Saturday, January 31, 2009


Remember when Broadway Joe Namath guaranteed that his New York Jets would upset the favored Baltimore Colts in 1969? That was the third NFL-AFL Championship Game, but the first game to officially bear the title "Super Bowl." I was just a kid. Let's face it, football is kid stuff. This game is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in American sports history. Of course, Namath delivered on his promise.

Farah Fawcett creams Broadway Joe

If you're like me, the Super Bowl is more than just football. It's about snacks and commercials and possible costume malfunctions. Oh, and it's about good sportsmanship and team-building and sports drinks and pep pills and jocks with no necks and male bonding and cheerleaders and, of course, the sublimation of sex and violence and homoerotic butt-slapping and towel snapping. Just kidding, coach. Football is a metaphor for the American way of life. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Now take a lap.

Yup, football sucks. Most of it, anyway. But these nachos sure look good. They are also a metaphor.

It's one thing playing a little touch football with friends--I have fond memories of catching a perfect spiral as a dog ran along behind me on an Oregon beach--feeling Kennedy-esque or something in sand and salty air --but that's a far cry from the zillion dollar business we watch today on our flatscreens. Maybe it's all about the Benjamens. That's money, dude. Now pony up.

Bobby Kennedy "going long" on the Oregon Coast

Commercial airtime costs a fortune at the Super Bowl. This year, Ivar's, a Seattle fish and chip joint, bought a half second commercial slot. That's right, a HALF SECOND. Couldn't they spring for a second? Nope. Too expensive. We looked into it.

We thought of buying time for the Nine Pound Hammer--to thank you for support, and to celebrate over 700 blog posts and an average daily readership of nearly 300 people. After checking the Super Bowl ad rates we realized all we could afford was a hundredth of a second. We were discouraged. Then we thought, what the hell! Brevity is the soul of wit, right? We'll make the best damn hundredth of a second ad in history! Would you like to see it? Would you like to see it again?

The best book on sports I've ever read was "Out of Their League" by Dave Meggyesy, an unsung football hero. Between 1963-69, he played linebacker for the St. Louis Cardinals and was All-Pro. He quit the NFL in 1969 at the height of his game, and wrote a scathing indictment that stunned Pete Rozelle into silence. The football bosses thought they could ignore Meggyesy, but the book had a huge impact on he way we think about football.

Here's an interview with Meggysey at the sports site "Edge of Sport," click here.

Money, it's a gas. Here are the top super bowl commercials from last year:

Buy "Out of Their League" by Dave Meggysey here.

Friday, January 30, 2009


William Shatner cannot be killed. He has nine lives. Not only is he an actor (Star Trek, Twilight Zone, T.J. Hooker, Boston Legal), a director (Star Trek the Movie), a writer (Star Trek books, with Judith and Garfield Reese-Stevens), and a pitchman and shill (countless commercials), he can also sing like a nightingale.

Well, not really. You could say The Shat is a "song stylist." His interpretations are so bad they're good--and then bad again. When he met Mr. Tambourine Man he didn't just ask for a song, he pistol-whipped the perp like T. J. Hooker on cranky pills.

Here Shatner performs the Pulp song "Common People" with the help of Joe Jackson and Ben Folds.

Of course, we can't resist re-posting his surreal "interpretation" of the Elton John classic "Rocket Man." This is cool. In fact, it's cold as hell.

Who said there are no second acts in American lives? That's right. Too bad Fitzgerald never met William Shatner.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Why do we like sad songs? Because we're sensitive human beings who enjoy some good healthy emotional release? Or because we're big dumb saps who wear our hearts on our sleeves? Probably a little of both. Aristotle said tragedy "achieves through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, catharsis." They say he could play the hell out of a country song.

Here's a sweet sad song for whiskey drinking, a plaintive late night tune written by Neil Young and sung beautifully by the lovely Emmylou Harris. Aw, shoot. I think I got something in my eye. Aw, hell.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


John Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009) novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer, art critic, prizewinner, and hat waver. The publication of his book Rabbit, Run, in 1960, established Updike as a novelist of the first rank, and introduced us to Harold "Rabbit" Angstrom, who would appear every decade to take America's pulse.

