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chris isaak and the very hot day

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Monday, July 31, 2006

the mirrored suit in action

Last Sunday it was hot Hot HOT (104 degrees). What better way to celebrate the summer, the heat and my birthday week than with Chris Isaak at the zoo? The answer: no better way!

Chris Isaak and I go way back. Not in the sense that he has any idea who I am, but in the sense that I've been listening to him for a long time. He was one of my first internet message board obsessions back in the day. (the internet was smaller then.) Although I haven't been as thrilled with his more recent releases, I still think he has a fantastic voice and puts on one of the most fun concerts out there. Chris is 50 now (how is this possible?), and he looks and sounds great. REALLY GREAT!

So, back to 104 degrees. It was hot. I like hot weather, but here in pdx people are generally unprepared for it. I am occasionally one of those people. Bec, Martina and I met up with Garri and Peggy who had staked out THE BEST spot I have ever had the pleasure of sitting on for any of the zoo concerts. We had a fantastic and unobstructed view of the stage (and a few other things, but more on that later). Garri is a planner nonpareil. She had frozen water bottles, she had chilled bing cherries, she had cloth napkins brought for the express purpose of wrapping around ice cubes and tying around ones neck. Most importantly, she brought enough for everyone! Things shifted from being sweaty and cranky to cooled off and perfect. Sno cones also helped. The concert was sold out so there were ample people watching opportunities.

If I could address any one person specifically, it would be the woman wearing only a bikini with a fanny pack which looked like some distorted nylon pregnancy. Lady, if you can't think of somewhere else to put your money and your keys, maybe you should WEAR PANTS. Or at least carry a handbag, for god's sake. (Now that I've had this cranky rant I will probably read in the newspaper about a poor woman who is dying from a rare clothing allergy and got to attend a concert due to life-saving feeding-tube-in-fanny-pack technology.)

Allison Moorer was the opening act. She only had 4 songs or so and seemed pleasant, but I didn't really get a great sense of what she sounds like.

Shortly after Allison Moorer left the stage, Chris and the band came out! The guys were all in charcoal grey suits, and Chris was in a bright blue suit with paisley shaped THINGS all over it. Every time I have seen them (which has probably been in the summer 80% of the time) they have always dressed in wool suits. I think it's charming, if slightly demented. Here's what they played:

1. Lonely With a Broken Heart
2. Let's have a Party
3. Let Me Down Easy (up to this point I assumed he was only going to sing songs that started with the letter "L")

Chris likes to work a little blue -- I think he gets a perverse amount of pleasure from tweaking Wicked Game/ adult contemporary expectations. He has that appealing combination of aw, shucks charming with the look in his eye that indicates he also knows the precise distance to the state line (and what's legal on either side of it) and how much naked weight the chandelier could hold. Anyway, at this point in my notes I wrote down suggestive speech to audience, although I don't remember what he said. (give me a break -- it was 104 degrees out and I'd been sitting in the sun for hours at this point.)

