Neither of them liked the arrangement after the slower, early portion.

Can Michael Johns not suck this week? When everyone praised him the first week for his attack on “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I said that it showed up his vocal limitations in its arrangement. I definitely stand by that, but with a qualifier. Read on.

He returns to Queen to sing “We Will Rock You” leading quickly into “We are the Champions"--neither of which is as vocally challenging as “Bohemian Rhapsody"--and he sounds pretty good, he performs brilliantly, and he looks happy. The crowd loves it big time. He smartly moves back to a style that fits him and to songs that don’t stretch him too much (even trying to hit a big note on “We Are the Champions” he doesn’t quite make it)--which is part of the trick for a singer. Know your limitations, know your strengths, and play to them. That’s exactly what he did tonight for the first time in many weeks.

Randy praises him for using his big ol’ voice and says it was his best of the show. Paula is proud of him for some reason. Simon thought it was the first time that he saw star potential.

Carly almost sounds a little like Bonnie Tyler singing “Turn Around (Bright Eyes)"--a good song choice for her, too. I bet these people are happy to be getting away from the Beatles. It’s a better night by far than the disaster of last week. Carly shouldn’t try so hard for the big notes at the end of the song--it doesn’t do anything for the overall performance--but she does a good job with a surprising song.

Randy doesn’t like it and doesn’t like the song choice, which surprises me a bit. He doesn’t think Carly rocks. Lemme tell you, Carly rocks. Hubba. Paula says she doesn’t like the song but she’d buy Carly’s version. Simon thinks it didn’t quite work because she was too tense and uptight. “Lighten up a little bit.” Darling girl agrees.

Nope. Up close and personal doesn’t make me like David Archuletta any more than I did before. Neither does singing “You’re the Voice” (I think that’s the name of the song, can’t remember the singer) both because it’s a crappy song and because Archuletta has more than a few moments where he misses notes, sounds lost, looks lost, and simply looks his age--which is to say, too young to win this. I truly don’t understand the love for this guy.

Randy thought it was a strange song choice but “very nice” and Paula seemed a bit lost, too, but professes her love for the vocal. Simon was the only one who seems to know the song, but didn’t like the performance--"reminiscent of a theme park performance.” Indeed.

Once again, Kristy Lee Cook, is fighting for her life. She plays the patriot card by singing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA"--which she does pretty well until she tries to find the high, big notes and fails miserably. It’s a cheesy as hell song (will Simon say something to make America hate him?) and she’s not quite perfect in doing it, but I’ve always liked the bald love of country that it represents and she does it pretty well. Smart choice.

Randy says “very nice.” Paula looks like she’s going to cry, but I can’t figure out why. Simon thinks it was her best performance by a mile and calls it “the most clever song choice” that he’s heard in years. I think he’s probably right. Most shocking is when Simon says that Greenwood is a great songwriter and that it’s a great song.

Another of my favorites is near-rocker David Cook--although I think he might have took a lead from Chris Cornell’s version of “Billie Jean”. Which, you could do worse, right? Not my favorite performance of his, but with some really impressive bits. He makes the others look a little pale by comparison, doesn’t he?

Randy thinks he’s not only the best of the bunch, but also the most original. Which is sort of humorous, really. Paula wants to have his children. Because he played the brave card, somehow. Really, Paula? Really? According to girl, Paula failed to play the articulate card. Heheh. Simon has a big smile and thinks it was brilliant.

I still say that if it was a matter of talent, Ramiele would be going home tomorrow.

The Dream of Gore’s Political Revival Keeps Coming Up

And I’m going to stick to my guns. Here’s what they say; here’s what I say.

For whatever it’s worth.

Update: There might be a reason that, as of the time of this writing, RSong pops up first when you search for “gore no more” on Google. And, because I’m obsessed with these things, can the dems bring back gore on Google, too.

(By the way, the answer to that last question is, yes, the dems could bring Gore back. But they ought not to.)

Visit Sunny Planet Colorado

Saint Peter, who didn’t attend the blogger bash because he’s too smart to risk his political future on that kind of debauchery, is launching Planet Colorado--a bit of a one stop shop for some of Colorado’s best blogs. And me.

Visit and blogroll--lots of good stuff from so many sources makes up for one hell of an eclectic feed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sokwanele’s Creative Use of Internet Technology

Check out what Sokwanele, one of Zimbabwe’s most powerful voices in support of non-violent, democratic change, is using Google Maps in a unique and powerful way. By mapping election irregularities Sokwanele is showing us just how “fair” the upcoming elections are going to be. For instance, I can see in Bulawayo, where I lived for a time when I was a boy, that there have been cases of political cleansing, violence, and disruptions of the right to freedom of association.