"In his most resonant work, Mr. Updike gave 'the mundane its beautiful due,' as he once put it, memorializing the everyday mysteries of love and faith and domesticity with extraordinary nuance and precision. In Kodachrome-sharp snapshots, he gave us the 50’s and early 60’s of suburban adultery, big cars and wide lawns, radios and hi-fi sets, and he charted the changing landscape of the 70’s and 80’s, as malls and subdivisions swallowed up small towns and sexual and social mores underwent a bewildering metamorphosis."

-Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times. For the rest of her appraisal, click here.

To read John Updike's classic short story A&P, click here.

Updike on The Charlie Rose Show two months ago. About writing, and his last novel.

The 2000 Salon interview with Updike, click here.
Updike archive from The New York Review of Books, click here.

Monday, January 26, 2009


The Waterboys play "Fisherman's Blues" in 1986. Mike Scott, the band leader, originally from Edinburgh, moved to Ireland in the eighties and brought along ragpickers, junkmen, carnies and grifters and taught them to play a unique blend of Celtic, folk, country, and rock he had heard in a dream. Great song.


Hoagy Carmichael sings "Am I Blue" in Howard Hawks' "To Have and Have Not," the 1944 film loosely based on a book by Ernest Hemingway. I want to find a bar like this, a lively little joint where the drinks are strong, the music is good, and you might run into Bogart or Lauren Bacall.

I just read that Benicio del Toro, fresh from winning Best Actor at Cannes for "Che," is planning a remake that will be "more faithful to the original story." Hemingway himself called the work a piece of junk, and refused to write the screenplay for Hawks. Hawks had to get another writer, an upstart named William Faulkner. Everything worked itself out in the end.

Cranky McCrankypants said no to Howard Hawks

Sunday, January 25, 2009


There is a new cocktail movement afoot in America. Buy me a drink and I'll tell you about it. Ambitious bartenders are hearkening back to a bygone era, resurrecting forgotten recipes, shunning mixes in favor of fresh fruits, developing creative cocktails, and even making their own bitters. What is this--another yuppie obsession with some imaginary past (see "swing dancing," see "Sinatra," see "cigars"), still mining the ore of Rat Pack, Mad Men culture? Well, yes and no.

According to the New York Times (December 2, 2008) it's not just a fad; it's a movement. There are many new types of bartenders--mixologists-- vying for your attention. Belly up to the bar, and have a look-see.

There are Pre-repeal Revivalists, such as Julie Reiner of The Flatiron Lounge in New York (in the video above), who go back to gaslights and garters and classic, long forgotten drinks from pre-Prohibition days.

“I moved to New York and started managing a lounge in the West Village,” she says to Nightclub & Bar Magazine. “At the time, it was called C3, and I started putting out seasonal cocktail menus. I was kind of just entertaining myself...The next thing I knew, I was on the front page of the New York Times Dining section.”

Julie Reiner mixing drinks at The Flatiron Lounge in New York

Reiner cut up Granny Smith apples and let them steep in vodka for three weeks. The press jumped on her Apple Tini and similar "infusions." In 2003, Reiner and five partners opened Flatiron Lounge, one of New York’s first venues bringing culinary to the cocktail. The Flatiron (37 West 19th Street, 212-727-7741)–– a space whose ancestral patronage included members of the Rat Pack –– combines a 1920s ambiance and Reiner’s seasonally inspired cocktails. It might be the flagship for the revivalist cocktail movement. For some of Julie's drink recipes, click here.

There are others. The Neo-Classicists update the classic cocktails--just slightly--with fusions; the Farm-to-Glass Movement mix artisinal cocktails with seasonal fruits and herbs, such as persimmons and anise; and the Liquid Locavores, such as distiller Christian Krogstad of House Spirits in Portland, who fashion a drink around local spirits (there are nine craft distilleries operate within the city). House Spirits makes the excellent Aviation Gin, among other things.

House Spirits co-owners Christan Korgstad (left) and Jeff Medoff, craft distilling in PDX

"Our competition isn't local," Medoff told Willamette Week. "We all want to brand Oregon. The more the merrier. We're after Ketel One and Grey Goose."

"Portland was a culinary wasteland," says Stephen McCarthy, proprietor of Portland's Clear Creek Distillery, speaking recently with Distinctly Northwest. When he was a student at Reed College a few decades ago there were no good restaurants, he says. No coffee shops worthy of noting. There were no wineries, no breweries. A culinary wasteland indeed. "Now it's like Paris!"

