Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Listening to the Kills on the way to work is hazardous. They don't write songs, more like a collection of hooks with nothing in between. The guitar lick is always perfect and memorable (and there's usually only one) and the vocals are usually two or three lines repeated over and over. As a result, they stick in the mind like melodic, haunting barbs and you tend to sing them out loud without meaning to.

This is dangerous because despite the langorous post-orgasmic sigh of Alison's voice, they're mostly kinda non-senior management lines. "It's been a long time coming," you sing, "gonna stab your kissy, kissy mouth. It's been a long time coming." Or, you know, you could sing the hook from Fuck the People which goes, let's see if I can remember it...oh, yeah, "Hey! Fuck the people!" Or you can get lost in the absurdist repetitions of "The kids wanna fuck and fight in the basement. Got a rattlesnake on in the basement. The young snake's got my name."

Sometimes repeating a hook line can get wearing, even with Alison's voice behind it, though. In the car, listening to the one that goes "All I need, all I need, all I need is one drop of weedkiller" for about 40,000 years I turned to STB and said, slightly irritatedly, "I've forgotten why she needs the weedkiller."

STB developed a contemplative, theorizing look much like a medical student on rounds being asked by his professor to sum up the case in the bed before him. "I believe her boyfriend became an evil tree," he eventually said.

Oh, yeah. That's right. The song about roads having a conversation is sometimes fascinating and sometimes grating too. "Dead Road 7 is a bitch!" you find yourself singing. But why are the roads dissing each other? You have to listen again. And you still don't find out.

It's not just the Kills, of course. A friend of mine often finds himself in airport lounges or cafes singing along to If You Don't Want to Fuck Me, Fuck Off or Fuck Tha Police. But there really is something special, something extra hooky in Kills records. Can't wait for the next one.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Smoke and Water

The Water Board sent us a goodie bag for Earth Day, filed with flow limiters, aerators and a low-flow showerhead. They also sent a heavy duty plastic bag that was thick and creamy with plasticizers and not recyclable for a one-use task - checking the flow rate of the shower. I wonder how many hundreds of pounds of plastic they mailed out for Earth Day? Thanks, water board! The best bit is that my original shower had measured up at 3.1 gallons per minute and the new low-flow one comes out at, uh, 3.1 gallons per minute. It's worth keeping as it has, as STB put it 'three equally annoying settings' - fine spray, drenching spray and knocking you repeatedly on the head with pulses of water like a sort of automatic Donald Rumsfeld.

I may also use the bag as a chic purse for a while.

Sea of Cowards, the new Dead Weather album, hasn't been released yet and I'm already feeling bereaved as the band is drawing to a close. I doubt if they'll find the time to all of this again - I guess they almost didn't find the time to get this far, as touring before the album's release isn't usually something bands do pursposefully. Jack Lawrence is going back to the Greenhornes, Alison Mosshart is in the middle of a new Kills album (at least we've got that to look forward to - and possibly a tour!). Not sure what Dean's doing but Them Crooked Vultures will finish touring soon so Queens of the Stone Age may be back on the table. No idea what Jack is going to do. Both Jay Z and Tammy Wynette have been mentioned. Hey, to save time he could record with both of them at once! That'd be cool.

I've lost count of how many singles have been released from SOC so far, but the latest one is Gasoline - so new that the video seems to be a placeholder rather than a finished video. But who knows? It's certainly watchable enough to stand alone.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making music: 360 deals

Via Lefsetz, here's Bob Donnelly on artists taking 360 deals.

Zermatt's last theorem

I don't particularly like my birthday being Earth Day, as it calls for me to be more self-righteous than I am. But once the birthday's out of the way, I can go for the rest of it.

For instance, today was E-waste day. Or possibly e-Waste Day. STB trucked about 800 pounds of old computers and printers for recycling to city hall. (Who also provided 2 bags of compost to anyone interested, which attracted such a crowd that the gas burned in collecting compost probably outweighed any green advantage in using it.) Possibly city hall was flabbergasted that we could unearth 800 pounds of e-Waste (is that capitalization right now?) in one year, but I guess we could. A couple of hopeless printers and two four year old desktop computers were the bulk of it. If one household can manage this, you can see how e-Waste might be a serious problem.

e-Waste out of the way, what else has been happening?

