On dud batteries and new squirrels…

I have a collection of unused Duracell batteries that have died long before their expiration dates.  They sit in a bag in my basement spewing out white stuff.  Not knowing what to do with them, I decided to use chopsticks to arrange four of my favorites on the kitchen floor, take a picture, and share them here.  As you can see, these batteries don’t officially expire until 2016 or 2017.  I’d never seen this kind of thing until a few years ago, but now it seems to happen to about 30% of my batteries.

four defective duracell batteries

(the white stuff makes me sneeze)

In other news, I noticed yesterday morning that there was a new squirrel refurbishing the abandoned dray in the lower crook of my front yard maple.  I call any squirrel who lives in that nest “Squirrel” (with a capital S), so this means that the rein of Squirrel III has officially begun.

squirrel III

(bring me nuts)

This makes me happy.  I was depressed for about a week last year after I witnessed the two young squirrels from next door team up to depose Squirrel II.  They didn’t even bother moving into the maple afterwards; they just bit off chunks of Squirrel’s fur and drove her into the backyard never to be seen again.

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Adventures in music acquisition #177

I wrote a post last Sunday that made reference to a bunch of recent non-Record Store Day music purchases.  Well, this post is going to catch up on all that stuff in four pictures.  Maybe I’ll type up a few words to go with them.

The first picture shows my most recent CD acquisitions and a couple leftover RSD 7″ singles.  I’m particularly happy to finally own Our Favorite Texan: Bobby Fuller Four-Ever!, a Japanese tribute to the Bobby Fuller Four.  With the possible exception of the Left Banke tribute on Brobdingnagian Records, it’s the tribute I had the most difficulty tracking down.  Unlike that Left Banke one, Our Favorite Texan is actually quite good.  It’s got the Young Fresh Fellows and Marshall Crenshaw on it.

Other hard-to-find highlights in this group are releases by the Occasional Keepers, the Relict, the Gigolo Aunts, and Bobby Sutliff.  I also purchased the new ones by Robyn Hitchcock and Darren Hanlon (who I’ll be seeing in some place called “Fort Wayne” next month).

most recent stuff

(most recent CDs…and a couple 7″ singles)

This second picture shows some of the vinyl I bought in the weeks leading up to Record Store Day.  The Bell Gardens LP came from Insound, the mail-order label I had some trouble with earlier in the year.  (Shipping this must’ve been one of the last things they did before going out of business.)  The rest of the items shown were either ordered from Jigsaw Records or picked up used at Everybody’s.  I bought the Das Kabinette because I liked the creepy dude looking out the die-cut window on the front cover.

post seattle non-rsd vinyl

(post Seattle, non-RSD vinyl)

I never got around to writing about the trip I took to Seattle and Port Townsend back in March.  Yes, I went to those places.  I bought some music and shipped it back to myself in one of those handy priority flat rate boxes.  Here’s a picture of the unopened box.  You can click on the picture to open the box and and see the goodies inside.

seattle box (outside)

(click to open this box)

Some of the Washington music didn’t fit in the box (or wasn’t visible in the picture).  I put all that stuff on the carpet and took a fourth and final shot.  Highlights here include four Comes With a Smile comps and a super-tiny CD by Scout Niblett.

seattle vinyl & things that didn't show up in the box pics

(Seattle vinyl & things that didn’t show up in the box pic)

I guess now I need to catch up on all the books I’ve been reading.  I think I’m seven behind.

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Record Store Day: Music for me -vs- Music for Beth

Saturday was Record Store Day.  I decided to go to pilates instead.  I was very proud of myself for that decision.  Yes, I was working on my core while the main hubbub was going on over at Everybody’s Records.  Once I was done with class, though, I decided it probably wouldn’t hurt to drive over and see if they still had a copy of the Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift 7″ in the stacks (see previous post).  They did.  They also had the Baseball Project live record that was second on my list.  I bought both of those.

