OK Go

OK Go rocks! I found this band through a post on NRO’s the Corner and they are awesome. The first video is from their first album, Oh No, which is a pretty straightforward power-pop record (for an interesting story about the group’s videos and the music biz in general check out this Op-Ed NY Times piece by the lead singer). The second is from their latest effort released this year, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, which is very eclectic, very cool and completely different from the previous album. Anyway, I’ve been listening to both albums non-stop for the last two weeks. Enjoy.

Advertisements

The Things That People Say – NPR Edition

I was listening to NPR this morning on the way in to work.

Now your first question is probably, “Why are you, an upstanding, conservative, Texan listening to NPR?” The answer is that I have grown so used to listening to talk radio during my commutes that I find it hard listening to anything else. On a normal day I would listen to the local sports talk radio station but on the weekends they usually pipe in a Sporting News Radio feed that I have little interest in. So NPR is my fall back and I usually find it’s smug snobbery amusing.

Anyway, I’ve always been fasinated by the dumb things that people say, especially when said on TV or Radio – where you would think that people would be on their A game since they know they’re being recorded. There were two episodes that made me do an audio version of a double take.

The first was on the program “HumanKind” which is a very touchy-feely new-agey show. The guest was Rob Warden who has been an investigative journalist and now works for the Center On Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. He dedicates his time to exonerating wrongfully convicted felons (a worthy cause, no doubt). He described all of the different cases he’s worked on in the last thirty years and then the interviewer asked what percentage of prisoners are actually innocent of the charges that put them there. Rob said that it was generally believed about 5%, but that a new study posits that it could be as high as 10%, and that he believed that 10% was probably close to the correct number. Later on in the interview he said that in all of his years covering police investigations he had never seen a competent police investigation. That’s when I did the double take. So let me get this straight Rob. In your opinion there are no police investigations in the past 20 to 30 years that have been handled compentently and yet you agree that there only 10% of the prison population that are innocent? The cognitive dissonence in those two statements is astounding. Can you really believe that there are no competent police investigations and that only 10% of the prison population is innocent at the same time…I guess if you work for Northwestern.

The second was during an NPR news segment. They had a guy on from an Information Technology think tank and he was commenting on Obama’s SOTU statements about China’s, Germany’s and India’s economic and technological growth and how those countries weren’t playing for second place. Then the president said that he would not accept second place for America (cue applause)! Well this guys says, “…I think the president is right, we should not accept being second to none and right now we are second to none…” The funniest part about it to me was that the interviewer let this guy go on saying “second to none” (he said it four or five times) without correcting him – she just left him out there flapping in the wind. I guess think tanks are scraping from the bottom of the barrell these days.

Wet-Talkers

One of my pet peeves is the phenomenon that I call the “wet-talker”. The wet-talker is someone who makes a slight smacking noise when he or she talks. Really that’s not quite accurate but it’s the best way I can describe it. Every time the wet-talker opens his mouth to speak you hear a gross, moist sound as if they have way too much saliva in their mouth.

The worst place to hear a wet-talker is on the radio and the worst wet-talkers on the radio reside at NPR. Most of their hosts are wet-talkers. Most of their guests are wet-talkers. Heck, even the people that do their advertising spots are wet-talkers (I’m exaggerating – but not by much). Surely this can’t be a hiring criterion for NPR. There can’t be a place on NPR’s broadcaster application that says “Are you a wet-talker?” Can there? Maybe it’s the microphones they use; maybe they’re so sensitive that they turn everyone into a wet-talker. Maybe wet-talking is a common condition of the snooty northeasterner, which is what NPR’s broadcast team almost exclusively consists of. I don’t know. All I know is that on most other radio stations I rarely hear wet-talkers and when I do, they’re usually guests on a talk show, not the everyday host.

Anyway, please join my crusade to stamp out wet-talking on the airwaves by writing your congressman and the FCC and asking them to ban wet-talking on all frequencies.

Thank you for your support.

Top 10 Pop/Rock Songs of the 80’s – 1987

Well, ’87 is when things start to get a little sparse. There are still some really good songs but the quantity of quality stuff encounters a steep drop-off. If you are interested why I started doing these Top 10 lists (and for the top 10 of 1980) check out my 1980 post. For the others click, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986.