We wouldn't go that far, but anyone can attest who has eaten at (or even read the write-ups of) Le Pigeon--or devoured the sticky-sweet Thai street food at Pok Pok/Whiskey Soda Lounge, Portland is a serious "foodie" town. The drinks go with the territory. At Pok Pok, you might get a muddled kaffir lime gin and tonic, a lime and palm sugar whiskey sour, or--like me--an Aviator, a martini made with House Spirits' fine Aviation gin.

Get drinks and wings at Pok Pok/Whiskey Soda Lounge -3226 SE Division St, Portland, 503-232-1387

What else is out there? There are the Home Brewers, who make their own bitters, and fortified wines, and are centered around Tenzing Momo in Seattle, a shop that specializes in teas, and exotic dried herbs. There are Minimalists, who might change a single ingredient in a cocktail and explore the mutations; Molecular Mixologists, who mix "progressive cocktails" with scientific methods and might produce a solid, edible cocktail; Faux Tropicalists, who mix Singapore Slings and Mai Tais like your dad drank at Trader Vics. Check out the Luau in Seattle, and drink from a coconut.

Of course, you can still make your own drinks at home. Here, mixologist Allen Katz tells you how to make the perfect Martini:


With the possible exception of the Yalta Conference, you'd have a hard time finding three people more different from one another engaged in the same highly specialized activity: Here, Jimmy Buffet, John Irving, and Martin Amis discuss the finer points of novel writing with Charlie Rose.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


One of the most eagerly awaited releases of the aughts is the new Animal Collective album, Merriweather Post Pavillion. After seven albums in nine years, these freaks have come up with a shimmering combination of dub, hip hop, electronica, ecstatic post-rock, and spoon-bending "pop." This is the audio equivalent of washing down Pop Rocks with champagne. If you're ready for something new, drop your radio-conditioned reflexes and listen--and see if you think this album deserves all the rave reviews and slack-jawed adoration.

"It feels like one of the landmark American albums of the century so far." - UNCUT

"Squares are seldom invited to the art-school party, and for nearly a decade, the trippy, often willfully obtuse output of cerebral-psych outfit Animal Collective easily stopped most musical normies at the door." - Entertainment Weekly

"Merriweather Post Pavilion is one of this year's most feverishly anticipated indie albums, and it's worth taking a moment to consider how startling it is that music so idiosyncratic—so adventurous, so strange—could qualify as momentous on any scale."
--The Onion AV Club

"Like the Grateful Dead before them, the psychedelic heads of Animal Collective are evolving from raging sonic hallucinations into gentler, more melodic trips. The ninth disc from this Brooklyn/Baltimore crew tries balancing shameless beauty with ecstatic weirdness, and when they nail it, it's breathtaking." - Rolling Stone

Go ahead. Listen to "In the Flowers" by Animal Collective. Just push the button:


The late Heath Ledger--who died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs--has been posthumously nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, the latest film in the Batman franchise. Ledger stole the show with his evil antics, but no less of a performance was his turn as singer Bob Dylan in the arty, experimental film from 2007, "I'm Not There."

Heath Ledger as the Joker, posthumously nominated for an Oscar

In the Todd Haynes film, six actors portray various sides of the mercurial songwriter, and Ledger plays Robbie Clark, an actor in Greenwich Village struggling with his career and his marriage to Claire (a fictional character based on Sara Dylan, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg).

Like Dylan, the film isn't for everyone--and those seeking formulaic entertainment or a standard bio-pic should look elsewhere--but it brims with excellent performances and a thought-provoking montage of styles that mirror the phases of the shape-shifting singer. Ledger's performance is dark and complex, as you can see from this clip.

Heath Ledger and Charlotte Gainsbourg in "I'm Not There" (2007)

Listen to the song, "I'm Not There," by Bob Dylan, one of the unfinished basement tapes recorded with The Band at Big Pink. Just push the button to play.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Barack and Michelle Obama have the first dance at the Inaugural Neighborhood Ball. They enjoy a much-deserved moment of celebration as Beyonce sings the classic "At Last." I love this clip. Call me a sap, I don't care.

President Obama may have danced all night, but he was up early the next morning at his new job. Here he signs executive orders directing the CIA to shut down its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp. At last!


