Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Past


Okay, well this is the oldest Halloween memory with photo I bet any of us can muster.

This is a Halloween photo taken of me and my sibs and mom back in 1973. I can still smell the plastic of that mask. Man, I thought that mask was AWESOME.

Yes, and at the time, Mark, we were living in Italy. Mark loves it when I say that. Guess which one is me.

Our latest contributor

I just want to welcome my cousin Ronelle, from Oceanport, N.J., who stumbled across M&M yesterday and already has posted her first comment, on the subject of naming Michelle's new car.

Ronelle sent me a few pictures of her daughter Christin (my third cousin?), who just graduated from high school. I've met her a couple of times -- Christin, I mean -- but in my head she's like 9 years old. Ronelle I don't know a heck of a lot better, but I've always felt a very close connection to her. We just hit it off.

Here's Christin:

Here's Ronelle's comment on Michelle's car:

How presumptuous of me to make my first comment a suggestion for naming your new addition! Then again, I do have the BEST idea so it would just be wrong for me to keep it to myself. It seems obvious to me that your new very blue ride should be named Jake or Elwood - you get to pick which one you like best. Enjoy it!
And here's what she's talking about (I have to admit it's a pretty good idea):



Thanks Ronelle. And welcome!

Here they are!

Michelle and her new ride:


Very cool. The car, too.

Michelle even made an exception last night to her strict I'm-not-riding-with-no-damn-epileptic policy and let me drive the Element around the block. Nice. Sure glad I didn't seize out and crash.

Good purchase, baby.

Negotiating, the Nicolosi way


The Honda Element is the third car I've bought new. The first time I bought a new car, I was 25 or so and didn't realize that people bargain before buying their car. I found out after paying and felt like a total idiot.

So when I bought my silver Jetta in 2003, I developed The Nicolosi System. This was back in the dawn of Internet car sales, and there were just a few internet sales guys. I emailed them all and negotiated for a few weeks between them all before buying. This time I added a few extra steps.

First, check the local dealers sites for their ridiculous starting price: At Lynwood Honda for example, they're offering the 2008 Element 4wd, Automatic, for $25,959.

Then, I found the Element owners board and got all the inside skinny on the car -- the shortcomings, the gossip about what people are paying and who the best dealers are.

I found out in some of the comments there that some dealers will sell for just $200 over invoice. You can find Invoice and MSRP amounts at cars.com, which lists the invoice on this car as $22,201. So there's a lot of wiggle room here -- a $3,000 to $4,000 difference between what they pay for the car, and what they try to sell it for.

So I went to cars.com, Autobytel and Edmunds.com, and also did a Google search for Honda + Seattle. I found out who all the dealers are within 100 miles and sent them all an email: "I'm looking for someone to sell me this car for $200 above invoice."

A bunch of people wrote back to say they'd sell to me for $500 above invoice. One guy, Brad in Everett, wrote back "hell yes, let's do it!" A guy in Renton wrote back, sure I'll quote you a quote. But what other quote do you have? What ever you get I'll beat it."

So me and Brad get to talking. We talk LX (the version with no I-pod jack, fewer speakers, less stuff all around, mostly baubles) and EX. I tell him Lynwood Honda valued my Jetta at $8500 trade in value, and will they do the same. Brad says come on down, we'll check it out. (Acura down the street valued it at more like $6500. 2002 Jettas sell for $8,500 to $13,000 on Craigslist. Mine is missing a mirror and has a gash in the door from an unfortunate meeting with a garage column).

Any who, I get up to Brad's place, and we drive the car, and Man, the extra 10 horsepower they added to the Element in 2007 makes a HUGE difference. This baby really accelerates now. Drives like a car, space like a van. The seats are higher up than the Jetta, which my lumbago appreciates. Sweet free XM radio for 3 months. All around excellent road trip vehicle.

But Brad doesn't have an LX on the lot. He wants to sell me a car tonite, he says. Sure, I say, but The EX costs more than the LX. $2,000 more. Can we just go ahead and order an LX? And oh, by the way, what value did they put on the Jetta?

Brad doesn't know -- he goes to check, comes back: $8,500. A match of the Lynwood offer. (Predictable. Most dealerships will match or beat other dealer offers).

Well, I say. Sounds good. Let's order up the LX. When do you think it will be ready?

I want to sell you a car tonight, Brad says. What would it take?

Hmm, I say. I hem, I haw. Well, I say, value the Jetta at $9500 and you have a deal. He goes to check with the man, and comes back with $9,000. Hmm, I say. Well, still, thanks for checking. Let's just order the LX.

He leaves, and comes back with the manager, an affable guy with a big smile. Lissen, he says. And explains something about a tax break I'll get, and how the wholesalers won't give him more than $8500 for the Jetta, and he's taking a loss on that, and everything.

Sure I say, makes total sense. So like I say, let's order up the LX. I'll come back for it in a few days.

Hmm, he says. What say $9250?

Hmm, I say. Can I use your calculator here? I get up and punch the numbers. Now I'm paying about $1,000 more for the EX than the LX, though there's a $2000 price difference for them on the invoice.

Okay, that works for me, I say. And we sign, and the Jetta is gone, and I now drive what Brad calls "a box."

His compadre in the Internet department there says the internet guys don't work on commish like the floor guys. Here, he says, we're not trying to make the house payment off one sale. It's lower pressure. We work at much lower margins -- it's just a different way of doing it.

I heard the same thing from the VW guy who sold me my Jetta, and I personally think it's true: It's much easier to get the internet guys to jump way down on price faster. The floor sales guys get paid less in base salary, so they really can't jump down that way.

Anyways, I like big blue. I can't wait to buy a big fig tree, and slide it in there, no problem.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There it is



Well, this isn't mine, but it's the same model and color.

Here's the "bed" setting for the chairs.



Here it is with the seats lifted out of the way ... I'm pretty sure my treadmill will fit in there.



Mich, I got the guy's card if you're interested. He'll sell it to you for $200 above invoice, and give you at least $10,000 for the crap Jetta.

Plus, he'll fill up the tank. :)

'Ok did it. Blue'

That was Michelle's text message on my phone just now, which I take to mean she pulled the trigger on the new Honda Element she was going to check out after work.

Smart girl that she is, she did all her negotiating by e-mail, playing half a dozen dealers off each other, so it's no wonder to me that she wrapped this all up as fast as she did, and I'll bet she got a good deal too.

I'm sure when she gets home we'll all hear more about it.

Coolio.

Open during construction

Yesterday was my monthly oncologist appointment, so I decided to beat the afternoon traffic up to the UW hospital and hang out for an hour or so at the nearby University Village -- maybe check out the new Mac Leopard operating system at the Apple Store.

But when I got there the Apple Store front was covered in black paper, with a sign saying they were closed for the past week or so plus the coming one for renovation. Bummer. And also, I thought, dumb timing: This is the big Leopard rollout, with most stores staying open late last Friday when the software went on sale. How could they pass on all that sure business?

So I killed some time with a cup of coffee then headed over to UW for the appointment. No giant headlines there. I saw Dr. Spence this time instead of his trusty nurse practitioners, and at Michelle's urging I tried not to gloss over or downplay the side effects I've been having during chemo. Spence seemed mildly concerned -- though not greatly concerned -- and he decided to lower my Temodar dose again, for the second time in three months.

Michelle asked whether the lower strength would hamper the effectiveness of the treatment. No, he said, if you're having symptoms that's a pretty good sign that the drug is doing something.

OK. As I often feel during these meetings, that sounded a bit like spin to my cynical bullshit detector. I thought our drunk-driving City Council candidate here should hire Dr. Spence to be her spokesman. "If Venus is blowing a 0.111," he could say, "that's a pretty good sign that her campaign is intoxicating."

Anyway, I'll begin the new round next week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday. Unlike the Apple Store I don't shut down completely during my renovation, although it can be a bit messy operating at one-quarter speed.

I need a sign like they have at some of those customer-friendly construction sites: Please pardon the dust.

'Boo to my shoe'

One of the perennial Halloween stories in my family comes from the time when the girls were really little, like 2 and 3, and Greta and I took them to Eugene to visit my parents.

It was Halloween and the girls wore costumes, but they weren't ready to go out trick-or-treating so their job was to answer the door and hand out candy for Grandma Rita and Papa. When one of the first little groups rang the bell Franny popped up to do her job, but then almost as soon as she answered the door she broke into huge cries and came running back to the living room. We finally got her calmed down enough to find out what the problem was.

"That boy said 'boo' to my shoe," she said between sobs.

I might have a couple details wrong -- I feel like I'm leaving out some important part; Mom? -- but that's how I remember it.

This pic is from a Eugene trip a few years later. The cousins, when they were all around 9 or 10: Chelsea, Gabby, Gina and Fran.

Man bites dog

That, of course, is the classic Journalism 101 example of what makes news news: "Dog bites man" is no good; happens all the time. But "Man bites dog," that's unexpected; now you're onto something.

So you had to love this headline at the P-I this morning: Hunting dog shoots man. It's the ultimate man-bites-dog story. No wonder it was No. 1 on the most-read list.

A tasty slice of Kate Cohen goodness

Right now I'm enjoying a piece of toast and preserves with my cup of coffee. Too incremental an update even for M&M Incremental Updates, you say? But wait!

These aren't just any preserves, but From Our Vine 2007 Grape Preserves with Thyme (With Healthy Grapeseed Made in September), which arrived yesterday from the awesome Kate Cohen. Check out Friends of the Vine.

Also in the package, the very cool shirts I ordered -- one Old Guys Rule t-shirt, one Pitbull of Grumpiness baseball shirt -- and a Pitbull kitchen clock. All Kaye's designs. Great friend, great merch.

I've had my share of grape preserves over the years, but never anything better than this: sweet, delectable, with just a hint of tartness to keep it in line. Perfetto!

Thank you, Kaye and Val.

Monday, October 29, 2007

They're creepy and they're kooky


Gina just sent me a picture of her friends' Halloween party last week, at which she was awarded best-costume prize for her Wednesday Addams getup. She dyed her pretty red hair black to complete the look.

Here's Christina Ricci in the film version of the role, from 1991's "The Addams Family."


Gina and Franny are coming over after school tomorrow to carve pumpkins. But on Halloween they'll hang at Greta's house, where Frank's throwing her own little party, and they'll probably all do some trick-or-treating from over there.

Looks like Michelle and I will be stuck alone here with these Butterfinger, Snickers and Nestle's Crunch bars.

Altogether spooky.

Oyster walk

Michelle and I have always liked to take late-night walks, dating back to the time we were working on PersonalReader, keeping crazy hours, and we'd have to go get some fresh air and move around just to stay awake. Those we called "grog walks," to combat grogginess.

Tonight we walked up to the junction to check out a new neighborhood restaurant, a little Tiki-themed place called Ama Ama that specializes in fresh oysters. Kinda spendy for an evening snack, but pretty good. We shared a dozen local oysters -- four from B.C., four from Puget Sound and four from Oregon -- and a small po' boy sandwich, along with a couple of nice microbrew drafts.

I don't know how often we can afford to do it, but the grog walk now has a new theme.

Out of our element


For all the talking we did for a while there about getting an old Airstream or other old RV to take on our dream road trip around the country, the truth has slowly dawned on us that we might not be RV people. They can be tricky to drive, for one thing, and while it's nice to be able to sleep on the road without a hotel, neither of us likes to go long without a good hot shower. We'd be stopping in motels anyway. And they're expensive, RVs, and costly to drive too.

For a long time I've thought a good compromise might be the Honda Element. It's not an RV, but it seems like a good road trip car: very roomy, with a power outlet, an iPod jack and other features that might be handy ... plus the back seats fold down perfectly flat, so in a pinch you could sleep in the car, maybe semi-comfortably. Pretty good mileage too.

Kaye has one of these cars and likes it a lot (they're pictured above). She picked me up in it for our Pink's hot dog date, and she let me drive it around Belmont Shore when we visited for dinner. It didn't have a ton of power, but otherwise was comfortable and easy to drive. I could see it as the M&M road vehicle.

I didn't really pursue it, though, because Michelle has said she doesn't like the car's quirky looks and felt like it was neither fish nor fowl. If you're not going with an RV, she has said, might as well take the Jetta. Good point.

But now Michelle has had some trouble with her car and she went out yesterday to look at a used pickup truck. She came back nearly sold on the Element, which I think she avoided buying only because of some bait-and-switch shenanigans by the salesman.

So we'll see. Anyone else have any experience with these things?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

'I'm with Janice'

That was my mom the sports fan, calling me as soon as Brad Hawpe parked one in the seventh inning to pull Colorado within two runs, 3-1, of avoiding a Boston sweep in the World Series.

"How 'bout that home run," Mom said. "I'm with Janice. I want the Rockies to extend this thing. Who wants to see the Red Sox win again?"

I note that the Sox have only won once in something like the last 88 years, but yeah. I'm with Mom. (Her reference was to Janice's M&M comment on Schilling and the Sox, here.)

Marijuana is not a drug

Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This came up in an interview with British GQ, when Arnold said he'd never done drugs, despite being shown smoking a joint in the 1977 movie "Pumping Iron."

"That is not a drug. It's a leaf," Schwarzenegger told GQ. "My drug was pumping iron, trust me."

So we've lost one drug but gained another. I can picture the new just-say-no campaign. "Here's your arms. Here's your arms on iron."

The P-I has an AP version of the story. Here's the future governor not doing drugs, via YouTube:

Thing No. 5: the Sunday news meeting

Glancing at the P-I's web site this morning, my eye is caught by a front-page promo: "5 things to do Sunday."

Well, OK, but that strikes me kinda funny. For the past year or so one of the paper's regular features has been "Going Out/Staying In," daily recommendations for things to do at home or around town. The promos for that always crack me up because they're way too much -- "117 things to do on Tuesday night!" Now, with a whole weekend day ahead, we're offered just five things. Must be pretty good.

So I click. Setting aside the lameness of the recommendations (Kid's Karaoke, 4 p.m., Skylark Cafe), it's immediately apparent that there aren't five things to do, only four! The fifth thing, maybe, is supposed to be shake your head in wonder.

Elsewhere, looking around the Internet, it's easier to find a few examples of "WW," what worked.

Coming back on the Southern California fires, the New York Times has the kind of piece I appreciate as a reader and loved to attempt as a reporter and editor: a wonky (but not boring) policy takeout on what's behind the big news event, produced while the event is still unfolding. Not easy to do well.

(New York Times photo)

Today's piece, "Rethinking fire policy in the tinderbox zone," digs a bit deeper into the obviously dangerous factors that stoked the fires: rapid growth in the areas "where open spaces and housing meet." Combine that with an official policy to suppress small natural fires, rather than letting the potential big-fire fuel burn itself out before it gets too dangerous, and you're practically asking for trouble.

I love this quote from a guy who owns a bar in an area that has burned twice in four years, just for its California-ness in attitude and language: "If you're going to live in paradise you're going to have to deal."

It's a smart story, well executed.

One of the best things about this baseball postseason for me has been discovering Will Leitch's terrific NYT blog, Fair and Foul. With the Red Sox now up 3 games to 0, Leitch crafted an excellent post this morning on the bummer that is the sweep. And, paging down, he also ruminates on the likability (or not) of Curt Schilling, the aging Sox pitcher whom I cheered the other day (and Janice booed).

In Neil Young news -- an M&M staple this week -- NYT critic Jon Pareles offers a combo feature/album review that finds a metaphor in an old car Young is restoring, explains a bit about his thinking on the concert tour that disappointed Michelle and me (he really hand-picked the horrible WaMu Theatre?), and gives some interesting background on the current album, "Chrome Dreams II."

Locally, not a lot in the Sunday paper that's worth discussing, although Postman has a good blog item about legal considerations in Dino Rossi's gubernatorial campaign announcement.

For some reason the Seattle Times includes a Fall 2007 College Guide in this morning's paper. I haven't looked at it yet, but the timing seems weird to me, as school just started. Also, not to be too dismissive, but when it's time to research colleges I might want to look beyond the hometown newspaper.

To me, the college guide is a prime example of the kind of commodified content that, in our media-saturated world, local papers can save money by doing without. Locally produced film reviews are another key example. Everything's at the multiplex, it's the same everywhere, and excellent movie critics abound. Save some money, small-town managing editors, and use it to hire another good reporter or editor. That's exactly what happened at the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union, where film critic Matt Soegel was told his services were no longer needed. About time, I say. He writes a boo-hoo farewell column, but as he points out himself, he's lucky: At least he'll get to keep a reporting job at the paper.

Not so for Blair Parker, erstwhile sports reporter at The News Leader in Stauton, Va. As the paper's editor David Fritz explains in an apologetic column, he fired Parker for plagiarizing a bunch of stories and totally making up others. Wow.

One thing: I'll bet she could have come up with five things to do on a Sunday.

Free Goats Free Free


It's an M&M special: Free combined with Goats, all found on Craigslist.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Well now I feel bad

(Boston Globe photo)

After I dissed Daisuke Matsuzaka -- Dice-K -- the other day as not a big-game pitcher, he came up huge tonight, not only throwing shutout ball into the sixth inning but singling to drive in two runs. The Red Sox won again, taking a 3-0 lead in the World Series over the nearly helpless-looking Colorado Rockies.

This was the one I thought the Rocks might win. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Hitting the wall

(Cross-posted from Poker Seattle)

I've been moderately successful over the years playing low-limit hold 'em -- mostly $4/8, with occasional $3/6 games and some $6/12 -- but whenever I've tried to step up to $10/20 I've been spanked, taken a hit to my bankroll and had to drop back down.

Actually, that's true primarily here in Seattle, where I'm beginning to realize the games are rougher than in a lot of other parts of the country. Even in Las Vegas, which has a reputation as a tough poker town, I've won playing $15/30. And I've beat the L.A. games pretty good, up to $20/40. (That reminds me, I still need to file a trip report on our recent Los Angeles vacation.)

This annoys me. I've been playing this game for a long time now, more than 25 years, and at this point I ought to have sharpened my skills enough to compete with the "big boys" (really, at $10/20, just the mid-size boys). It's also important financially. The "rake," the amount taken out of each pot by the house, is proportionally smaller in larger-stakes games. And a healthy win in a bigger game obviously is more profitable, which is the whole point.

So what's going on? I know I understand hold 'em well and I have great confidence at the table. I played in the World Series of Poker this summer and even there I didn't feel intimidated. In fact, if anything, as I've said before, some of my biggest leaks come from hubris, too much confidence.

My WSOP table, with "the joker," pro Jeff Madsen

Some of my poor results at $10/20 fairly can be chalked up to bad luck -- I've got stories to tell from a Diamond Lil's session a week or so ago -- but I'm sure a lot of it is me. Sometimes I tighten up too much, afraid of losing at a faster clip, and turn weak/tight. Sometimes I'm too suspicious that the players -- who are clearly a level or two above the low-limit fish I'm used to -- are "making moves," trying to steal pots, and I pay them off with inferior hands. And in some cases, especially at the Muck, the $10/20 players are just better than I am; they play with more discipline for longer periods, exploit even smaller margins of potential profit, and instinctively (or through deeper study) know when to ratchet up the aggression and when to back off. They outplay me.

But I'm determined to break though this barrier.

After my profitable games in LA, I took a shot at the Lil's $10/20 game last week. Not so great. I burned through my "rack of red" -- 100 red $5 chips -- in less than two hours without winning a pot. Argh. I didn't rebuy.

Instead I rebuilt my stack a bit in my next couple of sessions, down in $4/8, and decided I'd look for a spot to try again.

Yesterday, with an afternoon to spend playing while Michelle worked, I drove to the Muck and sat into my normal $4/8 kill game. From my first hand I was on fire -- flopping straights, hitting flush draws, making big pairs stand up, even bulling my way into a few pots. Before long they started a new $10/20 game and, $160 up already, I changed tables and took a seat.

Fortunately some of the tougher regular players weren't around; nobody in the game spooked me. In the first hand I was dealt A-Q of clubs, raised, got called in two places, hit an ace on the flop and got paid off all the way. Nothing to it. Deal me in.

For the next hour or two my papers went cold, but not disastrously so. In fact, I was lucky in a way: I was so card dead that I couldn't get into much trouble. Still, inevitably, chips dribbled away and after a while I realized I was $200 down for the day, even counting my profit from the $4/8 game. Man.

But I kept my cool, finally made a hand or two and rallied a bit. When it was time to cash out I was up $200 for the day -- $160 from the small game, and $40 profit at $10/20!

Not a killing, clearly. But not a loss either. Sometimes just breaking even can feel like winning. Maybe I'm over the wall.

Help for fire victims

LA Times photo

As fire crews continue to make progress in Southern California, the LA Times has turned part of its attention to helping those burned out or otherwise displaced by the disaster.

This page has several ways to contribute, including a special fund set up by the paper along with KTLA and the McCormick Tribune Foundation. I thought it was particularly cool because the foundation is matching at least the first half a million dollars raised, and the Times and its partners are covering all administrative causes. Unfortunately the link for the LA Times Family Fund is broken, so if you want to check it out, go here.

In other fire news, Kevin Roderick at LA Observed has an update on that awesome photo of huddled firefighters that we talked about the other day. The picture became a story on NBC News, including truly moving interviews with the photographer, Karen Tapia-Anderson, and the firefighters. Roderick provides links. Incredible.

A word from our foreign correspondent

Freda seems to be jonesing for the blog. She's stuck in England with no good access to computers. In lieu of being able to post, she sent this email:

"hi, just a quick note to let you all know I am fine and am now in Surrey with Nesta and John, my cell phone is dead John, so I will email you before I fly back to give you the updated information on my flight arrival. hope you are all well, I will not be inputting to you blog till I get back Michelle because it takes too long on other peoples computers, love you all, mom"

Here's a pic of Freda back in the day, with my Uncle David:

Hungover exercise

Had a couple of drinks last night and woke up feeling the effects a little bit. But it's a pretty morning, Michelle was still sleeping, the girls aren't here yet, and I decided this was probably my best chance to get a short run in today, so off I went.

This was my third outing since that first, pathetic comeback attempt the other day, and considering the circumstances it went OK: I finished the entire one-mile loop without falling or puking. I'm sweatier than an even moderately fit person should be after such little exertion, but still.

Couple of close calls though.

As I ran around a construction guy unloading some stuff down by the daycare that used to be a church and before that the YWCA, I stepped in a hole in the sidewalk and twisted my bad ankle. I thought I was going to hit the deck, which would have royally pissed me off if it broke my iPod.

Also, I ran by a yard with a couple of aggressively barking, snarling, mean-looking dogs. What a matchup, I thought: me, a pitbull on the pantleg of grumpiness, vs. two pitbulls on the cyclone fence of jogger-spookiness. Well, I don't know if they were actual pit bulls, but they were definitely of the species canis badassicus. Fortunately they weren't smart enough to realize they could easily clear the short fence and turn me into hamburger.

I'm happy to be home and only sweaty, not bloody.

SPI and Whatnot

Twenty-one years ago, back when I was freelancing for the entertainment and "going out" section at the Times-Picayune, I was amazed how little the people who ran the place seemed to know about what young people were doing, listening to, reading, thinking, and whatnot.

I told myself back then, "one of these days, I'm going to be in charge of one of these here entertainment sections, and it's going to have cool stuff in it. It won't be run by people who say things like 'Who is xxx? Do people listing to him/her? Should we write about that?' It'll be run by me, and I'll know all the answers."

Flash forward 21 years. Yesterday I launched an online-only, mostly entertainmant-y magazine covering the music/hanging-out scene in Seattle. I have an amazing crew of former mes -- read: interns -- who seem to know about every band in the city, which ones to cover, what's cool and what's not.

I know squat about the local music scene. My former creds as a former person who formerly was totally wired on the music scene in New Orleans is meaningless. I am her, the chick asking "Who is xxx. Do people listen to him/her?"

But I never ask "should we write about it?" Because I know that I don't know anything, and I have totally turned the magazine over to the amazing interns. Since they are the experts, (a no brainer here) they decide what to cover, they schedule, cover it, write about it and post it all as they see fit. All I do is edit it.

As it should be. What do I know, besides where the hyphens should go?

The setup feels good to me. I don't think the old people who work for newspapers need to know everything. They just need to know who does know everything, and that they should hand the reins over to them. Sometimes they don't want to do that. Me, I'm doing what I wished for back in the old days, 21 years ago: handing over the magazine to former me, the person who knows stuff.

Tonite, I met a bunch of new intern candidates at the launch party (as Mark mentioned, a gig a the Showbox, featuring a band called FLOATER). Awesome intern Rose (who had the hookup with the guy who put on the show at the Showbox, and arranged the whole launch party thing) invited a bunch of students to help us shoot the gig, and many of them were interested in signing up as interns. Things are looking good for the future of SPI.

At least, it feels that way, the night of this SPI launch party. Which I left early, telling Awesome Intern Rose, "I'm leaving now, because I'm old." The 21 year ago me would cringe at such wuss behavior. But 43 year old me says hey, hand me my cozy socks and a martini. It's Rose's turn, yo. She seems to know what she's doing. I'm happy to move aside and see what she makes. Go Interns, go!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Moody Floaty Chili Peppers

Michelle's launch party for the new SPI website tonight was downtown at the Showbox, sharing the bill -- or really, elbowing in on the bill -- with some band named Floater. I'm so out of it that when I heard Floater I thought of The Floaters, the one-hit wonder soul band that sang "Float On" in 1977. But then that was 30 years ago; these guys probably weren't even born then.

The band came on and, again, I'm so out of it I didn't realize it was an opening act -- the first of two, it turned out -- somebody named Low Thin Square. Buncha crazy headbangers.

It kinda reminded me of shows I used to see at the I-Beam in the Haight when I was entertainment editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. That was 20 years ago. These guys were like a really loud, whacked out combination of the Moody Blues and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The bass player was a Flea wannabe, with no shirt, big tats and these weird pigtailly buns on the side of his head that made him look like Mickey Mouse on X.

The headbanger kids in attendance all seemed to dig the music. Michelle's SPI crew -- interns who fit right in -- were going around taking pictures and promoting the site.

I really didn't mind the set, but by the time the second band was setting up I felt like I'd had enough and Michelle said she'd put in her appearance, so we bailed.

We never did hear what Floater sounds like. I'm sure it was nothing like The Floaters. But just for kicks, here's "Float On," The Floaters' big hit:

You're so beautiful ...

... you could be a part-time model.

Michelle's Flight of the Conchords post last night sent me looking through a few of their other videos. This one, from the Letterman show, is my second favorite of their songs, after "Business Time." They crack me up.


Old guys rule!

Mocked by my little sister for the growing length of these posts, I'm going to try to keep this short. Nothing worse than a long-winded morning news meeting when you just want to speed through tomorrow's budget and get back to your desk. So fine. There's all kinds of great stuff that'll just have to wait, like an interesting cancer-related post, some trenchant local political analysis, fascinating online news comparisons, some music reviews and other stuff. Another time.

Plus I've got other crap to do today. I have to go for my weekly alcohol draw (blood, I mean), then I'm gonna go play cards all day before meeting Michelle at the Showbox tonight for the launch party of her new SPI website (you'll have to wait to hear more about that too).

So let's get right to the day's big topic: baseball.

Always root for the crafty veteran. That's one of my sports-fan rules, so I was pleased to see the Red Sox take a 2 games to 0 lead in the World Series last night behind the superb pitching, again, of 40-year-old (41, in three weeks) Curt Schilling.

I like Schilling. He's one of the all-time great big-game pitchers. But what I find most impressive is that he's continued to thrive while completely changing his game at his advanced age (for a ballplayer). He used to be a power pitcher, a young stud who blew batters away with an unhittable fastball and a nasty stare. But since blowing out his ankle a few years ago -- and famously pitching the Red Sox into the World Series past the Yankees in the dramatic "bloody sock game" -- Schilling taught himself to get hitters out by changing speeds and precisely locating his pitches. He reinvented himself as a smart old guy. What a metaphor!

Last night, he had it all working before turning a lead over to the excellent Boston bullpen in the sixth inning, and the Sox beat Colorado 2-1. Great game.

Says the Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, quoted in the Boston Globe: "It's a good feeling when he pitches. Whatever the situation, you know he's going to be prepared for it."

True dat.

You could wander all over the Internet reading the baseball coverage. My favorite World Series entry today, though, isn't in the sports pages but in an economics column, the New York Times' excellent Freakonomics blog. The blog, written primarily by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner to promote and expand on their book of the same name, "explores the hidden side of everything." It's such a great blog that I'm going to read the book.

This post, written last week before the Series began, is a fascinating backgrounder on how some enterprising retailers tried to capitalize on interest in their home teams by promising customers a full refund on big-ticket items like furniture if the teams, including the Red Sox, won the World Series. How could they afford such a promotion? Check it out. Pretty good.

No game today. It's a travel day before the Series resumes tomorrow in Denver. I don't think the Sox will sweep four games in a row. Dice-K doesn't impress me as a clutch pitcher, for one thing (too young, probably). And the Rockies are a too good-hitting team to go down so quietly, despite what they've shown already. Says here Tulowitzki, Helton, Hawpe and Matsui will heat up.

Look for Boston's ace Josh Beckett either to close out the Series in Game 5 on Monday or, better yet, send it back to Fenway for a Game 6 starring Schilling on Wednesday. That would rock.

Maybe my Old Guys Rule t-shirt from Kaye's awesome eBay collection will arrive in time for the game.

Well, crap, I guess that wasn't such a short news meeting after all. Sorry about that, Mich. Coulda been worse.

Back to work, everyone. I'll be out "on assignment." Don't wait up.

More estoterica on LOLCat programming language

"Programmers have created a functional programming language based on the peculiar speech of LOLCats. Linguists may analyze the grammar of LOLCats, but hackers make it DO STUFF."

From Boing Boing

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Brett and Jermaine


Man, I am so proud to say that M&M is the top result on Google for the search "Brett and Jermaine," referring of course, to Brett and Jermaine of the Flight of the Conchords. They are one of the awesomest things to come out of 2007 -- definitely on my Top Three list.

There are a million, one hundred fifty thousand results for Brett and Jermaine. How the hell are we number one?

"It's weird," I tell Mark. "It's random!"

"It's not random, it's an algorithm," Mark provides. "We just don't understand it."

He looks at me sagely. His alarm rings. It's time for him to take some of his plentiful drugs.

"It's time," he says. "It's always time for something. That's what I noticed."

Maybe he's listening to too much Neil Young?

Anyways, we just watched Brett and Jermaine do their latest song on Conan -- 'All the Ladies.' One of the lines went something like this:

If all the soldiers in the world
would put down their weapons
and pick up a girl,
what a peaceful world
this would be

All the ladies

The point of the song being that Brett and Jermaine would just like to show their appreciation to all the ladies in the world by making love to them. All of them. (Is that even physically possible? Jermaine wonders in song. He looks quite interested in trying to find out. Even on the old ones, the erudite ones, the fat ones ... you get the idea)

Yet another classic from the New Zealand duo. Check out other classics such as 'Business Time' over on Youtube. If you don't think they rock now, that's just because you haven't seen them yet.

PS: The #1 Google result for the phrase business time is this video on youtube:

'Never go with a hippie to a second location'

Tonight's episode of "30 Rock" was the most brilliant ever on one of the most brilliant ever sitcoms. Alec Baldwin's three-character psychoanalysis session with Tracy Morgan is Emmy-worthy all by itself.

Keep your eyes open. If this episode, titled "Rosemary's Baby," turns up again on TV or the Internet, check it out. Pure genius. Here's a two-minute clip.

It works!



Hooray! I didn't waste $1,200 on a treadmill that doesn't work. I wasted $1,200 on a treadmill that does work. Much better. :)

God Bless Pitch

Man. We're watching the World Series, and tragically Fenway Park has adopted the Post-9/11 custom of having someone sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Tonight's perps: Boys II Men. Michelle astutely pointed out that they should change their name by now to Men II Old Guys -- and that was before hearing them sing.

That must've been the worst wiggly-voiced rendition of that tired song I've ever heard. Somebody buy those dudes a pitch pipe.

Weird technology thing

I just spent an hour or so exchanging thoughts about the blog and other life stuff with my mom -- Rita, in the comments -- without any typing at all and no Internet connection!

How did we do it? A strange little invention called the telephone. You talk into one end and hear from the other. Coolio.

It's funny, one of the great benefits of M&M is that it feels like we're in constant touch with friends and family. But as Mom and I noted tonight -- and we've also found with Kaye, Mich and others -- the daily comments have meant less actual contact, in person or even by phone.

It was nice to chat with Mom tonight. She sounds great.

Here she is last month with Michelle and Mich outside the Paramount, where we saw Tony Bennett (presented by AARP; ugh):

Thanks, Val!

I'm still making my way through the cool YouTube videos Val compiled in a recent comment:

I love music for the Apocalypse. Here are a few other covers of "All Along the Watchtower". The Dave Mathews version is really gets going, and check the redhead guitarist in Brian Ferry's band!

I'm not a big Dave Matthews fan but I agree this take is pretty good. That band does know how to build a song.

I also dig the Neil Young & Springsteen cover on Val's list.


Do we have liftoff?

Michelle's electrician came and went this morning, spending half an hour or so rewiring the garage so the Treadmill of the Gods will work. If the slippery sporting-goods salesman sold her a working machine, that is.

I'll leave it to Michelle to give the track its maiden M&M test run when she gets home.

Meantime, stuck with my stubbornly old-school original wiring, I'm going to go jog around the block.

No mercy rule

In a lot of Little League or rec-softball games there's a "mercy rule": Get ahead by 10 runs and they call the game. Stop embarrassing the other kids; let's go get a beer.

