Photopost: Lake Wicwas

Some photographs from our recent weekend at Craig‘s lodge by Lake Wicwas in New Hampshire.

Pinecone roasting on an open fire.
Pinecone roasting on an open fire.
The bear explores its grounds at the Squam Lakes Natural Sciences Cener.
The bear explores it's grounds at the Squam Lakes Natural Sciences Cener.
A glass of Craigs homebrew with blueberries by the lake
A glass of Craig's homebrew with blueberries by the lake
Trouble the water
Trouble the water
The Lake Wicwas Monsters eye view
The Lake Wicwas Monster's eye view

All these photos and more in my online Lake Wicwas gallery.

Beer Review: Harpoon Ale

Beer: Harpoon Ale
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: *** (7 of 10)

Comments: Susan picked up a mix-pack case of Harpoon Brewery beers so all I’ve been sampling a wide selection of beers from my favorite Boston brewery this week (sorry Sam Adams).   This is their flagship brew.  This beer has a good consistent caramel-amber coloring, a strong head, and good level of carbonation.  The scent was a bit musty, but the flavor is delicious.  It’s a nice balance of fruit, nuts, caramel, and malt with a yummy aftertaste.

Concert Review: Yo La Tengo

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a rock concert, especially on my own, but I couldn’t miss seeing Yo La Tengo.  So I took a Dad’s night out to the Wilbur Theatre on Sept. 16th where New Jersey’s finest band entertained a crowd of with a large number young hipsters and colleges students.  Nerd chic was in full effect as many in the audience wore checked shirts, argyle sweaters, and even neckties!  I just had to have faith that the roof of the Wilbur Theatre was structurally sound.  I didn’t feel out of place though because there were plenty of middle-aged music geeks like myself in the crowd as well.

Wilbur Theatre is a classic-style playhouse where all the seats on the orchestra level  have been removed and sectioned off by gates into different standing room only pens.  My ticket allowed me to go all the way up front and found a spot by the stage all the way to the left.  On my way in I was surprised to see three Japanese men all with extraordinarily long hair playing screaming blues rock.  They are Yura Yura Teikoku and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan would tell us letter that this was only their third American city after New York and Burlington.  There psychedelic music was pretty good although I did start to tire of the languid, dreamy guitar solos.  I  could see Kaplan and Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew watching from the wings and drummer Georgia Hubley actually came out to the audience to talk with people she knew.  I refrained from throwing myself down before here and shouting “I’m not worthy!”

Yo La Tengo is one of my favorite bands partly because they are so eclectic.  They are equally adept in folksy songs as they are in power pop and can range between ethereal pieces and noisy machine music.  Similarly, all members of the band can take lead vocals and play multiple instruments.  I guess this versatility can be a turn off as well.  After leading off with “From A Motel 6,” Yo La Tengo launched into a least 8 minutes of reverb, feedback and screeching guitars over a monotonously repeated drum & bass line.   Kaplan stepped into a land where only he, his guitar and amp existed.  It was almost as if Yo La Tengo wanted to test the devotion of the audience.  Later they’d win the crowd over with catchier numbers like “Sugarcube” but lose them again on the finale, an extended version of the Beach Boys “Little Honda” which broke down into another feedback/noise/screech fest.  I actually saw as many people heading for the doors as there were calling for an encore, which I’ve never seen happen at a concert.

But I get ahead of myself, and whatever other may think, I loved every minute of this show.  Highlights for me included seeing McNew – a burly man with a big mop of hair and a surprisingly sweet voice – singing “Stockholm Syndrome.”   Kaplan’s guitar went out of tune on the last verse and he commented that since Wilbur Theatre is usually a comedy club that people might think he was doing comic tuning.  He insisted that they do the last verse again.  Afterwards McNew suggested facetiously that they do it yet again causing much confusion to the roadie bringing new instruments on stage.

For a couple of songs, Yo La Tengo was joined by a string octet of local musicians who accompanied the band on newly composed arrangements by a friend of the band whose name I missed.  The song “Here to Fall” from Yo La Tengo’s new album Popular Songs sounded particularly good with the string accompaniment.  Two of the violinists rejoined the band for the noise part of “Little Honda” with one of them getting down by an amplifier to get distortion from the violin!  Even if it was not a crowd-pleaser, I thought that was worth the price of admission.  The other new song I recognized “Periodically Double or Triple” was a great funky organ piece that you can dance to.