Clicking on one of the icons on the map brings up a synopsis of the story and a link to the incident in their database. The offenses can be filtered by incident type, too.

It may not change the results, but dictators like Mugabe don’t often do well with bright light shining on their transgressions.

I hate that Sokwanele’s creative use of the technology is so necessary, but glad that technology is serving a good cause.

Friday, March 21, 2008

About the NCAA Tournament

In case you were wondering (and I know you were), my strategy of incredible ignorance, trusting the rankings, respect for tradition, and inexplicable whimsy has worked out pretty well for me in the brackets.

Amazing.

I fully expect the second round to expose me as a pretender, though.

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 7.3(of)9 Or More

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 7.3(of)9 or More
Falling Rock Taphouse
22 March 2008, 7 p.m. til Close

Hopefully Jed will give us more new graphics to go with this one. I’ll post them here if they are forthcoming; I’ll make something new if they are not.

A Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash vet who moved to the Canuckistania is doing everything she can to return for a Very Special Blogger Bash on March 22. Which, I dunno about you, but that makes me feel all giddy inside. The Bash is open, as always, to bloggers, journalists, commentators, and groupies. Especially groupies.

For the under 21 crowd, please show up to the Falling Rock before 8:00 pm. The bar starts carding later in the evening.

Start saving up your pennies: I need a shot. Actually, I need three or four shots just to take the edge off.

And, to get everyone planning for the future, I would still like to put together a big bash for visiting dignitaries during the Democratic National Convention. Talk about a way to stimulate conversation…

Be sure to RSVP here in the comments or via email.

Big List o’ Attendees

  1. Steve Green will be there and he’ll be bringing his usual wonderful sense of the absurd (and exquisite taste in booze and hookers--which, thanks to Spitzer, now sounds worse than it did a week ago. Bastard.
  2. And if he’ll stop hedging, I’m pretty sure Bob will be there, too. Actually, Bob will not be there. Which is sort of okay because someone hijacked his domain and he is now a spokesman for illegally re-imported Tramadol. Good Lord, that’s sad. I leave the link to illustrate the sadness.
  3. She won’t be there, but Mr. Lady is an honorary attendee since she is the reason that we’re drinking and we miss her terribly.
  4. Not only will he be there, but Jed was kind enough to make graphics for the thing. Use the graphics, pimp the party, and reap the rewards.
  5. My super-secret love, Andy will make his presence felt. Women beware: this one’s not to be trusted.
  6. Off Colfax will be trying to make last minute bets for shots, I’m pretty sure. He’s such a whore for the booze.
  7. Wheels won’t be there, but his charming daughter, the squirmy pirate, will be showing up (to collect her free loot, if nothing else).
  8. We think that Hubs will be there. But we’ve been fooled before.
  9. The delightful Molly will be joining us. Which will make me awfully happy. Unless she ditches us again. In which case I’ll be sad.
  10. I’m going to remind Darren to show up. I know he’ll drink shots with me and we can talk about the somewhat triumphant return of Foppa.
  11. Happily, Fraley is coming, too. We can discuss our trivia strategy for future victory.
  12. Resurgent blogger, Matt won’t be there, but, I’ll be leaving the link up here because I like the guy.
  13. The Libercontrarian will be coming back to the fold, too, which makes me happy. He’s been missed.
  14. Combs will be spouting off and boozing it up, too. Amazingly, he’s still trying to figure out the numbering scheme for the RMBBs--does he really imagine that people who drink like we do could be expected to take the time to come up with a meaningful way to go count the blogger bashes? I’m thinking another round of shots might get the message across, though…

Thursday, March 20, 2008

“‘Keep’ Means it’s Mine..”

“...You can’t have it.”

Speak truth to power, Brother Nuge!

Sure, God is Great. But You’re a Bit of a Jerk.

Jonah Goldberg posted a story that I think is great stuff. Read the whole thing (it’s short), but here’s the punchline:

They ran outside and Hussein darted into the street, where he was hit by a blue Volvo and toppled to the ground, cops said.

Or, at least, that’s the bit where I start smiling, but I’m not known for my social grace.

Read the original story.

Update: Hazel says, “Shouldn’t be a jerk where the gods can see you, buddy.” Which fits the theme rather nicely, don’t you think?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Idol: The Eliminator (Updated)

I can’t believe they’re reminding us of that hidious song, “This is My Now.” It was a really bad now and we would be better leaving it far in the then.

