Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Here are links to some scary songs I've been listening to lately.
Jens Lekman - Your Beat Kicks Back Like Death
Jens Lekman - Black Cab [Buy mp3!!!]
Gothic Archies - Scream And Run Away
You Say Party! We Say Die! - Monster [Buy mp3!!!]
The Trucks - Zombie
Zombie gathering - to the left
by revjim5000
Roky Erickson - I Walked With A Zombie
Neko Case - Things That Scare Me [Buy mp3!!!]
Neko Case - Dirty Knife [Buy mp3!!!]
Tom Waits - Dead and Lovely
Blue Oyster Cult - Don't Fear The Reaper [Cover][Cover][Cover][Buy mp3!!!]
Final Fantasy - The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead [Buy mp3!!!]
Man Man - Van Helsing Boombox [Buy mp3!!!]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Polar Fleece Hat Killer

I cringed when I saw the description of my favorite podcast Jordan, Jesse Go! this week. Discussing "what changes they could make to" Portland? "Changes"? To Portland??? I was not worried about our shallow Portland peccadilloes being found out quite as much as them missing terribly in trying to find something to dislike about our fine city. Oh no, I thought, they're going to say there are too many bikes.

Nope. They hit Portland with valid critiques that indeed, if addressed, could make Portland at least a better-dressed city.

Prolonged adolescence is indeed a thing that happens here. I live in a gorgeous giant house in the heart of the city. With housemates. At 32. I visited my (younger) sister with four kids recently and I could not handle all the self-sacrifice. In Portland, the View-Master is mine. All mine (well okay, and Vladmaster's). There will be no poking out each picture in the reel and then tearing it in half.Eat cereal for breakfast! (on a doughnut)hummanna
You must be mentally This Tall in Portland. But not much more.

Much as I am a little too indulgent to my inner child, I do not dress in sports clothes to go to a restaurant, like the "slovenly" Portlanders noted by Jesse. In their defense, a lot of us engage in outdoor sports (riding bikes) a lot of the time. Also in their defense, when I looked for photos of egregious restaurant sportswear, some bloggers in indie darling Austin, Texas were by far the worst. But I'd still love it if Jordan, Jesse acquired and sent a Polar Fleece Hat Murderer to Portland. I'd only lose one dear old college friend. It's worth it.

The famous doughnut place is here, not in Seattle. So maybe next time on the bacon maple bar. For now, you'll just have to go to one of the eight Ethiopian restaurants in just the Fairfax neighborhood of L.A. to drown your culinary sorrows.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Planning trips online: Yahoo! Travel FTW

Last year Continental over-booked the flight my sister and I were taking to Cancun. They offered $300 and a first-class seat to anyone who'd wait for the next flight. We bargained for $400 (and first class) and took the deal. So now I get to take two really fun trips this December, to Mexico City and surrounding areas, and to Puerto Rico.Balneario Flamenco
by azure elixir.
My sister and I spent the better part of 48 sleepless hours in Houston Bush (retch) International Airport. We earned $800 of travel.

When I travel, I'm a huge fan of itineraries. I can stray from the plan without any foot-stomping or hair-pulling, but I like to think carefully about my options ahead of time. I don't want to miss anything. My nightmare scenario would be something like going to Peru, getting back, and being dumbfounded when someone asks, "So... what'd you think of Machu Picchu?" (Actually, my nightmare scenario is my baby sister getting her leg eaten by a shark, but the location of Puerto Rican hospitals is not very blog-worthy, is it?)

For trip planning, Lonely Planet's Facebook app had long intrigued me, so right after I booked the trip to Puerto Rico, I loaded the Lonely Planet app up with Puerto Rican destinations, on the assumption that I'd just rearrange it all into a reasonable schedule later. Not so. It rearranges, all right -- at its own leisure and using its own impenetrable logic. For all I know, it's still deciding I should surf in Rincon twenty minutes after I hit the bioluminescent bay in Vieques -- no wait! -- make that an hour after El Morro -- no wait...

In short, Lonely Planet's trip planner isn't good enough (yet?). I decided to see how it compares to some other online trip-planning programs. In addition to planning Puerto Rico, I also drive through prime Northwest wine country several times a year, so I checked how the programs fared in planning a wine tasting tour. As when I tested online calendars and Eventful destroyed the competition the instant I tried it, Yahoo! Travel has taken the trip planning prize with no real competitors.