Well, I took Earth Day as an excuse to spring-clean. And I discovered a packaged fondue in the back of the cupboard that had expired in 2007. Being a biologist, I quickly ascertained that nothing could have possibly happened to a sealed packet of cheese with kirsch in it, so we had a lovely fondue for tea. Sample dialogue:

"Aren't there rituals involved with fondue? If you drop the bread into the fondue like a klutz, you have to drink the rest of the bottle of kirsch, except I don't have any. How about a bottle of vodka?"

"How about I have to eat the Sterno?"

"Ok, not as high class but that'll do."

Yes, we use Sterno for our fondue.

It turned out that being three years out of date didn't impact the fondue at all. As STB said, "they just put the sell-by on there to limit the period they have to re-test [for the FDA]".

Here is a beautiful photo spread and write up of the Dead Weather at Tulsa on my birthday. I still want to marry Baby Ruthless. [link now dead, alas]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dead Weather at Las Vegas

Hang you from the heavens

Die by the Drop

Rocking Horse: Not embedable: link

A review.

Octopus gadget frenzy

Back to the world of living seafood. Here, an octopus and a free-diver meet. The octopus wants his camera. And octopuses are pretty strong, so he gets the camera. Diver offers his spear-gun instead and the octopus finds that acceptable.

I couldn't do negotiations with alien life forms even if I had oxygen tanks with me, so I don't know how this person manages to do all this outside his own atmosphere. But humans are amazing too, as well as octopuses. Between the two, it's a wonderful moment (from Gizmodo).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CA Smog: The air beneath my fingers

Here is a view looking west when entering California. This is taken in the same spot as the other photo, and so is on the smog-free(!) east side of the mountains. Therefore, this is the mildest possible smog. Hint: the orange line isn't a cable or a photo artifact. It's the top layer of smog. On the other side of the mountains, the orange line is hundreds if not thousands of feet thick.

Going to California

I caught this view of the mountains on my way back to California.

Going out of California you can't see the mountains until they're already higher than your car windows, as the smog blankets them. So this is the clearest I've ever seen. (The photo was taken at 4,500 feet, btw.)

It's weird to not see them with orange feet. I've lived in CA too long.

Pastry at the Wynn

Monday morning, post Dead Weather, we went to the Wynn for a much more reasonably priced $20 breakfast buffet. I’d been promised pastry rooms – that’s rooms, plural – and so this was a must see. I started off with a lovely congee and dim sum…mm congee…crab cakes, some fish dishes of some sort with a tasty remoulade. There was smoked salmon, of course, with the bagels, but overall not as much seafood as I expected. However, not to panic as the pastry rooms (that’s rooms plural folks) held all the magic you can expect. I was berated by my friend for not eating one of each, but there were about forty pastries there. Even I cannot eat one of each. And anyway, she ate fruit instead of bacon. Who is she to lecture me on insufficient pastry consumption? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – except for the adipose tissue. I’m back on a vegetarian diet, now. But I don’t regret a thing.

I was so poisoned by the sugar that I started hallucinating about ostriches. (The Wynn’s walls are decorated in faux ostrich leather). As I imagined the birds being farmed for leather, I got them confused with peacocks and then had the vision of magnificent rideable birds with peacock tails running along in battle. Not a fitting end to a weekend in Vegas (which would be more like spending $20 on a points spread in a basketball game) but at least proof the city didn’t entirely deaden my brain.

Record store day

Saturday was Record Store Day, so of course we took off to the premier Las Vegas record store to browse the goodies. That would be Zia Record Exchange, who are so old-school their URL is not on their t shirt. My friend bought sufficient actual tangible records that I got a $1 t shirt as a bonus. It has a skull and is black and white and very rock and roll and I will treasure it.

City of shlubs

Las Vegas is truly a city of shlubs. Don’t get me wrong – the American shlub is a wonderful thing. More personable, reasonable and truly easy-going than the equivalent anywhere in the world, the average Vegas-goer cannot be disliked. But they can be fooled. The hotels build luxury resorts, and the people flock to them for some comfort and culture… but let’s look at that. If a hotel builds a billion dollar resort, and someone pays $79.99 for a room and say $100 for food and entertainment, they’ve bought 0.0000179 of the opulence. And that’s what it feels like.

When a king builds Amarna, or Versailles, it’s easy to see they own too much opulence and could never revel in it all. When you have less than a millionth of a Paris or a Luxor, you have nothing. You are really in Disney territory. A timeshare in fabulousness with less than a millionth in occupancy. Click here for my friend Kali Durga’s different but yet similar take on Vegas.