10. At This Moment, Billy Vera – As you know if you’ve been reading these lists, I’m a sucker for sappy love ballads – especially those that are of the baby-please-don’t-leave variety. I’m also a sucker for pedal steel guitar. This song has a slow gospel feel to it that turns country when the pedal still kicks in and then changes yet again to 50’s-style ballad when the horn section enters. The vocals display some of the most genuine emotion that you’re going to find in a song from this era. The guy sounds like he’s really hurting. If I remember correctly, the first time I heard this song was on an episode of Family Ties. Only after that did I start hearing it on the radio.

9. I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, Cutting Crew – Alright, let’s get one thing straight – chicks dig this song! If you wanted to get a girl in “the mood” back in 1987 all you had to do was pop this cassette in the car stereo and your night just got a little more interesting. The guitar in this song has that edgy, reverby 80’s signature to it. The vocals aren’t great in that they sound like they could be any of the androgenous Brit bands of the time. But the melody and overall production value of the song make up for that.

8. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, Genesis – I kind of had a wierd relationship with Genesis. I liked pretty much every single they released but I never bought any of their albums. To further confuse things, sometimes I didn’t know if a song was a Genesis or Phil Collins solo single. This song however was one that I had to own and so I bought it on 45, one of the few 45’s I ever bought. This song has a similar feel to “In the Air Tonight”; real atmospheric and kind of menacing. The lyrics of the verses didn’t seem to make much sense. “I’m comin’ down, comin’ down like a monkey” – what the hell does that mean?

7. Will You Still Love Me, Chicago – This is the first single from Chicago 18, as well as the moment that the group said “Peter who?” Despite Peter Cetera leaving the group the band continued their dominance of the mid to late 80’s charts by pumping out another power ballad with a memorable, catchy melody. I mainly remember this song because a girl that I liked invited me to go to the Chicago concert with her and her church youth group. I thought that this was a sign that she was into me. Later though I found out she was interested in one of my friends who was one of those guys that no girls where ever interested in (you know the type I’m talking about). Regardless of this painful memory I still dig the song.

6. The Next Time I Fall, Peter Cetera & Amy Grant – Much like #7, this song hears Peter Cetera ask “Chicago who?” This was his second post-Chicago solo hit and his proof that he could come out with catchy, melodic power ballads on his own. This song caused quite a bit of controversy at my church. Amy Grant up to this point had been a Christian artist and many of the faithful thought that she was betraying her ideals by doing the mainstream crossover thing. My only problem with it was that she sounded really sexy which caused me to think about her in ways that made me feel dirty…but in a good way.

5. Notorius, Duran Duran – With the jangly disco guitar bit and the popping bass line this song saw Duran Duran back in a big way. The horns added a great layer to the song and the melody was up there with all of their great songs. And of course “Notorious” continues their tradition of lyrics that either don’t make sense, are silly or both at the same time. Just a sample: “You own the money, you control the witness. I leave you lonely, don’t monkey with my business.” I hate it when people monkey with my business…I think.

4. The Lady In Red, Chris de Burgh – Chris de Burgh just sounds really cool and smooth in this song. This song is a straight-forward ballad and the only thing that makes it sound like an 80’s tune is the atmospheric keyboard part in the background. Otherwise, I think it could have been a pop standard in any generation. This was a great one to slow dance to at the school social.

3. Mandolin Rain, Bruce Hornsby – Hornsby is another one of those artists that, although I like every single he released, I never bought any of his albums. For some reason this song sounds like Autumn to me. It makes me think of leaves changing colors, pickup football games on the weekend and starting to pull out the sweaters from the back of the closet. Of the two songs that charted for Hornsby in ’87 (the other was his huge hit “The Way It Is”) this one was by far the less popular. I like it better because it’s more melodic and I never did like the preachiness of “The Way It Is”.

