Friday, June 30, 2006

The Things They Carried

Our book club's latest offering was Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. This made the list of the New York Times' honorable mention of

What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?

and was certainly worth a mention. It is an extremely powerful and evocative book. A quick read too, I started it on a Monday and finished it the following afternoon.

I usually post a whole bunch of pictures of the different covers of the books, but I found a page that already did so here. Check it out, if interested.

Like many of O'Brien's novels, this one is a Vietnam story. There are certain segements that are particularly haunting and wonderfully written.

One of the brilliant aspects of this book is the blurring of fact and fiction, and how it is often never clear as to what is being told. Here's a small excerpt:

In a true war story, if there’s a moral at all, it’s like the thread that makes the cloth. You can’t tease it out. You can’t extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there’s nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe “Oh.”

True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis.

For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can’t believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside.

It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe.

O'Brien's narrator is Tim O'Brien. But this is a work of fiction. But those who are writers know that the shadows of truths lurk behind the stories that writers tell. Another excerpt:

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Jimmy Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack. In the late afternoon, after a day’s march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending. He would imagine romantic camping trips into the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He would sometimes taste the envelope flaps, knowing her tongue had been there. More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her, but the letters were mostly chatty, elusive on the matter of love. She was a virgin, he was almost sure. She was an English major at Mount Sebastian, and she wrote beautifully about her professors and roommates and midterm exams, about her respect for Chaucer and her great affection for Virginia Woolf. She often quoted lines of poetry; she never mentioned the war, except to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself. The letters weighed 10 ounces. They were signed Love, Martha, but Lieutenant Cross understood that Love was only a way of signing and did not mean what he sometimes pretended it meant. At dusk, he would carefully return the letters to his rucksack. Slowly, a bit distracted, he would get up and move among his men, checking the perimeter, then at full dark he would return to his hole and watch the night and wonder if Martha was a virgin.

This blurring of fact and fiction adds power and strength to the tales O'Brien tells. It is a truly haunting work that one carries with themselves long after the back cover is closed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Shuffling Thru Hump Day

It's been a while since I've played with the BilliPod on BillyBlog. I am actually challenging the limits of the device, pushing close to the 60 GB capacity, hovering around the 5 GB remaining threshold. That's 11,808 tracks, in case you were wondering. I have taken to pulling stuff off of it, whole Pearl Jam concerts archived to make space for more musical junk.

Here's a random 5-shot from the shuffle...please feel free to share your shuffle with us all.

1) "Big Pimpin'/Papercut" by Linkin Park and Jay-Z, from Collision Course. Highly recommended collaboration of hard rock/hip-hop styles. Their live set in last Summer's Live 8 was one of the highlights for me.

2) "Hypnotize" by Audioslave. Just mentioned yesterday. Basically the wedding of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden.

3) "Home Sweet Home" by Mötley Crüe. Originally from their Theater of Pain LP, this song was the Power Ballad that simultaneously launched them into super-MTV-mega-stardom and convinced diehard fans that they had jumped the shark.

I don't know what's up with Shuffle today, but it is making me look like an individual with rather singular musical interests, but that's the will of the BilliPod. Keeping with the theme, then, is

4) "Bed of Roses" by Bon Jovi, from the greatest hits compilation Cross Road. Of course, no one in my home will complain about an excuse to put up a photo of JBJ.

And finally....will the theme continue, or will we go in an entirely new genre?

5) "Luna" by Smashing Pumpkins from their album Siamese Dream.

Not really an interesting list, and quite consistent. And look, Ma, no Pearl Jam!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Top 25 Albums #24

Sorry there has been so much time between #25 and #24, but putting up samples is quite involved for me. I don't know how the hardcore music bloggers do it. I've given up (temporarily) on posting the mp3s, so this will be mp3-less.

Anyway, #24 on my list of "Top 25 Albums," which is not a "best of" list, but a list of my favorite records, based on how influential they were to me at the time I first heard them, is an eponymous album from the early 1990s.

On my 26th birthday, in 1993, we had a little party at our apartment in Saugus, CA, just north of Los Angeles.

My friend Dan Harrington, with whom I had worked in the entertainment industry (most notably on a show for Fox called "Down the Shore"), arrived with his girlfriend and handed me a small gift. It was a CD-shaped gift, so it was obviously a CD. I opened it and this is what I saw:

Wow. I was familiar with the photograph, that of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who self-immolated in a busy Saigon intersection on June 16, 1963 in protest of the Catholic Diem regime's refusal, among other things, to grant Buddhists the same rights as Catholics. The photographer, Malcolm W. Browne, is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and this shot, although not a protest of the war, was wedded to the Vietnam era. You can read Browne's report of the incident here.

