Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thoughts brought on by listening to an absolutely wonderful set that Sarah Borges and Russ Chudnovsky played for maybe a dozen people at T.T. The Bear's last night: a few Boston acts that I'd much rather hear than most of the stuff that gets played on the radio these days. I'm listing a few that are "Boston bands" to some degree. The more prominent are touring these days; it ranges from there down to groups that just have a drummer. Most, though, have MP3s on the web. And I'm doing this off the cuff, so I'm leaving quite a few great bands out. But if you need something to take your mind off the news, try some of these:
  • Mission of Burma: proving to the world that "art punk" is not a contradiction. If you don't know these guys, you may have heard "That's when I reach for my revolver"; if you haven't, you may have heard Moby's somewhat bastardized cover of it. It's more tuneful than most of their music, but there's a lot more where it came from, all noisy, dissonant, wild, and brilliant.
  • The Dresden Dolls: A Brechtian Punk Cabaret duo, on keyboards, voice, and drums. "Missed Me" does in fact sound pretty much like Brecht, but they range a lot wider than that; toward the punk side, they've got angry, thrashing rants like "Half Jack" and "Girl Anachronism" which fit right in with the cover of, of all things, "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath that they've been playing on tour, or the cover of "Blueprint" by Fugazi which they occasionally play, which makes the original sound like it was recorded on Quaaludes. On piano, voice and drums.
  • Michael Tarbox (and The Tarbox Ramblers, which are Michael Tarbox and whoever else he brings to the gig). Their sound is Robert Johnson gone electric, and not just when they're covering his tunes -- at once up to date, and having a lot more to do with the music of real American folk than most of the three-chord acoustic tone poems you hear a lot at Club Passim.
  • The Twinemen -- It would be impossible to reform Morphine after the loss of their late and terribly lamented frontman, Mark Sandman. But the two other members of the trio have found someone else to play behind, the wonderful Laurie Sargent, and the results are brilliant.
  • Jim's Big Ego -- Jim Infantino with an acoustic guitar and a really great rhythm section, singing Dadaist songs about life, the universe, the ex-friends he's just as happy to be rid of, and the bad things that happen to him if he skimps on the coffee dose. If your mind is twisted the right way, you can't listen to this and not smile. (Playing Passim tonight; I've linked to their forum to get around a totally gratuitous Flash front page).
  • Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women -- tuneful breakup songs with some of the most clever lyrics you're likely to hear these days. Playing Friday at T.T.'s.
  • The Valhalla Kittens -- unrepentant Boston glam, offered with three-part harmony, outrageous coordinated costumes, a mischievous smile, and a very knowing wink.

Which doesn't exhaust my local scene by a long shot, let alone yours... I haven't even mentioned Sarah Borges, who I started off with, who's also in the roots-music vein (along with Jake Brennan and the Confidence Men, who she often plays with). Get out and explore, or get your music from Clear Channel...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The good news: the election was decided by people voting on moral issues. The bad news: the people voting that way thought that gay marriage was a more significant moral issue than torture.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Abu Aardvark explains the election:

You're for this or against it.

It isn't that complicated.

A lot of economists aren't worried about overseas outsourcing, they say, because they think that the U.S. has a sustainable competitive advantage in new, exciting, innovative new industries. Which may be true to a point -- there are a lot of foreign biotech companies opening labs in Kendall Square near MIT.

But I've never completely bought the argument. For one thing, a lot of Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists are strongly urging the new companies they finance to outsource immediately -- which means that the American innovation they finance will be creating jobs overseas. For another, it flies in the face of the historical experience of postwar Britain, which had an immense lead in all sorts of technical areas -- first jet airliner, first computer in commercial use, etc. -- and utterly squandered it; there's an interesting little book on the computing experience called "Innovating for Failure".

Well, here's a bellwether. U.S. citizen Steve Chen, one of our top supercomputer designers (he's responsible for several Cray Research machines) is joining a new outfit to build the next generation of supercomputers -- in China, splitting his time between there and San Jose. (It apparently doesn't bother them that he was born in Taiwan -- but hey, that's just a province of the motherland anyway, right?)