I write like
Cory Doctorow

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Favorites/decade - Just because they're fun

Gay man cannot live by heavy metal alone. So, here are some of favorite pop tunes which I cannot imagine anyone finding offensive :-)

"Everything You Want" by Vertical Horizon. Yes, I remember that song. Why haven't the oldies stations picked up on this one yet? Maybe in a few years.

"Extraordinary Machine" by Fiona Apple. She'll make the most of it - she's an . . well, Ms. Apple's talent for wordy, poetic lyrics and a lighthearted melody and arrangement make this a fun ditty. And, btw, the song doesn't start in the above link 'til about 1:25 in, but it's worth the wait.

"Speed of Sound" by Coldplay. Normally, I find the band itself pretentious and annoying. There's just something hypnotic and toe-tapping about the "wall of sound" style of this song. Do any other Coldplay fans like this song? Maybe that's why I do.

"Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad" by Matt Dusk. The song was written by Bono & The Edge of U2, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell this from this traditional pop arrangement and smoky Sinatra-style singing. While Michael Buble may enjoy better success, Matt Dusk's music is well worth seeking out and he's taken more chances in his albums that most traditional pop singers.

"Makes Me Wonder" by Maroon 5. Yes, Adam Levine is fine looking. The video has him dressed up really nice. In an "airport". Any chance I could fly out of that airport with Adam on the plane -- you know, to conquer my fear of flying one and for all -- strictly a psychological thing. Anyway, with a breezy, hook-laden guitar riff throughout the song. Really makes me wonder what Maroon 5 is up to now. Or, what Adam is up to now . .

"Fidelity" by Regina Spektor. This one of two of her tunes I really like. In this song, her nearly trademark soprano yodel (?) pops up with the chorus and makes the song hard to forget. Take those hiccups out, and it's still a nifty little pop song which leads nicely to a great album she put out this year (more on that in a future post)

"When Did Your Heart Go Missing" by Rooney. Of the non-top-of-the-charts songs I adored this decade, I cannot for the life of me figure out why this song wasn't a huge hit in the summer of '07. Maybe a fan figure it out?

4 police officers shot dead at Wash. coffeehouse

Anytime there is a story involving violence this extreme, it has to be viewed as an opportunity to ask ourselves what our society has done to lead someone to do what was done earlier today and could we have halted this before it even started.

Then again, perhaps the way these sorts of stories are being told is part of the problem. Do we tell these stories every time they happen no matter where they occur or are the media trying to paint a big picture of events in our world in the interest of charging higher ad rates? I'm no media expert; the media and advertisers will have to ask themselves that question.

Here's the challenge: what can I do to affect change in my world so this sort of thing doesn't happen where I live? It's really a question only I should ask myself. Time will tell if the right people ask themselves that question at the right time.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Favorites/decade - Boys (and girls) and their Toys

Technology is a pretty good thing. While I'm just as annoyed with "auto-tuned" vocals in recent years as most long-time music fans are, in the right hands, musicians with computers can make some amazing music.

Six songs from the past ten years come to mind as tops in the "playing in the studio with the PC" category:

"Til the day that I die" by Garbage. It's far too long in between albums for my taste, but I love the DJ cuts with guitar riff samples that roll all over this tune

"Only" by Nine Inch Nails. Very cool music video; however, it's Trent Reznor's restraint with technology that makes this one my pick for the best NIN tune of this decade.

"Dawn of the Dead" by Does It Offend You, Yeah?. This band's name cannot stay in my head, but the electronic siren beats that pulse throughout and the steel drum sampling make the song a delicious piece of ear candy

"Author" by Shimmerplanet. (once you click the link, scroll to the bottom of my post for a link to the song itself.

"Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani. Boom-chik-boom. Chik. Ba-boom-boom-chik-boom. For nearly four minutes. As many love this song as detest it. When it came out in March 2005, I was one of those who couldn't stop playing this song, stomping my feet, clapping my hands and thumping the dashboard. Music fans need the occasional sinful, fat-rich, high fructose corn syrup piece of pop and this was one of the best of the decade.

