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Archive for April, 2009

I love band biographies. My interest in a band generally starts with an album purchase, usually whatever album is recommended to me as the best starting place for that band. If I really dig the album, I’ll research a little further and buy one to two more albums. If my interest with the band is still not fully indulged, I go completest- buying up every album and single and ep I can find. A handful of bands stir up my affections past this point even still, until there is only one means of fan devotion left at my disposal: the band biography. I present here a list of 10 band biographies that I have read, with thoughts on each, roughly in order of most to least recommended.

1) Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad
205px-our_band_could_be_your_life_book_cover
This one is actually a super biography covering 13 different bands in 13 chapters. Initially purchased to indulge my infatuation with Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and the Minute Men, it also served as a primer for bands that I later came to love such as the Meat Puppets and Fugazi, as well as providing some fascinating reading on bands that I don’t think I’ll ever learn to love such as the Butthole Surfers, Big Black, and Beat Happening. Although the book reads as 13 short biographies, it also holds together as a loosely cohesive story of underground music in the 1980s. The writing is not great, and at times is actually a bit painful, but the content is worth the suffering.

2) Last Gang in Town: The Story and Myth of the Clash by Marcus Gray

As implied in the title, this biography is mostly uninterested in perpetuating mythical estimations of the Clash’s awesomeness, and instead seeks to tell their actual story, independent of legend. It’s comprehensive and massive and thoroughly satisfying to the devoted Clash enthusiast.

3) The Smiths – The Complete Story by Mick Middles

This was probably the first band biography I read (we’re talking high school here), and as such served as an introduction for me to the band subculture- something I was to learn much more about in my near, rocking future. Unlike the aforementioned Clash biography, this one doesn’t mind fanning the flames of Smiths worship, or at least it did nothing to slow my accelerating adulation of all things Smiths at the time. I don’t know if I could stomach this now.

4) Unforgettable Fire : The Story of U2 by Eamon Dunphy

Essential reading for U2 fans, especially those like myself who consider the early years to be U2’s best and who might find themselves riveted by details of the Boy and October albums- details, in other words, that 95% of modern U2 fans would have no interest in.

5) U2: At the End of the World by Bill Flanagan

A de facto sequel to the aforementioned Unforgettable Fire, Bill Flanagan picks up where Eamon Dunphy left off, and delves into personal dynamics within the band that provide intriguing insight into the direction of post-Joshua Tree U2. This one was slightly less rewarding for me since my love for U2 wanes with the albums covered here, but Flanagan’s writing makes up the difference.

6) Behind the Scenes on the Pegasus Carousel with the Legendary Rock Group Love by Michael Stuart-Ware

Love’s story as told by it’s second drummer, Michael Stuart-Ware, will mostly only interest dedicated Love fans, but Love’s story does occasionally overlap with broader narratives, such as the story of drugs in music, the story of racial integration in rock, and the rise and fall of the Doors. But for those seeking the intimate details of Love’s story, like myself, this is the best and only (as far as I know) place to turn, which is sort of too bad. It’s not that the book is uninspired, just a little under whelming. For one, Stuart-Ware didn’t join the band until the second album, so question marks about the earliest days of the band remain. Plus, Stuart-Ware’s role as the drummer, and a replacement drummer at that, narrows his scope of Love’s story quite a bit- I would love to read the Love biography as written by Arthur Lee, or better yet Bryan MacLean (both of whom have died, so that’s not going to happen). Still, if you love Love, then this is a solid, if breezy read.

7) Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance by Johnny Rogan
morrissey
I don’t really remember this one that well, but I remember thinking it was probably a bit of an unnecessary expenditure of time on my part. I realized in reading this that my thirst for Smiths knowledge could in fact be satiated.

8) Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored by Richard Cole

This book was written by Led Zep’s tour manager, and it was obvious to me from the start that he had a two-part agenda in writing the book: 1) make lots of money by exposing the most stomach-turning, depraved aspects of Zeppelin’s story and 2) get his own name included in Led Zeppelin’s story as much as possible. I read an interview with Jimmy Page some time after reading this book where he basically said that everything in the book is untrue. All the same, it kept me reading.

9) No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green by David Hazard, Melody Green

I don’t know if this one should count or not, because my decision to read this book was in no way born from a love of Kieth Green’s music (which is not to say that I hate his music, just that it does not inspire me to pursue further, as described in the first paragraph). I read this because someone told me it was inspiring and a great story, and he was basically right. I was surprised to find out though how musically relevant K.G. was in his time- at one point in the book, it described how a recently converted Bob Dylan was in the studio while K.G. was recording and said something to the effect of ‘yeah, that’s the sound I want to start going for.’ It’s humorous to think about, but it actually makes sense when you listen to Dylan’s music from that time.

10) Eight Miles High: Folk-Rock’s Flight from Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock by Richie Unterberger

I bought this book because I wanted to read a biography about the Byrds, and this was the closest thing I could find. Turns out, for every page about the Byrds, you’ve got to read 5 others about the Mamas and Papas or Jefferson Airplane or Buffalo Springfield. That wouldn’t be so bad (I like all of those bands to various degrees) but the aim of the book is way too academic and technical, focusing on the subtle distinctions of folk, country, folk-rock, country-rock, folk-country, etc. I lost interest less than half way through.

Other bands/artists that I would most like to read biographies on at the moment:
The Kinks
James Brown
Black Sabbath
Wire

What band biographies have you all read? Which do you recommend?

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Louis C.K.

HT: Cherry Tree Lane

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The Tigers are over .500 (for the time being), all is well…or at least all should be well.  The fact that the Motor City Kitties are number one in the [measly] AL Central and that the Red Wings are in the NHL Western Semifinals are simply not enough to pick up the pieces in Detroit, which has an unemployment rate three times higher than the national average.  I read an article from April 1958 in TIME, which mirrors much of the current situation.  When the nation gets a cold Detroit is the sore throat and runny nose.

Would you like a home for less than $8,000?  Maybe you ought to try Detroit.  And with the recession and resulting unemployment inevitably comes poverty.  And if you decide to buy a home in Detroit, I hope that excessive crime doesn’t bother you…

I guess the point of all of these dreadful bits of information regarding Detroit’s amplified state of recession is to ask this question:  What can be done for Detroit?

Perhaps you, the reader, would respond in one of these ways:

  1. Nothing can be done for Detroit, let her rot.
  2. The best thing that can be done for Detroit is to let the recession run its course and the markets will eventually fix themselves…maybe after several thousand more violent crimes.
  3. The federal government needs to help out Detroit.  More handouts and deficits!

Many more responses can be added to this list, but in general they all lack the ability to solve this problem rapidly or without major repercussions in the long run.  My only proposition is to do what is most human, and what is most human has been demonstrated through God’s will, especially as expressed though Christ.

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”  And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”’

Maybe these are some practical resources:

In the meantime, when looking for a sports team that properly reflects the current condition of the City of Detroit, look no further than last season’s record-breaking Lions.

Yes We Can

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Spectacular helicopter escapes have become a regular embarrassment for French penal authorities and, unlike Reunion’s Domenjod, jails in mainland France now often have protective nets over their exercise yards.

Since 1986, there have been 10 escapes from French jails in helicopters, most recently in July 2007 when gangster and murderer Pascal Payet managed to get out of Grasse prison in a hijacked chopper.

Courtesy of Drudge I found this news report, quoted above, about a French cult leader that just escaped from jail by helicopter.  A quick search turned up this helicopter escape from a Greek prison as well, and several other mentions of attempts and successes in UK and elsewhere.  I couldn’t find anything about such escapes in America… we must be doing something right!

Not in America!

Not in America!

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I have tried very hard to not write too often about my continuing disagreements with president Obama, as that was something that annoyed me to death during W’s presidency when he couldn’t sneeze without people hating him for it.  So I have sat on my hands while I daily read stuff that does perk my interest, but that I don’t think deserves a report from me.

But here’s one that I think is both funny and disturbing at the same time.  It has been in the news for a few days that Obama was going to cut $100 million from his budget.  You think, “Wow, he’s really got this deficit in his cross hairs!”  But you would be wrong.  As George Will points out that:

…$100 million, which is about 13 minutes of federal spending, and 0.0029 percent — about a quarter of one-hundredth of 1 percent — of $3.5 trillion.

So now you think, “By Grabthar’s hammer…. what a savings.”  [anyone, anyone?]

How much is a zillion dollars?

How much is a zillion dollars?

Would you agree, that this is laughable and disturbing simultaneously?  It’s probably not even worth the time of the cabinet to find the $100 million to save, since it amounts to so little.  Will goes on to point out that Obama is also going to “save” $15 million by shutting down a program (which is very popular, and considered successful) in Washington, D.C. that was basically a voucher system to get black and hispanic students out of poorly performing public schools.  Will sees this as a direct pandering to teacher unions who hate vouchers, and who donated significantly to Obama’s campaign – and I agree with Will.

I feel like for some reason American’s have lost all perspective about money.  We each can struggle individually with coming up with a few thousand dollars to pay for our lives, and yet shrug off the fact that $100 million has become less than pocket change to our national government.  Isn’t that a sign that we have, 1) allowed our gov’t to grow too large, and 2) lost the sense of the value of things when money is placed in the hands of others?

MARK ADDS:  Reader Tim had a link to a post with a great image from The Heritage Foundation demonstrating the significance of cutting $100 million.

obamacuts

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UPDATE: According to the latest Rasmussen Poll, just 34% of voters believe that global warming is man-made, while 48% figure it to be planetary cycle.  This is the exact opposite of a year ago where 47% said man-made and 33% said cyclical.  Not sure what this is reflective of, since I think the mainstream news still predominately supposes man-made causation (as do our politicians according to the same poll), but it is interesting to track.  Maybe it’s the cold weather in much of the country.

(HT: Powerline)

—-

There has been some good discussion going on in the comments on my original post (mostly by us authors), and so I wanted to direct attention to that.  Though the original post dealt with my frustrations with “alarmists”, there was some added bits about Lomborg’s views on whether it is appropriate to try and “fix” global warming.  This has led some of the comments and further discussion to drift towards global warming causation (CO₂ or Solar), and whether we should still try and fix something that’s cause is debated.  In one of the comments Elijah said:

But if we have lessons to learn from Mars I don’t think that they are “don’t bother trying to deal with climate change.” ….. If there is anything we can do to off-set one day becoming like Mars (I’m not saying this is immanent), we ought to push for that for the sake of stewardship and the abilities that God has given us.

And this brought up something I find compelling about this whole issue of man-made versus nature.  If indeed this is man-made and is caused by carbon dioxide, then I certainly think it is valid to pursue behavior that would try and slow things down or turn them around (though not gobs of money, as per the original post), but if this is a solar or natural change should we, or better yet can we, do anything?  In all the graphs and models that Al Gore showed us we saw that we went from ice ages to warmer to colder and such over the millenia.  No humans were around to cause or correct any of those changes, so I find it interesting, especially in a culture so predisposed to evolution, that we would be so bold as to say we should stop the warming (if in fact it is not man-made).  I think this is one reason why people are very determined to find a human cause for this, because the alternative is out of our control and we have come to like our control.

And I think this is an interesting discussion because I do believe that more and more info is pointing to non man-made causes.  I think we can squarely say that the term consensus is officially overused, and untrue.  The debate is certainly not over, and I won’t make any grand statements, but interesting to discuss certainly…at least for people willing to discuss.

MARK ADDS: Pete’s link he added in previous comments is also here.

MARK ALSO ADDS (for Greg):

Damn you Greg - you know I can't stand her!

Damn you Greg!

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Just wanted to draw your attention to a conference, or “charrette” (an intense design period), that is taking place in Colorado right now for the trucking industry and is focusing on fuel efficiency.  The Rocky Mountain Institute is putting it on, and it’s stated goal is to double efficiency.  As their website says:

…RMI shows that doubling the efficiency of an average Class 8 tractor-trailer from 6.5 miles per gallon to 12.3 mpg across the U.S. fleet (half a million trucks) is possible with currently available technology like auxiliary power units, more efficient widebase tires, and improved aerodynamic mechanisms, such as trailer side skirts.

truck-fleet1I’ve mentioned before, about Walmart’s work with RMI and the $500 million in annual savings they are projecting for trucking fleet by enacting some of these technologies.  This is good news for businesses, consumers, and the environment.

Since the height of oil prices last summer many changes in behavior by individuals and businesses have combined to decrease fuel consumption.  Along with the reduced demand from a weakened global economy this has led to a reduction in prices by almost two-thirds from the high of $147/barrel last July.  As you know, lower prices may reduce the incentive to reduce consumption further, or pursue less harmful energy sources.  RMI wisely considers that in it’s computations by figuring on $2 a gallon diesel price to come up with it’s estimated “efficiency gains of 3.8 billion gallons of diesel saved and $7.6 billion gained [retained revenue]”.  So even with lower prices projected a significant savings is available.

RMI|Move, a subsidiary of RMI, has a great website about all the innovation they are pushing for mobility + vehicle efficiency (where the Move moniker comes from) – and it deals with auto, trucking, aviation, freight and more.  I encourage you to check it out… it is encouraging and inspiring.  While you are there check out this interactive map which tracks the amount of money spent and where the fuel was imported since 1973.  Pretty interesting.

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