25 June 2007

Prideful weekend

This past weekend was SF Pride, and it marked the first time Anne and I actually made it to the parade. We only stayed for the first hour, but it was pretty fun. It wasn't nearly as crowded as I'd feared (one of the main reasons we've never gone before), although the BART trains coming into the city when we were heading home were pretty full. Some of the highlights: Dykes on Bikes, who always open the parade, the people covered in balloons, and Gavin Newsom, grinning and waving from the back of a convertible. I'd never seen him in person before. He's every bit as slick as I'd heard. And that hair!

We left in time to get home for the CONCACAF final. In case you missed it, the US won, 2-1. It was a very tense game, especially during the last few minutes. It would have been a little less tense if Damarcus Beasley hadn't clanged a shot on an empty net off of the crossbar as time was winding down. I don't know about that guy.

We also went into the city on Saturday to cash in some free tickets I won from the SFJazz fest. We saw Ojos de Brujo and Carlinhos Brown. Ojos are a collective from Barcelona, and they reminded me a bit of Ozomatli if you replace salsa with flamenco as their traditional music touchstone. They were pretty good, and I think I'm going to get their CD.

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21 June 2007

What, no Fleetwood Mac?

Yesterday Hillary Clinton's campaign announced its official theme song. After online voters chose from among 10 campaign-vetted choices, the results are in and the official song for Hillary '08 is: You and I by Celine Dion

I'm not sure how much more the Clinton campaign can descend into farce at this point. Or maybe it just underscores what a farce our political system has become, when a bland, Canadian crooner (crooness?) is enlisted as warm-up music for the left's front-runner. At least it shows she's got the middle-aged, white lady vote sewn up. My confidence in her ability to clean up Bush's messes wanes by the day.

During the report I heard on NPR yesterday, they played clips of a few other contenders, including "Beautiful Day" by U2 and some patriotic rocker by Shania Twain. One of the odder choices on the list was the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." You know how it goes: "Every little thing she does is magic" Alright, maybe promising a bit much, but I can see where they're coming from. "Every little thing she do just turns me on" Whoa! That's a little ... icky. I'm not sure that you're supposed to be turned on by your president. Unless it's Barack Obama. Hot!

Here's the complete list:

KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See
Shania Twain - Rock This Country!
U2 - Beautiful Day
The Temptations - Get Ready
Smash Mouth - I'm A Believer
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way?
McFadden & Whitehead - Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now
The Police - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Celine Dion - You and I
Tina Turner - The Best

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19 June 2007

The Final Four

Regular readers know my affection for international soccer tournaments. Which is why this past Sunday, I peered through the grainy reception of Univision to watch Mexico and Costa Rica battle it out for a spot in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It was a slow, ugly game, which Mexico won in extra time. Costa Rica managed to have two(!) players sent off with red cards. It wasn't the best game I've seen, but it was nice to have meaningful soccer on TV.

For those of you not familiar with this (ahem) storied tournament, the Gold Cup is the biennial tourney among all of the national teams in the CONCACAF region (North & Central America and the Caribbean; motto: At least we send more teams to the World Cup than Oceania). The semifinals are this Thursday, and will feature the US against Canada (they play soccer there?) and, in the other game, Mexico against the tiny island protectorate of Guadaloupe, which doesn't even qualify for World Cup play because FIFA doesn't recognize it as a nation (it's still a French colony). Guadaloupe prevailed over Honduras in the late game on Sunday with the help of a goal from 42(!) year old midfielder Jocelyn Angloma, a native Guadaloupean who's played for the French national team. (Small piece of soccer trivia gleaned from the ever-reliable Wikipedia: Thierry Henry's father is from Guadaloupe.)

So this Thursday's games have all you could ask for: home team rooting interest (U-S-A! U-S-A!), players who grew up playing soccer on frozen ponds (Canada), the team that more people who live in America support than the US team (Mexico), and a plucky underdog (Guadaloupe). Also, you get to brush up on your Spanish, because as far as I can tell, none of the games are on an English-language network. My fearless prediction is that the US and Mexico will face each other in Sunday's final, and that even though it will be played in the US, it will be virtually a home game for Mexico, as is the case any time they play here. (Virtually everyone in the capacity crowd for Sunday's game in Houston was wearing green, red, and white.) But you never know. They Canadians may surprise us, and never estimate a team from the Lesser Antilles with nothing to lose.

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13 June 2007

New toy

I finally took the plunge into digital photography when I used some graduation loot to buy a Nikon D40. It's been a lot of fun. I like the fact that I can experiment with different settings without having to worry about preserving film. And I also like the instant gratification you get with having digital images right away. I realize this isn't a revelation to most of you in the digital-camera-owning public, but it's pretty cool to me. One thing I like about the digital camera is that I'll be able to add pictures to my blog more easily. No more scanning prints like I did after our vacation last summer!

Here are a couple samples of the digital goodness that is to come. The first is actually a picture of the new camera, which I took with the iSight camera in the lid of my laptop. The other is the first picture I took with my new camera. Of course it's of Lucy.

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11 June 2007

A mosquito, my libido

Have you noticed that each decade gets linked to one or two particular kinds of music? When you think of 50's music, you think doo-wop and early rock 'n' roll. For the 60's, you think psychedelic rock, and for the 70's it's classic rock or disco. Sure, there was a lot of other music from each of those decades, but those seem to be the genres that each decade is stuck with. But what about the 90's?

This was on my mind after we had a little music swap with Dan and Kristina. I burned them a copy of "Return to the Inner Experience" by Sky Cries Mary, which prompted Dan to make the comment that they sound like the "zenith of 90's music." That got me thinking: "what exactly is 90's music, anyway?" I think everyone has an idea of what constitutes 80's music -- it invariably is the sonic equivalent of hairspray and bright, primary colors. Interestingly, I can't think of an equivalently unifying theme for music from the nineties. It's interesting that there isn't even a subset of music from the nineties that's called "90's music" that I'm aware of.