I stick with my guess of either the exit of Amanda or Kristy this week, but I’ve decided that I wouldn’t mind seeing Jason and his hair taking the trip, either. Not that he’s horrible, but I’m just tired of looking at him and he’s not good enough to get me past the nasty dreads. He won’t be going home this week, but I can always dream.

So, AT&T’s new “Unlimited Calling” ad. Does anyone expect one of those guys from the old Budweiser ads to pop up and say, “Wasssaaabi!” Or is that just me?

Thoughts on the results after the jump. Because I don’t want to give anything away this week.

Read the Rest...

Al Gore Lauds Corporate Advances in the Fight Against Global Warming. Then Totally Misses the Point.

Al Gore recognizes, in a virtual panel discussion on business technology and the environment, that corporations are ahead of governments when it comes to tackling emissions issues.

“Most business leaders are way ahead of political leaders, and that’s good news because once the market shifts, that really starts to make a difference,” Gore said.

Chambers agreed, saying that there has been a “market transition” where many business managers and government leaders are trying to reconcile economic growth with environmental stewardship.

“For the first time, the environment is not just hitting (leaders’ ) radar screen; they also know this is doable with economic growth,” he said.

Then he totally misses the point and continues to embrace economically destructive mandates and the clumsy hand of government over-regulation instead of realizing that the solution is coming to us (although, admittedly, without all the fun political grandstanding that comes with saving the planet from our evil, corporate overlords). The market--consumers and producers--are already addressing emissions issues through a combination of economic and ecological interest.

On the economic side, consumers want energy efficiency because the cost of energy has risen sharply over the last few years and those costs are shaping the way that they shop and build. Producers, on the other hand, have seen their own costs rise for the same reasons--and it’s not just direct energy costs and commodities, the cost increases have crept into things like shipping and printing costs. Working for a publisher, I can tell you that we’re facing a year where we know that our paper, ink, and mailing costs are going to bump significantly--which means that we either pass the increases onto our advertisers, we see our margins shrink, or we find ways to increase efficiency to lower our costs.

To cut those expensive bumps in costs, especially since we’re unlikely to be seeing a barrel of oil at $60 or less any time soon, companies are looking to find new ways to do the same jobs with significantly more efficiency--which means less emissions without the economic pain that an artificial government mandate might leave us. An interesting story on CNet today talks about a new use for a very old technology that could yield significant gains for shipping companies.

Sail power is back.

The MV Beluga SkySails, a cargo ship rigged up with a billowing 160-meter sail from SkySails, used approximately 20 percent less fuel than it would have without the sail during a two-month voyage. Put another way, that’s 2.5 tons of fuel, or $1,000 a day, in operating costs. Beluga Shipping ultimately hopes to save $2,000 a day with the technology.

The ship left Bremen, Germany, on the 22nd of January, sailed to Venezuela, and then headed toward the Norwegian port of Mo-I-Rana, docking on March 13. In all, the ship sailed 11,952 nautical miles. The sail was up, depending on the winds, from between 5 minutes and 8 hours a day.

The point is that businesses and consumers want to solve the same problems that Gore does, although not always for the same reason.

But consumers and producers operate from environmental concern, too, even though the professional protesters would never imagine that it’s so. Al Gore’s troops believe that they have to fight against the corporations and consumers to achieve their positive goal--which is why their focus remains on government action instead of funneling their energy into technology and solutions on the corporate side. The truth is that, in many ways, corporations and consumers have joined the fight voluntarily because they believe either that global warming is as scary as Gore portrays it to be or because they believe the world will be cleaner and better if we reduce our energy use and waste.

I’m in that second camp. Through my thirty-seven years of life, I’ve heard lots of scary warnings from communities of scientists, and those warnings are almost always proven to be overstated hugely. Forgive me for being cynical when they tell me that the world is about to end.

I do believe, though, that inefficiency bleeds growth out of the economy, any metro area would be a more pleasant place with lower emissions, it will be easier to deal with energy demands if we find more clean ways to feed energy into the grid, and it’s awfully hard to want a car that gets poor gas mileage when the price of Regular keeps sucking money out of my wallet like the big, scary NAFTA monster in Ross Perot’s nightmares. Like most people, my desire to cut emissions comes from a combination of beliefs and desires driven by my own personal values (economic and ethical).

My desire to save the world may not be as pure as theirs, but it’s just as useful and results-oriented.

If politicians and scare-mongers like Gore would just stay out of the way, the market will continue to tackle the problems that government can’t.

Read the story.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Four Grand Und She Spitzers? Fer That Money She Should ‘av Zwallowed

A friend forwarded a link to an 80’s band--the Original Vandals--and a song that fits the Spitzer situation beautifully.