"Stuck Between Stations," live on Letterman

Straight out of Brooklyn, The Hold Steady is a bumblebee that--aerodynamically speaking--should not be able to fly. Combining classic guitar rock and indie angst, one could cite the Replacements and Grifters as influences, but one could just as easily cite your favorite bar band, and that skinny prankster on the Asbury Park boardwalk, ol' what's-his-name, with whom they share a love for guitar anthems and good storytelling. Lead singer Craig Finn looks like an actuary on a drinking binge, but he delivers the goods--heartbreaking stories about teenagers getting wasted, joyriding, fumbling in and out of love, acting cool, and hanging out in bars with nothing but memories and bands like The Hold Steady.

"Your Little Hoodrat Friend"


Okay, so he got the job. Hopes are running high. Most people (with the exception of tiresome gasbag Rush Limbaugh) wish him well. After all, his success is tied to the success of the nation. How long do we give him? A presidency is often judged by it's first one hundred days.

Bush entered the White House in a time of peace and prosperity, and soon wrapped himself in 9-11 like a magic cloak to ward off criticism. People gave him every opportunity to succeed. Remember? Before he squandered our trust, his popularity was sky high, and many felt it was unpatriotic to criticize the president. He encouraged the view.

Times have changed. Obama walks in alone, in the middle of a great national crisis. Let's give the new guy a chance. Good luck, Mr. President.

"One Hundred Days" by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Let the new day begin. The inauguration gives me hope, especially after the dark years of the Bush administration. Maybe I'm naive but it seems like a paradigm shift is in the works. Here are images (albeit tampered with slightly) from another pivotal year, 1967. Nicknamed "The Summer of Love," at least by the square press, society experienced a sea change that season.

One brilliant record concentrated the energies in living color, and that was the Beatles' "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band." The album was released in June, just in time to kick-start the famous summer. Throughout the summer it played everywhere, drifting out of open windows like the burnt odor of grass. It was strange and trippy, but made perfect sense. There were other great psychedelic records that year--Surrealistic Pillow, and The Doors' first album spring to mind, but Pepper took the cake. Bach trumpets and harpsichords and sitars exploded in a riot of flowers. It was pop, it was rock, it was baroque, it was avant garde. Everyone loved it. The Beatles had elevated their game to the level of art, and everyone followed their iridescent snail trail.

It's not my favorite Beatle album--that would be "Revolver" or "Rubber Soul," or even "The White Album," but Pepper is a fantastic time capsule. Some of it may seem dated, but you can't deny it's power. Pepper was highly influential, and not just on pop music; it influenced the entire culture. The following documentary examines the album closely--perhaps as closely as you did after smoking that Nepalese temple hash. It's worth a look.

"The Making of Sgt. Pepper:"


President Obama and first lady Michele Obama, Inauguration Day, 1/20/2009

Over two million people crowded the National Mall this morning to watch Obama get sworn in as our 44th president. A new era begins...finally. He gave a rousing inaugural address, and called for unity and responsibility.

"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," he said at one point, a jab at the last man to hold the job. "We've chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over discord." There were tough times ahead, but "we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work."

(Watch the complete speech above, or read the full text which is linked below.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama leave the presidential limousine to walk in the inaugural parade.

Raw video: Obama parades to the White House.

"The sun's rising glow illuminated a mass of humanity gathering on the Mall this morning, a singing, celebrating and at times solemn sea of people wrapped in layers head to toe and determined to claim a piece of history by witnessing the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president." -Washington Post, 1/20/09

Read the full text of Obama's speech here.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The best way to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King is to enjoy the spirit of jubilation over the Obama victory. King gave his life for equality, peace, and justice--and was assassinated by a white racist. We still have white racists and probably always will--just as we will always have cruelty and stupidity--but we can't wait for them to catch up because there is work to do. They must be livid. After all, they barely got over the abolition of slavery. In the name of King and all the civil rights workers we celebrate Obama's victory--an American victory.

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen sing out at the Lincoln Memorial during a concert for Obama's inauguration. Pete, folksinger, political activist, and rabble-rouser, was hounded by the U.S. government for years for his politics and blacklisted during the Red Scare. Here, he makes a triumphant return with the Jersey Devil. They sing a song written by Pete's old running buddy, Woody Guthrie. I'm sure you know it, but maybe not this version. Here they sing it the way Woody wrote it, with all the "radical" lyrics they kept out of your school songbook.

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Seeger and Springsteen at the Lincoln Monument:

What it took to get here. Bull Connor's police dogs attack protesters in Selma. Their crime? Asking for the right to vote. All the people jabbering about "exporting Democracy" sure as hell should have supported these brave souls--but of course conservatives blocked the civil rights movement every step of the way. It's history; look it up.

perform "In The Name of Love" at the Lincoln Memorial. They wrote the song about Dr. King.