When I think of music from the nineties, I think of grunge, in part because I lived in the northwest during it's overdose-ridden decline, and in part because it was so ubiquitous in the early 90's. The nineties also strike me as the point where hip hop crossed over into the mainstream, for better (A Tribe Called Quest, Doggystyle) and worse (Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer).

One genre that really rose to prominence in the nineties, which seems a little quaint now, was electronic music. Do you remember when electronica was the next big thing? At one point, I saw an article in Time or Newsweek saying the future of music was electronic. It seemed like only a couple months later, the Chemical Brothers were getting knocked off the charts by N'Sync and Britney. Anyway, musing about electronic music brings me back to Dan's comment. Sky Cries Mary combined a bit of the grunge ethic (they're from Seattle, they play distorted guitars, and they draw their influences from the early seventies), a bit of hip hop (this one's a bit of a stretch, but they did have a DJ who was, for the most part, buried in the mix), and of course electronic music. I've not seen any compilations attempting to tie together the 90's as a concept (not that I've really looked), but I can naively hope that any such compilation would include SCM. Compilers of "NOW That's What I Call Music By Bands That Played My College Once!" take note.

Here is a list of bands that popped into my head while I was thinking about this post and that I probably haven't thought of in nearly a decade:

House of Pain
Blind Melon
The Spin Doctors
Ned's Atomic Dustbin
The Screaming Trees

If you can't get enough of the 90's, and you're a fan of lists, you should check out Pitchfork's top 100 albums of the 90's. True to their raison d'etre, there's a lot of indie rock -- I hadn't even heard of some of the bands in the top 20. I do, however, wholeheartedly agree with their pick for no. 1. Check and see if you do, too.

Speaking of lists, here's the super-dope 90's mix that I put on my CD player while writing this post:
Sky Cries Mary - This Timeless Turning
Soundgarden - Down on the Upside
The Beastie Boys - Check Your Head
A Tribe Called Quest - Beats, Rhymes, and Life
The Breeders - Last Splash


05 June 2007

Last weeks in the 'O'

The move to Vermont is coming up soon (just under two months), so Anne and I took some time this weekend to cross a few things off of our "Things to do in the Bay Area before we leave" list. Saturday we headed down to Jack London Square to catch a movie. OK, so they have movie theaters in Vermont. In fact, we'll probably be able to drive to Rutland and the nearest multiplex in less time than we sat waiting for the bus to downtown. But one thing they don't have in Rutland County is Everett & Jones, home to some of the finest barbecue in Oakland -- possibly the world, but I'm trying not to be too parochial -- so it was a must-visit before we leave. They serve up the traditional meat and three (except that it's actually only a meat and two), and I had a huge pile of ribs slathered in their special bbq sauce, some greens, and a side of yams that could have doubled as a dessert. Anne managed to eat half a chicken. We were feeling a little loagy when we got to the theater. (We saw "Knocked Up," which was hilarious.)

Saturday we crossed another outing off of our list when we went to dim sum in Oakland's Chinatown. (Have you noted a strong bias toward eating on our list?) We'd never been to Legendary Palace before, but I'd say it delivered. My all-time, dim sum favorites, the pork bun and the fried red bean dumpling (I don't know what it's called, but it's heavenly), were particularly good. It was a nice, sunny day so we walked home via Lake Merritt.

There's still quite a bit on the list, although Thai temple breakfast is going to get checked off next Sunday. I'm a little more concerned about the live music-related items because they depend on bands we like coming through town. But I know that live hip hop is going to be hard to come by in Vermont, so we'll make an effort to go see a show before we leave. And of course, there's nowhere quite like Yoshi's, so we've got to try to make it there as well.

I'm really looking forward to starting my new job this fall, and I think living in Vermont is going to be fun. But as far as I'm concerned, there's nowhere quite like Oakland, and we're going to try to enjoy living here as much as we can over the next couple months. Any recommendations for must-sees from current or former Bay Area residents?

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01 June 2007

A new beginning for New Beginning$

Our local brothel has closed. The other day, I noticed a For Lease sign on the roof of the building, indicating the neighborhood prevailed in its efforts to run it out of business. I'm a little sad to see it go because it added some character to a stretch of Broadway dominated by car lots.

New Beginning$ advertised hot tubs and massages for "Men Women Couples" and "Private Tubs For One Or Two." That might seem innocent enough, if it weren't for the opaque glass windows and a metal security door leading to a dimly lit staircase. That and it was the only "spa" in our neighborhood with a bouncer posted out front. (And yes, the dollar sign is part of the name.) Even though it's been cited repeatedly over the years for drugs and prostitution, it wasn't until recently that its massage license was revoked. Here's a bit from an email sent to our neighborhood group about the public hearing:

Not only were the massage parlor's employees providing sex for money, but there was testimony that streeet prostitutes bring their customers to the hot tubs. The owner had no ideas of how to prevent this; asked whether she required a sign-in sheet, she replied Yes, "but they never give their right names anyway." (At least the previous business owner, who still owns the building, said in 1991 that she only allowed women to come in with "one boyfriend a day"...but no, she could not help it if a woman has 7 boyfriends in a week.)

I love the bit about "7 boyfriends in a week." I'm sure it was all perfectly innocent. Anyway, now it's gone, ending all prostitution in North Oakland for good. Or at least moving it back to the seedy motels along Broadway and Macarthur where it belongs. Not that I liked having a brothel in our neighborhood, mind you, but it did let me feel a little closer to my Nevada roots. And let's be honest, it's going to happen somewhere. It might as well be a place that couldn't be mistaken for anything else.