Anyway, as memory serves me, I must have had a blank look on my face, as Dan asked, "You haven't heard of these guys?" Rage Against the Machine. Great Name, I thought. Great Cover. I hadn't heard of them. How I had managed to live in L.A. and not have heard of them is beyond me. The album had been released in November of the preceding year.

I cracked the case and put the disc in. I was blown away. From the opening notes, a ferocious bass intro to the song "Bombtrack," by Tim Commerford, I was hooked. Lacking the mp3 link, you can get the feel for the song from the video:

Rage, or RATM, were pioneers of the metal-rap fusion genre, which is so hard to pigeonhole to begin with. The thrash band Anthrax really were the first pioneers of melding the two genres together, in their collaboration with rap legends Public Enemy. But Rage were commercially viable, without the metal stigma that held Anthrax back from widespread commercial success.

RATM was the first commercial album that fused the genres together for an entire record, and they added a hard-edged political commentary. The band name itself has been attributed to Karl Marx. And the song titles reflect an anger that not only blisters with words, but with the chords and riffs of Tom Morello's guitar-playing.
Just check out the ferocity of "Bullet in the Head":

From start to finish, the album is relentless in its energy and anger. Rolling Stone listed it as #368 on its top 500 greatest albums ever. So how does it rank #24 on my list? Just in its placement within my life, I guess.

I had given up on Metal in the late '80s and been seduced by the early 90's grunge scene, listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. But this new band had a harder edge that spoke to my metal roots. I liked the politics as well.

Rage broke up in 2000, in what I can best interpret as an Axl Rose-like split. Zack De la Rocha, the outspoken lead singer has gone off and done his own thing, very little of which has been released for public consumption. The rest of the band, including Tom Morello, a phenomenal guitarist, joined up with Chris Cornell and created a little band known as Audioslave.

You can buy the album here.

Monday, June 26, 2006


There’s a phantom swooping on the plane
and bouillabaisse clogging the open drain.
I dream of traveling to Spain
and feasting on Bilbao’s holy pain.

Rushdie dangles from a cross:
A rearview mirror reflecting loss
like reruns of Danza’s Who’s the Boss?
I craft a noose from dental floss.

The salamander’s feet are slick
and yet they manage to grip and stick
to glass and metal, plaster, brick,
The thought alone just makes me sick.

All these thoughts and rhymes are true,
You’re wondering what they mean, aren’t you?
If I confessed, what would you do?
When they threatened, Salman knew
the salamander’s eyes were blue.
The phantom haunts me through and through.
All these rhymes and thoughts were true.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


In an attempt to break out of the recent trend of no-post days, I am going to try a poem based on the word of the day, in lieu of a gap. I will more often than not, fail completely, but failure is always more interesting than not trying.


Ideas like ossicles
vibrate in my ears.

Ideas like icicles
from the eaves of my memory.

Ideas like bicycles
pedal across my

Ideas like tricycles
ring-ring like bells
and flutter
like ribbons in the breeze.

Ideas like triglycerides
course through
my veins
humming with energy.

Ideas like hieroglyphics
play out
in patterns on the wall

Ideas are fictitious,
written and unspoken,
oral and real,
puddling in the recesses
a dark, unstable

© 2006, William Dickenson Cohen

Friday, June 23, 2006

Want lunch with Warren Buffett?

Frustration, Friday Cycling, and the Ten Commandments

Adding music links to BillyBlog has become exceptionally tedious, and for this I apologize. I have been hovering for months over a post about the band Wolfmother, from Australia, and #24 on my top 25 Album list. In this age of mp3 blogs, it seems woefully inadequate to discuss music without providing samples to hear. It can be done, obviously, as some of the music blogs listed on the right are testament to, but it is a frustrating task for me. Patience, please.

I refused to believe the weather reports that predicted rain in NYC this morning and prepped last night for a ride to work. I'm glad I did, as it was muggy but beautiful this morning on the trek from Bay Ridge into Midtown. I almost got doored near City Hall, just after coming off the bridge, but managed to brake and swerve rather skillfully, if I may say so, to avoid disaster. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of being "doored," here's an illustration:

The difference this morning for me was that there was a line of cars in traffic, so I didn't have the luxury of swerving as freely as this guy probably did. I also had less notice. But no harm, just a few extra squirts of adrenaline.

Several years ago, while riding in the Tour de Bronx (yes, that's what they call it), I was riding with a group and the person to my right wasn't paying attention and he rode smack into the back of a parked car at about 15 m.p.h. His bike flew out from under him and hit me, but I managed to continue without incident.