On this hard-won holiday, remember what it took to get here. Martin Luther King, Jr. is arrested by Alabama police for civil disobedience. The civil rights movement wasn't a tea party. People risked their necks. Give it up for MLK and the Movement for having the guts and determination and vision to rock the boat.

Friday, January 16, 2009


WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush gave his farewell address to the nation Thursday night, defending his record and showing few regrets. Bush gave a rosy view of his "successes" in Iraq and Afghanistan, and explained how he made tough choices that were good for the economy.

Bush leaves office with the worst presidential approval rate since unindicted co-conspirator Richard M. Nixon. His supporters have dwindled to the ranks of the extremely dumb. Most have jumped ship. Can you blame them?

David Letterman has been collecting "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches." Watch this recent clip regarding Jews and Italians. I say this with all due respect: what an asshole.

Here is a compilation of past "Great Moments." Watch and laugh!

Say goodnight, George.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Sadly, Number Six has passed away. The former British agent who, after abruptly resigning from his position, has been living in The Village, succumbed to a mysterious ailment. Reports have been erroneous that Six attempted to return to England and was chased down by a giant white weather balloon. We assure you he was happy here somewhere near the coast of Morocco, southwest of Portugal and Spain. A good sport, always chipper, Number Six will be missed by all.

"The Prisoner: The Human Condition," is a short documentary about the making of the psycho-adventure spy series "The Prisoner," starring Patrick McGoohan, who died today. Equal parts James Bond and Franz Kafka, the television series became a cult favorite in the 1960s.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Ricky Gervais--you know him as a comic, author, actor, singer--as the asshole boss David Brent in the British television series "The Office," and the desperate actor Andy Millman in the series "Extras." His humor is excruciating. He is everyman, and we watch in horror as vanity and ego bring him down like cheetahs chasing a gazelle. Gervais is a funny, all right, but did you know he was also a caring humanitarian and philanthropist? Of course you didn't.

Ricky Gervais as David Brent on "The Office"

Ricky Gervais on Late Night with David Letterman, January 9th, 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


If you're like me, you're checking your mailbox every day for an invitation to the inauguration. This inauguration will be historic. I've been shopping for the right clothes. Believe it or not, I don't own a suit, but I have some nice jackets and ties, and I can probably pull something together. I'd hate to find myself doing jello shooters with Barack and Michelle and suddenly realize I'm dressed like an extra from "Rent." Actually, they probably wouldn't mind. They seem cool. Not like the last bunch. I just hope my invitation arrives in in time.

The President and First Lady: Those ballroom dance lessons came in handy.

Looking sharp: JFK and Jackie arrive at the Kennedy inauguration, 1960

Here's the Spin Magazine guide to inauguration concerts--from Springsteen to Jay-Z--HERE

Monday, January 12, 2009


Leonard Alfred Schneider was hip, man. You might know him as Lenny Bruce if you know him at all. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new breed of rebel comedians breathed life into tired old comedy. Their humor was based on observation, not jokes--people like Mort Sahl, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Lenny Bruce were doing something new. Lenny Bruce was the hippest of the lot, the farthest out, the most incendiary. He never played it safe.

Busted! Lenny Bruce was a comic, social critic, satirist, writer, junky, and weirdo beatnik.

There was no shortage of comic talent in the late fifties and early sixties--you still had the old guys plying their trades and more traditional talents like Sid Caesar, Bob Newhart, Jonathan Winters, Bill Cosby--but the rebels changed the face of comedy forever. They paved the way for Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Sarah Silverman, the Saturday Night Live crew, and every other stand-up comedian out there.

Old comedy on the way out: a vaudeville act in days of yesteryear

Lenny Bruce was my favorite. He was hilarious, but didn't mind freaking out the squares with routines about drugs and race and sex, earning himself the label "sick comic." He used words on stage most of us hear every day, and for that he was hounded by police and tied up in the courts with endless obscenity charges. If you love freedom--not just cheap platitudes during wartime but actual freedom of thought and speech and artistic creation--you owe Lenny Bruce a nod.

Thanks, Lenny.

Lenny opened the door, and Richard walked through. Richard Pryor on drugs.

Part of the new breed: Eddie Izzard on religion.