The Taxi Driver’s story

An only in Las Vegas story. On the way back to the timeshare after the Wynn buffet we got an ace cab driver. Sometimes cab drivers are the most boring creatures in the world, reiterating anything that’ll get them a tip. Some tell good stories. This was a new guy – 11 days on the job – with a great story. He’d lived in Los Angeles in the past, but he’d gone back to China for a couple of years. By the time he’d got back to LA, the economy had tanked and he couldn’t find a job. He was destitute. He was living with a friend of his who took him to Lancaster (hey, Dead Weather reference – the home of Captain Beefheart) who then drove him to Vegas without telling him which way he was going.

So, he’s unexpectedly in Vegas. He hadn’t brought any clothes. He has to borrow a suit – and underwear- from his friend, who has lined up interviews. My cabdriver aced the interviews and landed a job. In the meanwhile his friend was fronting him rent and basic Las Vegas gambling/drinking money.

So cabbie got a job – although the orientation traumatized him, being all about the terrible things that can happen to a cab driver which include rape, murder and a 90% higher chance of dying on the job than other occupations – and has been plying his trade ever since. Smartly, he bought a GPS for his cab. On his first day, he said, someone asked him for the Hard Rock and he had no clue. He drove around a bit and the passenger eventually said he’d pay him what was on the clock for the ride since it was the first day, but no tip. Hence, GPS, paid for personally, not by the firm.

He told us great tales. He has the 2am to 2pm shift, so he gets the real drunks. He told us of a cab full of women who were too weak to pull the unconscious member of their party out of the cab (cabbies are prohibited from touching passengers, so he couldn’t help). Of well-aimed vomit (i.e. outside of the cab). Of passengers who couldn’t remember what hotel they where staying in (like he’d know). Of drunks who hollered out of the cab, but never bothered the driver. Of one passenger who, on being informed Mr. Cabbie was new and had no idea how to get to the named destination, said, “It’s okay, I need a sightseeing tour. Drive all you like.”

I liked him. And I liked hearing about his amazing friend. We should all be so lucky to get such committed friends as that.

Crab Gumbo: Being a review of the Dead Weather in Las Vegas, among other things.

The Dead Weather was booked to play at the Palms, a Maloof hotel off the strip with a large concert theater called The Pearl. A 2,500 seater, it was clearly too large and too fancy for TDW, whose natural home in the land of Garth Brooks, Donnie and Marie Osmond and Cher would probably be a strip club in the Elvis Wedding Chapel end of town.

We got to the Palms early and rushed to the Blue Agave, a name for a virtual restaurant. You sit at the bar and Blue Agave comes to you. In our case, this was in the form of Crab Gumbo. It didn’t seem to have much gumboanity (I couldn’t taste or feel any gumbo file, or hot spices) but it was very tasty and loaded with more than a pound of crab meat, about 20 large shrimp and some kind of small, delicate scallop. I know Dave Barry has famously branded scallops as members of the Snot Family, but the little perfectly cooked ones are just amazing, and this gumbo had them. I was continually surprised by Las Vegas’ fresh seafood and this was just one more in a series of long pig-outs on crab this weekend.

My friend, along with nine others, won early entry from The Vault but even so we got there early and had a few from the closest bar which was probably called Bar None or some shit, and then followed the lady and gentlemen to a waiting area while the Ettes finished their soundcheck. As the screaming stomping sound of the rest of the audience echoed down the steps behind us we realized that our ‘early entry’ was actually 25 seconds earlier than the rest of the crowd, but it worked and we got to be front and center, arms on the metal barrier. We then got to watch ads for the Playboy club…and several other clubs… for an hour on the video screens beside the stage. I have never seen so many jiggling tits and asses in my life as I’ve seen on this trip. Correction: pixels of jiggling. I’ve been to New Orleans, city of total shlubs, so I’ve seen plenty of the real thing there. (And you know what? It’s better on TV. The real thing is less glitzy and you eventually realize they’re thinking about laundry or childcare while they’re doing it.)