I heard this last song for this category for the first time in the opening few minutes of an episode of "NUMB3RS" from last season entitled "Disturbed". It was one of those cases of love at first sight. I'm not ashamed to admit that several of my picks in the coming posts were first brought to my attention by watching the song being performed on TV or featured somewhere in episodic TV. It was a great episode and, like many a music fan, I scoured the net looking for the name of this track and finally found it. The song was released five years earlier to little fanfare by a duo called "I Monster". Full of creepy music-box samples, echoes and "auto-tuned" vocals which actually worked for this song

My favorite songs of the Decade - Robbie Williams

I'm sure there'll be a ton of bloggers offering their "best of" lists in all sorts of topics as 2009 draws to a close (there's only 36 days left!). Some may go so far as to post a "best of the decade" list and have the good sense to keep their list to ten of something (newsmakers, bible verses, potato recipes, etc.).

From the guy who wrote 22 posts about Metallica, would you expect me to just post a list of ten songs then go on to something political, religious or otherwise daffy? C'mon!

I did narrow down my list to 63 songs over the span of the last 10 years. I've got each and everyone in my MP3 player, so my list is free of a professional critic's "who-the-heck-is-that" picks.

At least, in my own mind.

If you lived in Britain or most anywhere else in Europe, you'd be talking about Robbie Williams like folks here talk about American Idol winners. I've never figured out why he's not become a bigger star here in the U.S. Maybe a quick listen to my three favorite songs of his from this decade will change a few minds:

"Feel" - a nice, breezy, piano and slide guitar pop ditty. The first verse got me hooked.
"Difficult for Weirdos" - a Pet Shop Boys-inspired cut from his newest album. It really captures what his appeal to the gay community has been all of these years.
"Tripping" - the first song of his I ever heard. Pop music with steel drums and soaring falsetto. I've been hooked ever since.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Waiting for a bus

I had an interesting start to an otherwise routine Monday.

Metro in Los Angeles had a portion of their light rail service closed all along Washington Blvd. for the weekend. The closure was due to end last evening. As what sometimes with any construction, it went a bit past schedule.

The light rail I ride stopped at the Washington Blvd. stop, everyone disembarked and slowly started to queue for Metro buses which arrived every few minutes to pick up commuters from across the street from the stop, then shuttled through four remaining stops in the route.

I could use this forum to grouse about the construction delays, the bumpy bus ride, the 30 minute wait on my still recuperating legs (never mind the rest of the walk and ride to work after the bus trip with stiff joints and sore thigh muscles).


I'll write about the mass of humanity shuffling along while others skipped ahead of the queue by skipping into the street only to be abruptly placed back into line by one of the many Sheriff's Deputies keeping the foot and motor traffic running.
I met two teachers while waiting for the bus: one an ESL teacher of adults and the other a literature teacher of high school juniors. We and others around us kept reminding each other that it could be colder outside, it could still be prior to sunrise, it could have been raining.

A large black bird on top of a telephone pole squawking, ruffling its back feathers was causing the crowd around the pole scattering in different directions and the bird was having its . . uh . . morning constitutional.

Each comment, each turn around to view the crowd in front of us and the never-ending mass of commuters from more arriving trains, every wisecrack and passing catering truck with cruel promises of hot coffee on a cold fall morning, elicited laughs, giggles, snorts (from me - freaking deviated septum!) and a far more relaxed atmosphere than it could have been.

So, I got to work 45 minutes late today. I took some comfort that a few thousand others were in the same figurative boat as I was and was grateful to God for all the ways a potential disaster was turned into a chance to interact with fellow commuters and find the basic goodness in most everyone.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 World AIDS Day 2009 in Whittier California

My apologies for the long break in between postings. With the ebbing and flowing of politics in Washington D.C over health insurance reform and everyone with an educated opinion (and some without) guessing how the Bill will look and whether or not it will pass through Congress, it's a bit easier to just find a nice large piece of driftwood and watch the show.

It's virtually impossible to let a day go by without health on anyone's mind. I am certainly no exception.