4. Speak of the Devil -- Chris ran out into the audience for this one. I could see that the paisleys on his bright blue suit were made of beads and not sequins like I thought at first. There were also some HUGE dragonflies buzzing the audience, but I think they were naturally occurring and not with the band.
5. Dancin'
6. Somebody's Cryin' (he is a champion of the cryin' lyin' dyin' school of rhyme)
7. Wicked Game -- people went predictably nuts at the start of this song -- it apparently is pavlovian for some and they cannot resist the urge to uh, interact. Mostly this is sweet, but in some cases The Authorities had to assert themselves. The best example of the latter category would be the man wearing only Reno 911 style short shorts pulling his wife/girlfriend out into the fire lane for a train-wreck of a slow dance. ("dance" is generous, "grind" would be closer, but still not quite right.) A security guard had entirely too much fun making them quit. Seriously, he was still smiling about it still two songs later!
8. Go Walking Down There
9. King Without a Castle -- this is one of the 4 new songs from his latest "greatest hits" CD (I will not start down the Ranty Road that is my opinion on releasing Greatest Hits right after a Christmas album)
10. One Day
11. I Want You To Want Me -- This song is so fantastic! I do like Chris' version (which is on the new CD ) but I have to say nothing will ever touch the Cheap Trick original.
~~ switch to acoustic ~~
12. Here I Stand (just Chris)
13. Two Hearts
14. Except the New Girl
15. Graduation Day
16. Can't Do a Thing
17. Blue Moon of Kentucky -- Wheeee! When he first started I could tell a lot of people thought he was going to do the OTHER Elvis Blue Moon, but this one was even more fun. Last year, he seemed to focus more on his more exotic - themed songs to play around the hits (which I LOVE -- Sweet Leilani, So Lovely is the Night, etc.). This year was more rockabilly, which is great because I love that too!
At this point he took off his jacket because he was "sweating like a whore in church, folks." and then he went into a whole thing about how the pyramids were built on beer, carrots and suggestive blues. Then they...
~~switch back 1/2 way to electric~~
18. I Love You Too Much (I'm not sure if that's the name -- it's not Elvis' Too Much, which would have been Too Fun)
19. Only the Lonely "by the goddamned great Roy Orbison." And there was a bit here too about how singing in a really high voice was "manly." maybe even "extra manly."
~~all the way electric ~~
20. Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing/ Don't Be Cruel
21. Gone Ridin' -- (!!!) this is such a great car/driving song. I really love it, and he hardly ever plays it. Plus it seems too quiet on the CD but it was perfectly loud in person.


Kenney has a drum solo and the rest of the band do a sort of modified Supermagic 3000 (and it's fine with me that they don't play the whole thing since it is not my favorite).

Chris comes out wearing... THE MIRRORED SUIT! The picture at the top of this post is what the mirror suit looks like when you try to take a picture from far away with no flash. It's like a giant disco ball and must weigh 50 pounds at least. He always puts it on, even when it is hot like the interior of a volcano. That's professionalism! Or lunacy! I'm in favor of both, so I don't care which was the reason.

a) Blue Hotel
b) San Francisco Days (with the obligatory switch somewhere in the middle to "Portland Nights")
c) Bonnie Bee -- this song is fun, but it includes one of the concert elements I find the most stale after 7-8 times seeing it: the HOOCHIE PARADE. They pull 10-12 girls up on stage and to dance and Chris flirts outrageously. This time it seemed slightly less pathetic (maybe it was just shorter) and had the added amusement of the girl he particularly singled out replying to the line "I hope your parents aren't out there" by pointing to the hoochie to her left and saying "that's my mom." Anyway.
d)Blue Spanish Sky -- this song is just beautiful and it was a great way to end the concert. Which was now (at 10:30 pm) down to a reasonable 85 degrees!
Fun show! I hope he comes back next year.

tiger tiger

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Sunday, July 30, 2006
tiger lily

another flower picture, but these tiger lilies are KILLING ME right now they're so pretty.

know your chicken

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Friday, July 28, 2006
I have achieved haircut! Imagine if Pippin the hobbit was a girl and played tambourine in an indie-rock band. It's sort of like that. We'll see what happens after I wash it. I have a feeling it will be perpetually messy, but that's okay. Maybe it will look like I evaded the police on a vespa with no helmet which is a lot more interesting than the Toyota Truth.

What a difference a day and a haircut makes! Yesterday I was playing my own YOU SUCK symphony on constant repeat. People came over for Crafty Night, and I was still morose! Except I was so ridiculously morose that even I had to laugh by the time we decided I would make garden organic tranquilizers and try to sell them at Saturday Market. I was definitely on the upswing by the time D. titled his painting "Bloodclot Sunrise" in honor of my mood. I think the real minute I knew that the black mood was on the way out was when bec found me the perfect piece of clip art for the collage I was working on. It's from a book of 20's-30's travel advertising and says, in all seriousness: Vermont fits your budget. How funny is that? Don't oversell yourself, Vermont!

and now some songs from the ever-growing happy playlist and this morning's walk:

1. Let My Love Open the Door -- Pete Townsend: I love this song -- it is so sweet and sincere. I have to admit sometimes it makes me feel a little glum, but it's so great I can't banish it from the happy list. I'm not up for a bittersweet list, so here it stays.

