Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah!

The self-titled debut from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was one of the biggest buzz albums of 2005. I'm not really sure why. I've listened to it three or four times now and while it's definitely a good album, I really don't see it as a huge standout from all the different stuff I listened to last year. It's a solid pop album and I wouldn't mind seeing them when they play the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill on March 9th, but for me The Eels' Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is still my favorite album of 2005.

I had never heard The Eels before I heard the single Trouble With Dreams on Sirius' Left of Center but once I bought the Blinking Lights album I was blown away. I promptly went out and bought several other Eels' albums. One of those albums was their debut called Beautiful Freak. It's a fantastic, experimental pop/folk album. My favorite tracks are My Beloved Monster (which I already knew from the fantastic Shrek soundtrack) and Novocaine for the Soul. It's hard to describe the Eels. They are experimental, but still have a bit of stripped down sound that's not too complex -- a little more mellow than most bands you'd classify as experimental. They remind me a bit of a folksy Beck. I've got a few more of their albums to check off the list soon and based on these first two, I have high expectations.

The final album I'll review today is Paul Westerberg's Folker. I haven't heard a thing from Westerberg since I discovered him through two songs on the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe's Singles back in 1992. I absolutely loved the tune Dyslexic Heart from that soundtrack but had never really heard anything else Westerberg had done. I picked up Folker as a free download during my 100 Free Songs promo from eMusic (a non-DRM'd download service I highly recommend!). My favorite tune is the first one Jingle, which just happen to hit me at the perfect time, while I was attending a Sales & Marketing conference last week in Phoenix. While I didn't find anything here that rivals Dyslexic Heart, I enjoyed this collection of singer-songwriter material, and obviously, the price was right!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

This Left, Feels Wrong

I've been falling down on blogging about the albums' I've been screening this year. Hopefully I can catch up with a few quick reviews here:

Bon Jovi's This Left Feels Right is a re-interpretation of many of Bon Jovi's hits from my teenage years. Usually I love cover songs -- my favorite podcast is Coverville -- but when an artist remakes his own songs in a new style it has to be good. I found this album not very engaging. A couple of the covers are nice reinterpretations, most notably the mellow version of "It's My Life" (which was not really a hit when I listened to Bon Jovi anyway) but other than that, I found the jazzy, off-tempo remakes feel forced and seem to strip the anthems of everything that made them hits to begin with.

The Giraffes self-titled debut is about as far from jazzy, off-tempo as you can get. It's high-powered, in-your-face, screeching punkesque rock. I picked it up after hearing the cut Man U which starts "Leeds are down by 4, the skinheads are angry!" This album fills that same void that Rage Against the Machine does from time-to-time.

The third-album I'll mention here is Architecture in Helsinki's In Case We Die. My buddy Jonathan gave me a copy of this and told me it was one of the best albums of 2005 but I kind of put it into the random mixer on my mp3 player and didn't pay much attention to it. Finally, I spun this one in disc order in one listening and that's when I finally realized what a veritable mix of fun, eclectic, uncharacterizable pop this album really is. I can't really describe it beyond saying it is one of the most creative albums I've heard in a long time and I highly recommend it.

Since I started this review complaining about covers of 80's hair metal songs, I figured I'd end the review with an example of how the Hair Nation should be remembered. Nina Gordon, a founding member of Veruca Salt, has made a collection of MP3s called "Bring the Rock" available for free download from her website. The songs, which were recorded live at Largo in LA, is a collection of cover songs and include fabulous versions of Skid Row's "18 and Life" and Cinderella's "Nobody's Fool" but the best cover there, by far, has to be her re-interpretation of N.W.A.'s "Straight Out of Compton" (I'm sure I don't need to warn you that one is not work safe!)

Friday, January 27, 2006

I Love Sky Harbor

I love Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport for one simple reason...free WiFi in the terminal! With two hours to kill until I finally get to head home from a week in Phoenix I'm surfing the web for free. Woohoo!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Two Minutes Hate

Recent current events prompted me to pick up George Orwell's 1984 from the library this week. I was 11 when 1984 rolled around so unlike a lot of kids a few years older than me, I did not read this book in high school. I did however read Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, which is a very similar dystopia novel in my history of sci-fi class at Georgia Tech . I figured it was time to tick this classic off my reading list.