I'll end this rather eclectic post with a video from Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert is pure genius, even moreso when illustrating hypocrisy, displayed this time by U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland (GA):

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Veiled Conceit

Here's how my brain works. This Klimt painting sells for a record $135 million to "cosmetics magnate" Ronald S. Lauder.

This reminds me of a young lady that was a year behind me at Occidental College, Vara Lauder. This reminds me that Melanie mentioned in the last few months that Vara got married, I think, and she saw the announcement in the "Vows" column of the Sunday New York Times. I google and there's the column with accompanying video. Sort of. Actually, I have stumbled upon a hilarious blog called "Veiled Conceit," that picks apart the Vows section of each Sunday Times.
Cruel and mean-spirited? Perhaps. Then again, it is a public record and the "Vows" columns can sometimes be saturated with pretentiousness. Marriage is an institution and institutions often are fertile targets for mockery.

Veiled Conceit can be viewed here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Random Last Day of Spring Rambles

BillyBlog killed my journal.

I love music blogs. It started with VH1 Best Week Ever and their daily blog. Each weekday, they list five or six links to the "Best Music Ever," and inspection of blogs dedicated to discussing music and providing mp3 files turns up some regulars. Right now, my favorite is "I am Fuel, You Are Friends" which refers to lyrics of, of course, a Pearl Jam song, "Leash." It's not a PJ-blog however. In fact, Heather, who operates the blog, has put up, in the last week, "Powers" by Blackalicious, covers of Van Halen, Mason Jennings, R.E.M.'s "You Are the Everything," songs from the vastly underrated George Clooney-J.Lo film "Out of Sight," songs from the Victoria Williams album tribute record, "Sweet Relief," and threw in a link to a great article on Slate by David Eggers about soccer/football in America. I strongly recommend her blog to all, especially if you are looking for some good music.

You can get lost in the mp3 blogosphere by hopping through the links on each blogger's sidebar, clicking on interesting-sounding blog names and seeing if you unearth any goldmines. Through "I am Fuel" I found a post on the funk-ska band Fishbone, a Cohen family fave --- it was Jolee and Shayna's first concert, in Central Park, when they were itty-bitty-kiddies. From there I found another treasure trove, a huge downloadable archive of concerts for free, including said Fishbone, the Grateful Dead, Jack Johnson, Ween, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Billy Bragg, The Mountain Goats, etc etc, all legal downloadable live music. Get started here.

Slow news day for the tabloids in NYC....the lavish spending habits of Giants' defenseman Michael Strahan and his wife, currently in divorce court, make the headlines for both the Post and the Daily News.

For those of you outside of NYC, enjoy the weather. It is hotter than a _______ in ________. Fill in your own regional metaphor and put it in my comments section. Hotter than a snake's ass in a wagon rut just doesn't cut it in the streets of Manhattan.

And kudos to Colin for solving the riddle of yesterday's post, although Tony e-mailed me with the same solution earlier.

Go Cyclones!

Monday, June 19, 2006

How'd They Do This?

I'm sure there's a logical mathematical explanation here. But I haven't figured it out yet. Let me know if you have any luck with it.

Also, in an unrelated matter, check out this blog. It's always flattering when a complete stranger likes your work enough to post it on their own site.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day to All

Dear Ol' Dad in October 1962, 4 1/2 years before I was brought forth into this world. Leon is now known in our family circles as "The Ancient One, Blesséd be He." He's really only freshly 68. Dear Old Dad is retired, sort of. An Angeleno since 1982, he acts, performing on stage in the L.A. area, as well as in an occasional commericals and industrial films. Here's a head shot so you can see how gracefully he's aged:

Dad is a grand old father, blesséd be he. When he and my mom split in 1970, he saw me move with her to Hawai'i. As a father now, I can see how that must have been tough for him, to see his only child whisked off across the continent and then across an ocean (he was in Albany then). So he was a Summer Dad. He remarried once, moved to Illinois, and then remarried again to my step-mom Donna (Happy Birthday!), who with Dad, brought forth two more Cohens, in the form of a younger brother and sister.

When I went to college in the mid-1980's, 'twas not cheap, raising two young 'uns and helping pay the tuition. Pops not only worked full-time for Cal State Dominguez Hills as an administrator, but he also served a stint working for the L.A. Times for several years, rising at 2 AM to drive a paper route in the crazy, hilly maze known as Rancho Palos Verdes. That was a huge sacrifice that I have not thanked him enough for, one of those stories about fathers doing for their children what they themselves cannot fathom doing for their own kids.

Dad has always been a great supporter of me and my poetry. One of my first published poems, "Anger," a poem about the 1992 riots in L.A., received many more readings thanks to his posting it up at work, where other educators passed it along to others as well (an act that prompted me to copyright my first batch of poems).

