Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fresh_sounds: U2 October (1981)

This is the first installment of CD reviews and my approach is quite random. I have about 500 CD's sitting in a giant library-dresser type thing in the garage. Due to its proximity to the living room I rarely dig into it, and when I do it's usually to hear some mad-beats in the garage or backyard. I was a firm believer that CD's would never become obsolete, but with the advent of digital files, the Licorice Pizza's of the world are no longer with us and the CD's gather dust.

And so it goes. My random drawer pick drew U2's "October" CD. I remember the first time I heard U2 way back in the early 1980s at a junior high dance. Me, the wallflower, wondered who they were and soon searched for the tape. By this point U2 "War" was out so that's what I bought first, then I got "October" and "Boy". While "War" was the one they broke through with in the US, it was "October" that intrigued me most. It's much more of a soulful, spiritual album that's as raw as "Boy" and less studio than "War". Plenty of spiritual overtone mark this album from start to finish but it's not in your face because the accompanying music is spectacular with great changes of pace and the refreshing use of piano on a number of tracks.

The early stuff is awesome because this is when they were literally "garage". The Edge's guitar playing is rabid and un-polished, Larry Mullen, Jr's drumming is succinct and loose, and of course Bono's tone is more "garage" than he certainly is today.

There's plenty of "New Wave" pace in it but it's not the caramel, keyboard, Euro stuff but instead more progressive licks byway of guitar and drum. While most of it has the traditional U2 sound and pace that's similar to "Boy" the real standouts for me are the slow one's like track #4 called Rejoice and track #7 the albums namesake, October. The knee-jerk choice by most is track #1 Gloria, but I favor track #6 Tomorrow and track #9 Stranger in a Strange Land.

Sophomore albums are notorious for lacking the energy of the first and such is the case for this one compared to "Boy", and at the time "October" got shelled though some of it is similar to "Boy". By the time "War" hit the streets, "October" was forgotten and if you ask any mild U2 fan what they know of "October" they won't have a clue.

While I haven't listened to this CD in a long time, it was refreshing to hear the early U2 again. And when you compare it to their new stuff or even something like "Zooropa", it becomes an immediate reminder of how "garage" these guys used to sound. A part of me wishes they would return to that for just 1 album.

TIME: 41 minutes, 8 seconds
LABEL: Island
OTHER SLEEP CD: U2 "Wide Awake in America". The track Boy is incredible.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why pro baseball kinda bugs the crap out of me...

The remote and my tv as seen from nap level.

I have always been an athlete. As a child I played many sports including the traditional soccer, basketball and of course baseball. Other sports have interested me too including golf, hockey, tennis and of course cycling. And while I admire the professional players I have grown to despise or grow bored with the professional game. Is it the ridiculous salaries? Perhaps. The over analyzing of chatty commentators? Yep. Or maybe it's the new super-parks that have chain restaurants and $10 beers. I definitely know that fake grass and lame rally caps and mohawks are on my shit list. I am especially annoyed by the fair-weather Hollywood-types who all the sudden become fans of the LA Dodgers. Watch any game of their playoff battle and you will find some hipster chick wearing big sunglasses sitting in the rich seats fumbling with her Blackberry not aware of what a two-seamed fastball is or that a foul ball counts as a strike. She's there because she got the tickets for free from some super-agent. All of this annoys the hell out of me.

A quantitative content analysis of any Red Sox-Rays playoff game of the number of "loogies" would likely show an average of 15-100 spits per inning... All captured on film. I kept wondering why they always spit and here's what I have concluded. First, baseball players are just spitters. The game is on "grass" so it allows for it. Kobe's not spitting on hardwood, or Federer on clay. Second, this game is slow. Most of the spitting comes at moments when there's nothing to do. Every bench player sits for 3-5 hours with nothing to do but drink, chew, munch on sunflower seeds or all 3. With this habit comes spit. It has to go somewhere! Finally, maybe it's cool to spit. We men are freaks as you ladies know. Essentially we are dogs, cavemen at best and baseball players are closest to cavemen of all sportsmen. They scratch, tug, don't shave, chew, make a mess of the dugout, and ultimately spit. Unlike cavemen, they make obscene amounts of money. The random guy on the bench who just hit the top of the dog pile (another caveman characteristic along with the high-5) makes middle 6-figures. Way more than Joe the F-ing Plumber!

I don't watch professional sports of any kind such as baseball or the others until the playoffs. Today I watched my first full game in it's entirety. I can't remember the last time I have done this, but it wasn't a "clean" watch, quite the contrary. Here's my stats of the 9 innings:
- NAPS (3. Most were about 10 minutes each)
- BEER (3/4. Hefeweizen with a splash of white grape juice. Very un-caveman-like indeed)
- VERBAL ASSAULTS AT THE TV (Countless. Commentators bug the shit out of me and I am convinced that hey are afraid of silence)
- PAUSES (Thank God for the DVR. Allowed me time to stretch the legs and spit)

I was hoping that it would end with the Dodgers and Redsox in the World Series, but instead it's the Phillies and Rays. Nothing against the 2 teams but I am a true ballpark person. There's no 2 better fields than Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium. How great would that have been to see more Pat Sajak and Ryan Secrest at Chavez Ravine and Joe the Plumber-likes in Fenway. What a dichotomy. True blue collar versus Hollywood. Now we are left with 2 great young teams with great athletes. Wonder if the television ratings will be any good? How much is a large orange juice at Tropicana Field? Will I watch? If I am really, stinkin' bored.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's official: I have voted.