Here's a good book: "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s," available HERE.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


We're going to be celebrating January 20th when Barack Obama is inaugurated. We're not sure of the schedule, but at some point Obama will raise his sword and the Orcs will leave Mordor.

I'm just kidding.

Republicans are people, too. Dick Cheney may be evil, and Ann Coulter is certainly a heartless shrieking harpie, but they're still people. Technically. Let's be magnanimous enough to sympathize with their plight, just as we sympathize with the thousands of people who died as a result of the war they engineered, lied about, and profited from.

There I go again. Sorry, that's not the spirit of bi-partisanship we'll need in these troubled times. Troubled times the Republicans brought on with their greed and ignorance, I might add. Still, they're welcome to help with the clean-up of the mess they made of things.

Say Goodnight, Dick

After the plague in the 14th Century, survivors donned colorful clothing and danced in the streets. The inauguration will be more like that. The mead will flow and the music will play and people with good hearts will rejoice that the dark years have ended.

Republicans preparing to leave Washington, DC, January 20th.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Okay, it's my birthday, so here are a couple songs about growing up. The first is from that old honey-baked ham William Shattner. I knew him in childhood as Captain Kirk. Here he sings a song that's schmaltzy to begin with, and makes it even schmaltzier. The Captain really pours on the cheese in his sentimental version of "It Was a Very Good Year." He's probably been smoking that Romulan ganja.

The second clip is the Garden State's own Bruce Springsteen performing a song called "Growin' Up." Here you have it all: love, hate, joy, confusion, loss of innocence, delusions of grandeur, self-loathing, despair, and utter ecstasy. In other words, growing up. Here the boss plays it quietly, without the bombast and glockenspiels, and I like it that way.

Friday, January 9, 2009


William Zantzinger, the rich Maryland tobacco farmer who beat black bar maid Hattie Carroll to death with a cane has just died at the age of 69. According to the New York Times, Zantzinger struck her with a cane because she wasn't serving him drinks fast enough.

The well-connected man got off with a lenient sentence--only six months in prison--and that injustice inspired a young Bob Dylan to write the powerful ballad “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”

Read the original news story HERE. Warning, contains violence and a racial epithet.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


It won't stop raining! Here's a great rainy scene from "Blade Runner." This drippy wet neo-noir, cyperpunk, hard-boiled, detective flick really captures the last few wet days. If you've ever watched attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion you know what I mean.


It's still raining. I've never seen rain like this--and I've lived in the Pacific Northwest all my life. Rivers are rising. 68 roads are closed for flooding. There are plenty of great rain songs. Here are some rain songs.

The clip above is REM in their golden days, performing "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)." The song was released in May 1984 as the first single from the group's second studio album Reckoning.

The clip below is Dylan performing "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" from the infamous 1966 tour with the Hawks (later called The Band). Rain figures prominently in Dylan's music from Hard Rain to Buckets of Rain, and people are expecting rain or back in the rain. High water is rising, there's a crash on the levee, and we wait for the flood. This song captures that rain-soaked feeling when your gravity fails and negativity won't pull you through.

"When you're lost in the rain in Juarez..."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


This clip is hilarious. You know that Al Franken--soon to be senator from Minnesota--has a crazy amount of talent and brains, but have you seen his impersonation of Mick Jagger? The transformation is uncanny. Watch this clip from the 1980s, when Franken and comedy partner Tom Davis performed as Mick and Keith of The Rolling Stones. You'll be amazed.


James Newell Osterberg, better known as Iggy Pop, is the undisputed godfather of punk rock, the prototype for a thousand aggressive garage bands, a full-on weirdo, alcoholic, and drug addict who mixed a volatile, high-test blend of electric guitars, electric razors, and the industrial noise from the Detroit auto assembly plants where his father worked. His band, The Stooges, became famous for frenzied, incendiary shows where Iggy might end up bloody and beaten by the time they dragged him away.

Ron Asheton, guitar player and founding member of the The Stooges, was found dead at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday, police said. Iggy said in a statement that he was in shock about the death of "my best friend."

Ron Asheton, dead at 60

According to Reuters, "...backed by Asheton's guitar riffs on songs such as 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' and 'TV Eye,' the band's music has been credited as a powerful influence on a wide range of punk and alternative bands including The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The White Stripes."