He has made an occasional appearance in my work and survived a multiple bypass operation last year. We saw him last December/January in NYC, to celebrate his and Donna's 25th wedding anniversary.

And although I do not see him as often as other adult children see their fathers, I know I am in his thoughts and he in mine, even though our schedules and the time difference does not promote regular bi-coastal communication.

So, as we celebrate father's day today, here's to my Dear Old Dad, the Ancient One.

Blesséd be he.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Father, You Are Ancient

Ok, this is a self-promotional post, but it's Father's Day weekend, so I think I deserve it.

One of my crowning achievements at this stage in my life, aside from two beautiful daughters who will no doubt make me miserable when they are teenagers, is the fact that I had a run in the 1990s of publishing my poetry in multiple small magazines across this great land of ours.

The nicest and most lasting of these items is the publication of one of my poems in an anthology entitled Essential Love: Poems About Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons.

Click on the title to purchase it from, if you so desire.

Not only is one of my poems in this anthology, but it is in some nice company. My poem, "Father, You Are Ancient," is just a few pages from the great poet Galway Kinnell's phenomenal and much-anthologized piece, "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps," which you can read here or you can listen to Kinnell reading here.

There are also works by Sharon Olds, Lyn Lifshin, Maxine Kumin, Li-Young Lee, and Naomi Shihab Nye.

In fact, in November 2002, when Shihab Nye was at a Barnes & Noble event with several other writers who were nominated for National Book Awards that year, I asked her to sign my copy of Essential Love.

She said she would, and when I mentioned to her that one of my own poems was in the book, she asked which one. When I told her, her eyes opened wide and she gushed, "Oh, I love that poem! I use it in my classes all the time." She signed the page on which her poem "What is Supposed to Happen" appeared and inscribed: "for Bill Cohen, in honor of your work - Thank you for your voice and kindness!" That was one of my most proud moments as a poet, and it took me a little bit of time to recover my power of speech.

So, in honor of Father's Day, I present to you one of my very best, written for my eldest daughter Jolee, when she was less than a year old. I would recommend buying the anthology through Amazon. It's a nice little book, and you can get it cheap through some of their used book subsidiaries.


Father, you are ancient,
grinning your goofy smile.
One hundred and sixteen times
my age, you are today; yes,
I cannot help but smile
when you make those funny,
complicated sounds.
I wave my tiny arms
and feel your joy
splashing onto me,
your warm breath on my cheeks
and your gentle caress
making my bright eyes brighter.

Father, you are ancient.
I will forget this moment,
only because I cannot help it,
but please, retell it to me
when I am able to remember,
so that I can be reminded
that you loved me always,
Father, ancient
and never more alive.

© 2000, Grayson Books
Enjoy Dad's Day everyone!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Stuck for a Father's Day Gift Idea?

You decide:
This is real. View the specs here.

Pre-Father's Day Poetry Post

This queued through the Billipod the other day and I thought it appropriate to share, not on Father's Day, but just prior. Huh? What I mean to say is that this is an amazing poem in the intensity in its hatred for the Father. Hearing this, one can only hope that we all appreciate our fathers a little more.


You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time --
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You --

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two --
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

Hear Sylvia Plath reading the poem "Daddy."(m4a)

It's a tough poem to read, and even tougher to hear the words roll off of the tongue of the poet who felt them. Anyone unfamiliar with Plath's life should know she succeeded in killing herself at a very young age after several attempts. Despite its bitterness and hatred, it's still an amazing poem.

Like hearing Plath read this? You can hear her read more, as well as countless other poets reading their work (all the way back to Tennyson!) on the CDs accompanying the book Poetry Speaks, which can be purchased here.

All MP3s provided on this site are hosted via official sites or with the artist/label's permission. On the extremely rare occasion when this isn't the case, the track will only be available for a very limited time. If you are the owner of a sound file and would like it removed, please email me directly. If you like what you hear, PLEASE follow the links provided to buy the records and support the music.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I won't be speaking much on this book, as I just finished it 2 weeks after we discussed it in our book club at the Bay Ridge Jewish Center.

Overall, it was okay. It won the Pulitzer last year, an astonishing fact as it is definitely a slooooow read and a very stolid narrative. I was interested enough to finish it, albeit belatedly, but the overall premise was trying.

Here's the gist:

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War," then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father--an ardent pacifist--and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son.

This is also the tale of another remarkable vision--not a corporeal vision of God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.

Gilead is the long-hoped-for second novel by one of our finest writers, a hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-haunted existence that Reverend Ames loves passionately, and from which he will soon part.