As I expected I would, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. It was very thought provoking, both from the historical perspective of when it was written (1948) and in light of a variety of intelligence/spying stories that have shaped current events for the past 5 years or so.

What I didn't expect was to find so many great band names in the novel! The concepts of the language of Newspeak Orwell creates for the novel struck me as the perfectly suited for expressing the names of rock bands. Here's a few that I noted while reading the book:
There were probably a few more but those are the ones that I remember at the moment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Love Monkey

Love Monkey is a new show(CBS, Tuesday 10pm ET) about Tom Farrell (Tom Cavanaugh) as an idealistic A&R man for True Vinyl, a struggling record label in New York City. Based on the best-selling novel by Kyle Smith (add it to my reading list), this show is going to play out as a romantic comedy much like Cavanuagh's last venture, Ed. I enjoyed Ed but probably wouldn't have even sampled Love Monkey if it weren't for the musical theme of the show. I caught the pilot last week and the second episode tonight while stuck in a hotel room in Phoenix.

In the first two weeks, the show has revolved around Tom discovering a very talented 16 year old singer-songwriter, Wayne. Wayne is played by Teddy Geiger, a real-life musician and the show features Geiger's own musical compositions. But more than the great music from Geiger, the soundtrack of the show is superbly filled with all manner of cool music (Ep.1 | Ep. 2) There's also been a few guest appearances such as Ben Folds, etc. My favorite bit yet was the Tom Farrell Rock n' Roll tour of NYC where Tom takes Wayne around to all the historically famous music sites in New York such as the Chelsea Hotel, the tenement block featured on the cover of Physical Graffiti, and the famed CBGB nightclub.

I doubt the show will be a big hit since nothing I enjoy on TV these days seems to be a major success (see: Arrested Development, Sports Night, etc.) but as long as the music stays good and Tom continues to take pot-shots at the machine that is the record business, I'll continue to enjoy the show. Of course, not everyone agrees with me that the show is worth watching.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Slow Spokes Group Bicycle Ride - 1/22/2006 2PM



Total DistanceTurn DirectionSegment NameSegment Distance
0.0START - Harris Teeter / McCrimmon Corners
0.0LEFTDavis Rd3.7
3.7LEFTHopson Rd1.6
5.3RIGHTTW Alexander Dr4.5
9.8LEFTS Miami Blvd0.5
10.3RIGHTLumley Rd1.8
12.1RIGHTPage Rd4.1
16.2STRAIGHTHopson Rd0.3
16.5LEFTHwy 54 / Chapel Hill Rd0.6
17.1RIGHTChurch St1.9
19.0RIGHTMcCrimmon Pkwy1.0
20.0FINISH - Harris Teeter / McCrimmon Corners

Please print your own cue sheet and RSVP in the comments section of this blog if you're going to join us!

Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK Day Ride

Map of Home-to-Cary ParkA beautiful afternoon for mid-January (temps in the low 60s) so I took a little ride today instead of working the legs in the gym:

Ride Stats
  • Time: 01:17:45
  • Distance: 17.14 miles
  • Avg. Speed: 13.2 mph
  • Elevation Gain: 1,502 feet
  • Avg Heart Rate: 147 bpm

Saturday, January 14, 2006

We're No. 1!

By converting a sudden-death overtime penalty shot (when's the last time you saw that?), Frantisek Kaberle sent the Carolina Hurricanes to the top of the NHL standings.

It looked like Carolina's record of 16 straight wins when entering the third period with a lead was going to fall as Nashville kept clawing their way back into this one. But a thrown stick in overtime and nice penalty shot conversion by an unlikely defenseman keeps the streak alive.

As of this morning, the top five teams in the NHL are:
  1. Carolina -- 62 pts (29-10-4)
  2. Philadelphia -- 62 pts (28-10-6)
  3. Ottawa -- 61 pts (29-10-3)
  4. Detroit -- 61 pts (29-12-3)
  5. Dallas -- 60 pts (29-12-2)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Daddy's Proudest Day

Max scored his first ever soccer goal today!