The stage was huge and the Ettes’ gear was in front of the Dead Weather’s gear which for a moment led me to believe that every guitarist in the world has a Fender Twin Reverb like Dean Fertita. But the Ettes’ gear was some (other) old semi solid-state amplifiers that looked as though they’d spent the last forty years being thrashed by a Pilippino rock band in Manila or something. Maybe there’s an antiquing service for amplifiers as well as guitars…or maybe the amps really were that old. All of them played Fender guitars. Except the drummer. No idea what equipment she used as it’s impossible to tell with drums. The guitarist kept on drawing my attention as he looked (and sometimes played) like Dave Gilmour, but had long ginger hair and was strongly reminiscent of one of the Weasley twins in Harry Potter. Expected him to hand out candies that changed people into unicorns or something. Speaking of which, someone in the audience was smoking something…I’ve heard the word ‘skunk’ before but I think this person must have made a mistake and was smoking a real skunk…whoa.

The stage was huge and although I didn't think the acoustics were very good, it didn't matter as we were so close to the front we heard what the band heard, the PA being almost behind us. The Ettes impressed me no end. They played old time rock and roll (getting effortlessly into 80’s stadium band grooves as though it was that easy) and hitting several of my sweet spots along the way. The lead singer – I think she’s called Coco – wore black leggings and black mini-skirt, which reminded me of me way back when, but she had cooler boots than I ever had. They were also more into the Dead Weather than the Las Vegas crowd – she actually said so at one point – and some of them stayed to watch the headliners afterwards, which shows a lot of loyalty as you’d imagine a support band would grow to hate their headliners after about three shows into a tour. Not these guys. I’ll definitely check them out again.

At this point, I realized I’d have to get away from the barrier and buy a drink. Making some puzzling combat decisions (I’m not a natural for the draft) I pulled away from the primo position and forced my way back to the bar, eventually realizing I hadn’t brought either a ticket or sufficient funds. I had to rapidly negotiate with the barman, ending up with two Hypnotics(?) for twenty bucks (and the barman with no tip). No one checked my ticket going back in, but then I had to force my way back to the barrier with two glowing blue drinks in hand. I used the excuse me I belong here persona and it worked all the way through, back to my spot. Hypnotic turned out to be a radioactive ultraviolet drink made by somehow miniaturizing sugar so that four million tablespoons of it can be hidden in one shot of rather nasty drink. I won’t be doing that again, but I was desperate. I don’t think my friend liked hers either.

Jack breaks a string. It's de rigeur to say something like "and hedidn't miss a note!" but actually it slowed him down a lot. The endresult was a far more considered and beautiful solo. Maybe heshould just discard a random string before every show?

A few more hours, or did it just seem like hours?, before the behatted roadies oops I mean technicians arrived and began setting up the Dead Weather’s gear, handling their beautiful personalized white Gretsches with efficiency. My friend and I critiqued their sartorial elegance – there is a visible fashion hierarchy in the roadies even though they all wear black suits and hats. We dumped on the guy with the worst suit and made up little stories about how that put him at the bottom of the heap, task-wise. I love me a suited man, so this bit of a Jack White concert is always a treat, even though my feet by now were supernovae of hurt and I’d damaged a nerve by leaning on the metal barrier and my ring finger and little finger were numb. (Still are as I write this on Tuesday, in fact. I may sue.)

The Dead Weather arrived on stage to the usual strains of the good captain’s Sure Enough n Yes I Do. The band was on - no playacting or drinking or fighting tonight - and played an excellent set. Alison spent a lot of time on the monitors looming over us. At that range, she changes from sixty feet tall to being a petite woman on and off through the show depending on what role she's singing - it's amazing to watch. She really commands the stage and genuinely is one of the best frontmen/women I've ever seen. She has a lot of competition on stage as Dean has become a kinetic masterpiece as well as a riff monster, LJ continues to thrash around like a crazy man (with a crazy goatee) and of course Jack White is Jack White, so your eyes constantly go towards him. But Alison can remain a focus throughout all that. I wish I could have stood through it four times to be able to watch all of them.

The crowd sang along and was motionless but very screamy. Since the band dances to the beat all the time, I expected the crowd to react to it more, but maybe we all had sore feet from pounding the Las Vegas pavement. I’ve read a few reviews by locals, all of whom say the crowd sucked – I couldn’t see the crowd since I was at the front, but I’m willing to believe they did suck, as they certainly didn’t move at all, and the Dead Weather’s set was short (but scorching).