My mind was made up many moons ago when it came to deciding who I want to be the next president. Going back I have voted for Clinton and Kerry and now Obama. Not to sound cheesy, but when I filled in the bubble I felt a sense of relief: A) that this long, drawn-out process is over; and B) that it is a historical moment. We keep hearing that this is the most important election in generations, if not ever. That this moment will determine not only my future, but my kids' future and their kids too. Will it? We always hear that shit will change and grand ideas will come to fruition but usually it never does. I just want it to be stable.

I sat in front of the television for the 3rd debate and sighed and barked at my plasma, at the old man trying to pick a fight, at Obama for not sticking it to him. I couldn't be president, I would get all fired up. I can't even buy a new car without getting upset. I get pissed when my sprinklers drip or when my white adidas kicks get smudged. So while I wished he would've kicked the old geezer in the nuts, I was more impressed with his composure and explanation of his policy, his doctrine.

But I also fear that some people who may like what he's about will decide not to vote for him because of race. This certainly is a weak excuse, but while many Americans say they are accepting, they also get confused when they close the "curtain" behind them and punch the ballot. In that instance people could turn the switch and vote based on nothing more but color. It's absurd that for more than 20 months of watching, reading, and listening that someone could go that route.

I'm confident it won't happen and that people will vote for true change and a new direction. My soapbox is creaking, better step off. Oh wait, maybe that's my water main. Better call Joe the Plumber. More on him later.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Make sure the tubes are tied... To the right section

"You probably have a vapor lock," says the sweet thing from Starbucks' customer service department. Vapor lock? It sounds similar to that special coating the car salesman tries to pressure you to buy. My first instinct was to believe-assume that this was simply a distraction, that it was read from a pre-printed list tacked to the cubicle wall. The manager telling his herd in a pre-clock-in meeting that "If the Barista owner bitches that the pump is not working, immediately go to #6 on the list: vapor lock." The crew nods in agreement and shuttle off to receive panicked calls from jackasses like me.

Damn I hate when I'm wrong! I thought for certain my call would be re-routed to India, where I would have to rattle off the 16-digit serial number. This exercise would last 30 minutes because the person on the other end would repeat the numbers back to me 5 times and get them wrong all 5 times. Instead I was talking to Angie here in the US! I explained my predicament: that life was shallow and depressing because my said espresso-latté-cap machine was not operational. The tiny screw wasn't coming out of the section that housed a filter, which gets clogged, which then renders the machine useless. This little screw no longer than 1/4 inch long that was causing grief and hardship was determined to stay lodged-fixed-stuck. A trip to the hardware store fixed it with the purchase of an extractor set. With certainty I believed that the machine had been fixed, but I got nothing.

That brings me back to the first line in this particular blog entry. The vapor lock sounds more hardcore than it is. All it takes is a few runs through the steam wand and the actual drip itself. Do it for 6 minutes, let it cool. Over and over. Nothing.

A couple days go by and this time I speak to Claudia at Starbucks. She has me open the machine back and check all connections. This is where my lameness gets magnified. At some point after I began un-hitching hoses, cussing, and then re-assembling hoses, the machine truly stopped sucking... water that is. Nothing. No steam, no drip, no sucking (water). "Um, do you have the hoses hooked up right?" says Claudia. "Claudia, seriously?" I say. "Just making sure that you do, you know sometimes it happens," says Claudia. After a semi-detailed discussion about hoses going here and bending around there, and hooking to the mushroom-looking-thingy, it was concluded that a hose was out of place. Now you may be thinking that their must be 15 hoses bending and feeding, sucking and pulling, releasing and such, but instead it's just 3 that go A) here; B) there; and C) right there. One hose out of place. One hose caused grief for 2+ weeks. One hose I pulled from here and assumed it went there. One hose now in its right place because Claudia rocks.

Gone now is the French Press and the Mukka to the deep, dark bowels of the lower cupboard. Back is the automated machine with a new screw replacing the chewed up old one. The morning mood is better, spirits are high, smiles are taller.

- Don't put your hose in the wrong place.
- Sucking is good on an espresso machine.
- The mushroom-thingy needs a hose.
- Starbucks customer service is rad.
- Starbucks customer service is in America, which is super-rad.
- Small screws can cause grief.
- My fix-it skills are sucking (not good sucking).

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The temporary death of my latté machine

A while ago I was raving about the brilliance of Starbucks Latté/Espresso maker. How it made the best cup of "Joe" ever and how my mornings became the equivalent of a scene from the "Sound of Music". Things were rolling along just fine with few mishaps. Oh sure, the strength on some days was weak at best and my feeble attempts to substitute true espresso with traditional ground coffee was a pure rookie mistake.