Then I bought some other things.  I refer to them as “collateral damage”.

music for me

(music for me)

Here are the titles of the items shown above (starting up at the top left):

  • Field Music – Music For Drifters – I bought this silent film soundtrack because I wanted to see what silver vinyl looks like.  It turns out it looks a lot like grey vinyl.  Oh well.
  • Sloan – Commonwealth
  • Sloan – Alternates
  • the Baseball Project/the Minus 5 – Redeyed in Austin
  • Slim Dunlap – My Old New Records: The Old New Me/Times Like This – I was particularly happy to see that Slim Dunlap’s two records were reissued in one package.  I enjoyed the Songs For Slim tribute a couple years back and have wanted to hear the original versions of the songs performed by Mr. Dunlap himself.  Unfortunately, those were long out-of-print and quite expensive on the secondary market.  Although My Old New Records wasn’t cheap, I felt good buying it as all the proceeds from the reissue go to the Slim Dunlap Foundation to help with his stroke recovery.
  • Blitzen Trapper – Live Harvest
  • David Bowie – Changes 7″
  • Lydia Loveless/Cory Branan – Prince Covers split 7″ – I liked the Lydia Loveless single I bought at last year’s Record Store Day (with the Ke$ha cover on it), but this one might be the dud of RSD 2015.  There’s always one.
  • the Pearlfishers – The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies
  • Charlie Feathers – Charlie Feathers 10″ – I haven’t listened to all my new purchases yet, but this is my favorite so far.  The sticker on the front called it “Ravin’ Rockabilly!”
  • Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift – Follow Your Money/Motion Pictures 7″
  • Freedy Johnston/Death Cab For Cutie – Bad Reputation split 7″ – This one features Freedy Johnston singing his signature song on one side and Death Cab For Cutie covering it on the other.  “Bad Reputation” remains one of my favorite songs twenty years after I first heard it, so I had to buy this despite the fact that the “baby blue w/poop flecks” vinyl is kind of ugly.

It’s not all about me, though.  I also got something for Beth:

music for beth

(music for Beth)

There are a lot of other CDs and records I’ve purchased since my previous post like this, but I don’t feel like including them in with the Record Store Day stuff.  I’ll catch up on those later.

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Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift @ the Columbia City Theater (3/16/15)

The first thing I usually do when I get home from a concert is go through my scribbled notes and put together a complete and proper setlist.  If I don’t have time to do it that night, then I definitely put my setlist together the next day.  It’s just the way I do things and has been since the early 90s.  It’s one of my rules for living.

Well, I just got around to putting together my setlist for the Robyn Hitchcock acoustic show Beth and I saw in Seattle almost three weeks ago.  I’m not sure how I let it go that long.  It was a great concert and we had a fine time, but I completely lost interest as soon as we walked out of the venue.

I remembered the show last night and decided it was time to get back on track.  I know nobody’s out there clamoring for a Robyn Hitchcock setlist from three weeks ago, but it’s not really about you, is it?  It’s about me and rules.  If I start disregarding my rules, then it’s only a matter of time before the whole system falls apart and I start wearing flip-flops out in public.  I’d rather not.

This concert was officially billed as the “Robyn Hitchcock Acoustic Duo” (at least on the tickets).  Although the songs were all acoustic, the performances weren’t all duets.  The show started out with Robyn singing a couple Soft Boys songs before inviting Sean Nelson, Dave Depper or Emma Swift out for some duo performances.  Then the duo format broke down and those four sang some songs together.  Then Kurt Bloch showed up.  Before the night was over, even the woman working the merch table was up there adding backing vocals to a couple of the encore songs.  Just about the only person who didn’t get up on stage was Ben Gibbard; he stood around in the audience all night like a regular dude.  Or maybe it was Colin Meloy.  I honestly can’t tell those two apart.

