Saturday, December 26, 2009


It was a cold, clear day today on the day after Christmas. About 27 or 28 degrees, with a rather stiff breeze. I decided it would be good to take a drive and get a few pictures around the Grande Ronde Valley.

Mt. Emily, elevation 6,114 feet

Mt. Harris, elevation 5,335 feet

Grain elevators at Alicel

Mt. Fanny, elevation 7,136 feet

Cloud cap on Craig Mountain, elevation 4,918 feet

Hot Lake Springs (

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


(One of my favorites of 2009, Grizzly Bear's "Veckatimest")

First, in the "Nice Try" category:

Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship. "Post-rock" with an electronic bent. Still haven't been able to like this as much as "TNT", "Standards" and "It's All Around You". Seems kind of sterile in places.

Flaming Lips - Embryonic. I just wasn't able to get into this one, not yet anyway. Technically, it's pretty amazing, but it kind of leaves me flat. A bit too dissonant, with too many bleeps and blips. (Even with that, I suppose I could still call it an unofficial #16 because I love the Lips!)

Now on to the rest, and I am sure there are at least a couple I forgot about:

15. Todd Rundgren - Arena. The man never ceases to amaze! Lots of really good guitar work on this one.

14. Star Death and the White Dwarfs - The Birth. If it sounds a little like Flaming Lips, it's in the genetics! The band leader is related to the Lips' Wayne Coyne. A very creative debut!

13. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast. Bird croons, he whistles, he emotes, and once again he creates a huge variety of sounds with his violin. What a nice record!

12. Bon Iver - Blood Bank (EP). Only four songs, but the title track is worth the price of admission. Modern "folky" stuff at its best!

11. Pelican - What We All Come To Need. Grunge at its best... bow down to the almighty power of the riff! There are few if any vocals, but no big deal. This band is sheer power!

10. Do Make Say Think - Other Truths (album cover pictured above). "Post rock" but of the more organic type. Nice and trippy, and all done without synths. You'll hear some trumpet now and then. Some of the best instrumental music available, in my opinion. Intense and mellow at the same time, rarely harsh, it builds, it wanes, it takes you to new places.

9. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg. To quote a good friend of mine, these guys have done their homework. You will hear some of Zeppelin in here, maybe a bit of Sabbath and who knows what else. Marvelously crafted hard rock music, takes me back to the Seventies.

8. Doves - Kingdom of Rust. Fine songwriting and great arrangments, plus some atmospheric production make this a great dream pop/rock album to relax with on a rainy day.

7. Cheap Trick - The Latest. They do little wrong on this one, and in fact, they seem to get better with each CD they release. They are like a fine wine, getting better with age. This is masterful pop/rock, some of the best in recent memory!

6. Porcupine Tree - The Incident. Led by Steven Wilson, this band never ceases to amaze with their cool, impeccable arrangements. The title track is a 55 minute collage, composed of 14 movements. The other 4 tracks are also marvelous. My favorite track on this one is "Flicker", an ambient/atmospheric marvel. But it's all good!

5. Boston Spaceships - The Planets Are Blasted (album cover pictured above). One of ex-Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard's latest, this is the best he has been in about ten years. Great off-kilter, beer-fueled pop and rawk! Tracks 1-5 and 11-14 rank with some of his best music ever. For this band, he has recruited Chris Slusarenko (ex-GbV) for bass and guitar, and Decemberists' drummer Jim Moen.

4. The Aliens - Luna. New music par excellence from former Beta Band members. This one is like what might happen if Sixties/Seventies psychedelia came to the 21st century. Absolute ear candy!

3. Wilco - Wilco (the album). Jeff Tweedy and his band have come up with yet another gem to add to their canon. This one is full of fun, hooky songs. I can't wait to hear them do some of these "live"!

2. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (album cover pictured at the top of the post). One of the more creative albums in quite a while. Lots of comparisons are made to Brian Wilson, and Van Dyke Parks is mentioned now and then re. these guys. If you like great vocals, odd melodic twists and turns, and sheer creativity, you should like this one.

1. Steven Wilson - Insurgentes (album cover pictured above). Porcupine Tree's leader serves up a masterpiece. This is "prog rock" bliss! Nice guest performances by keyboardist Jordan Rudess and bassist Tony Levin. Intense, moody, emotional and virtuousic in every respect. As my naming this the "best CD of the 2000's" in my previous post suggests, this is the kind of artistic statement that only comes around about once a decade.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I put together this list of my favorite albums of the 2000's. From 60 down to around #25 it is sort of thrown-together and those 35-or-so albums could be in most any order depending on my mood, but from there on down to #1 I would say it is pretty definite:

61. DREAM THEATER - Train Of Thought

60. MATMOS - The Rose Has Teeth In The Eye Of The Beast
58. SHEARWATER - Palo Santo
57. ELECTRELANE - The Power Out
56. CHRIS WHITLEY - Hotel Vast Horizon
55. ELBOW - Cast of Thousands
54. CHEAP TRICK - The Latest
53. RADIOHEAD - Hail To The Thief
52. THE NATIONAL - Boxer
51. DOVES - Lost Souls

50. RICHARD THOMPSON - Semi-Detached Mock Tudor
49. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY - The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
48. COLDPLAY - Viva La Vida
47. ANDREW BIRD - Noble Beast
46. VARIOUS ARTISTS - Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack
45. THE DANDY WARHOLS - Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia
44. DOVES - Kingdom of Rust
43. DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - Transatlanticism
42. BAND OF HORSES - Everything All The Time
41. BATTLES - Mirrored

40. COLDPLAY - Parachutes
39. OPETH - Damnation
38. BELLE AND SEBASTIAN - The Life Pursuit
37. WILCO - A Ghost Is Born
36. DOVES - The Last Broadcast
35. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE - You Forgot It In People
33. PORCUPINE TREE - The Incident
32. THE DANDY WARHOLS - The Dandy Warhols Come Down
31. BLACKFIELD - Blackfield

30. GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
28. THE HOLD STEADY - Boys And Girls In America
27. THE ALIENS - Astronomy For Dogs
26. SIGUR ROS - Agaetis Byrjun
25. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
24. FLAMING LIPS - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
22. RADIOHEAD - In Rainbows
21. ELBOW - Asleep In The Back

20. ARCADE FIRE - Funeral
19. GRIZZLY BEAR - Yellow House
18. SUN KIL MOON - April
17. WARREN ZEVON - Life'll Kill Ya
16. BOSTON SPACESHIPS - The Planets Are Blasted
15. THE ALIENS - Luna
14. WILCO - Wilco (the album)
13. INTERPOL - Turn On The Bright Lights
12. YO LA TENGO - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
11. GRIZZLY BEAR - Veckatimest

10. SUFJAN STEVENS - Illinoise
9. MY MORNING JACKET - It Still Moves
8. THE NATIONAL - Alligator
7. THE SHINS - Oh! Inverted World
6. ARCADE FIRE - Neon Bible
5. PORCUPINE TREE - In Absentia
3. COLDPLAY - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
2. THE WRENS - The Meadowlands
1. STEVEN WILSON - Insurgentes

Wilson's "Insurgentes" is the same album my great friend J. Marquis listed as #1 for the decade! I swear, I am not copying him. This is a case of great minds thinking alike! It is a wonderful album; if you are inclined toward prog-rock at all, you will appreciate this one very much. I believe it is one of the most creative things to be released in a long, long time.

My listing of Radiohead's "Kid A" at #62 is symbolic, in that I can think of a lot of albums I think are better than that, that I would prefer to listen to, including ones by Radiohead! I like "Kid A", but I think it is vastly overrated.

There are probably a few I left off my list, but if so, it was by accident. The first decade of this century was a good one for rock music, and because I am mostly into independent label/alternative music, I think it was especially great!