One of my employers was kind enough to extend to me an immunization shot for Influenza A & B early last month. Even with this precaution, I managed to still pick up an intestinal virus this past weekend that had me .. uh .. occupied .. for much of this past week. Even as I type this, some of the muscles in my legs were weakened enough that I've had to walk with a cane for the first time in my life. Blessedly, as each day passes, my strength returns.

My employer gave me the paid time off so that I could rest. I have health insurance so I could see the doctor who could figure out what was wrong with me and give me the go-ahead to indulge in a sugary sports drink to rehydrate. Then, with the prescription benefit I have with my employer, I was able to get some anti-nausea medication and recuperate my waning appetite.

Too many of us in this country are not as fortunate as I am. Whether the legislation in the works will give more of us access to the kind of coverage I have is out of my hands.

Here is what I can do:

A week from Tuesday is World AIDS Day. Remembrances, red ribbons and other events are planned for that day and an event near you may be listed by clicking here. (dates are listed European style, meaning day/month/year). I will be at this memorial service:

Good Samaritan Metropolitan Community Church (click for address & directions)
Tuesday December 1, 2009
Service starts at 7 pm. Please bring a photo of someone who has died from AIDS and/or who is battling with this disease and has inspired you.

No matter whether people gather at a place of worship, a community center and/or process through their town holding lit candles, there is no observance too small to make a difference to someone. With few exceptions, I am at a World AIDS Day services/marches/observance each year. Unlike most my age, I have only lost person I loved to AIDS. Like most who are younger than me, I know so many more friends who live with the virus every day and stories of survival with HIV of 10, 15 or even more than 20 years are becoming the norm.

Though my loss came at a time when AIDS was a "death sentence", December 1st brings the feelings up as if it just happened. It helps me to be with others who know how this feels and maybe provides some comfort to someone else there.

If I am fortunate to live long enough and we are smart and hard working enough, I look forward to the day when World AIDS days are mentioned in history books.

Until then, I hope to see you on Tuesday, December 1.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My therapy

Some smoke up, some head to the local waterhole for libation and conversation. I write.

Whatever you to work out the tensions of the week, be sure to do some of that this weekend and make the most distressing thing you do is take in the lousy sci-fi/horror flick of the week. I checked out "This is It" and shamelessly sang along with Michael Jackson and it felt so good. Oh, and avoid the news for a bit.

That said, I'm tapping this one out while riding the rails. Sadly, inspiration to write after ten days has been wrung out of the horrific events yesterday in fort hood. I'm not a soldier, but I've been kept in a room for hours on end waiting for a nearby act of insanity to pass. I'm not a mental health professional, but I make my living listening to people's problems and finding quick solutions. I've spent of my adult life trying to find meaning to existence through God while excluding as little as possible as I wander.
My life experiences tell me that this U.S. Army Major, who is frighteningly close to my age, chose to do what he did based on a series of decisions made that, metaphorically, painted himself into a corner where he felt the only way to ease the ache was through creating a whorl of violent chaos. The right question to ask is this: What happened in his life that led him down his path where nearly everyone would have exited the same path a few off-ramps ago.

Since tapping out the text above on Friday 11/6, the Major is now conscious. However, no work as to whether or not he'll be interviewed and, even if he is interviewed, what sort of "truth" will we hear about the situation at Fort Hood.

If you believe the media, he's a hop, skip and a jump from the 9/11/01 terrorists and he has gone from a faithful Muslim to an extremist.

I still believe this was more of a case of a mental health professional who was not taking his medications as he should have and, because the meds were not doing what they should have, he felt free to do what he wanted.

We should, of course, hang on for a bit until all of the facts are in and are spoon-fed to us.

Meanwhile, I baked up a batch of macaroni & cheese from scratch and passed it out to my co-workers. Nothing like eggs, butter, pasta and lots of cheese to siphon out the tension and anger.

And the tension/migraine headache I'm nursing, I'm sure, is yet another way of keeping my anger in check. Hard to be mad when your head's in a vice.

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