After a goalless season of U5s at DreamCamps and then an instructional session of L'il Kickers (where they don't play any actual games), Max started in the U6 instructional league at Soccer Dome. At first I was a little wary because the drills seemed to be a bit above his level but once they started scrimmaging, I saw a soccer player emerge.

Back during his first season of U5s, I used to joke that Max was destined to play sweeper because he was always 10 yards behind the play and showed almost no aggression toward the ball. But today at Soccer Dome he was a completely different player. As soon as he realized it was Game On he was after the ball like Edgar "the pitbull" Davids.

About 10 minutes into the game, he raced ahead of the bunch to pick up a loose ball and with visions of Beckham against Wimbeldon unleashed an audacious shot from beyond the halfway line that left the keeper rooted to the spot watching the ball whistle by into the net. (In the interest of full disclosure, I guess I should point out that the entire field was only 20 yards long and the keeper was a parent who was less mobile than Tony Meola circa 2005)

Max went on to score 5 goals during the half-hour practice game. Not even the fact that 3 of his goals were own goals scored into the wrong net can temper my pride tonight!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NBC Goes for the Gold (in HDTV)

Back in the summer of 2004, we bought an HDTV just in time for the Stanley Cup finals and for the 2004 Summer Olympics. ABC's coverage of the hockey finals in HDTV was absolutely breathtaking but NBC completely dropped the ball on their olympic coverage.

First of all, they delayed their HDTV broadcasts by 24 hours, basically forcing anyone that wanted to know results in any semblance of real time to watch the broadcast in standard-definition. They did a completely different production for their Summer Olympics HDTV coverage -- different graphics, different cuts of the action, and B-list commentators. To top it all off, the compression they used was horrible meaning that anything with fast motion -- say, for example just about every sport in the Summer Games -- had massive blocking and pixelation in the feed. What a disappointment.

Now, with the Torino games a month away, NBC has finally announced they are committed to getting their HDTV broadcast right this time.

For the first time, Olympic HD viewers will see a simulcast of the analog broadcast -- same time, same broadcasters, same graphics -- but in High Definition and in 5.1 surround sound. Figure skating, hockey, long and short track speed skating, ski jumping, freestyle aerials and moguls, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will all be broadcast in 1080i high definition because those venues in Torino are wired for high definition coverage by the host broadcaster. From those venues where the host broadcaster is unable to provide a high definition signal, a 16:9 signal will be upconverted by NBC.

Since USA, MSNBC and CNBC do not have high definition platforms, Universal HD will carry a live simulcast of much of the cable coverage, featuring Olympic hockey like it has never been seen before. And if that wasn't enough, all Team USA hockey games and the gold medal games, both men's and women's, will be broadcast commercial-free and in their entirety.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Colbert Nation

After what was way too long of a holiday vacation, my favorite TV show The Colbert Report returns tonight with guest Nancy Grace of CNN and Court TV. Who wants to bet Stephen nails her?

Liz and I went to see a taping of the Colbert Report during only its second week on the air. Since then, I don't think I've missed an episode. I love the way Colbert mocks the personality-driven news shows (e.g., The O'Reilly Factor).

If you're not part of the Colbert Nation yet, you might want to start out with this wonderful interview with Stephen by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. After that, you can decide whether or not you have the balls to watch.

I Love My Hurricanes

With a pair of wins this weekend against the Islanders, my Carolina Hurricanes finished up the first half of the NHL season atop the Atlantic Division where they've put 12 points between them at Alanta (and hold 3 games in hand). In the entire Eastern Conference Carolina is a mere two points behind Philadelphia and fourth overall in the NHL at the midway point.

I've always been more a fan of college athletics than pro sports, but then again, I never lived in a town that had a major professional team. When we moved to the Triangle in 2002, the 'Canes were fresh off their magical Stanley Cup run and the only place they had to go was down. It was pretty hard to get excited about the team back then. Of course, the strike in 2004 didn't help either.

But when hockey returned in 2005, I caught the bug again on the back of a fantastic Hurricanes team. I don't think I realized how much I missed hockey in its absence until it returned.