It occurred to me that the space between the barrier and the stage (that the cameraman for the video screens used - I wonder if he's bribable to release the tape) wasn't to protect the band from us, but more like a moat around a lion enclosure at the zoo, to keep Baby Ruthless from eating the audience. She tried a couple of times, but the mic lead got stuck and stopped her from coming after us both times. One time she ran from the front of stage right to the front of stage left, her microphone lead catching in the monitors as she ran, like a junkyard dog on a leash charging from threat to threat behind its chain mesh fence. She also played keyboard a couple of times, which was new and a real treat.

Introducing So Far From Your Weapon, Jack said he'd spent the day firing a Thompson submachine gun – “in your home town”, he added, with an unusually cheeky twinkle in his eye. I'd been thinking about going to the firing range and was a bit disappointed I'd decided not to, as I could have met Jack...

Jack wasn’t wearing what my friend and I call his best trousers, but he looked great – his hair is looking good, his t shirt tight, and he seemed happy and committed. Speaking of trousers, Alison was wearing a pair of tailored cotton pants rather than jeans. Perhaps the band shares a tailor – they looked exactly like LJ’s (when I saw them close up at the Roxy in June ) Hers were a little tighter than LJ’s though, so skinny that I’m not sure how she even gets them on. Since he was in my face all the time, I couldn’t help noticing that the cameraman in the lion moat did take a lot of shots of her crotch and ass as she flexed and bent, but the producer at the desk didn’t choose to display them, hurrah – he or she took the long-lens cameraman’s shots of the band over the T&A – very un-Vegas.


60 Feet Tall
You Just Can't Win (After song Jack says "That was a true story")
So Far From Your Weapon (Jack intros song by saying he went out and fired a machine gun today)
ICLAB (Jack killed it! Great version)
No Horse
Die By The Drop
Child of a Few Hours...
Hustle and Cuss (This song is so bad ass. Dean rules)
New Pony (This just in...Allison is super sexy and a great performer)
Will There Be Enough Water? (Jack breaks a string early on during first solo and still crushes this song. Similar to the Roxy performance)
Blue Blood Blues
Rocking Horse

(List provided by the lovely Ace, next to me on the barrier)

Excellent fucking show. Had a great time. This is really a band to watch – though if you’re new, I fear you’re too late as I think it’ll be over by September. I bought the show poster, which is irritatingly not signed or numbered, but I bought no other merch on the way out.

I reiterate that I love the Dead Weather.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Usually when I'm on a trip, I'm by myself, so I have time to write down what I'm seeing and hearing. This time I'm with a friend, so I've been talking instead. I'm taking a break and she's taking a swim, so I have time to catch up on writing about Vegas, and Them Crooked Vultures.

We arrived in Las Vegas on Friday, and spent most of the evening gorging - I think that's the right word - gorging on the all you can eat buffet at the Bellagio. Not the Wynn - we're going to the Wynn tomorrow morning. The buffet was an astonishing $36 a head so in order to get my money's worth I mostly ate fish, mostly raw, in industrial quantities. Oh and four desserts.

Saturday morning started off nice with breakfast at a Cuban restaurant I've been to before, down at the Elvis Wedding Chapel end of the strip. It's called the Florida Cafe. Mmmm Cuban breakfast. Very nice, full of sweet fried plantain, and I supplemented it with a tasty tamal. Later we went to Nobu and ate a further ketch-full of raw fish. Nobu came highly recommended i.e. Ross Halfin talks in his diary about eating there with Jimmy Page, so we had to try it, and it lived up to expectations.

We are here to do more than mow our way through hundreds of pounds of food though, so the next stop was the Hard Rock to see Them Crooked Vultures. They rocked - of course, like Nobu they are a sure thing. I wasn't particularly familiar with the songs as the CD left me cold, but TCV are hardly a sing-along feel-good band, so that didn't matter.


In fact, last night I managed to work out why they rock, and why the CD left me cold. They have a Zeppelinesque quality, and it's not just because John Paul Jones is their bassist. It's because they have that overwhelming access to power and control that Zeppelin used to have. Since TCV is without a Robert Plant hippy-type to ameliorate their Dom tendencies, they are harder and heavier than Zeppelin in that respect. They just stand (or sit on their drum stool) there and flex tens of thousands of Watts, tens of thousands of hours of mastery of their instruments, and yards of clever-dick lyrics, and wield absolute command over everybody and everything in front of them.

