How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Mars Volta

By now you’ve probably heard of The Mars Volta. They’ve been mentioned several times around here, if nothing else. The Widow was in fairly heavy rotation on alternative stations from late 2004 to this spring. The song apparently has a video that’s been played on MTV, though since these idiots left the channel I’ve probably watched about a half-hour of their programming, so I haven’t seen it. Frances the Mute, their last album, hit #4 on the Billboard sales chart in its debut week.

All that’s easy stuff to find. “As a Mars Volta neophyte”, you might be saying, “what do I need to know about the band that I can’t just google for?” As always, Uncle Dave is here to help.
Continue reading “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Mars Volta”

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have a Winner!

For my inaugural post I thought I’d make a big splash by hijacking the esteemed good name of JesusH to promote a cause neither officially endorsed by the rest of my colleagues here nor authorized by said colleagues. And, while I confess that I have not researched whether they have registered JesusH with the USPTO, I am confident that, if they have, they will certainly be too lazy to enforce the legitimate use of it.

the shiny, coveted JHMABNA
The shiny, coveted JHMABNA

So, without further ado, I am pleased to announce this year’s JesusH Music Award for Best New Artist: Thao Nguyen (not to be confused with the unfortunate but enterprising Thao Nguyen of 101 Ways to Humiliate Public Wankers fame)!

Thao Nguyen (the former, not the latter) released her debut album Like the Linen this summer to critical acclaim. And what a debut! Like the Linen includes the most satisfying synthesis of guitar work and melody I’ve heard in ages. An excellent guitarist herself, Nguyen chose accompanists who serve to lightly embroider her songs with just enough detail to highlight her playing and singing while exercising enough restraint to keep from overwhelming the hearts of the songs. At times poignant but never saccharine, Nguyen’s writing is wholly evocative without being unnecessarily explicit. I’d recommend particular tracks but there is nary a one to which I am indifferent. You’re just gonna have to listen to each and every one.

Included in my copy of the album was a note from Nguyen herself, which just goes to show that she’s a Grade-A Class Act too. Not that any of the runners-up for the JHMABNA lost points for failing to include personal correspondence–no, not at all. But ya gotta admit, it’s a nice touch.

friendly note
friendly note

One last observation (which is, perhaps, irrelevant to the quality of her music but I’m sure is of interest to the JesusH readership): she is totally, totally fine.

brilliant thao
Thao Nguyen: badass, classy
singer/songwriter/musician,
and easy on the eyes to boot!

So go check her out (mp3 downloads available), buy her album, and eagerly await the day when she tours the West Coast.

Music I’m Currently Enjoying

Part 1 of an ongoing series.

These are albums and artists that I think are underheard and underappreciated. They are 4 or 5 Pochacco albums and I wanted to share them with you. The four below are excellent debut albums. You can thank me by helping me get a free ipod nano. And now, without further ado…

Joanna Newsom
The Milk-Eyed Mender, 2004

That voice. It’s a voice that initially makes your ears bleed. A voice that resembles the last, tortured cries of a donkey being put out of its misery. But if you can keep the cd playing long enough for your ears to adjust, you’ll find an album full of beautiful arrangements accompanied by intelligent lyrics and poignant imagery. It’s the juxtaposition of the gentle, serene harp against Newsom’s undeniably jarring voice that wins me over. Open your mind, bend your ears, and challenge yourself with a listen.

At least check out: “Bridges and Balloons”, “Sprout and Bean”, “The Book of Right On”

Ray LaMontagne
Trouble, 2004

If Tracy Chapman and Van Morrison hooked up and made a baby, Ray LaMontagne would be it. His debut album is nothing short of perfection and is sure to become a modern classic. It’s bluesy, it’s soulful, and LaMontagne’s gravelly, husky voice hits all the right notes. From the harmonicas to the acoustic instruments, this is just one superbly produced album. His talent is real and his music has the ability to get underneath your skin and make you wilt with emotion. Bravo.

There are no duds on here but especially check out: “Trouble”, “Shelter”, “Hold You In My Arms”, “How Come”, “Jolene”

Rachael Yamagata
Happenstance, 2004

Happenstance is heavy and filled with angst-ridden ruminations on love. Yamagata’s sultry voice combine with jazzy piano pop arrangements to yield songs of raw power albeit peppered with clichéd lyrics.

At least check out: “Be, Be Your Love”, “Letter Read”, “Worn Me Down”, “1963”, “Under My Skin”, “I Want You”

Tristan Prettyman
Twentythree, 2005

This San Diego native and former competitive surfer turned rocker is known as the female Jack Johnson. Twentythree has an abundance of breezy, catchy, simple music that you can’t help but sing along to.

At least check out: “Love, Love, Love”, “The Story”, “Electric”, “Shy That Way” (duet with beau, Jason Mraz), “Simple As It Should Be”

Let’s go Aggies, Clap, Clap, Clap Clap Clap.

Ha ha, I just saw this. The Stanford football team played UC Davis last week, in a “body-bag” game to fill a last minute hole in Stanford’s schedule. This is the same Stanford that alllllllmost beat USC last year. This is the same Davis that, well, Dave, didn’t you start at strong safety for them?

