Thursday, October 23, 2008

Practical socialism

[migrated from myspace blog]

Commenter Mickey writes: I have to pass this note on to everyone. Here is a creative approach to redistribution of wealth as offered by a reader of the local newspaper, the Eagle Tribune.

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign the read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed--just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Pedro the Lion

Not to be confused with "A Lion Named Christian" from the very popular youtube video of a 400 pound lion "hugging" the guys who raised him many years afterwards. Also not the award winning children's book, "Herbert the Lion". Instead, Pedro the Lion was the name used by David Bazan for his band and it's constantly changing lineup of talent.

Before going any further, I need to say that music reviews aren't really my thing. Neither are movie reviews, or anything else that requires the writer to use words to describe a visceral, emotional experience, while digging beneath the surface to point out subtext, undertones, references, similarities, differences, etc. For me, writing about music might as well be dancing about ice cream. Which is why I'll expect it won't take me to long to get to the point where I give up and say, "Listen to this!"

Pedro the Lion is the first musical experience I can remember as being solely the result of reading someone else's raves online. I know I'd heard the name since they were on the big popular Christian rock label at the time. Being in college and not having a car, I walked the 2 blocks to the Family Bookstore just to buy their 6-song debut CD. It was certainly unlike anything I had heard before, but it would be another year before I could begin to fully appreciate the songwriting talent of the man behind the sound and lyrics.

In 1998 we went to the Cornerstone music festival and Pedro the Lion was there, we liked the 6 songs we'd heard, so we checked out the set. But the debut E.P. hadn't prepared anyone for the new batch of songs. There came a point in the set (probably The Bells, or Secret of the Easy Yoke) where I felt that everyone under that tent realized at the same time we were seeing this incredible musical talent emerge onto the music scene before our very eyes. We all wanted these new songs we were hearing. As luck would have it, a table was set up next to the stage with boxes of shiny new discs holding 12 new songs for us to devour (well, 11 plus a re-recording of one that was released as a 7" single the previous year). The album was on a record label no one had ever heard of before, and it wouldn't be officially released for 5 more months. We felt like we'd found a giant musical diamond in the muddy Illinois farmland.

I believe it was the winter of my junior year that Pedro the Lion and Damien Jurado came to play, not in the auditorium, but in the LOBBY of the auditorium of my relatively small college. I got to see Pedro a couple other times over the years, mostly in bars, as the lyrics got more political, cynical, and dark. The final Pedro the Lion album in 2004 was much less dark, and intentionally so, before Pedro the Lion became just David Bazan in 2006. In his own lyrics:
Should I really reconsider my reasons for going solo?
I still run the show, and don't you forget it, so I had to let some go, don't think I don't regret it, because I do, and I don't think I'm better off alone...Fewer moving parts mean fewer broken pieces

The Lyrics
Bazan's words have never been short of a little controversy, and heavy on pain. From the very first release which discusses his apparent previous drug addiction (or maybe they're just lyrics) to the closing line of the final Pedro the Lion album:
My old man swore that hell would have no flames, just a front-row seat to watch your true love pack her things and drive away.

Or just listen to Indian Summer below. Or read the lyrics to Backwoods Nation.
I don't claim to understand all of Bazan's lyrics. Most of them tell stories. He has an entire song about Arizona cheating on New Mexico with California, wrapping up with lyrics about rock/paper/scissors. However, he certainly has a knack for writing lines that stick in your mind. At least until the next memorable line replaces it. Or I'm wrong and they're only memorable in the context of the music. (These are all from different songs)

The problem with rules is, they alienate the criminals

Your father drank a little, You're on liver number two

The breakfast cereal talked more than we did all day long

You won't survive the information age unless you plan to change the truth to accommodate the brilliance of man

But I can't say it like I sing it

And I can't sing it like I think it
And I can't think it like I feel it
And I don't feel a thing

The list could go on, but they don't have quite the same impact without the music.

The Music
I'm no musicologist, but since we're dancing about ice cream, I can hardly skip over the music itself. Bazan has an incredible talent for crafting songs so as to build sad, moody, emotional tension through most of the song, a lot of times allowing things to quiet down in the middle, only to build it back up again to release the tension in the final chorus (Criticism), or an unexpected bridge (3:09 of Arizona, 2:57 of I Am Always the One Who Calls, 1:41 Transcontinental, 3:02 of Eyes on the Finish Line) or occasional coda (live version of Secret of the Easy Yoke).

Some of the best versions of Pedro/Bazan songs end up being the versions he plays live. If it were an option, I'd have everyone listen to Omaha 2004, but apparently it was a limited time free download (at a lower bitrate), because I can't find it anyway. Bazan is pretty well know for doing several cover songs (and doing them REALLY well.) The best known is his cover of Radiohead's Let Down, and he does a great version of Randy Newman's Political Science. You'll no doubt recognize Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah below.

If you've read this far, it's possible you need a new hobby, but do yourself a favor and check out some of the songs below. I think it says a lot that after 10 years of knowing this music, I've spent most of the last week listening to almost nothing but Pedro and David Bazan songs. But it's already tomorrow, so here, listen.

How to fix the financial crisis

[migrated from myspace blog]

It all seems so simple now.

Friday, October 10, 2008


[migrated from myspace blog]

It's kind of like watching a car crash in slow motion. You don't want anyone to get hurt, but you can't look away out of fascination in finding out how far the car will roll before it comes to a stop up its roof. Clearly people are in a panic and selling whatever they have for whatever they can get. Meanwhile, people who actually have money realize what's actually going on. Stocks are on sale. Warren Buffett has bought $8 billion worth of stock in TWO companies...THIS MONTH.

What does the government want to do? They want to be your landlord, and now your banker. At this rate it won't take Obama to usher in American Socialism. It'll already be waiting for him when the rigged popularity contest hands over the keys to the White House.

I guess the only upside is the price of gas. I actually saw a line at the pumps for $2.79 gas at one station last night.