Yahoo! Travel Trip Planner
Easily re-arranged? Yes!!!
Dates? Yes
Friends can edit? Yes
Share on Facebook? No
Makes KML file? No
Bloggable? No
Embeddable? No
How many hotels found in Puerto Rico? 88 in San Juan alone
Finds wineries? No
Can add destinations that aren't there? Yes
Directions between points? Yes
Open to development? Maybe, through Pipes
Notes: If I could share it on Facebook and make a KML, it'd be perfect. And I suspect that once I learn Yahoo! Pipes, I may be able to do those things.

Google My Maps
Easily re-arranged? No
Dates? No
Share on Facebook? No
Makes KML file (for Google Earth)? Yes
Bloggable? No
Embeddable: Yes:

View Larger Map
How many hotels found in Puerto Rico? 411
Finds wineries? Yes
Can add destinations that aren't there? Yes
Directions between points? Yes
Open to development? No
Notes: Google Maps was good for putting all my destinations on one map, but there's no temporal aspect, so it isn't really a trip planner so much as a spatial list of everything ever. You can plan your route pretty neatly with the draggable driving directions, but it's just not the same as an itinerary. Also, integrating My Maps and Driving Directions sure would be nice. As it is, my driving directions have no names on any of the destinations.

Easily re-arranged? Yes
Dates? Yes
Share on Facebook? No
Makes KML file? No
Easily add destinations it doesn't have? No
Bloggable? No
How many hotels found in Puerto Rico? 46
Finds wineries? No
Can add destinations that aren't there? Supposedly
Notes: Looked really promising, but gave me a whole string of error messages when I moused over my departure date at one point. And then I tried to add a really basic attraction in Puerto Rico (El Morro), and it just didn't take.

Journey Miles
Easily re-arranged? No
Dates? Yes
Share on Facebook? Yes
Makes KML file? No
Bloggable? No
How many hotels found in Puerto Rico? 0
Finds wineries? No
Open to development? No
Notes: You have to build the whole trip at once. Better not make a mistake!

Lonely Planet
Easily re-arranged? No
Dates? Yes, but they change at random
Friends can edit? No
Share on Facebook? Yes
Makes KML file? No
Bloggable? No
Embeddable? Yes
How many hotels found in Puerto Rico? 0
Finds wineries? No
Open to development? Yes
Notes: Spent two days dragging, dropping and correcting dates after Lonely Planet rearranged my trips with no discernible rhyme or reason before this blog post was born of frustration.

Trip Advisor Cities I've Visited
Makes KML file? No
Share on Facebook? Yes
How many hotels found in San Juan, Puerto Rico? 0
Directions between points? No
Open to development? No
Notes: Not for trip planning; just for bragging.

Where I've Been
Makes KML file? No
Easily rearranged? No
Dates? No
Share on Facebook? Yes
Bloggable? No
How many hotels found in San Juan, Puerto Rico? 0
Directions between points? No
Open to development? No
Notes: Not for trip planning, and not as specific as Cities I've Visited.

Makes KML file? No
Easily rearranged? No
Dates? Yes
Friends can edit?
Share on Facebook? Yes
Bloggable? No
How many hotels found in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
Directions between points? No
Open to development? No
Notes: Destinations don't resolve beyond city level.

TripWiser Trip Match
Friends can edit? Yes
Share on Facebook? Yes
How many hotels found in Puerto Rico? 0
Notes: Puerto Rico is not an option.

How many hotels found in Puerto Rico? 0
Notes: Puerto Rico is not an option.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Aesop Rock at Wonder Ballroom 10/25

Aesop Rock
Aesop Rock,
originally uploaded by Alex Rando.
Aesop Rock sounds sinister. I think his voice reminds me of Dr. Dre, but do I want to download "Bitches Ain't Shit" to check? I sure don't. I know Aesop Rock reminds me of the mix-tape gem "Sky is Falling" by Blackalicious, who I otherwise don't like as much as my liberally-educated indie-loving demographic should indicate. I enjoy most of Aesop Rock's produced songs, and I'd like to be super-excited about his show next week at the Wonder Ballroom. But I listened to some crappy crowd-screamy recordings of his live stuff, and the music was not interesting enough to make me endure the screamers. The mashup (shudder) "We Share Our Mother's Jumper Cables" is illustrative. Normally I loathe mashups, but this one's great. Aesop Rock's voice is fantastic, and pairing it with better music shows how much the boring, flat beats in some of his own songs weigh him down. The music is still great, but the potential is even greater.

