Monday, August 29, 2011

This Morning's Inbox

I can open a Word document on how to apply for a green card. I can apply for a loan. (The offer comes from someone with a Cornell email address, no less). UPS Nigeria has a package waiting for me - my ATM Master Card parcel! RBC has an important message for me. (I'm intrigued that it's always RBC and BMO that have these important messages, never CIBC or Bank of Nova Scotia or a Caisse Populaire.) I was to submit proposals for the 2nd World Conference on Information Technology in Ankara in Novemeber. (Special arrangements at the hotel - why not combine a holiday with my family?) There was an African Dance course based in Montreal (I've two left feet and the commute is just too much).

I know, I know. Everyone gets this and worse. The university filters out the incredibly stupid, so what am I complaining about?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Eminence Is Confirmed

In my inbox this morning:

Dear Colleague,

WebmedCentral is currently inviting eminent scientists such as yourself who have interest in biomedical sciences to come forward and help us by joining our advisory board and faculty

Our existing high profile advisory board and faculty would be delighted to welcome you on our portal to join thousands of registered users and hundreds of professors from all over the world already there....

This is not a spam. This email is being sent to you because of your eminence in the biomedical field.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm Not Him

I know I'm not the only Chris Hurst in the world. There's a politician in the United States, a publisher in the United Kingdom etc. However, when I did a vanity search this morning, I was horrified that our little fraternity now includes a lout kicked out of the BNP because he did the Nazi salute at some Austrian rally. I mean, dear God, don't we Chris Hursts have some standards? Do we just let anyone join our club? Needless to say, you should not confuse the two of us. I'm older, less good looking and not a racist idiot.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Listening Notes: Art Brut, Old 97's, Garland Jeffreys

Art Brut - Brilliant! Tragic!

No. Hell no.

I had to get that out of my system. Black Francis (that's what the credits say) is the wrong producer for them. He has Eddie Argos shouting too often. Eddie Argos needs charm to get his vocals across, and you can't be charming when you're shouting. Some of the songs work though. I hope they get over the Pixies infatuation.

Old 97's - The Grand Theatre Vol. 2

I have doubts about just how good most rock songwriters are at songwriting, but I think Rhett Miller is as good as any songwriter working in the, well, tradition. This is probably not his/their best, but it sounds great to me. I'm past the point in my life where I need to evaluate which albums by my favorite bands are the best.

Garland Jeffreys - The King of in Between, Escape Artist

What surprises me about the two albums is how similar they are: lots of songs about rock and roll and race, a garage rock cover, Jeffreys' one-sided romance with the streets. And why shouldn't the albums be similar? They were both made by the same man. I didn't think I liked the new one until I caught myself humming a couple of the songs.

Friday, August 19, 2011

They're Buying a List and Not Checking It At All

Another day, another unwanted, unsolicited email from some computer wholesaler/IT consultant/software vendor. These emails are just the first of many if I don't unsubscribe, which I do instantly. These aren't phishing attempts - at least I don't think so - just messages from deluded business people who think that I might be interested rather than annoyed at what they're dumping in my inbox. So who did they get my email address? My guess is that bought a list from someone. Is that how you grow a business? Buy a list, send a message to everyone on the list, hope that the bounce/unsubscribe/spam filter rate is less than, I don't know, 98%, and hope that the remaining 2% have money to spend? It sounds to me like the only person making money is the one selling the list. But what do I know? I just I get the stupid messages.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Listening Notes: John Mellancamp

John Mellancamp - On The Rural Route 7609

I know I said I liked box sets, but this one is so awful that it blots out Mellancamp's modest virtues. Since he's spent the last 24 years doing his best to outgrow those virtues, it's no surprise that his hand picked songs and photos serve him poorly. He's an okay if derivative singer and a decent bandleader. In the eighties, he and his producer worked out a way to make some great sounding records. At best, he's an inoffensive lyricist; when he tries to be meaningful, he's awful or incoherent or both. Except that he decided that he was too good to make good sounding records about lust, so you won't hear "Paper in Fire" or "Lonely Old Night" or "Tumblin' Down" these four CDs. If he thinks he's recorded better songs in the last twenty years, he's kidding himself.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Listening Notes: Iceage, The Housemartins, Dave Alvin

Iceage - New Brigade

I don't envy the young their certainty that what they have to communicate is vitally important. If these young men didn't believe, they wouldn't be making music. Of course, I'm much too old to figure out what it is they believe in, and I'm not sure I want to know. If they had hooks to go with their drive, I might be inclined to make the effort.

The Housemartins - London 0 Hull 4

The first time I heard them, not quite 25 years ago, I stupidly dismissed them as a cross between the Smiths and the Style Council. Now I think that's not a bad shorthand, albeit much better than either band. What is apparent 25 years on is that they were the vision of a young musical purist who stopped listening to new music in 1980. There's a let's-have-fun-in-the-studio-pretend-rap on the deluxe reissue that makes me cringe. I love some of the Beautiful South records, but the visionary in the Housemartins wound up being the replacement bass player.

Dave Alvin - Eleven Eleven

I hated this album the first time I heard it. Alvin sounded like a drunk at the end of a bar, you know, the kind that won't shut up. His lyrics used to have short lines; now they go on forever. I don't hate it so much now. It will probably sound fine when I stop comparing it to the old Blasters records.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Listening Notes: Thurston Moore, Bobby Pinson

Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts

I've enjoyed every Sonic Youth rock album since Sister without giving a second thought to Moore's singing or lyrics. They serve the songs well enough, but they're not the reason why I enjoy the music. Here, the songs have to serve the singing and the lyrics, and neither the singing nor the lyrics seems worthy of that service. I wonder if this sounds much better through headphones.

Bobby Pinson - Songs for Somebody

It doesn't make sense to me that Pinson makes his living as a songwriter. These songs are full of melodrama - how many dead high school friends does he have? - that only a good singer can put across. Pinson is even better than that. Here's hoping that a major label in Nashville gives him another try as a singer.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Listening Notes: Beastie Boys, The Mountain Goats, REM

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

I'm glad they're still making rap albums, although this is only the second in the last 13 years. They've got skills, talent and, dare I say, charm. Always did, even when they played young reprobates. I give them a pass about rapping about how they're still in the game because isn't that what old rappers who stick to themes rap about?

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

When John Darnielle sings "Damn These Vampires", he's not reaching for a metaphor. He really means damn these vampires. The lyrical content of his songs depends on what he's reading, and I assume there's a vampire novel on his reading list. The album's title is taken from a tarot deck. The titles of the song include Charles Bronson and Liza Minelli, a gas mask and a scorpion squadron. Darnielle's a fine singer, but I don't think he can save all this.

REM - Life's Rich Pageant

The 25th anniversary packaging is excessive, the demos disc is an unremarkable bunch of demos, but the original album smokes. Twenty five years ago, I wanted the album to signify because I loved the band. Now that I haven't loved the band in fifteen years, I'm free to hear the album as content free hard rock. Like John Mellancamp, whose producer they used, only better. Maybe much better. Or maybe I'm overreacting because of their albums of the last fifteen years.