But anyway, here’s the main setlist:

  1. Tonight
  2. I Got the Hots
  3. Chinese Bones (w/Sean Nelson)
  4. Sometimes a Blonde (w/Sean Nelson)
  5. Cathedral (w/Dave Depper)
  6. Queen Elvis (w/Emma Swift)
  7. Nietzche’s Way (w/Emma Swift)
  8. Sounds Great When You’re Dead (w/Emma Swift, Sean Nelson, Dave Depper)
  9. Trams of Old London (w/Emma Swift, Sean Nelson, Dave Depper)
  10. Adventure Rocket Ship (w/Sean Nelson, Dave Depper, Kurt Bloch)
  11. Viva! Sea-Tac (w/Sean Nelson, Dave Depper, Kurt Bloch)

And here are the encores:

  1. To Turn You On (Roxy Music cover w/Dave Depper)
  2. Candy Says (Velvet Underground cover w/Sean Nelson)
  3. Pale Blue Eyes (Velvet Underground cover w/Sean Nelson, Emma Swift, Dave Depper, Kurt Bloch, Yvonne Moxham)
  4. Olé! Tarantula (everyone)

Emma Swift was also the opening act.  Here’s her setlist:

  1. James
  2. Seasons
  3. Brass Buttons (Gram Parsons cover)
  4. Bittersweet
  5. “The 5 Spot”
  6. Shivers (Rowland S. Howard/Birthday Party cover)

No concert post is complete without my usual blurry band shot, red ink setlist notes pic, ticket stub, etc.  So here’s that stuff:

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Hooray For Everything.

I’m happy to announce that after over 12 years of searching, I have finally tracked down and purchased a copy of the first Heavy Blinkers CD, Hooray For Everything.  It’s shown somewhere below face down with everything else I’ve acquired so far this year.  Other highlights from this batch include Wake the Dreamers by Shelley Short, Music For Cats by Hector Peñalosa, The Best of Andrew by Andrew (Sandoval), The Great City by Hilary Gardner, and Trapped and Unwrapped by Friends Again.

Both of the pictures can be clicked to view the corresponding front covers.  Yes, I have found a way to combine my two most annoying posts.  I’m innovative like that.

vinyl backs

(backs of records)

cd backs

(backs of cds)

There are three recent acquisitions that don’t appear in the pictures shown above.  That’s because those three got their own posts:

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The G in Bell Gardens is very twirly.

I recently ordered a copy of Bell Gardens’ Slow Dawns For Lost Conclusions from Insound, an online music retailer I’ve used on and off for years.  I’ve had good luck with them in the past, so I was surprised when my order arrived and it was just a CD in a plastic sleeve.  No cover art.  No case.  There wasn’t even a track listing.  I had to stick the disc in my computer to find out what the songs were called.  It was just a CD in a plastic sleeve.

slow dawns for lost conclusions cdNow this might not seem like a big deal to you, but it got me all grumpy as Insound’s website made no mention of the fact that they were selling such a meager edition (to put it nicely).  They even showed the cover art for the CD in their listing.

slow dawns for lost conclusions (front)Hey, let’s turn a long and grumpy post into a short and positive one.  I contacted Insound, got ignored for a week, and then eventually heard back from a customer service rep.  He gave me a full refund.  My grumpiness subsided.  It still didn’t get me any closer to cover art, though, so I decided to go ahead and draw myself some.  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

slow dawns for lost conclusions (replacement art)By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve drawn replacement cover art.  I drew some gun-free art for Keren Ann’s 101 (in proper red ink) a couple years ago.  There are others, but that’s the only one I can think of right now.

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SIBR: Books from February 2015

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame–Victor Hugo
A novel has serious problems if its only appealing character is a goat.

Station Eleven–Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is about a flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population.  The book begins with the famous actor Arthur Leander having a heart attack onstage during a performance of King Lear.  A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches while Jeevan Chaudhary jumps onstage and tries to save the actor’s life with CPR.  The flu hits shortly after.  Although the book features a large supporting cast, the author primarily uses these three main characters to tell us the story of what happens before, during, and after the spread of this devastating flu strain.