When I was young and just getting into Led Zeppelin, this was an awesome stance to take. I really just wanted someone to force me to the floor and give it to me, and Led Zeppelin certainly did that. Now I prefer, you know, roses and chocolate or something first...maybe a dinner...sushi fish...OK get back on topic... right, I prefer a little negotiation, and then getting forced to the floor and given it. I think I get that combination with the Dead Weather (though I think the roses would be artfully arranged in the eyesockets of a grinning paper skull with that band) which is why I like them and don't like say, the Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver or all the tragic indie folkies, who would be all sushi dinners (stay on track now) and no happy ending.

Them Crooked Vultures are entirely about that controlled violence. It comes over much better live (for me anyway) because you can actually see them doing it, see them physically putting out that level of discipline and can watch the crowd metaphorically forced to its knees before them. It lets you know it's not some knob-twiddler in the studio pressing some "add dominance" button in Pro Tools. It was fun to see and hear that sort of music again and a good time was had by all.

In the taxi line outside we were behind someone who looked like Dave Grohl. Someone behind me shouted out, "Hey, you look like Dave Grohl! Oh, you aren't. Well, it would be much cooler if you were Dave Grohl!".

I felt very sorry for the guy, who I'm sure is pretty cool as whoever he is, and really didn't need to be told by some stranger that he wasn't.

We got back to our little timeshare, and, the fish having worn off, made a midnight run to Albertsons where we got a discounted rotisserie chicken ($3) and more vodka.

My cellphone photos of the show look like cellphone photos, so I won't bother. Instead here's a picture of the hotel called Paris. See, it has an Eiffel Tower!

And inside Paris, everything looks like Paris, with Boulangeries and Patisseries and things. We ate at the Creperie, which was totally crepe. More like British pancakes than crepes and the filling had been micro-miniaturized to vanishing point. Also we had to wait 15 minutes because they only had two griddles.

But that's not all! Inside Paris, two of the legs of the Eiffel Tower come down inside the hotel. And the hotel ceiling is painted as the Paris sky. So it looks like this.

Isn't that weird? I'd know if I were living in the Truman Show or something, because there'd be things like that left around that didn't look quite right.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Road Trip part II

Having had insufficient entertainment at the TUO-N-NI, I then stopped in Baker, Gateway to Death Valley, to see the World's Largest Outdoor Thermometer and take a picture of my new car, Hyundai Hyundai, on its first road trip, sitting outside the Big Bun Motel, which is next to a Bob's Big Boy. No, I didn't eat a Bob's Big Boy Burger as well.

Road Trip

On the way to Las Vegas to see Them Crooked Vultures and The Dead Weather. Stopped in an eatery in festive downtown Hesperia, the aptly named TUO-N-NI for a Double Double, hold the cheese.

Mighty tasty it was too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cars and girls

American pop is obsessed with cars and girls. It always has been, and you can tell the cars from the girls.

She's ported and relieved
And she's stroked and bored
She'll do a hundred and forty at the top end floored.

That's a car.

When I mash down on your little starter
Your spark gonna give me fire.

That's about a girl.

But when it comes to British bands,

Groovin' on the freeway, gauge is on the red
gun down on my gasoline, believe I'm gonna crack your head

I have no clue. Is that a car or a girl?

(Hell of a performance, though.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Braver than I am - or you are

Today is the anniversary of Apollo 13 running into trouble. That was forty years ago, in April 1970. On the way to the moon, a fault in the electrical system caused one of the Service Module's oxygen tanks to rupture. The crew had to abandon the Command Module and live in the Lunar Module during its completely out-of-spec trip back to Earth.

Heat, water and scrubbers for carbon dioxide were in critically short supply. But these men, who were half way to another planet, managed to make do for a journey back to Earth. Their computer system was about the level of one of today's BlackBerrys. To supplement its output, they took manual readings of their position using navigator's instruments from the 1700s as their course changed (knocked off course by the venting oxygen tank) and calculated their trajectory on paper. Against all odds, they made it back to a safe landing.

I can remember watching this with my heart in my mouth. I knew they could get back to Earth - it's pretty big - but I didn't think they'd get the trajectory right and splash down without burning up. They did, though.

The quote that came out of all that was, "Houston, we have a problem."

I love manned space exploration. I know many others disagree, since robots can do much more and see much more without requiring life support. But I want to go, and I want others to go and tell me what it's like. And I salute heroes like the crew of Apollo 13.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Jimmy Page photo autobiography

Even though I was pre-registered, it turns out I was too late to purchase the limited edition. But what I can tell you is my $600 guess was way off. It was offered at £695. That's over a thousand dollars!