"Asheton's influence on music cannot be overstated." Pitchfork's Stuart Berman credits the Stooges' guitar sound with "help[ing] spawn every guitar-based subgenre you'll find in a reputable record store: glam, metal, punk, goth, hardcore, indie rock, shoegazer, stoner-rock and noise."

The sound was not for everyone. Influenced by the dark side of Lou Reed from the Velvet Underground, and Jim Morrison of the Doors, the band made it even darker and more violent. Homeless in Hollywood, strung out on drugs, in and out of psych wards, the self-destructive singer was literally pulled out of the gutter by David Bowie, at the height of his career, who cleaned Iggy up and brought him along as warm-up act on his "Station to Station" tour. Bowie helped him start a successful solo career in 1977, the year of this video.

David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed

"The Passenger" live in '77

Monday, January 5, 2009


MINNEAPOLIS — Good news! The state Canvassing Board is ready to announce the results of the recount in Minnesota's Senate election in Al Franken's favor. The latest numbers show Franken with a 225-vote lead over Republican Norm Coleman. Coleman is expected to fight the result, but we're wishing former funnyman Franken the best!

Here's a great clip of Al Franken on Hardball fighting lies and liars. He's a bright, funny man, but he's no pushover. Here, he eats spin doctors and Bush apologists for lunch.


Franken is still funny on Letterman in 2007:

Saturday, January 3, 2009


"The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a brilliant movie, a science fiction film that rises above it's humble, cheesy genre to the level of a Hollywood classic. We're talking the 1951 version, not the remake currently in theaters starring Keanu Reeves.


Again, we ask the question: "Was this remake necessary?"

What next? "The Godfather" with McCauley Culkin? "From Here to Eternity" with Ben Affleck? (Oh, they actually did that one.) How about "Psycho" with Vince Vaughn? (They did that, too?)

Oh, God, no!

Here's another terrible idea. Madonna wants to remake "Casablanca." I kid you not. So far, the response has been lukewarm. If she somehow succeeds, we will personally picket her home. More on her bad idea here.

"Klaatu barada nikto!" Gort from the 1951 classic "The Day The Earth Stood Still."

You want outer space? WAY outer space? Here's a true extra-terrestrial, and brother from another planet--Saturn, to be precise--jazz master and eccentric Sun Ra.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Let's face it, Americans are spoiled rotten. Most of us live in the Comfort Zone. We miss one peanut butter and jelly sandwich and we feel deprived. Someone swipes our cookie, and we spend the rest of our lives compensating with flatscreen TVs and expensive shoes. We're a bunch of rough tough cream puffs.

Check out this baby-tossing ritual from Solapur, India. These babies are flying. You might have to re-calibrate, and put your childhood into perspective. I'm all for cross-cultural tolerance and acceptance, but this ritual makes me feel a little ethnocentric. That's quite a drop!


Andy Warhol, Steven Spielberg, and Bianca Jagger sit on a bed and discuss TV and radio. Society idolizes the rich and famous to such a degree that one would think these people--who brought us pop art, Indiana Jones, and, well, Jade Jagger, respectively--would somehow be more interesting than the rest of us. Evidently not. At least not when they're sitting around in a hotel room. Oh, some of it is interesting, but if these were three unknowns saying the same things I bet you would be bored stiff.

Galileo, famous for inventing the telescope

As we strive and connive to attain our goals, to do good work, or to simply crack the code of success--let's remember the rich and famous put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. Or they have someone else put their pants on for them, but you know what I mean. They are not a separate species. We know this, yet for some reason we remain mystified. We're obsessed. Turn on the TV, and note how much programming is devoted to celebrity and fame. Some people have accomplished great things, but some are simply famous for being famous.

Donnie, famous for his chili

This mystification is reflected in the famous exchange between Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald: "The rich are not like us." Hemingway: "Yes, they have more money."

The myth prevails. The grass is always greener...things must be better elsewhere, right? It must be more clever, fascinating, fun, comfortable. I'm reminded of the scene in Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories," when Woody sits in a dirty train, with dull, depressed people. A train pulls up alongside full of people in evening dress, drinking champagne, and having a wonderful time. A beautiful woman blows him a kiss. Woody tries desperately to change trains, but it's too late.

It's a funny scene. The other world looks so good from a distance, and that women looks inviting, but for all we know she could be Paris Hilton.

Paris Hilton, famous for being famous

Thursday, January 1, 2009


"Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever."
~Mark Twain

Happy New Year!

In case you missed 2008, here is a recap: