Friday, August 27, 2004

Worst Cover

And today's award goes to...
Sheryl Crow, for her cover of Cat Stevens' tender love song "The First Cut is the Deepest." Crow takes a beautiful song of longing, inquiry, and youth, and turns it into a cheeseball rock ballad. Crow had competition, though. Counting Crows' "Big Yellow Taxi" came on my radio today as well. Personally, if I want to hear "Big Yellow Taxi" covered by anyone, I turn to Bob Dylan's studio warmup version released in '73.

Consumer Tip of the Day

As I was confronted with another $2.15/gallon gas station today, I thought about the reasons for the spiralling gas prices. One reason, of course, is the increasing demand, both here in the U.S. (where demand is ever-increasing) and places like China (which is undergoing rapid development). Another reason for gas prices, in my belief, has to do with the rapid consolidation of the oil industry in the 1990's.

But another factor is the separation of gas prices from fluctuations in demand. In most industries, if prices shot up by 100% over a couple of years, demand would decrease. But gas companies (and OPEC) can confidently raise prices knowing that--in the short term at least--people will still need a relatively similar amount of gas.

On the most minute level, there's the question of what to do when you are in the middle of nowhere and your car is out of gas and the only station around is Shell, a company that seems to take the whole "black gold" thing a little too seriously. What I do whenever confronted with these situations is I buy gas, of course--but in relatively small denominations, two or three gallons. Later, once I find a station with a rate that's more reasonable, I will fill completely fill up my tank. I know I'm beating you over the head with what is already obvious to practically the entire world, but let me say it a bit more clearly. Don't fill up your tank all the way at gas stations charging prices higher than local competitors! Thank you. This has been a consumer advice moment brought to you by the National Association of Affiliated Gas Consumers.

On another note, look into them hybrids. I'll do the same, the next time I purchase a car, though I'm thinking about shifting to public transportation for a few years.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

No Exit O

"I'd love to do a whole record of chick songs, but the world's going to have to settle down a little first."
-Steve Earle

Who Are You?

"At once there was a knock at the door and a man entered whom he had never seen before in the house. He was slim and yet well knit, he wore a closely fitting black suit, which was furnished with all sorts of pleats, pockets, buckles, and buttons, as well as a belt, like a tourist's outfit, and in consequence looking eminently practical, though one could not quite tell what actual purpose it served."

Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Air We Breathe

"Sharks are said to die of suffocation if they stop swimming, and the same is nearly true of information. Information that isn't moving ceases to exist as anything but potential... at least until it is allowed to move again. For this reason, the practice of information hoarding, common in bureacracies, is an especially wrong-headed artifact of physically based value systems."
-John Perry Barlow, Wired (March, 1994)

Friday, August 13, 2004

Rock, Paper, Scissors

In today's over-copyright-driven world, everyone claims credit for re-inventing the wheel. Thus, I found this quote refreshing.

Lou Reed, speaking on lineage in music: "I'm not gonna claim credit for, like, a chord change. Chord changes were around for years before me. Rock came out of gospel, which came from the churches. The church came before me."

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Originally uploaded by edwest.

A lunch for some, perhaps, but I wasn't hungry.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Thought of the Day

I awoke at 1:30 a.m. and went downstairs to get a glass of water. This thought crossed my mind: the future belongs to those who claim it.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Open All Night

So, in light of the recent Springsteen/Pearl Jam/REM/et al tour, I've been reading a lot of articles recently which criticize musicians for becoming involved in politics. My guess is the people writing these articles are not exactly music afficionados. Have they never heard of Woody Guthrie/Leadbelly/Buffalo Springfield/Leonard Cohen/Public Enemy/anyone? As long as there has been music, there've been musicians expressing themselves about social and political issues.

But I suppose--acting under the guise of feigned objectivity--for the modern newscastor/commentator there really is no difference who gets elected this fall. Politics is merely a game, an NFL for geeks with bowties and pressed down hair, not something that actually impacts people. For someone with this mentality, I suppose it would be strange if someone like Bruce Springsteen wanted to get involved politically, even though he doesn't have the sort of personal special interest usually associated with politics (e.g. looking for that subsidy/tax break/religious imperialism shoved down the rest of the country's throat/etc.).

From my perspective, the very purpose of art itself is to serve as a chronicler and engine for society. Art does not have to be political, but for art deliberately to avoid all politics... Well, all you would be left with is the "art" of a TV sitcom. That's hardly art at all.

In closing... [Not to make an inappropriate analogy, but simply to highlight the ludicrousness of this music/politic separation trumpeted in the media by people like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty note:]
Voltaire and Rousseau both got their start writing operas.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Rails, steps, and a little light

Originally uploaded by edwest.