Make sure it’s playing the “Wages of Sin.” How perfect is that?

PS- The title is my buddy’s fault. I just couldn’t help myself.

American Idol: The Ryan Seacrest is a Big Fat Jerk Edition

Ryan is a jerk. He’s a big fat jerk. He’s the biggest jerk in the whole wide world. Just sayin’.

Is it odd to anyone else that they need to do a Beatles intro for the people in the audience who don’t really know who they were? What’s wrong with parents out there? Teach your kids the basics, I say.

Amanda Overmeyer is not a jerk. In case you were wondering. The weird thing about hearing her start up “Back in the USSR,” though is strange. I can’t hear the melody at all. She’s doing it straight up rock but she sounds a little breathless, the band is a bit muddy, it ended weak, and it isn’t as good as her performance last week. But the kiddies in the audience seemed to like it.

Randy things it was pitchy at the beginning, better in the middle and end, and ultimately good. Paula thought she was a little ahead of the beat and it wasn’t perfect, but she still loves her for all her potential and her lovely hair. Or something. Simon thought it was predictable, a little messy, and not so great. “You are in danger of becoming a bit boring.”

I like Amanda, I really do, but she might want to listen to the judges a bit more.

Can Kristy Lee Cook pull it together? She’s close to going home right now because she has continually underperformed in this show. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” is a good song for her--a song that, apparently, she had never heard before (what the hell? Seriously? )--but that could well fit her skills and personality. The mild country lilt from her voice actually fits nicely in with the song and she looks stunning. Taking Matt’s advice, she’s smartly wearing much less this week than last week--a trend that I could support if I thought she was going to be sticking around for a while. I don’t though. It was decent enough with some rough moments and she’s simply not the best singer in the world. Ultimately, bland.

Randy thought it was boring and safe and should have been better. Paula thinks she should have stuck to just doing the original version, but, gosh, she’s pretty and it was good. Really? Simon thinks she’s a bad performer ("musical wallpaper") but thought that she was better.

She looked a little battered at the end there, taking the comments from the judges, fully knowing that she’s already somewhere near the bottom of the pack.

I’m sure that David Archuleta will do better this week--unless he forgets the lyrics again. “The Long and Winding Road” returns him to the more melancholy side of the musical street, so he should be in his comfort zone and should suit his voice rather well. And it does, although he’s singing (don’t you just love the tense changes through these posts? I know I do) a little tentative and it’s one of my least favorites from the Beatles catalog. The ending seemed a little off to me, but the pre-teens in the audience are going nutty.

Randy digs it big and offers up manly love, even though he thinks that little elf boy could have sexed it up a bit. Paula. Just...yeah. Simon calls it amazing. Elf boy looks quite happy.

“We love you, David!”

Lovely little hat, Michael Johns, I admire the fact that, apparently, you actually know who the Beatles are. How the hell do you take “Day in the Life” and chop it down to one and a half minutes, though? Seems a tough job, to me, even though that’s one of my absolute favorite Beatles tunes.

Vocally, he does merely a decent job, and chopping the song down comes out kind of mixed--a little sense of it being rushed, an awkward ending, a lot of the best bits tossed (by necessity), but not as horrible as I had envisioned. Randy thought it wasn’t his best and it wasn’t the best song choice. Randy also overestimates Johns’ voice which, I believe, is more limited than these guys imagine. Paula thought he sounded better in rehearsals. Simon thought it was a mess.

Johns smartly plays the sympathy card by dedicating the song to a friend who passed away last year. I know it sounds cynical, but I believe that these performers do whatever they can to gain an edge (I know that, within certain ethical limits, I would) and this is a good week for him to try to gain a few extra votes.

Brooke White will be playing the part of David’s love interest this season. She’s adorable, she has a nice voice, she seems to be a decent person, and she smartly married another David. I consider that to be good judgement. “Here Comes the Sun” was made for her voice and, although the performance (with the mildly cheesy twirl) was a bit forced, that was still one of the better performances of an admittedly off night. What’s up with the endings tonight, though? It’s not that they are bad, so much as they are just weird.

Randy thought the performance was a little awkward. Paula liked the low tone of her voice and the yellow of the dress and the lovable girl underneath. Awww. Simon thought it was terrible all the way through and that it was a bad song choice.  Maybe I was blinded by my own hubbas, but I would be shocked if she left the show this week.