I’ll have to confess that I didn’t recognize a number of songs played, presumably from their newest album which despite that fact that I ordered it in a special package with my tickets didn’t arrive until today and I’ve been unable to find a setlist on the internet.  Also from my perch by the stage my view of the Hubley’s drumming was blocked by a synthesizer and despite being next to an ear-shredding loudspeaker her vocals were inaudible.  Actually the mix on all the vocals was pretty bad. I’m glad she came forward to sing and play acoustic guitar on a couple of songs.  But these are minor quibbles for what was a fantastic show.  I’ve seen Yo La Tengo twice before (once when they were accompanying Jean Painleve’s nature films on their Sounds of Science tour) and thought this was the best of the bunch.  Not bad for a band that’s been around 25 years.

Related links:

  • Acidgalore – the majority of this post is griping about an MBTA shutdown on the night of the show but there is some commentary about the show in the final paragraphs.
  • – James Reed of the Boston Globe reviews the show and it’s obvious that he’s a fan.
  • On A Friday – photos from the show including many images of Kaplan going crazy with his guitar.
  • Clicky Music Blog – a photo album from the show.
  • bsearles on flickr – even more photos from the show.
  • NPR Music – a full concert by Yo La Tengo in Washington on September 17th.  Despite being just one day after the Boston show, the set list is almost completely different.  You’ve got to love a band that keeps it fresh.  I also love that NPR considers McNew the “new guy” even though he’s been with the band for 17 years.


Movie Roundup

I’m way behind on writing movie reviews which is kind of sad but I’ve also only seen a handful of movies in the past six months which is also kind of sad.

Amazing Grace (2006)

This film documents William Wilberforce and the movement in Britain to end the slave trade. It’s a lush, gorgeous Merchant Ivory-style, but gets most of the story across in a moving and interesting manner.

WALL-E (2008)

Another great film from Pixar about the endurance of a little trash robot and hope for the future.   Even after hearing all the hype and buzz about the film there were lots of surprises and the story went in directions I didn’t expect.  I appreciate that even when humans is reduced to blobs who can’t walk they still have their humanity.

Star Trek (2009)

I had reservations about this reboot that looked way too glam for my tastes but went to see it anyway at the Jordan’s Furniture IMAX theater with the buttkicker seats.  I could have lived without the backstory, especially young James Kirk anachronistically drives a sports car into the Grand Canyon of Iowa.  There are also way too many cutesy introductions where the audience is suppose to chuckle with recognition at seeing Bones or Scotty for the first time.  Apart from that though this is a great action-packed, intelligent and funny movie, the way Star Trek ought to be.  The opening scene where a father hears the cries of a newborn son he knows he’ll never see made me weep like the father.  Now that there past all the reestablishing characters, I foresee the potential of some excellent sequels with this cast.

You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (2008)

This may be the first gross-out film to find humor out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I couldn’t figure if I was more shocked by how far Adam Sandler & co. pushed the envelope or how much I was laughing at it.  I think Sandler may have the talent to make an all-time classic comedy if he can get past the sophomoric stuff.

Uncle Buck (1989)

In tribute to John Hughes I watched this film of his that I never saw before because I always thought it looked like it would be dumb.  My analysis from 20 years ago was not far off, but this movie is actually more than a screwball comedy and John Candy puts in some great acting in the more dramatic portions.  Unfortunately, the “funny” parts not only don’t make me laugh but they’re cruel and creepy.

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

This movie takes a verite approach to four days in the lives of a large extended family preparing for a wedding in Delhi.  Each family member is dealing with some heavy issues – and some deep secrets are revealed – and yet they are still able to share in the joy and love of the family and the wedding.

Trekkies (1997)

This film documents the lives of several fans of Star Trek who’ve gone particularly far in their devotion to the franchise.  While it’s easy to point and laugh the film makes you appreciate their passion and efforts.  Cast and crew from all the shows comment on their appreciation of their dedicated fanbase.

Juno (2007)

Ellen Page puts in a great performance as an ultrahip teenager trying to keep her cool through an unplanned pregnancy and adoption process. Allison Jamey and J.K. Simmons put in a hillarious performance as Juno’s parents.  Learning responsibility is the theme of the film but also shows that mistakes need not destroy one’s life.  The behavior of some of the adults in this film also show that responsibility is not a trait that always comes with age.