Not to be too harsh, but the writing is good, just not riveting. I never read Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, but that was supposed to be a real treat. If you find the summary above from the jacket compelling, go for it. Otherwise, skip it. It's a decent book, but there are so many great books out there, it is disappointing to have to spend the time on one that just barely delivers the goods.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Morning Jacket on Letterman

My Morning Jacket, fresh off their tour opening for some nameless band, was on The Late Show with David Letterman last Thursday night, accompanied by some of the Boston Pops. They are tuxedo'ed and perfroming "Gideon," which I had the pleasure of seeing twice. But not without the Pops. Enjoy:

Monday, June 12, 2006


What do the Amboy Dukes, Anthrax, Biohazard, Foreigner and Skid Row have in common?

Well, unless you watch VH1, you may be unaware that each of the above-named bands have spawned a reality show bastardized "Making the Band"-ish docu-megalo-melodrama.

The show Supergroup features Sebastian Bach on lead vocals, Ted Nugent on lead guitar, Scott Ian on rhthym guitar, Evan Seinfeld on bass, and Jason Bonham on drums.

It has been my reality show guilty pleasure since Survivor ended (although Hell's Kitchen resumes for a second season tonight).

Bach, the former vocalist of Skid Row, devil glam metal spawn from the '80s, is the ultimate narcissistic rock star frontman. You almost want to believe he is playing it up for the cameras. No one could be that much of a caricature. But he is. We saw "Baz" in The Rocky Horror Show when it was on Broadway. He played "Riff Raff" and nailed the singing, but his acting was deplorable.

Seinfeld, the bassist from Biohazard, is also an adult film producer with his wife Tera Patrick (currently on the cover of FHM magazine). He and guitarist Scott Ian (of Anthrax) were recently on another VH1 show called "Matzah and Metal," in which a bunch of metalheads sit around a seder table and discuss being in a metal band and being Jewish. Quite fun!

Jason Bonham, the drummer, most recently of Foreigner, is the son of Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and is the most normal person on the show.

And of course, we have Ted Nugent, who is a reality show in and of himself. In fact, a while back TVland was treated to a show called "Surviving Nugent," in which innocents were deployed to Nugent's ranch and subjected to Survivor-style challenges that only amplified the Motorcity Madman's, well, madness, as well as the lowest common denominator that reality television has lowered itself (even I couldn't survive watching the show. I think it was when the first contestant was rushed to the hospital after trying to jump over a moving truck that I quit).

Last night's episode featured, among other things, the band finally settling on a name:

and Seinfeld doing a photo shoot with his wife and Bach's wife. I'd show you a picture of that, but even Billyblog has some level of integrity. Just kidding. Here it is:

Before you comment about pandering to the lowest common denominator, please note I could have made the picture a lot bigger.

So what's the point of this post? Watch the show. It's quite entertaining. And maybe we'll get some good music out of it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Leftover from Pearl Jam in East Rutherford, June 3

Ok Ok Ok, I know....too much jam on this Blog's toast. But I'm dropping this after today, except if I am blocked and want to share a poster or two from Leg 2 of America, or Europe, and beyond.

I snagged this after the show on the way out of Continetnal. It is valueless, but it still brings a smile to my face:

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Pearl Jam in East Rutherford, Part 2

Night two of my 2006 Pearl Jam experience came two nights later on June 3. Same venue, but greater excitement. It should come as no surprise that, as Pearl Jam ended Leg 1 of their 2006 world tour, the anticipation was for something great. The band generally closes out tour legs with powerhouse performances and, I mean, more instilled with power than a "normal" show.

No offense to Jill, but I had a better date on Saturday, in the form of Mrs. BillyBlog, the mother of my children. We were also blessed with the kindness of friends who lent us their vehicle, which made travelling to and from the Meadowlands a more pleasant experience.

We arrived early and faced the first challenge of the evening: getting a tour poster (above). Due to the venue vendors ignoring of the band's policy, the posters have been sold in multiple copies to the same people, despite a prohibition against doing so. The end result has been that tons of fans have been locked out and have been forced to succomb to the eBay free market system, which ends up selling the posters at double or upwards of five times what they were going for at the show (an already-pricey $25).

As a sidebar, the band's posters have been traditionally designed by two parties: the Ames Brothers and Brad Klausen. This may sound nutty to the non-PJ fan, but rock memorabilia has always been a big deal, and PJ fans are hardcore collectors. The posters are sold as limited editions and are show-specific. Just to show you, two examples of other posters from this tour:

An Ames Bros. poster from one of the Boston shows:

And Klausen's D.C. poster, the best of the tour so far, in my opinion:

Once again, we were rewarded for our early arrival with an amazing pre-set:

If the YouTube link doesn't work, click here. Ed's version of "No Surrender" by Bruce Springsteen was phenomenal. This was only the second time he did this solo/acoustic for an audience.