2. Cut Your Hair -- Pavement: It was a SIGN! I mean, I had already made the appointment, but still. ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh -- that's the good stuff!

3. Fuck 'em Boyo -- Miss Frenchy: This is a mashup of Peaches and the Clash. I know it's probably heresy to say so, but I really prefer this to the Peaches version. This one is completely filthy like the original, but also jaunty. Yay jaunty!

4. Kiss -- Prince: There are several covers of this song that are great, but Prince's falsetto version is still my favorite! "you don't have to be rich to be my girl/ don't have to be cool to rule my world/ ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with/ I just want your extra time and your KISS"

5. You Do Something To Me -- Bryan Ferry: Some people hated his As Time Goes By CD (I saw it called "As Time Stands Still"), but I think he's got a GREAT voice for these songs. He really does sound mystified and perhaps a little horrified. It makes one wonder what that "something" is. " tell me why should it be/ you have the power to hypnotize me /let me live 'neath your spell/ do do that voodoo that you do so well" He makes it sound like his beloved is tricking him into committing horrific crimes or something! Good old Cole Porter!

6. Know Your Chicken -- Cibo Matto: "I know my chicken/ you got to know your chicken". Sound advice.

hey blackberry

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006
sauvie's island

My adventure of the day: gunfire and blackberries. (the actual berry kind, not the phone/organizer kind). Today I went out to pick berries because it is summer, they're ripe, I wanted berries, and also have the crazed idea that I will make jam. (I don't know why but the idea of blackberry jam has overwhelmed and fastened me in it's sweet demented berry grip.) Anyway, none of that sounds very adventure-like, but that's only because I haven't mentioned the part with the disco whistle -- not a sound I am expecting in the middle of a brambly berry patch, let alone the middle of a nature preserve! I also wasn't expecting the gun blast that followed shortly thereafter. The shooting turned out to be duck or quail hunters -- the whistle was their duck tricking device. I liked it much better when I thought it was a disco whistle. My mother was with me and full of assurances that if I did get shot, it was 'just buckshot -- you could say you went hunting with Cheney!' Full of compassion, my mother. (it's okay, I got to torture her later when she wanted to leave but I had the keys and wasn't quite done yet.)

Of course I didn't get shot (even a little) and have only a sunburn, a bunch of scratches on my arms, and two huge bowls of berries to show for it. As adventures go it's really not much, but... BERRIES! (they are really good)


coming up soon: chris isaak concert report

The Final Solution

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
by Michael Chabon #19

Oooh, this was a good one! Michael Chabon (I heart Wonder Boys a lot), Sherlock Holmes as an old man (although he is never named), a cipher-speaking parrot, the end of WWII and a cast of thousands! (All right, a cast of hundreds. Okay, okay, a cast of tens. A cast of least ten!) Chabon has a spot on voice for the Holmsian story but certainly brings his own descriptive and character-driven magic to the proceedings. What more could you want? Seriously, how greedy are you? If you like Holmes, Chabon, gingersnap cookies*, or are merely a fan of good writing and a quick read, do yourself a favor and check it out.

I have got to stop waiting so long before I write this stuff up.

*a love of gingersnap cookies is not necessary, or even related except that I could really go for one right now.

lovely and alarming

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Ah, summer! What other season brings the beauty of the swallowtail butterfly (these come back every year and are as big as a small bird!), as well as the malevolent glare of this wooden seagull? Spring? I think not! Autumn? It wishes!

in other news, I have a new candidate for most alarming "for dummies" book title spotted at the library: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cloning.

In my opinon, there are certain subjects of which Complete Idiots should remain ignorant. Cloning is one of those subjects.

malevolent seagull

I forget what 8 is for

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Thursday, July 20, 2006
linky linky linky : some unrelated nonsense serving as a link delivery device.

I look back at some of these recent posts and I seem either half-crazy or enraged which doesn't feel exactly... representative. For instance, I'm hardly ever actually filled to the top with rage. David Bowie doesn't like it, and who wants to make him upset? Not me, that's for sure! (that almost overwhelming desire to punch random idiots in the head is perfectly normal, right? Don't look at me like that, David Bowie!)