The time before the flu is mostly told through the Arthur character.  We learn about his three ex-wives, his son, and follow his career from struggling acting student to his final stage performance.  Although we learn some of Jeevan’s history, he is the character who primarily appears during the flu outbreak and its immediate aftermath.  His storyline was my favorite.  When it comes to apocalyptic novels, I usually prefer the parts that take place during the shitstorm.  And finally, Kirsten is the character we follow through the years after the outbreak.  She grows up on the road and settles in with the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who roam the nearly empty countryside putting on performances of Shakespeare’s plays.

The book jumps back and forth between storylines and time (but not so much for the Library of Congress “Time travel–Fiction” designation to make any sense at all) and we begin to see how the many characters are connected.  There’s a lot going on, but I guess the main storyline concerns the Traveling Symphony and what happens when they show up at a previously friendly settlement and find that it’s been taken over by a weirdo self-proclaimed prophet.  In addition, the symphony members who were supposed to be waiting for them in the town are nowhere to be seen.  Kirsten and the Traveling Symphony head off in search of their friends, but they probably haven’t seen the last of that weirdo self-proclaimed prophet fella.

Station Eleven was my favorite book of the month.  I thought there were maybe too many characters for a 330 page book and that the prophet seemed more like a minor nuisance than a proper villain, but I didn’t have any other complaints.  I thought Jeevan’s scenes in Toronto were particularly well-written.  His trip to the grocery store was harrowing and had me on edge.  I also enjoyed the scenes at the airport in the days immediately following the outbreak.  I’m not sure I can think of anybody I’d recommend this book to, but I thought it was a worthwhile read.

Mort(e)–Robert Repino
My second post-apocalyptic novel in a row was Mort(e) by Robert Repino.  I bought this book based solely on Kapo Ng and Sam Chung’s striking cover work.  I walked into Joseph-Beth Booksellers, saw an orange and white cat staring at me from the New Arrivals table, and went straight for it.  I knew I was buying the book even before I flipped it over to read the synopsis.

After hundreds of years of planning, a race of sentient ants rises up and starts a war with humanity.  Fighting on the side of the ants are other animals who have been altered by their exposure to an ant hormone.  These animals increase in size, begin walking on two legs, develop the ability to speak, and become capable of higher thought.  The first thing they do, of course, is start killing humans.  This sudden uprising takes humanity by surprise, and it’s not long before the animals have the upper-hand.  The dwindling human population continues to fight back, and have some success with a mysterious bio-weapon known as EMSAH.

One of the heroes of this animal uprising is Mort(e), a de-clawed house cat formerly known as Sebastian.  He doesn’t care much for the ants or their goal of eradicating humanity, but he’s more than willing to kill humans if it helps him work towards his secret goal of tracking down his best friend, a dog named Sheba who used to live next door.  Mort(e) joins an elite squad, rises in the ranks, and is eventually assigned to investigate EMSAH.  It’s around this time that he receives a message from the humans suggesting that Sheba is still alive!

The book is pretty good (and a lot of fun) up until page 230.  That’s when Mort(e) learns the truth about humanity’s secret bio-weapon.  The truth about EMSAH is so ridiculous that I was in a perpetual state of scoffing for the remaining 125 pages.  I was sincerely disappointed.  I finished the book, of course.  Here’s what I remember about the end: dirigibles, a hokey prophet subplot (again with the prophets), some hymn singing, and a final action sequence between the ants and the forces of humanity that was choreographed with all the elegance of a battle scene from a G.I. Joe cartoon.  I can’t even remember if Mort(e) eventually found Sheba.  Probably.

The Go-Betweens Anthology, Volume 1: 1978-1984–Robert Forster & others
I debated if I should include this as it’s really just something that came with the G Stands For Go-Betweens music box set I recently purchased.  It took me well over an hour to read, so I decided that’s enough reason to count it as a book instead of just liner notes.  There are a lot of great stories about the band’s history and some amazing pictures inside.  My favorite bits were Grant McLennan’s acceptance postcard (as seen on the cover) and the story of the Lee Remick record on the wall at Rough Trade.  Also, Lindy Morrison sounds like an interesting character; I’d like to read more about her.

books for february

(books for february)

I’m currently reading a novel by Vladimir Pištalo called Tesla: A Portrait With Masks.  The book is taking me a long time as the chapters are very short and I keep putting it down when I get to the end of one.