Again, Ed remained on stage and introduced My Morning Jacket for their final performance of this tour. Lucky bastards out West will get to see Sonic Youth open, and some very fortunate souls in the middle of the country will see PJ co-headline with Tom Petty. Don't even get me started about Europe. Like the first night, they started together with the Band song "It Makes No Difference." MMJ was much better and tighter on night two, with the remaining set running as follows: "Gideon," "Lay Low," "What a Wonderful Man," "Wordless Chorus," "Anytime," "One Big Holiday," and ending with "Run Thru ."

With great anticipation we waited for the show to start. As I expected, the fanclub seats were a little worse than Thursday night, but not by much. We were on the other side of the soundboard (right side of the arena) in row P, one row back from the first night. This was expected as many fans, choosing one or the other show, opted for this one, knowing that the band has a reputation for finishing a tour leg with a bang. We were not disappointed.

Here's the setlist:

Severed Hand, Corduroy, World Wide Suicide, Hail Hail, Animal, Love Boat Captain, In Hiding, Even Flow, I Am Mine, Whipping, Gone, Comatose, State Of Love And Trust, Rats, Garden, Inside Job, Porch

Note that this list is hyper-linked to the song page at the Pearl Jam website.

Initially, I was a bit surprised, they opened with the same trio of songs. That's not strange for most bands, who usually vary tour setlists minimally, mixing up a song or two. But Pearl Jam tends to play completely different lists from night to night. However, if you're going to kick off a set with three songs two nights in a row, you could do a lot worse than Severed Hand, Corduroy, and World Wide Suicide.

The first glitch of the night came during Animal, when less than a minute in, power to the stage went out for several minutes. The technical difficulties raised the energy, rather than dispelling it. Ed even joked about it, questioning whether Bruce Springsteen had forgotten to pay the New Jersey electric bill.

Next we got Love Boat Captain, and In Hiding, both great songs that haven't been played much this time around. I love LBC, and was happy I got to hear it. Skipping ahead a bit the back-to-back versions of State Of Love And Trust, and Rats was awesome. Since being released on Vs. in 1994, this was only the 31st performance of "Rats" (compared to the most-played PJ song of all-time, "Even Flow," with 541 performances). I'd say that was one of the highlights of the show for me. See below for the mp3.

After a great version of Ten's Garden, I got a song that I had been waiting for on night one: Inside Job. This song is the coda of the new album and is nothing short of a Mike McCready masterpiece. In many reviews it has been likened to a Pearl Jam "Stairway to Heaven," due to its constant build-up from a slow open to a blistering crescendo. The comparison was even more stark considering McCready's choice of axe, a double-necked guitar a la Jimmy Page in The Song Remains the Same.

The set ended with Porch, with the extended jams and the Vedder-reflector trick described in my first post.

The first encore ran as follows:

Army Reserve, Hard To Imagine, Last Kiss, Black, Crazy Mary, Last Exit

It started a little slowly, with Ed talking about the West Memphis Three. June 3rd was the 13th anniversary of the arrest of three Arkansas youths, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, on charges of murder, which many assert they did not commit. Ed in particular is a supporter of the efforts to free these individuals, through an organized process involving DNA testing. Echols actually co-wrote one of the songs on the new album. After bringing out Echols' wife to say thanks to the crowd, the band played the tune, Army Reserve. Then we got another rarity, Hard To Imagine, an early PJ tune that has been performed even less than Rats. Next, the band turned around and faced the back of the arena (drummer Matt Cameron even sat down on a spare kit) and they played Last Kiss. If they were going to play one song with their backs to me, that was the one I would have chosen, it's my least favorite in the Pearl Jam catalogue.

The encore peaked with a song that both Melanie and I were dying to hear, Crazy Mary from the Victoria Williams tribute album Sweet Relief. This is a concert favorite for many fans, a great tune that builds and rocks with a monster keyboard solo from Boom Gaspar. He and McCready jammed together in a duel that brought down the house.

The second encore was huge and carried us past the 11:00 hour all the way to around 11:40 PM:

Wasted Reprise, Life Wasted, Lukin, Leash, Don't Gimme No Lip, Why Go, Leaving Here, Alive, Yellow Ledbetter

Lukin was a treat and I got Leash again....this time with no intro, but with Ed surprising everyone by hoisting up Mike on his shoulders during the guitar solo.

Don't Gimme No Lip is another rarity, featuring rhthym guitarist Stone Gossard on vocals. Quite a crowd pleaser. It was great hearing Leaving Here, an old Motown song (that was also Motorhead's first single in 1976), that was dedicated to all the women on the crew and in the audience. It was the first time they played it on this tour.