In other news, soy protein hates me. What did I ever do to you, multi-use plant? Sure, I may have said unkind things about the so called soy "meat" in a can at camp, but it was the 80's and I was a lot more sarcastic then. And to be honest, you really hadn't come into your own. Those days are over. We're both older, wiser and one would think less vindictive -- is it really necessary to AFFLICT ME now with your evil itchy boob-rashes? Or to mock me two hours after a delicious (but EVIL) mango/soy smoothie with a swollen eye? I THINK NOT. but you seem to think differently. Soy, we are so done. (except for soy sauce which I will love 4evah!)

Perhaps I can find an anti-Soy (except for soy sauce) god to SMITE YOU Soy, here at the very interesting, educating and entertaining Godchecker. It's a pretty specific request, but if anyone would have a listing, godchecker would. They proclaim "We have more Gods than you can shake a stick at. Godchecker's Mythology Encyclopedia currently features over 2,850 deities. " , and encourage us to "check back for more godly goodies." Who could resist an invitation like that? Not me. Maybe I can learn to forgive soy. Or read up on the smiting.

My sister gave me an iPod shuffle for my birthday. She correctly noticed that my 10G 3rd Generation iPod was full, and that every time I wanted to load something new on, something old had to come off. (I do find a sort of perverse enjoyment being compelled to make tough space related choices. I am the Solomon of my iPod, only instead of cutting babies in half I judge whether or not I really need 5 songs from The Darkness.) I can already tell that the shuffle is going to be great for facilitating musical obsessions. You know the kind where you only want to listen to, say... Bubblegum. (Or possibly other things like vetting the Ultimate Bathtub Mix CD candidates.)

They've gone Walken Mad over at Shakespeare's Sister. (lots of other good stuff too, of course!)

And here's just the thing if you've perfected your Victorian Time Travel machine (you've been working on one, right?) and want to do a quick bit of research before you go and inadvertently screw around with history and make it so your great great greats never meet and thereby ensure that you'll never be born and so on until you get a headache. It's The Victorian Dictionary, which allows you to explore maps, advertisements, and to find out what diseases you should look out for. Fun! (really!)

Chronicles: Volume One

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006
by Bob Dylan #18

Bob Dylan is a really good writer. No, wait! don't roll your eyes. Being a phenomenal songwriter does not necessarily guarantee that one will be an tremendous prose writer, but Dylan is. This book was so good it surprised me.

Chronicles not a tell-all memoir where Dylan dishes the dirt on famous girlfriends or infamous moments. It is so much better! He tries to get to the heart of the mysterious force that constantly drives him forward. "I'd come from a long ways off and had started from a long ways down. But now destiny was about to manifest itself. I felt like it was looking right at me and nobody else."

Chronologically it jumps around to four or so specific periods in his life. He doesn't attempt to tell everything that happens, but he goes into exceptional physical and emotional detail in what he does choose to tell. It's sort of like he was taking mineral core samples -- narrow but deep examinations that reveal much.

Without bogging down in endless exposition he paints vivid pictures of the places and people he encountered along his way. No detail is too small -- snow on the windowsill, the distant sound of a train, the cut of a coat, the texture of furniture (turns out he has a real flair for furniture). But best of all are his depictions of people. Here's a bit about half of a couple he stayed with for a time: "Chloe had her own primitive way of looking at things, always would say mad stuff that clicked in a cryptic way, told me once that I should wear eyeshadow because it keeps away the evil eye. I asked her whose evil eye and she said, "Joe Blow's or Joe Schmoe's." According to her, Dracula ruled the world and he's the son of Gutenberg, the guy who invented the printing press." You never know who or what will get that extra bit of attention (J.P. Morgan, Ricky Nelson, Albertus Magnus, etc.), which adds to the fun.