The Hurricanes are ideally suited for the new NHL. Where salary caps have leveled the playing field and a hard-working, fast skating team is rewarded by oodles of power plays, the Hurricanes have looked almost invicible this season. The thing that has impressed me the most is the resilence of this team. I cannot count how many times they have entered the third period trailing only to win or at least tie the game.

The Canes are so impressive, that OLN has picked up tomorrow night's game between Carolina and Detroit (Western Conference leaders, 1pt ahead of Carolina in league) for their national telecast.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sunday Ride

Map of Home-to-SAS LoopSince I'm training for mountain climbing, I thought it'd be a good idea to establish a baseline fitness level over some hilly terrain to compare myself to as the season progresses.

This afternoon I did a ride out Weston Parkway up the SAS campus and then back home via Cary Pkwy. The ride is nothing but rolling hills including a couple of challenging obstacles in there including a climb of 1.6 miles and 0.8 miles at two different points.

Ride Stats
  • Time: 00:56:21
  • Distance: 12.87 miles
  • Avg. Speed: 13.7
  • Elevation Gain: 1,569 feet
  • Avg Heart Rate: 160 bpm

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Hit and a Miss

Thursday at work I was doing quite a bit of PowerPointing at my desk so I took the opportunity to try out two more new albums. The first album queued up on WinAmp was Sleater-Kinney's The Woods.

I had heard a lot about Sleater-Kinney but never heard them perform. I kind of felt like they were always a bit of a darling of the Indie music scene and when I noticed that their latest offering made several Best of 2005 lists (Amazon, NPR's All Songs Considered, etc.), I decided to give it a shot.

After about 4 hours of this album playing continuously on repeat I can't say that a single track on the album has stuck with me. Every song sounded the same to me...a sort of generic, noisy rock. Honestly, I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about.

On the other hand, the second album I listened to that afternoon jumped out at me on the first spin. I was singing along to the New Pornographers' The Electric Version before I ever hit the repeat button. In fact, it's still playing on WinAmp tonight as I type.

I discovered the New Pornographers a few months ago when I heard a couple of singles off of their Twin Cinema album on Sirius Satellite Radio's Left of Center channel. I enjoyed Twin Cinema so much I went in search of more material from the back catalog.

I've appreciated this 2003 offering almost as much as I did Twin Cinema (which I'd classify as a Top 10 of 2005 for me). I'm particularly partial to the very singable and infectious pop of the tracks From Blown Speakers, All For Swinging You Around, and Testament to Youth in Verse just to count a few of the many great tunes on this disc.

2006 Cycling Season Plans

In 2005, I set myself a goal to get serious about riding my bike. I lost close to 30 pounds training and ended up riding a 2-day, 150 mile tour to benefit the National MS Society and then flew out to Austin to ride in Ride for the Roses (1 day, 100 miles) in honor of my friend DJ.

For 2006, I wanted to up the ante a bit. I want to start climbing mountains. I picked up Tim Murphy's excellent ride guide book called Road Cycling: The Blue Ridge High Country as I started to think about what I want to achieve this season on the bike. After reading through the whole book, I think it's clear that climbing Beech Mountain has to be the primary goal.

Beech, located near Boone, NC, is the mountain where Lance Armstrong rediscovered his will to race a bicycle. He describes that magical ride in his book It's Not About the Bike as the day he realized he still had the ability and the desire to race as a competitive cyclist. He reflects back on his trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains:

"I passed the rest of the trip in a state of near-reverence for those beautiful, peaceful, soulful mountains. The rides were demanding and quiet, and I rode with a pure love of the bike, until Boone began to feel like the Holy Land to me, a place I had come to on a pilgrimmage. If I ever have any serious problems again, I know that I will go back to Boone and find an answer. I got my life back on those rides."

Beech Mountain is a Category 1 class climb (the second highest rating achievable in pro cycling) and climbs 1,450 feet in a mere 3 miles. It was the scene of 4 mountain top finishes of the Tour du Pont during the 1990s

It just so happens that the 2006 Cycle North Carolina tour starts in Banner Elk, NC on September 30th with a ride up Beech Mountain and then proceeds to traverse the state to Emerald Isle by October 7, 2006. All told, there will be about 450-500 miles of riding over those 8 days. It may be the closest I'll ever come to riding Le Tour...so I've pencilled it in as my main cycling objective for 2006.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on my training for my own Tour de NC!