Musical Interlude:

Interludinous Aside: While enjoying that little bit o’ music, can we talk about Canterbury’s Law for a moment? It’s almost a decent show, but it’s not quite there. They have obviously aimed directly at creating another House, with a mean kid taking center stage. The problem is that the lead character isn’t nearly as likable as House is--a problem that could be solved with better writing. See, House is an ass, he’s obsessive, he does horrible things, but he’s funny and charismatic, too. So far Canterbury is too in love with the bad bits to give us something likable to hold onto.

David Cook admits straight off that he’s stealing his song from White Snake’s version of “Day Tripper"--another one of my favorites. He’s smart about his thefts; he picks songs and structures that suit his voice and his strengths--and this works out well, too. Fun stuff. Could have skipped the Frampton-does-the Beatles bit, though.

Randy likes the change up that Cook brings to the show (and I agree). Paula thinks he could go sell records right now (and I agree) and thinks that the Framptonesque bit was pretty cool (and I don’t agree). Simon doesn’t think it was as good as Cook thinks it was and agrees that the Frampton bit was stupid. Amen brother. Where I disagree with Simon was about the predictability; I consider it to be consistency instead, and a smart consistency at that. It might not hurt to throw in a power ballad, though, to add a little texture to the sonic palette.

Carly Smithson makes her own case for my attentions this year every time she speaks. Love the accent. I also love her singing “Blackbird"--one of the smarter choices of the last two weeks. It gives the singer a chance for pretty vocals, big vocals, and making eyes at the camera while being quite beautiful--and she does a pretty good job of it, too. Nicely done. I imagine this will be a fan favorite this week.

Big love from Randy. Paula digs it, too, and makes smart comments (although she rambles on for far too long) and gives it a capital “F.” For fantastic, that is. Shockingly, Simon thought it was indulgent and a terrible song choice. Really? This is one of the few times where I feel that he’s not only a little wrong but a whole lotta wrong. Hugely wrong.

Returning with his big dreads of doom, Jason Castro makes “Michelle” even more boring than the original. Maybe he’s too young to get it, but when he sings this love song it’s a completely passion- and emotion-free zone. His vocals are marginal, his smile insipid, his gazing at the camera insufferable. It was seriously bad.

Randy thinks it was too subdued and he didn’t really get it. Castro agrees. Paula still thinks he’s all charming and stuff, but thinks that he’s more comfortable with his song and that he didn’t connect with the song at all. Simon thinks it’s just a weird show and wonders if it was bad to do this two weeks in a row--but he also thinks that Castro’s face “sold” the song. I agree with the first bit, but Castro’s face was part of the disaster for me.

It is true, though, that last week went really well and this week is a giant letdown.

Syesha Mercado looks all sorts of wow tonight. She was bad last week and starts out on “Yesterday” much better than she did on “Got to Get You Into My Life.” It’s not my favorite of the night--again, her phrasing doesn’t quite fit the original song structure and her voice is not one of the best of the field. But it’s a mighty improvement and should keep her in the show.

Which makes me happy because she gets prettier every week.

Randy thought it was very good. Paula loves her vulnerability and loves Paul, the guitarist. Which is nice for him. Paula, once again, loves one of the contestant’s instruments, which is all sorts of naughty. Simon thought it was her best, although he also says it wasn’t great, but that it should keep her in the competition.

Chikezie had a brilliant week last week and I hope he continues that trend tonight. “I’ve Just Seen a Face” gives him a chance to do another fun arrangement--again with a surprising touch of country and bit of aggressiveness. Maybe a little too like last week, but far from the worst of the night.

Bad harmonica.

Randy says, and I agree, that Chikezie should stick with the up-tempo stuff. He sounds better when he’s attacking the song than when he’s caressing it. Paula disagrees and likes the softer side. Simon says it turned into “Achy Breaky Heart” at the end and called it gimmicky. I don’t agree, but I see the point. Chikezie looks terribly disappointed--and it makes me sort of sad. Poor guy.

Ramiele comes at the tail end of a long night of listening to mostly mediocrities singing the classics. I’m bored before she starts and her performance isn’t close to good enough to fully wake me up.

Randy blah blah blah blah blah. Paula better than last week blah blah blah blah. Blah. Simon goes mean, but he’s closer to right. But even he descends into blah blah blah for me. They need to get rid of some of the dead wood before I start falling asleep before the show has ended.

Either Amanda or Kristy goes home this week, but it was a pretty shallow pool that the singers were playing in this time around. Sinking to the bottom isn’t that far removed from the shit floating at the top. Only a few of the songs were listenable outside of the context of American Idol Cook, Smithson, and White were fine, I actually kind of liked Chikezie, but the rest were just noise.

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