Despite the fact that it is Bob Dylan writing about his life, it's not just a book about Bob Dylan. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're not the biggest Dylan fan in the world, fear not. Neither is he! He writes about himself, but about the things that set his mind on fire and about how he answered the relentless call that pushed him forward. It's a generous look into the life and mind of a unique creative talent and not some monument to the Myth of Dylan.

unordered reunion list

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Friday, July 14, 2006
oh my god! I had this whole long thing started, but when I got to trying to explain how my cousin is actually my second cousin (ETCETERA) I thought that maybe context free observations were the way to go. (but it's still long)

+ I've decided that for me, gambling is pretty boring. If it were monte carlo and it was all roulette, baccarat, tuxedos, cocktail dresses, low-slung sports cars and "Bond, James Bond," it would be one thing... but the reno thing is largely sweatpants, slot machines, cigarettes and minivans as far as I can tell.

+ if I am to be overcome by cigarette smoke and stepped on by drunk people, I would rather be at a rock show.

+ I hope the skeezy guy in the snakeskin patterned shirt and the skanky girl in the super tight "I'm always under the mistletoe" t-shirt managed to run into each other. I would hate to think that two people so obviously made for each other would be so close yet so far.

+ Reno has some amazing old-school neon and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. It has yet to be Disneyfied, although I'm sure they'll get to it.

+ note to circus circus: granite surround in the shower does not, I repeat does not in ANY WAY compensate for crappy water pressure and not draining in a timely manner. Especially almost black granite which made me wonder (with increasing horror) about what sort of slime or who knows what it was hiding. It's probably a deliberate ploy to keep showers short and get guests back to the gaming floor ASAP. (I feel compelled to note that the rooms were clean and huge, but granitey)

+ I really like all of my cousins but one, and even have a fondness for the bonafide asshole cousin. (he's been an asshole since he was 5. The thought was he would grow out of it... I guess it could still happen.)

+ jetlagged little kids with asshole fathers are tiring, but I realize it's not the kid's fault.

+Frank Sinatra bought the CalNeva resort (which was built in the late 20's) sometime in the early 60's and built a TUNNEL from cabin 5 to somewhere. At least that's what I think my grandfather was saying. He was so taken with the whole CalNeva experience that all the people who were staying for the rest of the week moved from Circus Circus in Reno to CalNeva at Lake Tahoe.

+ I promised one cousin that I would watch You've Got Mail again, even though I found it to be a highly creepy stalker movie the first and only time I saw it. YGM fan cousin was hilariously outraged that I would call it that (she watched it on her computer on the flight over) and was ready to make me watch it again Right Then, but we were soon distracted by Asshole Cousin's 3456th description of how hard it was to travel alone with a young child. I could not work up much pity for him since he seemed to think he was the only person in the history of humanity who ever had to suffer in this way "...the stroller, AND my golf clubs...". I did feel sorry for his son and for every other passenger on any flight he was on.

+ this set of relatives (particularly the florida/india faction) are poster children for communication chaos. I could say it was just a matter of Mercury in retrograde or the almost full moon, but it would be a lie. Trying to get them them all in one place at one time was like herding cats (which is a completely overworked analogy, but TRUE). Except these cats had cell phones and all thought their tails were on fire. It made me crazy. Not because it was unexpected but because, as always, it seemed like so much pointless drama.

+ I had a much better time when I just let all that go.

+ maybe everyone was made insane by the high altitude

+ there were good parts! Lots of good parts.

+ answer this question correctly and win a special prize: which of the following maps were in the car and accessible during a crucial Oregon/California/Nevada "was THAT my exit!?!" moment?
a) Fresno
b) Traveler's Map of Italy
c) Portland
d) Map of the craters of the moon
e) Vancouver BC city map
f) Germany circa 1964
g) all of the above

bonus question: which map was not in any way, shape, or form accessible when the aforementioned "OH SHIT" moment occurred:
a) map of california
b) map of oregon
c) map of nevada
d) atlas containing all of the above
e) all of the above

(we managed to get there anyway)

+I hate to say it, but a road trip with my mom and sister doesn't seem complete if we don't almost run out of gas at dusk on a twisty deserted road in the middle of forested nowhere. In sasquatch country. It didn't happen this time either, but we tried to compensate by flirting with flat tires and disaster around The Big Hole. (Big Hole which is forested, not to be confused with Hole in the Ground, which has no trees)

+ Virginia City was interesting. I spent most of my time taking pictures and running back and forth across the street trying to avoid the guy dressed up like Wild Bill Hickock. The altitude was even higher there which maybe explains the extra insane costuming.