Four Years

Four years ago Susan & I were married.  Four years is the typical amount of time a student spends getting an undergraduate education.  So I figure we have completed our undergraduate marriage and now we’ve moved on to graduate-level marriage.

One nice thing about this day is that I can visit my sad, out-of-date and neglected webpage and realize that there is one good part and that is my online wedding photo album.

A couple of favorites:

Happy anniversary Susan.  Let’s go for a PhD!


100 Favorite Albums of All-Time Wrap-Up

So I’ve completed my project of ranking my 100 Favorite Albums of All-Time and feeling a bit bittersweet.  On one hand it was nice to list, recognize, and recommend the music of many great artists.  On the other hand I’m feeling that I forgot to include some great albums and overrated some others.  To assauge this feeling, I’ve compiled a list of another 100 albums all deserving of an honorable mention.  Those marked with an asterisk were considered for the Top 100 and some of them should probably be there. 

Here’s my honorable mention list in chronological order:

Piano Reflections – Duke Ellington (1953)
Ella & Louis – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1956)
Songs To Grow On For Mother And Child – Woody Guthrie (1956)
Ella & Louis Again – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1957)
Blue Train – John Coltrane (1957)
Mingus Ah Um – Charles Mingus (1959)
Drums of Passion – Babatunde Olatunji (1960)
* A Spontaneous Performance Recording – The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem (1961)
Please Please Me – The Beatles (1963)
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane (1964)
* Beatles for Sale – The Beatles (1964)
Otis Blue – Otis Redding (1966)
Fresh Cream – Cream (1966)
* Aftermath – The Rolling Stones (1966)
Between the Buttons – The Rolling Stones (1967)
At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash (1968)
Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel (1968)
* Abbey Road – The Beatles (1969)
Moondance – Van Morrison (1970)
Workingman’s Dead – Grateful Dead (1970)
Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (1970)
Let It Be – The Beatles (1970)
* Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – Derek and the Dominos (1970)
John Barleycorn Must Die – Traffic (1970)
I Am The Blues – Willie Dixon (1970)
American Beauty – Grateful Dead (1970)
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (1971)
* Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones (1971)
Free to Be … You and Me (1972)
Two Steps From the Blues – Bobby “Blue” Bland (1973)
461 Ocean Boulevard – Eric Clapton (1974)
* Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin (1975)
A Dwelling Place – The St. Louis Jesuits (1976)
The Stranger – Billy Joel (1977)
The Clash (1977)
This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello (1978)
The Christmas Revels (1978)
The Specials (1980)
Glass Houses – Billy Joel (1980)
Camelot: 1982 Original London Cast (1982)
Under the Big Black Sun – X (1982)
War – U2 (1983)
Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads (1983)
Murmur – R.E.M. (1983)
* Raising Hell – RUN-DMC (1986)
Diesel And Dust – Midnight Oil (1988)
Vivid – Living Colour (1989)
* Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World – Johnny Clegg & Savuka (1989)
Blue Sky Mining – Midnight Oil (1989)
13 Songs – Fugazi (1990)
* Missa Luba: An African Mass – Muungano National Choir, Kenya (1990)
The Weedkiller’s Daughter – John & Mary (1991)
Achtung Baby – U2 (1991)
The Source – Ali Farka Toure (1992)
* Songs From The Rain – Hothouse Flowers (1992)
Joshua Judges Ruth – Lyle Lovett (1992)
* May I Sing With Me – Yo La Tengo (1992)
Kerosene Hat – Cracker (1993)
* Remember Two Things – Dave Matthews Band (1993)
* Actually Not – Eddie from Ohio (1993)
Stain – Living Colour (1993)
* Debut – Bjork (1993)
Dummy – Portishead (1994)
* Weezer (1994)
Wood – Moxy Fruvous (1995)
Beautiful Freak – The Eels (1996)
When I Was Born For The 7th Time – Cornershop (1997)
* Gotta Get Over Greta – The Nields (1997)
Utopia Parkway – Fountains of Wayne (1999)
Play – Moby (1999)
Run Lola Run Soundtrack (1999)
* Profound Sounds – Josh Wink (1999)
Since I Left You – The Avalanches (2000)
* Noplace Like Nowhere – Jim’s Big Ego (2000)
Tarbox Ramblers (2000)
* Five Stories – Kris Delmhorst (2001)
What Matters – Maybe Baby (2002)
* Airdrawndagger – Sasha (2002)
* Redbird (2003)
* Welcome Interstate Managers – Fountains of Wayne (2003)
* Hail To The Thief – Radiohead (2003)
Chutes Too Narrow – The Shins (2003)
Sea Music – Dan Zanes (2003)
Kitchen Radio – Peter Mulvey (2004)
* Moon And Antarctica – Modest Mouse (2004)
Impulsive! – Revolutionary Jazz Reworked (2005)
You Could Have It So Much Better – Franz Ferdinand (2005)
* Guero – Beck (2005)
* Rabbit Fur Coat – Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins (2005)
Twin Cinema – The New Pornographers (2005)
Naturally – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (2005)
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood – Neko Case (2006)
Bottoms of Barrels – Tilly & The Wall (2006)
* I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass – Yo La Tengo (2006)
Ys. – Joanna Newsom
Back to Black – Amy Winehouse (2007)
Challengers – The New Pornographers (2007)
100 Days, 100 Nights – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (2007)
Fleet Foxes (2008)
Volume One – She & Him (2008)