Aesop Rock - We Share Our Mother's Jumper Cables
Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass [YouTube][Buy mp3!!!]
Aesop Rock - Basic Cable [Buy mp3!!!]
Aesop Rock - Coffee (feat. John Darnielle) [Buy mp3!!!]
Prefuse 73 - Black List (feat. MF Doom and Aesop Rock)
Aesop Rock - No City
Evil Nine - Crooked (feat. Aesop Rock) [YouTube]

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Pipettes at Wonder Ballroom 10/31

The Pipettes
Don a polka-dot dress and practice some fifties dance moves -- The Pipettes will play at Portland's Wonder Ballroom on Halloween.

The Pipettes - Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me [YouTube][Live][Live][Buy]
The Pipettes - I Love You [Live][Live][Buy]
The Pipettes - I Think We're Alone Now
The Pipettes - Dirty Mind [Live][Buy]
The Pipettes - Because It's Not Love (But It's Still A Feeling) [Live][Live][Buy]
The Pipettes - Why Did You Stay? [Live][Buy]
The Pipettes - In The Bleak Midwinter
The Pipettes - ABC [Live][YouTube][Buy]
The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes [Live][Buy]
The Pipettes - Tell Me What You Want [Live][Live][Buy]
The Pipettes - Just Be Yourself, Baby
The Pipettes - Pull Shapes [YouTube][Live][Buy]

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Great cover songs

Surpass the originals.
John Cale Live 2006 keyboardRe-VerbJohn Cale - Hallelujah [Buy Album]
Leonard Cohen's original sounds overwrought. This cover does not. I can't pinpoint the difference.

DSC_0095caloombaCowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane [Live][Buy Album]
While there are some Velvet Underground songs I love as they are, a couple songs are meh until people who value tuneful singing make them amazing.

cat powerelchicodelalecheCat Power - I Found A Reason [Buy mp3!!!]
I put this on the jukebox in a trendy bar downtown on a date several years ago. A, mmm, socially-unrestricted homeless guy had wandered into the bar, and Cat Power's mellow style made him wander from table to table, ranting insistently that the music be changed.
My party-all-the-time skateboarder date tended to agree with the, mmm, less-than-socially-graceful homeless man, I think. Ahh well.

José GonzálezdongraftJose Gonzales - Heartbeats [Buy Album]
Sorry no accents on the name. Since I've started blogging about music, bands with weird accents and punctuation marks are a bete noir (sic(k)). I have no idea how to spell -- let alone type -- oomlaut. If you insist on having one in your band name, I can't find you.

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie- Sasquatch Music Festival, The Gorge, WAspacehinduDeath Cab For Cutie - All Is Full Of Love
This is blasphemy, but I'm only mildly pleased by Bjork (and again with the oomlauts!), so when I heard her sing "All is Full of Love" at Sasquatch, I thought she was covering Death Cab. Not vice versa.
Bjork's performance was still strong, of course. "Strong," like "talented", being compliments I pay when I know intellectually there's merit, but I'm still not very excited about it.

Finally, a proper panorama with everyone in itMr UshFountains of Wayne - ...Baby One More Time [Buy mp3!!!]
I've been spending time in the part of the country where we're all really supposed to care a lot about who has custody of what celebrity's kids, and I'm genuinely a little physically sick of it.
So I love hearing this song's very low-key, take-it-or-leave-it mockery of a gal who ruled the fashion and music industries with a trashy, corporate fist for a few years of my young adult life that I don't get back.

Cobainmedium as museNirvana - Plateau [YouTube][Buy mp3!!!]

IMG_1694.JPGfurbyx4Rosie Thomas - The One I Love
If the way Republican politicians love their neighbors, do unto others, and turn the other cheeks has left you with some unfortunate anti-Christian sentiment and you want to hear Sufjan Stevens without that baggage, don't read the text of the Rosie Thomas link.

Rock Plaza Central (7/20/07) - South Street Seaport, NYCJalapeñoRock Plaza Central - Sexyback
My feelings on Justin Timberlake aren't that different from my feelings on Britney Spears. I wish they would run away together. Far away.

As awesome as the originals.
Le Tigre - I'm So Excited [Buy mp3!!!]

Nick Cave - Black Betty [Buy mp3!!!]

Mercury Rev - I Only Have Eyes For You

Iron & Wine - Such Great Heights [Buy Album]

Vanessa Paradis - Waiting For The Man

Elliott Smith Jealous Guy
Singing this indicator-of-tumult beautifully is a recipe for a too-early end. Singing too beautifully probably won't ever be a problem for me, but I hope my favorite singers stay far, far away from "Jealous Guy".