+my mom has been working on this massive photo album project for the reunion. It is a huge undertaking, and she doesn't give herself nearly enough credit for the work she's done. Relatives from all over have been sending her photos, which she's been scanning, cleaning up in photoshop, and having reprinted to put in this album for my grandfather. It's basically his family, starting with his parents and going on down. More pictures turned up at the reunion (she had a suitcase full of them by the time we left. good thing she loves this project), including some of my immediate family that I had never seen before. This picture -- which seems relevant since it must have been taken on my birthday (the back says only 7/73) -- was one of those. My guess is that my grandparents had just come back from Hawaii and brought me an outfit. I don't remember this at all, which surprises me since I must have LOVED IT. (who wouldn't?!?) My favorite thing about this picture though, is the party hat made from a balloon and a paper plate!

+ everyone seemed to have a really great time, including the grouchy people. We'll probably try to have reunions slightly more often than once, ever.

home again

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I have returned from the wilds of Nevada. I am not any richer, but I would like to think that somehow I am wiser.

Fortunately, I didn't have to tear anyone's arm off and beat them with it.

Unfortunately, I am now scared of clowns.

Details to follow.

I can't decide which picture to put with this post -- Lake Tahoe or the Wise Heavenly Gnome of Truckee. So I'll do one of each.

happy weekend

| On
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I'm leaving in 5 hours for a road trip to Reno. Why Reno?, you might reasonably wonder. You would not be alone! It is for a family reunion, but none of our family is from Reno, we have no special associations with Reno -- but it sure beats the alternative which was Branson, Mo. Needless to say, I was not on the Choosing Committee. I mean, none of our family lives in Hawaii either...

I'll be driving down with my mom and sister, and no doubt we will have many hilarious adventures along the way. All I ask is that you hold a good thought that another (yes, another) one of my relatives does not think it is wacky good fun to say the words "spinster" and "librarian" together while nudging me in the ribs. I may be forced to break off his or her arm and beat them with it. Unlike Vegas, where I am assured that this sort of indiscretion "stays in Vegas," you end up in Folsom Prison if you do it in Reno!

anyway -- I may be able to check in while I'm gone assuming I'm not in jail and that when the hotel says "wireless" they mean wireless computer access and not a telegram service.

I have to pack. Happy weekend!

some red

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Monday, July 03, 2006
some slightly different red

The little villains next door have been setting off fireworks for HOURS. I thought maybe with the lightning storm we've had this evening that they might go inside, but I think it just served as muse to their collective inner pyromaniac. I wouldn't care if the fireworks were the kind that at least had a pretty explosion to go with the noise, but NO. Just the loud ones that bang or whistle and make car alarms go off. Good thing I'm practicing this cranky old lady bit. I want to be REALLY GOOD at it when the time comes to do it for real. While I'm at it -- I really hate those bluetooth wireless cell phone ear-piece things in any context outside of the car. Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Weirdo at the grocery store. You look like a fool and make me want to punch something. No, that's not exactly accurate. I don't want to punch just anything, I want to punch YOUR HEAD. Good thing for you I am so peace loving, mild mannered, and not in possession (YET) of a mind control ray. Or any kind of ray, really.

Some less cranktastic news -- here are five more songs from my iPod happy list. I am pleased to report that it still does it's job!

Too Much -- Elvis Presley: This one, perhaps not surprisingly, cracks me UP! Plus it has a great Scotty Moore guitar solo in it.

Words of Love -- Buddy Holly: The iPod was feelin' 50's today, and that was all right with me. Buddy Holly is ... well, I think he is well known for dying too young in a plane crash and writing Peggy Sue, but man -- so many of his songs are really top-notch. This is one of them.

Ya Ya Ya (Looking For My Baby) -- the Detroit Cobras: Hmmm. I think I may have traced the source of today's head-cracking impulses. This song is so great! I would TOTALLY take "how to break a beer bottle over the top of someone's head and not hurt your hand" lessons from the Detroit Cobras.