The Other Elvis

For some reason, Elvis Costello has never found himself in heavy rotation in my CD player. I'm not sure why...he seems to pop up everywhere I look. First my brother's band Seven Foot Politic covered Accidents Will Happen and Oliver's Army. My favorite podcast Coverville routinely plays Costello covers and even had a whole show dedicated to alternate versions of Costello songs. The DJ of that podcast Brian Ibbot, whom I have much respect for his musical knowledge and taste, put Elvis Costello's Armed Forces on his Desert Island Discs list. Most recently, I was watching this very interesting drama/mystery/thriller/musical on BBC America called Viva Blackpool that featured Costello's Brilliant Mistake as one of the musical numbers. I even remember spotting him once in a guest appearance on the TV show Brotherly Love with Joey Lawrence!

So I finally decided to grab a couple of Costello's early recordings, Armed Forces and King of America, and I gave them a few spins this week while at work. I really enjoyed both of these albums quite a bit. The lyrics and stories told here are wonderful and the range of music runs the gamut from straight up rock to a country-ish sounding folk in some cases. Of course tunes that I already knew (Oliver's Army, Brilliant Mistake, etc.) stood out but there really wasn't a disappointing track here at all.

The only comment I would add is that the first version of (What's So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding? that I ever heard was an acoustic one by the song's original artist Nick Lowe that eneded up on one the KGSR Broadcasts CDs that I bought in Austin a few years back. I prefer the raw solo acoustic version that Lowe did there rather than the version on Costello's Armed Forces.

If you do pick up either of these albums, make sure you pick up the Rhino Records "Deluxe Editions" which both contain bonus discs with alternate takes, live versions, and a few bonus singles.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Back in the Spring of 2002, a work buddy of mine convinced me I needed to go with him to a scrimmage over at UT. I took Max to first ever football game that day and met my buddy over at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, which unbelievably, had almost 10,000 people in it to watch a scrimmage! You see, it was the first ever public practice in which Vince Young was going to quarterback the Longhorns offense.

Playing behind Chris Simms, Young had little chance of starting that year (or that scrimmage), but late in the second half of what was actually a pretty boring intra-squad game, Vince Young entered the game and the entire stadium rose to its feet with bated breath. Young was being billed as the savior who was supposed to one day take Texas to the promised land. On his first play from scrimmage, he handed the ball off for a 3 yard rushing play...the crowd roared! The second play, he dropped back on a play-action pass and lofted one of the prettiest feather-touch passes I've ever seen to Roy Williams who went the length of the field for a touchdown. The crowd went bezerk.

Vince didn't take another snap that game and ended up redshirting the following season, but last night, the prophecy came true as Texas broke USC's 34-game unbeaten streak to win the 2006 National Championship with a touchdown in the last 20 seconds of the Rose Bowl.

Considering this is the first college sports team that I've followed to win a national title in my lifetime, it would be a bit of an understatement to say I'm a wee bit excited this morning!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Owww, My Head!

The warning sign at right clearly warns escalator riders to watch their heads...but the real question is...for what?

If we pan back and look at the scene with a broader perspective
it appears that the sign simply warns us not to hit our head on the warning sign!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

I read Boing Boing everyday (many times a day, is more like it). It's one of my favorite blogs discussing all manner of pop culture (Caution: some of the posts on BB are not work safe!).

One of the regular contributors to the blog is Canadian sci-fi writer and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow. I have always been interested in reading some of Cory's works not only because I enjoy what he posts on BB but also because when he releases a book (like this one), he releases it free on the web under the Creative Commons license. This means folks can read it on the internet, download it for free and even adapt it into their own audio books or fan fiction. The concept had intrigued me and I kept telling myself that one day I'd take the plunge and read Doctorow's first novel entitled Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

I told Liz about the book thinking it sounded like something she might like too. She said, "Yea, I already read it. It's on the bookshelf upstairs." I guess it really is a small world after all!

The prologue opens I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the Bitchun Society; to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies; to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to see the death of the workplace and of work. It grabbed me from the first sentence and never let go. (Okay, the writing the symphonies thing didn't interest me so much but who wouldn't want to live in a bitchin'(sic) society where there is no work and no death and you can visit the Haunted Mansion everyday?)