No such luck in the World Series, where it was already 11-1 in the fifth inning last night when I turned off the game with the Red Sox still batting and the Rockies still walking in runs. Final was 13-1. Will Leitch, a great sportswriter who keeps a good blog for the New York Times, Fair and Foul, is having none of it. The tuning out early part, that is. In fact, based on his own upbringing, he turns sticking out a baseball game into a moral imperative:

It’s my father’s signature maxim and has been the founding principle, perhaps the organizing tenet, of the Leitch family structure. It doesn’t matter how well things are going — or how much they’re falling apart — you always follow everything through to the end. If you’re succeeding, you can never let up until you are certain the job is done. If you’re failing (particularly when you’re failing in a dramatic, definitive fashion), you pay attention to what you’re doing wrong so it won’t happen again.

It's a good piece.

In other baseball coverage, I liked Rob Neyer's lineup for ESPN of the all-time best World Series players. As Neyer casts it, these aren't necessarily the best players ever (though some are), but his picks for the top performers in the history of the Series, by position. No shock that four Yankees make the list, but he's got a couple of nice surprise picks too, like Lou Brock in left field and Alan Trammell at short. Worth reading for baseball nuts.

Elsewhere, as long as we're showing no mercy let's turn to the news.

Today's the first day in a while that the LA fires haven't dominated the local newspapers -- more on the fires in a minute -- so I want to begin with the morning's big web-only news around these parts: the maiden voyage of Singapore Airlines' Airbus A380. That's a big deal here in Seattle because the A380 is the world's largest jetliner, it's made by the local Boeing Company's sole competitor and it beat Boeing's now-delayed new 787 Dreamliner jumbo-jet to market.

OK. What draws my attention is the P-I's decision to send its aerospace reporter James Wallace on a junket to cover this kickoff flight. As Wallace notes, he was part of a select group of media folks invited to join the "historic flight," with most of the rest of the passengers bidding online for tickets and one rich nerd reportedly paying $100,000.

(AP photo, from seattlepi.com)

To me this is a borderline ethical issue that warrants discussion and would benefit from a comprehensive journalism ethics policy, which I know firsthand the paper doesn't have. The problem, in general terms, is that when reporters take something of value from a source or potential source their integrity is compromised. At the very least, the appearance of conflict would be raised. Although reporters are trained to strive for objectivity (and most I've worked with are stand-up, good people) they're also human; it's easy to imagine the tone of a story being swayed, if only subconsciously, by cool gifts. That's why fashion reporters aren't wearing free Armani and even small-town City Hall reporters pay their own way at lunch.

So back to Wallace. I don't think he's in Airbus' pocket -- far from it -- and at this point in his very long career he's not on the make for a free flight between Singapore and Sydney, even on a luxury airliner. But does the reader know that? Check out this excerpt from James' blog entry on the flight:

I thought I would be sitting in economy class with the other 70 or so media representatives -- only a handful from the U.S. But a few of us, including my pal Geoff Thomas of ATW, were upgraded to business class and I was seated next to the chief executive of Singapore Airlines. We had some interesting talks on the plane about the future of the 747 as well as what's happening with the 787.

Not only special consideration but special access to the top source too! Even knowing James personally -- as well as his fine and exceptionally ethical editor, Margaret Santjer, whom I hired for the gig -- I momentarily lost control of my eyebrow.

All of which is not to say, though, that this trip would be a slam-dunk "no" for me as a newsroom manager. I've nixed several similar junkets but also let some through, including by Wallace. The reason I described this initially as a "borderline" ethics call is that good papers with good ethics policies leave some discretion for cases when news considerations outweigh concern about accepting some "gift," especially if the gift is something routine or not of great value. That's why, for example, sports reporters don't buy a ticket to sit in the press box -- they're there only to report the game, not as a spectator -- and why film critics normally watch free preview screenings of the movies they review.

In this case, there's certainly great news value, especially for the P-I's readership. And while the gift was of significant value, the courtesy invite was likely the only way to participate. I don't see Margaret on eBay with a hundred grand transferred into her PayPal account. On the other hand, there are subtle hidden gifts in a deal like this that go beyond the paper. What if Wallace decides he wants to write a book about the jumbo-jet competition? Surely this trip would be a big reporting and selling advantage. Should the paper be abetting that?

I don't know. After talking it all through I might have been persuaded to let James go. And maybe they did have such conversations; if so, good for them.

But here's what really gets me (and I'm sorry for the very long digression): After all that, the P-I's first stories about the flight, both last night and this morning, were by the Associated Press, the exact same accounts that appeared in the Seattle Times!

The best Wallace could manage, at 5:28 a.m. local time, was this blog entry: "I'll be filing my story of the first commercial A380 flight in a while. It was an incredible adventure."

He has since filed a full story, and it's fine, I guess. Still. What a waste of a good ethical dilemma.

For coverage (on another beat) that inspires total trust despite tricky ethical considerations, watch David Pogue's column in the New York Times Circuits section, which is always my favorite part of the Thursday papers. Today Pogue reviews Apple's new Leopard operating system, which drops tomorrow.

In Southern California, the fires are still burning and still devastating, of course, but it looks like they're turning the corner. The Santa Ana winds are subsiding and the temperature is dropping, so that will help. I like how the LA Times/Google map, which we embedded in a previous post, updates automatically and shows the progress in one glance.


View Larger Map

The Times, which has done such a spectacular job reporting the fires, turns attention today to the claims, including in its own pages, that the disaster has displaced a million people. Probably a bogus number, we now learn. Excellent reporting, including by a couple of friends and former colleagues, Sharon Bernstein and Megan Garvey. They rock.

Old News Dept.: Gene Stout finally got around to posting his Neil Young review -- "a stirring, entertaining journey" -- at about 5:15 last night, almost 24 hours after the concert began. M&M review here.

OK, with all that serious stuff out of the way, a parting mention of the feature that will probably generate more traffic than all those other boring stories combined: the P-I's photo gallery of the Fredericks of Hollywood fashion show.

Mercy!

(AP photo, from seattlepi.com)

Justice!

(Cross-posted on Poker Seattle)

In addition to the fun and good fortune of winning a couple racks worth of chips this afternoon, I had the satisfaction of exacting a tiny punishment from the dealer who jacked Michelle out of a pot last month.

After that horrible hand Michelle and I both vowed to stiff "Triple H" from our customary one-dollar tokes when dragging a pot. Unfortunately, in subsequent trips to the Muck either H didn't make it to our tables or we weren't able to win a hand when she did. In fact, I knew it was time to leave in one game last week when Triple H pushed me a pot and I inadvertently tossed her a chip. I'm not paying enough attention, I thought to myself, and I got up and cashed out.

But today, playing in a softish $4/8 game that included my friend and former boss David, I happened to hit a little rush during H's down. Four pots I won while she was dealing, and four dollars I didn't slide back in her direction. I think she noticed too. She looked at me kind of funny and then, when other players tipped her, pointedly knocked the felt and thanked them before glancing back at me.

Is my no-tip policy mean? Oh well.

I'm sure she'll never connect the toke drought with her own bad dealing on that sorry night. But who knows, maybe she'll concentrate a little harder if only to figure out for sure whether I'm stiffing her. That's a good outcome right there.

And anyway, those are four bucks I can use to tip the waitresses, who work harder and are more deserving.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Maybe smoke was in everyone's eyes

Turning first to the entertainment coverage on a morning when I find a lot in the papers that could be better:

I saw the Seattle Times' venerable rock critic Patrick McDonald at last night's Neil Young concert, hunched at intermission over a laptop with a Verizon wireless card. Good for Patrick, I thought. Next-day coverage, maybe even same-night coverage of a live event! I almost stopped and said hey, but he looked like he was on deadline and I didn't want to interrupt. I needn't have worried, apparently.

No sign of the concert in either local paper or on their web sites this morning. Deep in the Times' site, on the Entertainment page, a purple-shaded box with the photos of two editors offered their "Get Out" recommendation: Neil Young. But when I clicked I got some kind of this-file-is-empty error message. Lame. The recommendation has since been changed to "Spamalot."

I don't get how the papers could punt this. Even if I found the concert a bit disappointing it's a big deal, with a lot of expensive tickets sold, three generations of fans, a brand-new CD being pitched and almost an entire tour left to come. It's news. Sporting events are covered live every day of the year. Come on, man, even M&M was able to post a review by midnight last night.

Update: As of midday the Times has posted McDonald's review -- "a great, unforgettable, powerful show ..." -- and the P-I has posted a nice photo gallery, but still no review.

Moving on: The big news all over the Internet again today is the still-raging SoCal fires. The cool LA Times Google fire maps, first pointed out around these parts by Kaye's great NiteNote blog, have spread like, well, you know. The Seattle Times and P-I have been linking to the LAT map off their front pages, and now I notice the New York Times has gotten into the act with its own, staff-produced, non-Google multimedia map. Pretty good, but no better than the much quicker and totally intuitive Google version.

Although Long Beach hasn't been hit directly by the fires -- Kaye's been keeping us updated -- the LA Times has a good piece today about how topography funnels the smoke right into our old hometown.

The P-I "localizes" the fires with a front-page feature about some evacuating Californians who ended up here in Seattle. It's funny, when people first started leaving their homes down there I thought of the running gag in this year's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" show on HBO, in which a black Katrina-victim family comes to LA to live with Larry David and Cheryl. Maybe next year, I thought, the smoked-out Davids could pack up and head to New Orleans. When they get off the plane some bored-looking couple could say, Oh, you're Jewish! (You'd have to have seen the show for this to make sense, and don't worry, it really wasn't funny the first time around either.)

Other than the fires, which dominate both local front pages, it's one of those days when you could make an argument for two Seattle dailies. The P-I has one of its periodic cold-case murder stories (not my cup, but pretty well done) and a James Wallace takeout on the Airbus A380 superjet, of big interest to local Boeing-heads.

The Times has a good political profile of Richard Pope, a dumbass perennial loser candidate who unexpectedly -- probably even to him -- finds himself in the thick of a race this year because his opponent for the King County Council was caught driving drunk. Good take.

And David Postman, an FOM&M, has a sharp Postman on Politics post about how Republican Dino Rossi should frame his campaign for governor. The other day I complained that both papers were underplaying the news that Rossi would run again. But I also understood the editors' decisions; neither story had more than: He's running again. What they need, I thought, is a good second-day story (but on the first day) that explains why Rossi's decision is important and spins it forward. Postman, who is a good political reporter and must have had some brilliant direction somewhere along the way, gets that. His post still could be fleshed out a bit in story form and run in the paper, but it's a good start.

Paging down his blog, I notice he took a typically Postmanesque swipe at his bosses, complaining that his coverage of Hillary Clinton's Seattle visit was buried and providing a link to his own story. But it's followed immediately by this: "UPDATE: Apparently I wasn't paying attention and the story was on the homepage. Apologies to all. I hadn't had coffee yet." Sigh. As I've told my friend David a thousand times, Be cool, man.

Finally, in sports news, tonight is the beginning of the World Series. It looks like a decent matchup between the storied Boston Red Sox and the come-from-nowhere Colorado Rockies, this year's Cinderella story. But the LAT's terrific sports columnist Bill Plaschke isn't buying it.

Plaschke, who was from Seattle before moving to Los Angeles, minces no words in his take: "The Red Sox are a much better team from a far superior league. The Rockies are the Seattle Mariners with galoshes."

Ouch.

"So the most celebrated glass slipper in recent baseball history comes clacking to the World Series," Plaschke writes. "Good. The Boston Red Sox can use it to drink their champagne."

Bill's probably right. Still. I know where I'll be at 5 o'clock.

More Fire

Check out this guy's maps and graphics of the fires.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Like a Tropical Storm



We just got back from Neil Young. Fun, I'm glad we went, but not the pantheon concert I hoped for.

First a word about the venue, WaMu Theatre. It's the worst place I've ever seen a show. WaMu stands for Washington Mutual, the Seattle-based bank that bought naming rights to this place when it was built a year or two ago. To call it a theater is a vast overstatement. It's really a big, concrete slab with concrete pillars and a low ceiling. It feels like the anteroom to a sports stadium, which in fact is what it is -- it's glommed onto Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks -- and it's normally used for small-scale convention-style events like car shows, corporate team-building meetings and football fan rallies.

For this concert, they wrapped deep blue curtains around a large section of the room, enough for about 7,000 seats, leaving a smaller section on one end for a few concession stands selling $9 beers and one overcrowded corner "store" selling overpriced Neil Young t-shirts. Overheard in line: "I like that white one, number 35." "Dude, that's not a number, that's the price."

Harvest? You bet.

There were all these WaMu dudes with yellow polos walking around checking tickets, pointing to the restrooms (actually part of Qwest Field, I think) and handing out little guitar-shaped, WaMu-branded bottle openers. Michelle scored one.

Unlike most concerts we attend these days, where we're the oldest people in the crowd, Michelle and I were probably below the median age at this one. There were a few college-looking kids, maybe dragged along by their grandparents, but most people seemed in the 50-65 range. A good number were Jerry Garcia-lookalikes -- where do they hang out during the day? -- but most were the pleasant, slightly paunch-sprouting, nicely trimmed graysters who help with your mortgage or attend the morning news meeting.

Thirty years ago these folks would have cast a giant cloud of marijuana smoke into the air at a Neil Young concert or maybe tossed their clothes into the aisles. Here, with the WaMu police everywhere, the craziest crime I saw was a surreptitious cell-phone photo.

We sat in Section E, on the left side, midway back, between two aging hippie couples. Like a lot of the crowd they looked like concert veterans and liable to spark a fatty at any minute. At one point the guy on my right reached into his pocket, grabbed something that fit in the palm of his hand and caught a glint of light, and handed it to his wife.

A pipe, I thought? Nope, opera glasses.

Neil Young took the stage after a lame opening set by his wife, Pegi Young, who I saw described on one Web site as "a trained vocalist" (bad sign). As he usually does, apparently, Young split the concert into acoustic and electric sets, each about 40 minutes and separated by a 20-minute intermission.

There were one or two well known songs in the acoustic set, which concluded with "Heart of Gold," but many were obscure older songs or downbeaty tunes from the 2005 release "Prairie Wind." There was a similar feel to much of the material, and Young himself even said, "All my songs are alike."

I kept thinking of the famous 1966 Bob Dylan concert when, after an opening acoustic set of the folk music he was known for, Dylan whipped out an electric guitar and was booed and met with shouts of "Judas." Tonight's show was just the opposite. The crowd seemed restless for laid-back, melancholy old strumming Young to finish up so the fiery rocker, the "godfather of grunge," could take over.

Between every tune people were shouting out suggestions. "Hurricane!" one guy yelled, referring to the hit rocker "Like a Hurricane." Young scoffed. "Yeah, right," he said. "Nice segue. One thing follows another, is what I've always found."

"Tell us a story, Neil," another guy yelled. So Young said, OK, here's a story. Once I was heartbroken and depressed and drunk and I went into a little bar, played all my songs for free and tried to figure things out. He paused. "That's it," he said. "That's the story."

After the intermission came the electric set, and I figured things would really get cooking. But somehow they didn't, at least not until the very end of the show. It might have been the setting -- even though the sound was pretty good, considering all the concrete, the place felt sterile; there was no energy. In a nice theater like the Paramount here in Seattle, or LA's Wiltern, the same stuff might have rocked.

But it wasn't only the venue. Between the $100 ticket prices, the $35 t-shirts, the $9 beers and the sort of listless performances, the concert seemed less like a Neil Young rock show to me than a Neil Young brand experience. A cool, vintage brand, like Indian motorcycles, but still a brand. If Neil had wrapped up a song and then turned the stage over to a WaMu veep ready to PowerPoint his way through the new Chiat/Day ad campaign I wouldn't have been shocked.

Eventually, though, he did glide into a very long, satisfying jam on a song that I think was "No Hidden Path," from the new CD, and I thought, this is the Neil Young concert I expected. Even though I didn't know the song I felt like I could have identified Young's sound, without vocals, based only on the fiery, feedbacky, layered and distorted guitar riffs that were part 1969 psychedelica, part 1991 grunge. It was pretty cool.

After that he came back for an encore that included a nice version of "Cinnamon Girl" and, finally, "Like a Hurricane."

"You are like a hurricane," that song goes, "there's calm in your eye. ... Blah blah, blah-blah-blah-blah, ... I want to love you, but I'm getting blown away."

That's sort of how I felt. I wanted to love the concert. But I wasn't blown away. It wasn't a hurricane, more like a tropical storm, category: 3 gliomas.

I couldn't help myself


Just got back from a lovely afternoon walk around West Seattle and inevitably found myself at Easy Street Records, where I picked up Neil Young's new record, along with the new Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and the double-CD recording of that 15-year-old Dylan tribute concert that I mentioned in the previous post. I haven't listened to any of them yet -- they're loading into iTunes as I speak -- but reviews will come later.

I find it hard to get out of Easy Street without some new music and, in my last few visits, a short stack and a couple eggs and grapefruit juice. I can't help it, it's a cool place. Kind of a combination of The Shorehouse and the Wow, two old Long Beach faves, transported a thousand miles up the coast. Spendy habit, but I guess I should be thankful it's only a record store/restaurant nine blocks away and not an Apple Store/BMW dealership.

In other news, this is a very tasty cup of coffee, which thanks to an incredible display of will power I'm enjoying without a cookie or piece of prematurely purchased Halloween candy.

Why would Cate Blanchett do this?

Yike.

Found 'em!

We're going to see Neil Young tonight, our first concert since Tony Bennett last month with Mich and Mom, and we're both looking forward to it. I've always liked Young's music, and he's grown on me even more in the last couple of years.

In typical M&M fashion, though, we misplaced the tickets in one of a million piles of mail or magazines or newspapers. With the concert only six hours away I was starting to get nervous.

But here they are! Phew!

Unfortunately we purchased through Ticketmaster rather than from Young's site directly. That would have entitled us to a free copy of his new well-reviewed CD, "Chrome Dreams II," which just dropped today. I'll probably buy it anyway.

To get in the mood I'm shuffling my decent-sized N.Y. collection this afternoon as I go about my business.

Jealous, rockers? Here's a YouTube treat for you: Neil covering Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" at "Bobfest," a 1992 concert celebrating Bob Dylan's 30 years in music.

Keep on rockin' in the free world:

Calling Pulitzer judges ...

As Kaye notes in a comment on the morning news meeting, the photos in the LA Times have been amazing. This shot, by Karen Tapia-Anderson, deserves the attention of the Pulitzer committee. These are eight firefighters trapped by flames, hunkering down in their fire shelters and hoping for the best. Kevin Roderick on LA Observed reports this morning, linking back to a Times story I missed, that the fire suits worked and they made it out OK. Incredible.

LAT photo. Click photo for yesterday's photo gallery, and page through for larger image.

Here's a link to the most recent LAT photos.

Journalism, literature, psychoanalysis

This tight little piece on New York Times editor Bill Keller and "War and Peace" is good. Thank you, New York Observer.

No letup in SoCal


View Larger Map

The fires are far from under control -- at least 1,000 buildings lost now, probably more, with hundreds of thousands evacuating and fire crews, understandably, growing exhausted. It's supposed to be in the mid-90s today in LA, so that won't help.

No word yet this morning from Kaye, but a check of the Long Beach weathercam she featured on NiteNote yesterday looked promising. The sky looks clearer there than it had been.

The Los Angeles Times continues its terrific coverage, and Steve Lopez, for my money the country's best local columnist, found a sorry twist to the story. The fires have smoked out a strain of resentment in the Southland, with many people openly expressing contempt -- or at least a shortage of sympathy -- for those in Malibu taking the worst of it. Writes Lopez: "In times of natural disaster, the best often surfaces in all of us. Donations, warm blankets, sandwiches. Whatever is needed, we're at the ready. Unless it involves Malibu."

Man. Definitely a column worth reading.

Locally, I thought both papers underplayed the news that Republican Dino Rossi has decided to run again against Gov. Christine Gregoire, who defeated him three years ago by 133 votes, the closest election in state history. Insiders have speculated that Rossi would try again, but he's been beyond cagey -- unusually noncommittal, I'd say -- and the Rs didn't have another candidate lined up for next year's race. To me that's news.

I notice the P-I's metro columnist Robert Jamieson has weighed in a couple days late and a dollar short on Seattle's drunk-politicos outrage story. Sorry to say, his effort pales next to Danny Westneat's stellar take in the competition on Sunday.