"I'm questioning my education,
Is my education more than I got?
-Pearl Jam

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Fuck Clear Channel

Today's posting is a shout-out to one of my fellow blogsters, BeerMan.

BeerMan claims to be 104 years old. If so, he is one wise old motherfucker. Actually, what lured me to BeerMan's site was a look at his interests: beer, brewing beer, drinking beer, and bashing Clear Channel Communications.

I haven't tasted any of BeerMan's beer, so I can't vouch for his ability there, but I can attest to his growing dedication to the latter task. He has a blog, "Clear Channel Blows, " at There is only one posting there--but I have high expectations for this site.

A look at BeerMan's musical tastes... and one can understand why he hates Clear Channel.

Artists like Nick Cave, John Lee Hooker and Ry Cooder? Are you kidding me? There's no chance Clear Channel will play anything like that this century. For what could Nick Cave possibly have to say that would promote lawn fertilizer or a new brand of tampons?

Fuck Clear Channel.

On a more practical level, here are some things people can do to oppose Clear Channel and other cultural hegemonists from controlling the taste and creativity of this country:

1) Support independent artists by buying their CDs and going to see them at venues NOT run by Clear Channel (e.g. if you're in Minneapolis, go to First Avenue, not the Quest or the Fine Line, Clear Channel's corporate venues).

2) Support radio diversity by learning more about the microbroadcasting movement and contributing to it in whatever way you can: volunteering, lobbying your legislators (in particular, trying to reverse Congressional legislators' efforts to cripple microbraodcasting), donating money or equipment or services, and spreading the word. Light the fire. Prometheus Radio rocks!

3) Fight media consolidation by doing whatever you can to elect legislators who will put on a clamp on the buyout fever that has run rampant ever since the Gingrich, Dole & Clinton pony show put together the Telecommunications Act in 1996, eroding radio ownership limitations to the point where they are now meaningless, and allowing Clear Channel to gobble up 1,200 of the radio stations in the country. Clear Channels is one of only four companies that now control 90 percent of the radio market in this country. I've listened to Clear Channel stations in many cities and they all suck.

4) Spread fresh music in whatever way you can. If people heard all of the great music that is being recorded today, there is no way they would put up with the shit they are forcefed on Clear Channel.

Other ideas for action will be posted in the days ahead.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

At The Moment

Looking Back
Originally uploaded by edwest.

Like many, I was sad to hear the news of Henri Cartier-Bresson's passing earlier today.

In reading assessments of his loose, spontaneous style, I particularly liked this description from an AP story:

"Cartier-Bresson disdained artificial settings and said photographers should shoot accurately and quickly, seeking 'the decisive moment' when the ultimate significance of a given situation is laid bare. He shot with a Leica, the quietest of cameras, working only with black and white film, and notably, without a flash. Limelight, he said, was a sure way to destroy a subject.

To make the camera as unobtrusive as the human eye, he went so far as to tape over its silvery parts in black and would keep it hidden under a handkerchief until the critical moment. The aim was always to capture something of his subject's inner essence – to pinpoint 'a relationship between the eye and the heart.'"

Maybe it's just an excuse for laziness on my part, but I really identify with photography as a quick snap of a button on some random street corner. These types of photos capture something that could never be depicted in a studio, no matter how perfect the lighting, no matter how expensive the equipment. For me, photography is a skeletal enterprise, not a an attempt to recreate the largesse of Hollywood on a 5' X 7" frame.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Adults With Stickers

Today's diatribe is against parking rules. Specifically, parking permits, parking meters, parking tickets, parking law. Because what could be more pretentious that that? The idea that you have to pay simply for existing (and yes, in automobile-driven America the old four wheels are necessary to exist practically anywhere outside New York City). People put up with it. Anything can be justified under the auspices of parking policy. If you're a minute late in getting back, you can be hit up for $35 or $50. But the thing that grates me the most is parking rules where there is no clear need for them. Parking permits in neighborhoods where parking isn't really a problem. What, is it going to bug you so much if you have to move your little vehicle ten feet to get a space? It goes along with the whole idea that everything has to be privatized. This is my space. Stay in yours. I think of the Bob Dylan song: "I'll let you be in mine if I can be in yours. I said that." I hope there's still room for surreal dreams and irreverent clowns... especially the kind that aren't on the clock. The kind who might even be willing to outstay their welcome. Here me earth! I'm going to squat just a little bit longer.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Hey DJ rock this party

Just kidding, no party. But wouldn't it be great if there was?
By the Light of the Living Room
Originally uploaded by edwest.

Quote of the Day

"The opportunity to create and transform becomes weakened in a world in which creation requires permission and creativity must check with a lawyer."
-Lawrence Lessig, "Free Culture"