There are all sort of themes explored in this cyberpunk tale but the one that struck me most was the allegory here for the meritocracy that thrives on the internet. I first became acutely aware of this internet culture in theory when reading The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a series of essays on Open Source Software, but goodness knows I participate in it every day (ask me how many Reputation Points I have on BigSoccer this week or how many positive feedback stars I have on Ebay!).

I can't remember the last time I read a full novel in less than 24 hours (perhaps on the Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide books?). If you liked Ender's Game and/or Snow Crash, I highly recommend Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom!

Swedish Folk Music

Today's the first day back at work and I'm listening to The Chrysler's Failures and Sparks CD. Wow, is this stuff mellow!

It's probably the wrong choice for the first day back at work in 2 weeks. I needed something with more of a driving beat and urgency to help me slog through all the emails.

But don't get me wrong, this is an amazing album. I don't know how my brother discovered this Swedish band because I'm having a hard time finding out very much about them. This I do know...the band is lead by dual vocalists/guitarists Anders Rudström and Pelle Lindroth and when they harmonize, I hear Simon & Garfunkel mixed with R.E.M. on these tunes. Not a bad combination!

I downloaded this album from eMusic, a great alternative to iTunes and other similar download services. eMusic provides the tunes in MP3 format (with no DRM!) at only 25 cents a song! But I didn't even half to shell out two bits for this album as I nabbed it as part of my introductory 100 song free trial!

Apparently the US version of this album has 5 extra, all-acoustic bonus tracks. Make sure you pick these up as they are my favorites. But then again, how can you go wrong with a song that that starts off "Figo scored a great goal..."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Teenage Polyphonic Songook Spree Fanclub

Well, there's no better way to kick of my 50 books in 2006 campaign than to read an entire book on New Year's Day. Yesterday I read Nick Hornby's Songbook (aka 31 Songs when originally published in the UK). As I stated earlier in this blog, Hornby is one of my favorite writers and his obsessions with both football (aka soccer) and music allow me to really relate to what he writes.

Songbook is a collection of essays about 31 songs (duh!) that are memorable to Hornby for one reason or another. I was amazed at both the intersections of our musical tastes as well as the vast ranges of music that I have yet to explore that is tangentially related to the songs in this book.

One of my favorite essays in the book is about Badly Drawn Boy's A Minor Incident (read excerpt here). Before the movie for Hornby's About a Boy came out in 2002, I'd never heard of Badly Drawn Boy but was immediately drawn to the incredible soundtrack (done completely by BDB).

The edition of Songbook that I read also includes 5 extra essays (not in the original 31 Songs). My favorite one gives mad props to the incredible revival in Steve Earle's career as well as a few of the bands on his E-Squared label.

The only band that had two songs in Hornby's 31 Songs list is Teenage Fanclub. I discovered TF when they had a few MTV hits off their album Bandwagonesque. I even saw them live circa 1992 at the Masquerade in Atlanta. Whlie my brother has been a long time fan of TF, I promptly forgot about them until I saw they were playing at Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill a few months back. My brother drove up and we went to the see the first show of their North American tour supporting their new album Man-Made, which made it into my Top 10 of 2005 album list (well, I never actually made a list, but if I had, it would have been there). Both songs that Hornby taps are from the Songs From Northern Britain CD.

I've had a copy of Songs From Northern Britain for a while now as my brother gave me a copies of a large range of Teenage Fanclub's back catalog but I had yet to truly explore that album. Given my resolution to intently listen to 50 albums in 2006 (By the way, I'm planning to up that to 200 just to make it challenging), I figured I'd pull this one out and give it a spin. So yesterday while riding the half-metric, I listened to both this album and The Beginning Stages Of... by the Polyphonic Spree.

Teenage Fanclub is guitar-driven power-pop at it's sweetest. Hornby compares this album with The Beatles' Rubber Soul and I'm not going to argue. This exactly the kind of album that you want to drop in the CD player as you head to the beach or to sing along to at the top of your lungs cruising down the freeway. My favorite tracks after a couple of listens are Your Love is the Place That I Come From and I Don't Care.