Let’s let the California Aggie tell the rest of the story. Enjoy.

Visual Event Notifier

I think I ought to know where to find something like this, but I haven’t in a couple of minutes of looking, so:

My computer in the front room is hooked up to the TV, which means I can compute from the couch (something like what Jeff is up to on this previous post, only without the triumphant series of pictures describing the occasion visually). The computer is always on, and I’ve got it doing things like ripping mp3s right now; I’ll probably set up some sort of file sharing, or maybe get some of that X10 crap to run the sprinkler system, or back up some of my servers on the Internet to this machine, or something like that further on down the road.

Here’s my problem: I’d like some way to tell when something’s going on on the computer (got an email, got an IM, CD’s done being ripped or burnt, or whatever) without using the TV. For example, if I get an email while I’m watching a DVD, I’d like to potentially know it without switching the TV over to the computer input every so often. I’m not enough of a nerd to want to run dual-head with another monitor in the front room–what I’d envision is something like a USB-powered light on a cord that I hook up to the computer and associated software that makes the light flash whenever an event I want to know about happens. Something like this, maybe, except the light doesn’t need to be bright enough to read by. A fairly bright LED would work just fine.

(Actually the optimal solution might be to get a Magical Glowing Dingus, but those might not interface with the computer the way I want and are kind of expensive.)

You've got mail.
You’ve got mail.

So essentially I want an I-Dog that uses USB rather than a minijack, doesn’t need batteries, and whose operation I can script via software on the computer.

Anyone know of anything like that?

Radiohead albums

I was chatting with the newest JesusH poster late last week and this came up in the framework of a larger discussion that I don’t have time to relate currently but will soon. In the meantime, ranked in order of awesomeness:

  1. OK Computer (1997)

    If this isn’t the best album ever, it’s within spitting distance.

  2. Hail to the Thief (2003)

    If this isn’t OK Computer, it’s within spitting distance.

  3. The Bends (1995)

    Radiohead’s most accessible and radio-friendly work. Extremely competent pop songs.

  4. I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001)

    Luckily, they’re also a great live band. I wish there was more on this CD.

  5. Kid A (2000)
  6. Amnesiac (2001)

    Departures, both. They’re solid four Pochacco albums, at the least.

Oh, and

INC Pablo Honey (1993)

I don’t have it, and I’ve never really listened to the whole thing. That said, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t really like it.

Anything I got wrong or missed?

Super Size Me

Let’s take a break from Katrina for a minute here, even though I’ve got plenty of ranting I want to do on the situation some time soon. I’m watching Super Size Me, and thanks to the magic of the DVR, I’m going to pause it and give you my comments as I have them because–well, I dunno. You came here, I guess.

These are real-time and I’ve never seen this movie so I expect some of my comments will be stupid or addressed later in the movie.
Continue reading “Super Size Me”

Fugees

From a generally unrelated article:

Meanwhile, Bush objected to references to displaced Americans as “refugees.”

“The people we’re talking about are not refugees,” he said. “They are Americans and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens.”

“I mean, fuck refugees,” Bush added. “They’re good-for-nothing, and your help and love and compassion is wasted on them.”

Anyone in for buying the government a subscription to National Geographic?


Chertoff described his morning
shower as ‘breathtaking in its
briskness’.

Usually, when it comes down to debates over politics, I tend to take the side of the status quo. For instance, when my government wanted to start a limited skirmish in Iraq to get rid of villainous Weapons of Mass Destruction, my response was, “Okay!”. I mean, what the hell do I know about whether Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction? I was pretty sure my tax dollars paid for someone to be more informed about this topic than I was, or at least I hoped so.

Fast forward to the present day, when the entire city of New Orleans has been swallowed by the sea. Now clearly, nobody can really blame the government for causing a big hurricane of death, but even for a public policy apologist like myself, their general response to this entire thing leaves a lot to be desired. I wasn’t planning to actually say anything about it, since the media is doing a pretty good job of realying everybody’s disgust, but then I came across this tidbit by Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff (who, to me, looks sort of like an evil James Taylor):

Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans.

“That ‘perfect storm’ of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody’s foresight,” Chertoff said.

He called the disaster “breathtaking in its surprise.”

Now, again, the apologist in me thinks that maybe Chertoff deserves the benefit of the doubt. After all: this was the perfect storm, give the guy a break. On the other hand, though, Phet brought to my attention this excerpt from an article on Louisiana in the October 2004 National Geographic which we have sitting on our living room bookshelf (click the link to read the entire article):

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV “storm teams” warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

It all sort of boggles the mind. For the record, my new stance on all this is I officially expect the Department of Homeland Security to consider every possible Doomsday scenario to the bitter end and formulate a goddamn response plan. I’m talking meteor strikes, dirty bombs, alien attacks, locust infestation, drought, giant lizards, whatever. It’s bullshit that a travel magazine should have a more considered response to this disaster than our shiny new Department of Homeland Security.