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Hey, at least it’s not spoons.

First you could click on a fancy green box to open it and see all the records and CDs inside.  Then you could click on a plastic cat butt to see the second greatest Dunny ever.  Now I present you with the third post in this annoying series.  Just click on the bubbles to pop them and see what’s in the sink getting a good soak.

sink with bubbles

(pop, pop, pop)

I found these things in a moldy box in my cellar.  I’m not sure what happened to the Yoda.  I’m fairly certain I used to have the Yoda.

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Long May You Run

Here’s a screen capture of a post I wrote back in 2007 about the death of my beloved 3rd generation iPod Classic.  I include it here because I still get a kick out of the sad post-it face and because the post has been “private” since I moved over to WP.

death of an ipodWell, I never threw that iPod in the garbage.  I stuck it in a box of obsolete computer-related stuff…where it stayed until I rediscovered it a couple months ago.  I got the idea that I should try to bring it back to life.  I guess I was looking for a project.

I dug around online and found a few places that purport to sell replacement iPod batteries.  It’s all very unofficial, though, as Apple doesn’t make their batteries available to the public.  The replacement battery market is full of shady people selling dubious products to the optimistic, but the prices charged for these replacement batteries are so low (around $5) that I didn’t mind placing a few orders and engaging in half a dozen open-Pod surgeries.

ipod surgeryThe first battery never showed up.  The second one was DOA.  The third one didn’t do anything at first, but I decided it would be worth it to pop open the iPod again and check all my connections before giving up.  I found a slightly loose touch wheel cable, resecured it, put everything back together, and then plugged in the iPod.  For the first time in over seven years, my iPod was showing signs of life!  It was working again!

ipod surgery success2My iPod had very little power, though.  I plugged it in overnight and was happy to see a full charge showing the next morning.  I loaded up a collection of 78 Neil Young rarities and began playing them uninterrupted in an attempt to measure my battery power.  I’d been thinking that a couple hours of playback time would count as a major success but that I’d probably only make it through a few songs.  You can imagine my surprise when my iPod played the entire 5 and a half hour collection and started over at the beginning.

born to runMy iPod’s new battery played Neil Young rarities for 9 hours and 47 minutes non-stop.  It finally conked out during a version of “Long May You Run”.  I found that amusing.  I was also relieved as I’d grown sick and tired of Neil Young about five hours earlier.  The 9 hours and 47 minutes of uninterrupted play exceeded my wildest expectations. It’s especially impressive when you consider that the iPod 3G was advertised as featuring “up to 8 hours of continuous playback time” when it was first released back in 2003.  Yes, my iPod has more battery power now than it did when I first got it.

I should probably draw a happy post-it face.

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(meow meow meow)

I once read that February 22nd is some sort of feline-related holiday in Japan.  I don’t remember all the details, but it has something to do with how the Japanese word for “two” sounds a bit like the noise a cat makes.  The way I understand it, 2/22 could be misheard as “meow meow meow”.  Or something like that.

I’ve heard of sillier excuses for a holiday.

So I’ve been waiting until February 22nd to post a picture of this little Dunny I got back in January.  It seems like a good fit for today as the figurine features three cats and was designed by a Japanese illustrator named Aya Kakeda.  KidRobot included this toy in their female-designed Dunny Fatale Series back in 2010.

aya kakeda cat dunny (back)

(click a butt)

That, of course, is the back view.  As you may have noticed, I like to set it up so that clicking on a picture takes the viewer to an entirely different image.  That’s what I’ve done here.  Just click on a cat butt to see the front view.  I assure you it’s worth the effort.

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