The Polyphonic Spree is one of those bands where I completely fell in love with the concept of the band, if not necessarily the music itself. The Spree is a 23-member band from Dallas that looks like the love child of a church choir crossed with a marching band. I picked up this album after reading a review of their opening up for David Bowie's last North American tour in Spin. The songs on this album are hugely instrumented, massively produced, epic rock songs reminiscent of something you might hear on Pink Floyd's The Wall. I had been wanting to pull this album back out since I heard Reach for the Sun on the soundtrack of the incredible documentary Murderball. I enjoy this album but's it not the kind of thing that I'm going to find myself humming as I drive down the road. My favorite tracks here are the opening track Section 1 (Have A Day/Celebratory), Section 8 (Soldier Girl), and Section 9 (Light & Day/Reach for the Sun). Section 10 (A Long Day) is a bizarre wall of sound which I eventually just skipped ahead...it would be a long day if this track was all you had to listen to.

So after 1 day, I've already marked 2 albums and 1 book off my 2006 Project list.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Cabin Fever

Dark at 4:30pm and too cold to play outside has taken it's toll on Max. Plus, add in the long holiday break from school (he asks us every morning hopefully, "Is today a school day?") and Max has a huge case of Cabin Fever.

Today, Max dressed himself...He chose a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops.

The unseasonably warm weather may have confused him this week a bit, don't you think?

New Year's Day Half-Metric

So how did you spend your New Year's Day? I got my 2006 off on the right foot (uh, pedal stroke) with a 50km bike ride. I had set myself a goal of riding in the Spin Cycle's New Year's Day Half-Metric for the sole reason that I knew if I didn't, I wouldn't spend anytime on the bike once I had completed the Ride for the Roses. Well, the psychological trick didn't work...today's ride was only my second time on a bike since I rode my first century back in late October.

I suffered miserably on the bike from lack of fitness while trying to keep up with riders who were much faster and fitter than I am presently. But, the weather was gorgeous for January 1st and it was a great chance to try out the new Garmin Forerunner 301 GPS (pictured at right) that Liz gave me for our 10th wedding anniversary (much cooler than the diamond anniversary band I gave her, in my opinion).

It's amazing the amount of data that you can get about your bike ride with this device...location, speed, distance, elevation, grade, heartrate, calories burned, etc. You can also configure interval training workouts and even have the GPS guide you home the way you came if you get lost!

Even more amazing is the offline data analysis you can do with the GPS data files using the web applications at MotionBased.com. If you click on the charts below, you can learn more than you ever needed to know about my bike ride. Probably the coolest feature of the MB site is that it allows you to share GPS data tracks with other riders and virtually race yourself or someone else who has ridden the same course previously.

2006 Albums Reviewed

  1. The Beginning Stages of... (The Polyphonic Spree)
  2. Songs From Northern Britain (Teenage Fanclub)
  3. Failures and Sparks (The Chrysler)
  4. Armed Forces (Elvis Costello)
  5. King of America (Elvis Costello)
  6. The Woods (Sleater-Kinney)
  7. The Electric Version (The New Pornographers)
  8. This Left Feels Right (Bon Jovi)
  9. The Giraffes (The Giraffes)
  10. In Case We Die (Architecture in Helsinki)
  11. Bring the Rock (Nina Gordon)
  12. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah)
  13. Beautiful Freak (The Eels)
  14. Folker (Paul Westerberg)
  15. With Love and Squalor (We Are Scientists)
  16. 29 (Ryan Adams)
  17. Split the Difference (Gomez)
  18. Live at the Down Home, Johnson City, TN, May 8, 2004 (Scott Miller)

2006 Books Read

  1. Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)
  2. Songbook (Nick Hornby)
  3. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (Cory Doctorow)
  4. Road Cycling: The Blue Ridge High Country (Tim Murphy)
  5. 1984 (George Orwell)
  6. Lead or Get Off the Pot! (Pat Croce)
  7. The Area of My Expertise (John Hodgeman)
  8. The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup (edited by Weiland & Wilsey)
  9. One Stop Short of Barking (Mecca Ibrahim)
  10. Trainman (P.T. Deutermann)