Anyway, I've ordered the cheap edition - £395. It's my experience these things never go down in value, assuming you have enough float to pay for them upfront. Or so I'm hoping.

If you'd like what is likely to be the only Jimmy Page self-selected history, albeit in pictures rather than text, contact Genesis.

Edit to add: Youdopia points out that Jimmy Page released the book on the anniversary of Aleister Crowley writing The Book of the Law. Ha ha ha ha!

So good to me

Here's the Mamas & the Papas with their tuneful ode to my new car, Hyundai Hyundai.

Hm, I've never actually listened to the words. Could be a diss. Still, very easy on the ears. As is my new car.

Ham sandwiches all round!

And while we're at it, here's the Dead Weather's Die By the Drop video that caused so much angst the other day. We all have it now and I'm sure we all wonder what the fuss was about.

Edit: scratch the paragraph below. I'm told this only plays in America. FFS, record companies, why don't you make things available if you want people to buy your stuff? If you're outside the US, try this copy here:

This is the official one from the official site, so no DMCAs please. (Although, as it happens, Third Man Records, I have a pirate site I'd like to report to you for something. Feel free to give me your 1-800-WE-TIP address so I can get that off my chest.)

Actually I've moved on from the A side, DBTD, to the B side, Old Mary. It starts with a parody of the Hail Mary, then goes on to...something else. Something Dead Weatherish. it's hard to claim that any band in 2010 could be forging new ground, but the Dead Weather are certainly finding new slants on the old angles, as hustlers used to say. (And probably stopped saying around 1955, but I still remember reading it as a youth.)

Or is it "the Dead Weather is forging new ground"? I'll never get used to American plurals for groups.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Photoautobiography of Jimmy Page

As you no doubt know, a deluxe photoautobiography of Jimmy Page is coming out soon. Limited Edition, with an unknown price tag, but if it is similar to the other Genesis luxury le's out there, $600 would not be be a bad guess.

This, on the Les Paul Forum, is one fan's story of how he submitted his previously unseen 1977 photos of Led Zeppelin to Ross Halfin for the book and is likely to see them published.

(Edit: Link to the story taken down at Drew Stawin's request in order to keep control of his story. The story is still viewable at the Les Paul forum,

Obviously Drew Stawin is not able to show his best photos as they are now awaiting their first publication, but he put several others in the thread. Loved this one, which shows Jimmy Page's roadie wearing a Rorer 714 t shirt. Is he wearing Jimmy's shirt from the 1977 rehearsals? Or was Jimmy wearing the roadie's t shirt at the rehearsals? Or did everybody have them in 1977?

(Edit: Photo taken down at Drew Stawin's request.)

Jimmy in the shirt

Gotta love Jimmy, who looked fabulous in almost any clothes. Rorer 714, as you may know, is the marking on the pills known as Quaaludes in the US and Mandrax in the UK. That's the (legal at the time) drug that contributed to the death of much missed Paul Kossoff and thoroughly screwed up many, many more rock and roll lives. And Jimmy probably wasn't even being ironic...

Edit to add: None of Drew Stawin's photos made it into the book, but some are still available at the links above.

The Dirtbombs

From the mighty Powerpop blog, I learn of the Dirtbombs' awesome No Expectations.

It's a game-changing version of the Rolling Stones' No Expectations. It includes a nod to Lust For Life. And Sympathy for the Devil. And for fuck's sake, Hey Jude.

This is an incredible track that makes me want to own the Dirtbombs catalog. Fuck me, how great can one track be? It's not a mash-up, it's a band actually playing the tracks live as a pastiche. Awesome.

Tyrannosaurus rex tracks.

Over at Doc 40 listening to Tyrannosaurus rex: a beautiful band.

Here's Beard of Stars/Once Upon the Seas of Abyssinia.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Back to The Dead Weather

Back to my favorite group.

Dead Weather photos in Melbourne.

Sixty Feet Tall


Cut like a Buffalo

Another Rocking Horse.

Bye, car!

Last week I had to say goodbye to my Oldsmobile Intrigue. She'd been with me since 1998. Not the most reliable of cars, I'd bought her because she was the color, make and model of car driven by Fox Mulder in the X-Files film of that year, Fight the Future. I was a big X-Files fan. Very, very big X-Files fan.