Because J. posted a picture of the Wilson album cover at his blog "Major Conflict" (see links), I will go second best. Here is what The Wrens' "The Meadowlands" looks like!

Happy listening!

Coming fairly soon will be a list of my favorite albums of 2009.

And in case you haven't looked yet, check out the cat pics below!



Sunday, December 06, 2009


It's time for Tuxedo Baskets... featuring Phinney (L) and Neko (R)!

Huh? What's up there?

Why... it's Ichiro! Just now awakening from slumber. Getting some size on him, isn't he!

Neko the Destroyer

Phinney the Magnificent
Neko is spilling out of her basket! She is probably tired of all the camera flashes...

Abby relaxes in front of "the fire".
"Cats and ladders"... featuring Zeva.
There are deer out there somewhere...

... and would-be hunters Phinney, Zeva and Ichi are interested!


Kit and I went to see "The Men Who Stare At Goats" this afternoon. It is a film that stars George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Ewan McGregor, and the subject matter is military psy-ops, or attempts to utilize strategies such as remote viewing, intuition, etc. to find missing personnel and ultimately to stay one step ahead of (or even defeat) the enemy. McGregor plays a news reporter who goes to Iraq to prove his manhood to his newly ex- wife, and while at a hotel in Kuwait he happens to run into Clooney, an ex-military psy-ops guy who is back in the area on, as we find later, a "mission". Bridges does a semi-reprisal of the Dude from "Big Lebowski", at least in appearance. And Kevin Spacey's role as the "turd in the punchbowl" is amusing.

I couldn't tell if this movie was attempting to recreate the atmosphere of Hollywood "counter-culture"-based semi-comedy films of the late Sixties through early Eighties, or if it was poking fun at the military, praising the military, or giving us the message that we as humans tend not to live up to our full potential, or what... Maybe a combination of all the above? At the beginning of the movie there is a little statement onscreen, something to the effect of "More of the following is true than you may realize." I am not sure how much of the things portrayed in the movie could possibly be true, but some of it supposedly did happen.

Although "Goats" seemed a bit slow at times, I enjoyed it. It seemed very much like a Coen Brothers movie, but I don't think it was done by the Coens.

If you like mellow movies that kind of amble along, provide some thought fodder, give you some good laughs, AND if you approach this film with an open mind (suspend your disbelief), I think you will like it as much as I did.

Friday, December 04, 2009


The Civil War football game was a good one. Both teams are good, and with a berth in the Rose Bowl (January 1) on the line, it was a shame someone had to lose.

And for a while, it looked like the Oregon State Beavers had my Oregon Ducks figured out. OSU led the game 30-21 after 2 1/2 quarters. However, Oregon outscored the Beavers 16-3 the rest of the way for a 37-33 win. Oregon's defense held up when it had to, and the offense controlled the ball for the last six minutes of the game, keeping the ball out of OSU's hands.

So as it turns out, I'm a very happy college football fan this morning! It has been 15 years since the Ducks went to the Rose Bowl. I feel badly for the OSU fans, because the Beavers last went to the Rose Bowl in 1965. But I am still entirely glad the Ducks won. Duck fans now have state bragging rights for another year, by winning a game that was arguably the biggest in the history of the rivalry!

I will be merciful with my Beaver fan friends. In fact, had the Beavers won last night I was actually planning to buy a Beavers hat or shirt and wear it during the Rose Bowl. The only time I really root for OSU to lose is when they are playing U of O.

Now the Ducks play a different OSU: the Ohio State Buckeyes. Oregon has never beaten Ohio State in the seven games they have played over the years, but I hope this year is the time Oregon breaks that streak by winning a big time Bowl Championship Series game. I'm looking forward to a great afternoon on January 1; whether Oregon wins or loses, just being in the Rose Bowl is a great feeling. I am going to wallow in it for the next four weeks!