2. Don’t Dream It’s Over, Crowded House – My wife is a huge Crowded House fan and would have killed me if I didn’t include one of their songs on this list. However, I can happily say that I included “Don’t Dream It’s Over” without any coercion from her. I love this song. From the reverby guitar bit to the Hammond B3 organ solo that manages to sound classic and contemporary at the same time to the vocals, everything in this song works together to create a distinct sound. You won’t confuse Crowded House with any other band from the 80’s because they have a unique style that’s all their own.

1. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2 – U2 finally made the big time with their release of The Joshua Tree in 1987. This is one of only two U2 songs that have reached #1 in the US; the other was “With Or Without You” from the same album. I’m a big U2 fan mainly due to a girl named Sydney that I was in Economics and Psychology classes with in high school. We didn’t really run in the same circles, but both those classes had assigned seating and we sat next to each other in both of them. She knew I was into music and in a band and told me that I really needed to check them out. Before then I had heard U2 on the radio but hadn’t bought any of their albums. I went out and picked up The Joshua Tree and War at the same time and was blown away. I picked this song over “With Or Without You” because I like the gospel theme of it. I always like the fact that U2 could put overt references to Jesus and Christianity in their songs and not suffer in popularity. It’s got a very memorable melody and of course Bono’s vocals are classic. This song would probably make my list of top 10 U2 songs if I was forced to make one.

Style Over Substance

Full Disclosure: I am a conservative Republican. I do not like Barack Obama. Mainly because he supports a lot of liberal policies that I disagree with. So far, on some issues, he’s not as much of a train wreck as I thought he would be (see Iraq, Gitmo – his actions, not the rhetoric – and his education secretary). On others he’s worse (see the Stimulus, the Omnibus bill, his budget and “not letting a crisis go to waste”).

Here’s the thing; all politicians are hypocrites to some extent. They make promises that they know they won’t be able to keep. They say one thing to one group of voters and another to the next group. And sometimes politicians aren’t hypocrites but have to go back on a promise for practical, pragmatic reasons (see George H W Bush on “read my lips” and Obama on upholding a lot of Bush’s War on Terror policies). But Obama seems to pursue hypocrisy in such an outrageous and unapolagetic fashion. Allow me to provide some examples.

Obama says that the country is facing the worst crisis the US has seen since 1932, the Great Depression. We must act now or face the collapse of the US and world economies. Then his advisers take him aside and tell him to cut the doom and gloom rhetoric. Now Obama says that we’ll see 4% growth by the end of this year? That (Is this Obama channeling McCain?) the “fundamentals of the economy are strong”. Hmmm. Sounds like maybe old Rahm wasn’t kidding about that “take advantage of a crisis” thing. Seems like Obama was using fear to drum up for the Stimulus that doesn’t actually stimulate anything so that he could get all his New New Deal shit passed.

Under Obama, the federal deficit will increase in his first two years more than it did in Bush’s eight. And yet we have to hear him pontificate about fiscal responsibility and how we can’t spend money we don’t have anymore.

Larry Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser, on Sunday said “we are a country of law, the government can’t simply abrogate the contracts” about AIG handing out bonuses despite the fact that it just took over $170 billion from the taxpayers. And yet apparently the Obama administration has no problem “abrogating” thousands of mortgage contracts with their little mortgage cramdown scheme.

When Obama was Candidate Obama he was all about helping veterans. In fact he said the following:

“When soldiers return from fighting, they deserve nothing but the best in medical care, he said. More needs to be done, he said, to understand the effects of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury on soldiers returning from war. We’ll have to keep our sacred trust with our veterans and fully fund the (Veterans Administration). We’ll have to look after our wounded warriors, whether they’re suffering from wounds seen or unseen.”

Now it appears that part of fulfilling that sacred trust is sticking veterans for the medical expenses on injuries they incurred while defending their country in Iraq. Wow!

The list goes on and on but I won’t. I will mention finally the fact that despite all his campaign rhetoric about a new kind of politics, Obama, when looking for people to appoint to his cabinet and other top government positions, appears never to have met a tax dodger, Washington insider or lobbyist that he didn’t like.

True Genius

For anyone interested Uncommon Knowledge (a web video interview program on National Review Online) is featuring the great Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia. Parts 1 & 2 are up with three more parts to come.