Her registration came due recently, so I took her in for a pre-smog check oil change and filter. The OC&F was $29.95, but the multi-point check came back with a quote for fixing the coolant system: $1850. Since the system had never actually overheated - at least, not in the last decade or so - I was a little skeptical, but they insisted. "I need to go to Las Vegas to see the Dead Weather next month," I said. The dealership assistant shook her head.

Sbs passed the smog check with flying colors, and still wasn't showing the slightest sign of a coolant leak, but yesterday I bought a 2011 Hyundai Sonata LE. It has all the features the Olds had, and in almost all cases, in exactly the same place. It's like sliding into a slighter bigger version of Sbs - but with XM radio, mp3 player capability (Sbs had an adaptor via the cassette deck, of all things), moonroof and a silly but fun way of opening the door, which is to recognize you when you approach so you don't need to get the keys out of your pocket. (It also starts with a push-button, so you still don't need to get your keys out of your pocket. The drawback is that, of course, you have already taken the keys out of your pocket by force of habit, so you drop them in the cupholder for lack on anywhere else to stick them. This means that the keys are no longer in your pocket when you leave the car. The salesman intimated that the car is clever enough not to lock you out under these circumstances, but I don't necessarily want to have to find out the hard way.)

It drives very well, with its silent engine and decent handling. It doesn't have quite the oomph the six-cylinder Intrigue did, but it seems capable of accelerating if needed.

It came with a free (actually $30 non-optional extra) iPod cable! But iDon't have an iPod!

Oh, and it doesn't have a cargo net. Sbs had a lovely cargo net. Grr.


Huge earthquake in Baja California about fifteen minutes ago. Estimated to be magnitude 7.2. It got to us in SJC about the time a friend of mine in San Diego phoned to say it was coming. Although it wasn't particularly violent, it lasted for at least twenty seconds and frankly felt as though the house was on the back of a camel - that same lurching-forward motion. Everything rattled but I don't think the house moved on the foundations. I really hope not.

The rolling motion lasted long enough to build up to big waves in the pool - the water sloshed out on both sides and knocked the cleaning hatch off from underneath.

(Edited now magnitude is known.)

Denizens of the deep cont.

Not an octopus this time. This is the underwater giant woodlouse, or roly-poly or pillbug. It looks too big to roll or pill like the little ones. Generally I don't mind crustaceans - it's insects I don't like, but this is quite a disconcerting one. Luckily it lives at the bottom of very deep water, so our paths are unlikely to cross.

Apparently they eat dead whales and squid. (The ones in my garden eat my compost heap.) They're isopods (their legs are all similar), and they have a lung structure that means they can live on land (as long as they can keep themselves damp) or underwater. The underwater ones are called Bathynomus giganteus and there's a photo of an even bigger one here.

A relative is the disgusting Cymothoa exigua, an underwater louse that eats the tongue of fish, and then, in a sort of fair-dos exchange, lives in its mouth and performs the actions of the missing tongue (and grabbing the occasional tidbit). When I first saw this, it made me wonder about other possible organ-replacing parasites as a science fiction plot idea. If you could persuade something with good pumping power to replace a failing human heart in exchange for the free sugar and nutrients in the blood, for instance. What type of society would those parasites build? (Parasites are often solitary and sometimes hermaphrodite, not even needing others of the same species to reproduce. But that wouldn't be as good in a story as something that needed to find others of its kind to mate with.)

Picture here at Animal Planet.

Forever Geek

quiz result

I missed one sound. But I can tell astromechs from medi-droids and Tteel Kkak from Poggle the Lesser by five second sound clip alone. I'm proud of myself.

The quiz is on boing boing, here.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Dead Weather, Tokyo

It's been a bit of a fallow period while the Dead Weather have been touring Australia. Dunno what it is, but tapers and photographers seem thinner on the ground down under. There is one Sydney show available, I believe, didn't see any others. Even the YouTubing's been sparse (but with the New Look YouTube that discourages visits to the site, I haven't pursued that as far as I might).

The band hit Tokyo on March 31st, marking a return to the high tech part of the planet. Here's the torrent for the Tokyo show.

I haven't listened to it as I'm downloading it now. Die by the Drop, Hustle and Cuss and Blue Blood Blues are in there too. There are a bunch of nice photos available here.


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