They finished with Alive, and the classic show ender, Yellow Ledbetter, which was tagged with a phenomenal version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that would have made Jimi Hendrix proud. Pearl Jam ended their first leg of the tour in style, playing almost 3 hours, 32 songs (the most played in a show this year), not including the No Surrender opener.

Two great shows. Why go to two? I got 30 songs night one and 32 on night two. Only 12 songs were played on both nights. That means, including the 2 pre-sets, I heard 52 different songs by my favorite band. A friend of mine had seen Pearl Jam five times before he finally heard Jeremy, in Camden, NJ, on May 27. It was a running joke that he wasn't getting to hear it. For me, my Jeremy, is the song Daughter one of my favorites that, after 4 performances, I have yet to hear. No complaining, mind you, just more justification to see them the next time they blow through town!

Here's two tracks from the show for you to enjoy. Support the band and buy their music!

Pearl Jam - E. Rutherford, 6/3/06 - Rats.mp3

Pearl Jam - E. Rutherford, 6/3/06 - Crazy Mary.mp3

"Rats" is from the album Vs. which can be purchased here.

"Crazy Mary" is from Sweet Relief: A Benefit For Victoria Williams. Buy it from Amazon here.

Thanks to Pearl Jam for providing great pictures on their site that I have borrowed here for illustrative purposes.

All MP3s provided on this site are hosted via official sites or with the artist/label's permission. On the extremely rare occasion when this isn't the case, the track will only be available for a very limited time. If you are the owner of a sound file and would like it removed, please email me directly. If you like what you hear, PLEASE follow the links provided to buy the records and support the music.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rutherford 1 updated

I added two mp3s on the PJ in East Rutherford, here.

Oh No, They Didn't.....

Again, the New York Post raises the bar on poor taste with today's front page. The Daily News had a slightly more bruised and bloodied headshot of killed Al Qaeda leader Zarqawi, but the Post classed it down even further by adding a little joke in a speech balloon. Way to go Post! Give 'em another reason to target New York!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Band Madness - Sweet 16

Band Madness is still going on here. They're down to the Sweet 16. I was a little bummed in the last round when R.E.M. beat out Pearl Jam, but now R.E.M. is facing the Beatles, so Eddie Vedder & Co. wouldn't have made it any further anyway. The top 16 are your usual suspects, no big surprises there, but it still should be interesting. Look at Depeche Mode, with the easy crushing of LL Cool J in round 1. They have gone to upset not 1, not 2, but 3 big hitters, knocking out Queen, The Doors, and Led Zeppelin in successive rounds. As of this moment they have a 2 vote lead over Oasis and could go on to the Elite Eight. I'm starting to remember why I hated them in high school!

Intermission Break

I had a new post all ready for you, all about night 2....then Blogger crashed and I lost my concert recap. So, emotionally devastated, you get this filler post instead.

Business Rule #282:

When advertising your store's grand opening, best use a spell-check, or at least proofread. Chiars anyone?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Pearl Jam in East Rutherford, part 1

I've been a bad little blogger of late, but I will try and make it up with some quality posts. Unfortunately, y'all have to hear about a couple of Pearl Jam concerts first. I survived two great sets as Ed Vedder and Company wrapped up the first leg of their worldwide tour this past weekend in the Meadowlands. (Note: this post is dated June 2, but was written later...).

Show one was Thursday night, June 1st. Pal Jill and I took the bus from Port Authority and enjoyed the traffic, clueless driver, and non-air-conditioned atmosphere, which deposited us, eventually, outside of Continental Airlines arena.

We picked up my fan club seats, which were on the floor, in the second section, next to the soundboard, on the aisle. Row "O". Decent seats. I grabbed a poster (above) and a tour shirt:

One of the more admirable traits of Pearl Jam is their support of their opening acts. Countless concert-goers can recall how unheralded openers often play to near-empty arenas. I, myself, skipped seeing Sleater-Kinney open for Pearl Jam at the Garden in 2003. Ed Vedder's solution is often to come out alone, ahead of the opening band, and play an acoustic song unaccompanied, as a reward to those of us willing to hear the opening set.

Knowing this, I made sure we were seated early, and we were not disappointed. Ed appeared and did a nice acoustic version of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," the classic Beatles tune that Vedder covered for the I Am Sam soundtrack.

He then invited the opening band, My Morning Jacket, a quintet from Kentucky, up on stage, and remained with them, singing with them for their opener, a cover of the Band's classic "It Makes No Difference."

Their setlist ran as follows: 1. It Makes No Difference (w/ Ed Vedder) 2. Off the Record 3. What a Wonderful Man 4. Gideon 5. Wordless Chorus 6. O Is The One That Is Real 7. One Big Holiday 8. Anytime 9. Mahgeetah.