For the completionists among you, here is the complete Top 100 list with links to the artist or record company websites where possible.

100. Dim The Lights, Chill the Ham by  Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (1991)
99. Respond: A Compilation By Boston Women To Benefit Respond, Inc (1999)
98. Big Noise by Eddie From Ohio (1997)
97. Live in New York City by Black 47 (1999)
96. Whip Smart by Liz Phair (1994)
95. Emergency & I by The Dismemberment Plan (1999)
94. Mutations by Beck (1998)
93. Crossroads: Southern Routes (1996)
92. Don’t Get Smart by Jim’s Big Ego (1998)
91. Voyage by Christy Moore (1989)
90. An Droichead Beag — Mighty Session (1998)
89. Reverse The Curse by Johnny Most (2004)
88. Folk ‘N Hell    (1996)
87. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips (2002)
86. Blue Horse by The Be Good Tanyas (2001)
85. Dance Craze – The Best of British Ska Live (1981)
84. Shaken By A Low Sound by Crooked Still (2006)
83. Post by Björk (1995 )
82. Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones (1969)
81. Franks Wild Years by Tom Waits (1987)
80. Other Voices, Other Rooms by Nanci Griffith (1993)
79. Profound Sounds by Josh Wink (1999)
78. Odelay by Beck (1996)
77. Songs from the Big Chair by Tears For Fears (1985)
76. Anthology of American Folk Music (1952)
75. The Divine Comedy by Milla (1994)
74. The Resophonics by The Resophonics (2001)
73. The Rhythm of the Saints by  Paul Simon (1990)
72. Surfer Rosa by Pixies (1988)
71. Violent Femmes by Violent Femmes (1982)
70. Hot by Squirrel Nut Zippers (1996)
69. Fancy Ultra Fresh by the Freezepop (2004)
68. Christmas Day in the Morning by Revels (1990)
67. ONoffON by Mission of Burma (2004)
66. Mountain Radio by The Benders (2003)
65. Wattstax (1972)
64. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend (2008)
63. The Carl Stalling Project (1990)
62. The Doors by The Doors (1967)
61. Molinos by The Paperboys (1998)
60. The Remix Album…Diamonds Are Forever by Shirley Bassey (2000)
59. Songs In The Attic by  Billy Joel (1981)
58. Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night by Stereolab (1999)
57. Truth and Soul by Fishbone (1988)
56. Homegenic by Björk (1997)
55. The Beatles [White Album] by The Beatles (1968)
54. Portable EFO Show by  Eddie From Ohio (1998)
53. Last Splash by  The Breeders (1993)
52. Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós (1999)
51. Crosby, Stills, & Nash by Crosby, Stills, & Nash (1969)
50. The Trinity Session by The Cowboy Junkies (1988)
49. Vs. by  Mission of Burma (1982)
48. Trainspotting Motion Picture Soundtrack (1996)
47. Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab (1996)
46. Songs For a Hurricane by Kris Delmhorst (2003)
45. Blind Faith (1969)
44. And Then Nothing Turned Itself Out by Yo La Tengo (2000)
43. OOOH! (Out of Our Heads) by The Mekons (2002)
42. Let’s Get Out of this Country by Camera Obscura (2006)
41. Beggar’s Banquet by  The Rolling Stones (1968)
40. Rubber Soul by The Beatles (1966)
39. Escondida by Jolie Holland (2004)
38. Live Noise by Moxy Fruvous (1998)
37. The Roches by The Roches (1979)
36. When I Go by  Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer (1998)
35. 3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul (1989)
34. Theorems and Compositions of the Last Action Rocker by Hum Machine (2003)
33. Viva by The Velveteens (1998)
32. Live at Tir na nÓg by  Vinal Avenue String Band (1999)
31. Channel 1 – A Compilation Of Output Recordings (2000)
30. Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg & Wilco (1998)
29. This Are Two Tone (1983)
28. Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction (1988)
27. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy (1988)
26. Lifes Rich Pageant by R.E.M. (1986)
25. Shamrock Shake by Echolalia (1997)
24. Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans (2003)
23. OK Computer by Radiohead (1997)
22. Distillation by Erin McKeown (2000)
21. The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses (1989)
20. Graceland by Paul Simon (1986)
19. Singalong by Pete Seeger (1980)
18. London Calling by The Clash (1979)
17. I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One by Yo La Tengo (1997)
16. So by Peter Gabriel (1986)
15. Revolver by The Beatles (1966)
14. Intersections by DJ Maus (2000)
13. Ten Thousand Mornings by Peter Mulvey (2002)
12. Lincoln by They Might Be Giants (1988)
11. Citizens Band by The Operators (2002)
10. Hush by Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin (1992)
9. Belafonte at Carnegie Hall by Harry Belafonte (1959)
8. Doolittle by Pixies (1989)
7. If I Should Fall From the Grace of God by The Pogues (1988)
6. Flood by They Might Be Giants (1990)
5. Sacrebleu by Dimitri From Paris (1996)
4. BullsEye by The Kevin Hanson Trio (2001)
3. Cry Cry Cry by Cry Cry Cry (1998)
2. Rum, Sodomy and The Lash by  The Pogues (1985)
1.  Tanglewood Tree by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer

For my commentary on these albums, please visit the original posts in convenient increments of 10 albums each.

Book Review: The Trial of Robert Mugabe by Chielo Zona Eze

Author: Chielo Zona Eze
Title: The Trial of Robert Mugabe
Publication Info: Okri Books Inc (2009)
ISBN: 0615278116


Nigerian author Chielo Zona Eze pulls no punches in this fictional account of the brutal Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.  Set in heaven, Mugabe is put before a jury of pan-African luminaries and victims of his oppression and terror come forth to tell his tales.  There stories vary from Zimbabweans forced to find work in South Africa where they are killed for being outsiders, women raped, tortured and killed in prison camps, and even a soldier who dies of AIDS from participating in these rapes and torture.  The testimonies are graphic and yet there are also acknowledgments of gratitude for Mugabe himself suffering imprisonment under the British and eventually liberating Zimbabwe from colonial rule.  The horror is all the greater that Mugabe recreates the terror he lived through on his subjects.

This book is a definite tribute to human rights and those who persevere in protecting them.  Authors Yvonne Vera and Dambudzo Marechera are specifically singled out but there are also more subtle allusions to Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  This novel is not going to cheer you up but it offers important insight into the state of the world.

Favorite Passages:

Guku is born of the spirit of ressentiment, in which case a person develops a gukunized personality.  The logic of a gukunized personality runs thus:  I am a victim, therefore I can’t be blamed for any wrong, therefore I am right.  A gukunized mindset finds nothing wrong in killing or harming other people because he already justifies this on the grounds of his having been harmed earlier. – p. 33.

Should I tell you that retribution, sir, is antithetical to civilization; that it has no place in civil society?  Should I tell you, sir, that the greatness of a leader is no measure on the degree of his anger toward other people, it is not based on what he hated and destroyed, but on what he has built?  It is based on how fare he has enhanced the lives of his people. – p. 150

Recommended books: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga,  Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Snakepit by Moses Isegawa, The Stone Virgins by Yvonne Vera, and House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera.