Monthly Archives: January 2007

Cars – a luxury or a tax?

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From a NYT op-ed by Robert Sullivan, “The City that Never Walks”:

London now charges drivers a fee to enter the core business area, but here such initiatives are branded as anti-car, and thus anti-personal freedom: a congestion fee, critics say, is a tax on the middle-class car commuter. But as matters now stand, the pedestrian is taxed every day: by delays and emissions, by asthma rates that are (in the Bronx) as much as four times the national average. Though we think of it as a luxury, the car taxes us, and with it we tax others.

Found this on Richard Florida’s blog The Creativity Exchange.

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Viva Voce @ Dante's, 25-Jan-2006

Anita - Viva Voce

Last night’s Viva Voce show at Dante’s was excellent! Yet another example of the hot music scene here in Portland. I hadn’t heard any of their music before, so I had no particular expectations. After a very quick setup, the couple got started with a little vamp on the refrain “Hey y’all, we do not fuck around” (immediately endearing), and proceeded to hold true to their word. About an hour long set, great drumming & rhythms, great guitar, great sound!

Supporting act The Village Green were totally solid too, and openers The Caves were good in a ‘next U2’ earnest sort of way.

Good Portland Pop!

Menomena FriendsShins Wincing

Two new CDs came out yesterday from Portland bands that both deserve a listen: Menomena’s ‘Friend or Foe’ and The Shins’ ‘Wincing the Night Away’. The graphic design for Menomena is stunning though the picture above doesn’t do it justice, and the music is back in the mold of ‘I am the Fun Blame Monster’. The Shins CD is pure pop, stealing from the greats and making it sound somehow their own too.

Reviews of Menomena and The Shins from Pitchfork.

Do you have a box?

Box

In a story on Amory Lovins in the Jan 22, 2007 New Yorker, the writer describes him as ‘thinking outside the box’ to which Lovins says ‘There is no box.’ (Lovins is co-author of Natural Capitalism and a long-time innovative thinker about sustainability). Lovins comes across as a bit of a nutty professor, and there are worse things to be.

I think we all have a box, that is the limits of our own thinking, the pre-conceptions that we don’t even think to question. But some have a much bigger box than others, and I think we all could stand to push the sides out!

My pet peeve in this area has to do with the role of cars in the future. Most people I talk with seem to feel that ‘you can’t get Americans out of their cars’ and Lovins seems convinced that you have to have lots of car-like contraptions (he just wants them built more resourcefully). But I don’t buy it. Cars have some nice things going for them; they get you around, they keep you warm and dry, they have nice sound systems. But they are big and bulky contraptions that only make sense when the price you pay for gas is the extraction cost when it’s plentiful. The only time I really like driving is out on totally open roads, of which there seem to be few these days. Imagine life without (most) cars (it was the world of just 100 years ago).

Mose Allison @ Aladdin, 20-Jan-2007

Mose Allison

I finally got a chance to see the legendary jazz/blues piano man Mose Allison last night.  Still going strong at 77 (or so), Mose played two sets with a stand-up bass player and drummer, and did both a number of his songs and lots of covers, closing out with ‘Tumbling Tumbleweed’ and ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’.

For the youngsters out there, read about Mose here.  As an indicator, know that The Who were covering Mose Allison songs back in their early days!

From Hell – Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell (1999)

From Hell

‘From Hell’ (a so-called graphic novel written by Alan Moore with art by Eddie Campbell) is the story of the Whitechapel murders in 1888 in London, the Jack the Ripper case. I found this to be a gripping tale, surprising myself a bit because I had put off reading this for quite a long time, never being terribly excited by the black and white style. But once I got into it, I found the art to be very fitting for the story.

The black ink on cheap paper feels like it’s coming off onto your fingers, soiling you in a way like the crimes themselves. The killings are indeed shocking and visceral, in a way that even color photographs might not be. It also matches the look and feel of the newsprint of the time, and Moore makes some nice connections of the case to the emergence of modern media and its pursuit of the sensational. Moore digs into architectural history of London as well, and spins some interesting Masonic twists into the story. All in all, very well done. Not the comics you used to read as a kid!

Slacker (1991)

Slacker

I’ve been watching the DVD of ‘Slacker’ made by Richard Linklater in Austin, Texas, shot back in the summer of 1989. I saw the film when it came out in 1991, and while I liked the idea of it at the time, I felt the movie itself was so-so. I haven’t seen it since, and now I find that I like the film much more. It’s a great snapshot of a time that seems to be receding fast, but it’s also a very artful film. There are very few edits, so the style fits the subject. The film looks good too, it doesn’t appear low budget, perhaps because so many low budget films came after it. I loved the rant from the scene shown above, which amidst the talk of aliens and such, the guy in the batman shirt warns of the greenhouse effect and global ecological catastrophe.

So check out the Criterion Collection DVD of ‘Slacker’!

MLK and Non-violence

MLK, Jr.

Here’s Taylor Branch, Martin Luther King Jr. biographer, on King & non-violence (with the crucial point that the vote is a non-violent act of political change):

Yes, but what I’m saying is I think he had a strong conviction that what mediated between those two things is nonviolence. A vote is a piece of nonviolence. That’s what it is, and the heart of the religious tradition that made the prophets say, put down your swords and ploughshares and you, even a King, will be measured by the way you treat widows and orphans because they have equal souls before God, is kind of a root basis for democracy and politics. So, I have a line in there where he put one foot in the Constitution, one foot in the Scriptures, and both in nonviolence because he found a foothold in each tradition through nonviolence.

The entire interview here, from Time, Jan 1, 2006.

Mingus talks straight!

Charles Mingus

In the liner notes to Charles Mingus CD ‘The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady’ from 1963, Mingus puts it this way:

This music is only one little wave of styles and waves of little ideas my mind has encompassed through living in a society that calls itself sane, as long as you’re not behind iron bars where there at least one can’t be half as crazy as in most of the ventures our leaders take upon themselves to do and think for us, even to the day we should be blown up to preserve their idea of how life should be.  Crazy?  They’d never get out of the observation ward at Bellevue.  I did.  So, listen how.  Play this record.

As we near the announcement of the new escalation of the Iraq ‘venture’ I think his words go straight to the point.  But you should listen to the music too!

"Children of Men" (2006)

Children of Men

Children of Men” is an intense film, set in England in 2027.  London has a late-seventies NYC graffiti grit and dirt to it, as above.  The government is cracking down on immigrants, and we soon learn that infertility has stopped human reproduction.  The film does not give you all the background of what’s going on, which gives the audience a bit of a challenge.  But the story moves right along, ratcheting up the adrenaline; as one reviewer put it, it’s ‘gut-clenching.’

Plenty of references to our situation today, just amped up a bit.  The ‘homeland security’ of this future is scary indeed.