What was your first Amazon order? (and why George Jones matters)

I was logged in to Amazon tonight checking an order and followed the link to “orders by year.” The first order in my history was placed on December 23, 1997 and appeared to be a last-minute Christmas gift for my mother. I ordered these two books:

  • Kay Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind: a look at the connection between manic-depressive illness and creativity. I bought a copy for myself — it’s a fascinating subject.
  • George Jones’ autobiography I Lived to Tell All. Now, a title like I Lived to Tell All might seem a little melodramatic to some, but for George Jones, living to tell all is a truly unexpected achievement. Wikipedia describes George Jones as follows: “an American country singer known for his distinctive voice and phrasing that frequently evoke the raw emotions caused by grief, unhappy love, and emotional hardship.” That barely scratches the surface. Anyone who cares about American popular music (or humanity itself) should keep a turntable around loaded with a couple of scratchy George Jones records. George Jones lived his life squarely inside the agonizing parentheses in song titles known to all country music fans. . . If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will), These Days (I Barely Get By), A Picture of Me (Without You), Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half As Bad As Losing You). These songs are clever in their expression of abject sadness (“these days I barely get by“), but never cute — they hurt every time. I saw George Jones perform at the Masonic in San Francisco in February 2000 (see photo) and the place was 2/3 empty. 1/3 full is a triumph for a man who once rode a lawn mower to the liquor store when his license had been revoked.

Life can be hard at times, and my mother’s old George Jones records taught me just how bad it can get (and the book I gave her was just a clear explanation of the story behind those records) — but they also taught me a little something about resilience and faith. (A 1999 piece about George Jones in Salon.com makes it all clear.)

So, what was your first Amazon order?

Welcoming Bix to Yahoo! with a little karaoke

Bradley only teased us in his announcement of the Bix acquisition (c’mon Bradley, post the karaoke!), but I’m laying it all bare with my rendition of the Roger Miller classic, “King of the Road.” It’s one of my favorite songs, but my version doesn’t do it justice, though it was fun. Here it is anyway (the photo is with my lovely fiancee Nancy, and I’m wearing my favorite western shirt).

http://www.bix.com/a/ElL2e5l64z

Vote for me on Bix.com!

Welcome to Yahoo, Bix! We’re going to make beautiful music together.

Beck (and puppets) on Saturday Night Live this weekend!

PuppetsVia the PuppetVision Blog (!), I just learned that Beck and his puppets will be making what “may be their final public appearance on SNL” (according to puppeteer Rob Saunders, who I had the pleasure of meeting briefly backstage at Yahoo! Hack Day). If you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about, be sure to check out the video from one of my prior posts. I don’t think a day has gone by at work that I haven’t said, “Doesn’t anybody work here? Where are the servers? Where are the techies to support this?” (you gotta watch the video to get it).

For more on Beck and his puppets, check out these links:

I love those damn puppets.

Yahoo! Hack Day, with Beck — and special hacked video

First of all, suffice it to say that not blogging about Beck’s upcoming appearance at our first open Hack Day at Yahoo! was ABSOLUTELY KILLING ME. For various reasons, we had to keep it quiet. That being said, I was surprised that no one ever thought to look at my weekly top artists on last.fm for clues. While the speculation was in full swing, I was suddenly devouring my Beck back catalog in full public view. Amazing how all this transparency gets us nowhere sometimes.

I love Beck. On a trip to Hawaii once, back before everyone had an mp3 player, I managed to forget to bring any music along, so I found a record store and bought one CD: Odelay. It lasted me the whole trip — didn’t need anything else.

Of course, we worked our magic to get Beck because Beck is an awesome musician and artist, but we also knew that he was a hacker in his own right, and that was the greatest appeal (I got to spend a surprising an amount of time with him and his crew after the show, and Beck is a really down-to-earth guy — no rock star attitude whatsoever). Completely unbeknownst to us beforehand, Beck and his video guys hacked a special video for us that is as funny as it is clever. Check it out:

http://us.i1.yimg.com/cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/player/media/swf/FLVVideoSolo.swf

Thank you, Beck. You’re an awesome hacker.

(I’ll write more about this later, but the show at Yahoo! last night was one of the best rock shows I have seen, and I’ve been to quite a few.)

What I'm listening to

I’m so immersed in work stuff right now (all fun) that I don’t even want to attempt to make sense of it for a public audience, so here’s a throwaway post on the music I’m listening to right now, with mini-mini-reviews of each:

  • Wolfmother, Wolfmother: OK, the band’s name is Wolfmother — what else do you need to know? Power trio, echoes of early Sabbath so heavy that I expected a young Ozzy to pop out of my iPod. An album cover that would make Jimmy Page proud. Song subjects: women, unicorns, gnomes, and occasional mentions of gypsies, and it’s all so completely unapologetic. I would say it was really stupid if I wasn’t so busy loving it and wishing I had a Camaro (thanks to Ann Robson for the recommendation!) Favorite tracks: “Colossal,” “Woman,” “Apple Tree”. (Pitchfork review)
  • Various, dmdk: a danish celebration of depeche mode: what’s not to like? Favorite tracks: “Dreaming of Me” by Figurines and “Just Can’t Get Enough” by CPH Jet. (No Pitchfork review!)
  • Band of Horses, Everything All the Time: Soaring indie pop of the type that always gets me. Favorite tracks: “Weed Party,” “The Great Salt Lake”. (Pitchfork review)
  • Islands, Return to the Sea: ok, I’m running out of critical steam — I just like this record. Favorite tracks: “Don’t Call Me Whitney Bobby,” “Rough Gem.” (Pitchfork review)
  • Eagles of Death Metal, Death by Sexy: When I heard the EODM’s debut album (Pitchfork review), I did what any Silicon Valley music fan would have done at the time — I started an Orkut group in their honor. The group has over 300 members now, but the talk is mostly in Portuguese, so all I’m left with is this second album, and that’s just fine with me. Favorite tracks: all of them as long as you’re drinking beer with friends out in the sun. (Pitchfork review)
  • The Magic Numbers, The Magic Numbers: Lovely, sweet, tooth-rotting indie pop. (Pitchfork review)

Enjoy the spring.

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society

album coverAnyone who has been living in Northern California for the past couple of months knows that it has rained, and rained, and rained. I don’t generally enjoy exchanging pleasantries about the weather, but I found myself doing just that recently, but less as a conversation starter and more of a plea to the gods: When will the rain stop? It has been that bad.

We’ve had a nice rain-free couple of days now and I’m certain that the clouds first broke the moment I dusted off The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (or Village Green Preservation Society for short). The album is that good — when you’re listening to it, it makes you feel like it literally can’t rain. This is an album that defies meteorology.

I’m not going to ruin the pop majesty of the album by weighing it down with rock-critic-speak or dissecting its influences, or what the bands that followed them owe the Kinks (though this album is a must-have for any music geek who enjoys such topics). Village Green Preservation Society is too viscerally enjoyable for that. Instead, if the weather is good, I suggest that you pack a picnic basket and a copy of the album, pick up some good friends, head out into the country, and sing songs like “Animal Farm” and “Picture Book” along with your companions. You might not know the words when you first pile into the car and press “play,” but you will know them by the time you lay out your picnic blanket — I promise.

Update, 04/15/06: Apparently, saying that the Kinks’ record “defies meteorology” in its wonderful sunny-ness has gotten this post into at least one meteorology news feed (as discovered on this page):


Welcome, meteorologists!