Nouvelle Vague - Guns of Brixton

Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister - Stand By Your Man

Nirvana - Molly's Lips

Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night [YouTube]

Cake Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

Neko Case - Wayfaring Stranger

Frente - Bizarre Love Triangle [YouTube]

Blitzen Trapper - Crazy On You

The Bees - A Minha Menina

The Bosshoss - Hey Ya

Viva Voce - Eye In The Sky

Albert Kuvezin & Yat-Kha - Love Will Tear Us Apart

Dr. Dog - Heart It Races

Joan Jett - Let's Do It

Not quite as good as the amazing originals, but still five stars out of five.
Britt Daniel - Bring It On Home To Me

Last Town Chorus - Modern Love

Cake - I Will Survive

Jonathan Coulton - Baby Got Back [YouTube]

Greg Laswell - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Nada Surf - Where Is My Mind

Death Cab For Cutie - Little Boxes

Friday, October 5, 2007

Yelp and GarageBand should fail

I've been amazed, in Web 2.0, that some sites assume their users will provide extremely top-notch reviews on their obscure little sites for free. I enjoy most Web 2.0 sites anyway, as they allow me to rate and track and list things and ohhh, do I love that. But a couple of sites have such a horrible give:take ratio that it bears mentioning. The absolute worst I've found is GarageBand, which provides some of the music-you've-never-heard-of to iLike. One day when I had extra free time, I signed up with GarageBand to see if I could discover some good new music. I couldn't. I listened to clips of 20 songs (you have almost no control over what songs you hear), and nearly all of them were truly awful. Approximately two were a solid 4 stars out of 5, which is still not enough stars to make me a fan of something new.

GarageBand then wanted me to not only write them a quality review (with footnotes and citations) of all twenty of these mediocre songs, but it also kept reminding me that the most likely audience for my review would be the fledgling artists themselves. For me, there's no contest -- between "flattering" and "soul-destroyingly honest", flattering wins. I recall with horror comparing some terrible thing or other to Elliott Smith. I'm going to hell for sure. After you've struggled for (nice) words, some mysterious exalted category of music insiders reads and rates your reviews. So for the honor of giving GarageBand free content, you get picked apart by sad music snobs who have nothing better to do than shit on free Internet reviews. I bet you're Googling furiously to find out more about this wonderful GarageBand service!

Only slightly less annoying than GarageBand is Citysearch-wannabe Yelp. Yelp also expects extremely high-quality free content, such that after I spent most of a night giving star ratings to dozens of my favorite places in Portland, Yelp sent me a scolding email to inform me they'd deleted all my ratings (without warning!) because I hadn't written text reviews. I was stunned, and I immediately closed my account.

Sure, there are some good, free reviews on Yelp and GarageBand. But most quality writing about culture is still done for money or personal blogs. It's like on Flickr. I have some okay pictures there. I pointed my camera at something interesting to me, and I pushed the button. You can have my pictures for free, but some of them aren't very good. Photographers who really know what they're doing can, do, and should charge for their skills. Analogously, on review sites, if you want a free opinion, it's going to be the time-investment equivalent of pointing and shooting: a star rating. If I'm writing complete sentences involving cross-references and use of the "Shift" key, Yelp and GarageBand, I shall quote "Goodfellas" via Jay Z: Fuck you. Pay me.

Update: Restaurants are priming Yelpers with free food and drink. Weird.

Why I hate Republicans

"If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democratic president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, a personal fantasy of mine." -- Republican spokesmodel Ann Coulter

"Hate" is not a word I toss around lightly. But I fucking hate Republicans. I don't hate you personally, individual Republican. You're just a little stupid or selfish or both. I can forgive you personally, just like your main man Jesus said I should. But I hate the "Grand" Old Party and what it has done to our country since Bill Clinton got that extremely ill-advised blow job and Republicans used their, ahem, superior moral values to take over our country.

Let's take it back, ladies and gentlemen. Please.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Portland Essentials

I'm dragging hopefully lots of wedding guests to Portland next summer. Here's the first of several planned why-I-love-Portland lists, suitable for Portland visitors then and now.
1. Powell's Books
2. Rose Garden [My thoughts...]
3. Laurelhurst Theater
4. Bridgeport Brewing Company
5. Stumptown Coffee
6. Voodoo Doughnut