Sugar Daddy -- Frank Black: this is from the Hedwig cover album. I LOVE this version, because Frank Black has that total crazy-werewolf thing going on. He always sounds like he's right on the desperate edge of reason, which really appeals to me sometimes. (it is a very full moon wherever he is) and I just get a big kick out of him singing "every item on every page of the Lillian Vernon catalogue."

Let's Do It -- Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg: I could have found another 50's themed one that played today, but this one is too fun to leave off! This is from the Tank Girl Soundtrack and has a lot of charm and energy. Who doesn't want to hear Joan Jett sing "When the little bluebell at the bottom of the dell/ starts to ring, ding dong"??

The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories

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Monday, July 03, 2006
by Steve Almond #17

I saw Steve Almond read at Wordstock and I liked him a lot. Everything that I responded to there (funny, fearless, sincere, a little bit warped, a little bit raunchy, etc.) is also found in this collection. What makes this book so winning to me is his ability to believably inhabit a variety of characters while still sounding exactly like himself. It's like some sort of conjuring trick! There were a few stories that didn't particularly ring my bell, but even those are very well written. Some of my favorites: A Happy Dream, The Problem of Human Consumption, Larsen's Novel, and Summer, As In Love. This book was so good I read it all in one sitting. If that's not enough of a recommendation (and it totally should be!), do please consider that not only is he a really good writer but he's also a man of principle -- he quit his job at Boston College because they asked Condoleezza Rice to give the commencement speech!

cloverdale wishes you a happy july 1th

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Sunday, July 02, 2006
reading at the beach

Warning: another boring travelogue ahead. Yesterday Bec and I drove out to Lincoln City to kick off birthday month in one of the best ways -- Road Trip Leading to Reading on the Beach! We went the longer way rather than the efficient way, driving up through the winding coast range roads to Tillamook, then down the coast the 40 miles or so to our destination. There are practical reasons for doing this -- it is longer, but traffic is generally less. The roads are twisty, which makes them more fun to drive (as long as it's not raining or dark) and there are certainly fewer RVs and other road menaces. The best reason, of course, is that it is simply more beautiful!

July 1th? What's up with that?, you may wonder. I'll try to piece it together, although I was laughing too hard to get any actual FACTS. (facts: overrated.) The first weekend in July is when Clover Days are celebrated in the small town of Cloverdale. There was a sign in front of a large red barn (usually home to a flea market) that said "Happy July 1th!" I think they were probably just prepping for the 4th, but who knows? Maybe they number time differently in Cloverdale. It wouldn't surprise me in the least. Speaking of clover, it was blooming like mad (thank god for claritin!) and smelled so sunny and sweet. We were rolling along listening to my ipod Happy Playlist (which did pretty well considering that some songs that make ME happy are merely puzzling or disturbing to others) with the windows down, inhaling the wonderful early summer smells of clover, freshly mown hay, ah, nature etc, etc. Just as moving to the middle of a meadow seemed like a really good idea, we would get a hit of the UNHOLY PONG of cows and not be able to roll the windows up fast enough. On the way to Tillamook, cows are inevitable. (Town motto: trees, cheese, and the ocean breeze. for real).

Once to Lincoln City, we found a spot on the beach with a slight windbreak and spent a couple of hours watching the ocean, reading books, watching the kites, dozing off, etc. I read The Trouble With Poetry by Billy Collins (recommended!) Thanks to liberal application of SPF 45 I didn't get a sunburn. There were even people galloping by on horseback, which I don't think I've ever seen there before. (It looked a little bit like a deodorant commercial which made it slightly more hilarious than magical, but it was still cool.) Once the wind picked up and the clouds started moving in off the horizon, we trekked to the car and drove back to town.

The evening was capped off with popsicles, chilled beverages and watching The Philadelphia Story. Everyone should change their name to C.K. Dexter Haven IMMEDIATELY. Or maybe I need to give that name to a cat or dog or canary or something. I just want to say it a LOT, which is a problem I should probably work on privately. (Cary Grant is about the only logical argument for cloning that I can imagine.) Anyway, I hope everyone had a great July 1th -- I certainly did!
reading at the beach