Writing this in hindsight, the set was okay. A little lackluster. The opener with Ed was great, and "What a Wonderful Man" was nice. The jam at the end of "Mahgeetah" featured lead singer Jim James wantonly tossing a large stuffed bear into the air as the band finished their song. It was quite surreal. I later learned that the bear, which stands on stage during their show, is the star of the cover of their previous album "It Still Moves".

Pearl Jam took the stage about 10 minutes to 9:00, and played to 11:20 or so. They ran through a setlist of 30 songs:

Main Set: Severed Hand, Corduroy, World Wide Suicide, Do The Evolution, Marker In The Sand, Given To Fly, Dissident, Even Flow, Army Reserve, Immortality, Green Disease, Not For You/(Modern Girl), Alone, Jeremy, Why Go, Life Wasted, Rearviewmirror

The main set was quite good, starting with a flurry of fast-paced, hard-rocking songs. The energy changed a bit before "Army Reserve" when Ed said that they sung better in Boston. Not a way to endear the crowd. For me, the show changed after that, when they started playing some more obscure songs from their back catalog. The song "Modern Girl" was tagged to the end of "Not for You" and is a Sleater-Kinney tune. "Alone" was a treat, a track from before Ten that doesn't get played much. They had basically retired it from '94 to '04 and revived it recently, with this being the first appearance on this leg of the tour (the 91st song in 15 shows).
Ed had some mic problems, but finished the song with a flurry. I got my first live version of "Jeremy" and the set ended with a ten minute version of "Rearviewmirror" that featured prolonged solos and Ed illuminating different sections of the arena with a spot reflecting off his guitar lofted over his head.

Encore 1: Wasted Reprise, Man Of The Hour, Come Back, Footsteps, Once, Alive

The first encore was great, starting off with the first few songs very mellow. The three songs, "Footsteps," "Once" and "Alive" are early PJ staples that, in reverse, are known as "The Mamasan Trilogy," one of the "Holy Grails" of live Pearl Jam shows. It is rarely played, forward, or in reverse sequence, so getting to see that was phenomenal. If you are at all interested, check out the link above to the trilogy for a full explanation/history, as well as downloadable forms of early live versions. Brilliant!

Encore 2: Last Exit, Comatose, Leatherman, Glorified G, Leash, Baba O'Riley, Indifference

From my limited experience, and based on what I've read on message boards, the second encore was a phenomenal blast that may go down as one of the most unique encores that Pearl Jam has played. They blew through the 11:00 PM New Jersey "curfew," and came out with "Last Exit," then "Comatose" off the new album which is becoming an encore staple. Pure brilliance. That was followed by the rarity "Leatherman." After "Glorified G," Ed had a dialogue with the crowd, referring to several incidents from their last tour through the tri-state area. They opened a "dialogue" about the song "Bu$hleaguer," a political diatribe against W. The song has PJ fans split. It's not a great song, and some don't want to hear it. Others feed off the controversy and recognize it as a rare concert occurrence.

Much to my dismay, when Ed asked the crowd if people would boo if they played it, a bunch of folks booed. The cheers to play it seemed louder. So we didn't get it. Then Ed referenced the great "Leash" controversy. Refer to my earlier post here if you need refreshing. Ed talked about the "Play Leash, You Pussies!" sign from Madison Square Garden on July 9, 2003 and then, as a testament to the band's resilience (Ed's words, not mine), they played a blistering version for us. Phenomenal. At the end of the song, Ed proclaimed, "Pussies No More!" They "dropped the Leash" on the last seven shows of the tour leg.

The house lights came up for "Baba O'Riley," the Who's classic anthem, and they just shredded through it. It's one of three songs they usually end with. So, I was quite surprised when, after it ended, they played the wonderful "Indifference," to end the show, allowing the audience to take over the chorus at the end, a truly remarkable ending. It's usually an encore song, but rarely a show closer.

And night one was only the beginning......

Added 6/9/06:

Pearl Jam - E. Rutherford, 6/1/06 - Severed Hand (Show Starts).mp3

Pearl Jam - E. Rutherford, 6/1/06 - Indifference (Show Ends).mp3

"Severed Hand" is on Pearl Jam's new self-titled album. Buy it from Amazon here.

"Indifference" is from the album Vs. which can be purchased here.

All MP3s provided on this site are hosted via official sites or with the artist/label's permission. On the extremely rare occasion when this isn't the case, the track will only be available for a very limited time. If you are the owner of a sound file and would like it removed, please email me directly. If you like what you hear, PLEASE follow the links provided to buy the records and support the music.