Then it happened. The mother of all F-ups. I pulled the upper screen to clean out the "muck" and screwed it back down. As per usual, I likely tightened the poor guy way too tight. In it went. Secure and snuggly. Too snuggly apparently. Suddenly the poor machine stopped producing the frothy goodness, and my sad self being wondering what my next step would be. As a male I struggled to open the manual. Who needs a manual, or instructions or directions? Reluctantly I went to the "troubleshooting" section for advice. Needless to say, the suggestion was to remove this formidable screen. The aforementioned screw needed to come off. However, the screw no longer resembled a screw, but instead a car wreck, or quite simply a screw that had been screwed by an aggressive Phillips head screwdriver attached to fix-it wannabe. Nonetheless, the operation was hopeless. This guy wasn't budging and operation-latté-fix was knee-deep in frustration and going nowhere.

A call to father-fix-all was my last resort. My dad can fix anything, even stuff that is truly unfixable. He came locked and loaded with an assortment of screw drivers: big, small, short, beefy. None worked and while the years of experience that my dad brought to table was quickly halted in a red-hot minute by his son's ridiculous sense of what's tight and what's too tight, he offered up plan B and C. Plan B is in action now: WD-40 and if that doesn't work then some sort of rust killing mix. Plan C is drastic and may involve replacing parts or drilling out the said screw.

For now I have gone back to the French Press and my friend Mukka. It's an awkward alternative, but for now it's all I have! I am struggling here to get into a rhythm. The Mukka lacks the control of the true machine. I have taken 2 steps backward. I have come to recognize that I am a latté elitist. I fumble through the motions. I had buttons before and now all I have are instincts. But my instincts are unpolished, out of practice and downright minor league. The first 2 attempts failed miserably resulting in a liquid mess equivalent to Valdez. Number 3 comes tomorrow morning and I know I will strategize vigorously prior to sparking up the burner.

For now the Starbucks machine sits on my work bench, upside down with a helping of WD-40 in it's "tummy". We'll see.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The left side of my face is numb

The dentist is always a daunting place for me. I wasn't blessed with the best set of chompers nor am I any good at maintaining them. My caveman approach of eating, drinking, gnawing on sunflower seeds and chomping on my fingernails has sort of, well has, caught up to me. Turns out my teeth are getting flat (unlike my stomach) and they are in need of some deep-cleaning. Whenever the dentist himself does the cleaning, you know it's much more serious than the hot little Asian dental assistant applying some polish and picking at your gums and chit-chatting about USC.

Numbing. Back in the day I had to get a bridge. The numbing process at that time was horrendous. Shoot me a couple times in all the right places and presto-magico I'm numb and slobbering like a Springer Spaniel. Also back in the day my worst fear came true when doing a root canal: I felt a fair bit of it. I thought for certain I would be permanently cross-eyed. "Do you feel it?" the dentist said. "Uh do you see my right eye looking at you and left eye looking at the opposite wall?" Pop, ping, sizz... another shot goes in the mouth, and off-shore drilling commences. "Do you feel it?" he asks again. "Do you see the hand prints on your assistants neck from my struggle to defy pain?" More numbing juice ensued to no avail. Onward to the specialist who pricked and poked and bingo I'm numb within seconds and the root canal is finished.

This time around it was mild. A needle insertion here and there and I'm numb, but the memories came ashore. I tighten up and brace myself for what turns out to be a deep-cleaning and a mild filling behind my front tooth. All the while the dentist continues to insist on me flossing and to stop biting my fingernails. I reply with an "I know, I know." If he only new the amount of Red Bull I drink and god-awful energy gels and bars I eat when I ride my bike. Shh. The right side deep-cleaning is tomorrow. On a side not: my insurance sucks.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I can see Pasadena from my house...

So I sit here on the eve of the vice presidential debate wondering more about what the "F" Biden will say. Sure, my knee-jerk is to ponder the skills of Palin, but I have thought about that too much and have been reminded too often by the media of her downfalls and inability to elaborate on complex topics like the bailout or what to do with Pakistan. I've seen it over and over and the blue-eyed boy Anderson Cooper has mentioned it way too much that I have grown weary and jaded. I am at the point now where she could very well surprise us all and come off "normal" and smart and (gulp) savvy! Now I turn to Joe Biden. He's never shy about anything and is such a part of Washington that it initially made me notch up a victory immediately for him. But Joe also says wacked stuff from time to time, though it gets no press, and now I am a bit worried that he may come off too strong, back her into a corner, and be seen as picking on the woman. Is he too DC? Is she too "Aw shucks"? Will mid-America go for "Aw shucks"? Is DC too cap. hill gangsta? Too inside?

My hope is that Biden tells it straight. Talks to me. Tells me this crap is all going to work itself out. Tell me how we're gonna get this country back on track to where it was, whenever. I liked the 1990s. We had surplus and Nirvana. I don't want bad country music and NRA and off-shore drilling crap. Who cares if you can see Russia from your house. My hope is that Palin gets all balled-up and answers questions in a way that shows her inexperience. Nothing against her, but she should have said no to McCain.