With George in Boston

wiring up the sound stands

Last catch-up post: On Thursday I had lunch with George Chang. He and Becky are in town while she attends a conference, and he and I decided it would be a good day to walk about the city, have some lunch, and take some pictures. As it turns out, it may have been a perfect day for photographs in downtown Boston. We ate lunch near Copley Square and then wandered around in the square, inspecting and photographing the preparations for the parade today (which I did not attend, thank you very much, preferring to stay warm and dry inside). After a bit we caught up with fellow Sloanie Rick MacDonald and walked up the Harvard Bridge to Central Square for some Tosci’s.

I got what I think are some pretty good photos, particularly the one of newly restored Old South Church and the abstract series off the Harvard Bridge.

Last night we had dinner with George, Becky, and some of Becky’s friends from her residency at Taranta, which appears to have shifted focus somewhat from purely southern Italian to some inventive cross-breeding with Peruvian cuisine. We slipped in our party of eight on the promise that we would eat and be out in an hour, so that they could re-set the table to help accommodate the party of 30 that would be arriving at 8:30. It was needless to say fabulous, particularly the yucca gnocchi with lamb and spicy cilantro pesto ragu. Afterwards George, Lisa and I retired to the wine bar at Via Valverde for a cheese plate and two outstanding half-bottles, a delectable Dolcetto and a stunning Chianti. The review in USA Today does not appear to have gone to their head.

House. Work.

i don't want to hear anyone singing 'Autumn Leaves' for a long time, thank you very much.

Yesterday was Leaf Hog Day. As I believe I’ve mentioned, our leaves are the last to fall on our street, and I’m learning that what I thought was a lot of leaves was just the by-product of our neighbors’ trees. (Here are the trees in question.) Yesterday I experienced the main event: yellow leaves blanketing our parking spaces to a depth of six inches, covering the new grass that Lisa is trying to establish on a ten by ten foot patch along the back fence, totally covering everything that I had cleared just a week previously. So, it being a dry day, I got the Leaf Hog out and got to work. Several hours and aching back and forearms later, I was done. I was spitting black (and we won’t even mention my nostrils) from all the dust that came up from the driveway and the grass along with the leaves, but I was done. Of course, this morning the modest rain we’ve had has completely covered the driveway again.

And today? I finally hung the structured media enclosure I bought back in August, which was in itself a bit of a project. I only have bare concrete block walls in the basement, so I inaugurated a masonry bit: drilled quarter-inch holes with a standard drill bit through a 1/2″ thick piece of plywood, then held the board against the wall, switched to the masonry bit, and drilled through the holes into the concrete. A set of hammer-in concrete anchors finished the mounting job for the plywood. Then the box. First taking a flat-bladed screwdriver and popping out the knock-outs to bring the wires in, I then screwed the box into the plywood, using a thick brass spacing washer to ensure the wood screws wouldn’t punch through the back of the plywood and push the panel away from the wall.

Great. So the panel is mounted. Now how do I get the phone board mounted? Wait a minute, there’s nothing on the inside of the enclosure that’s even remotely like the spacing for the screws on the panel. How do I make this fit?

Ah. Enlightenment strikes. The Leviton blocks are designed to snap into plastic mounting brackets that then screw into the back of the enclosure. So I guess I have to make a Home Despot trip today. Oh well. It’ll give me an excuse to pick up some more shelves for the garage so I can finally move enough things around to get a car inside.

Catching up: on freezing one’s butt off for an eclipse


Things have been a little euphoric here in the great Northeast for the last few days, to the point that my blogging has fallen off precipitously. Here’s a quick catch-up, starting with Wednesday night.

I walked outside and saw the edge of the moon darkening. I decided it was time to try my luck with a camera. I grabbed it and a small tripod and walked down the hill to the park, a large unlit area where I figured I’d have the best chance of getting a decent sky picture.

There are four large rocks on the hilltop in Robbins Farm Park, which seemed tailor made to try to position the little tripod to catch the sky. Unfortunately, though, the telescoping legs don’t hold intermediate positions, which was necessary to get the view of the sky. After a lot of give and take (and a few minutes to snap some other pictures, including this sardonic and almost unreadable LensDay entry), I eventually got the camera in position and stayed out, freezing, taking a photo every few minutes.

The result? Well, the image to the right is the only one that actually came out well. But the rest make a nice QuickTime movie. The only problem was that toward the end my hands were so cold that I couldn’t snap the shutter without knocking the camera out of position—hence the swerve in position toward the end.

Spotlight on Carl Perkins

Carl Perkins’ claim to fame among most music buffs is his brilliant “Blue Suede Shoes,” which his fellow Sun Records artist Elvis Presley made his own a year after Perkins had already taken the song up the charts. But in the heady brew of Sun Records’ brief run of brilliance, Perkins remains a distant memory for many behind Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. A new collection of his songs from the Sun years, Orby Records Spotlights Carl Perkins, should help remedy that.

Unlike Presley, Perkins’ background was tenant farming and Nashville, and this shows in his originals, which comprise eleven of the fourteen tracks on this anthology. The originals veer from blistering rockabilly to broad country, and showcase Perkins’ yelping vocals, bar room lyrics, and fiery lead guitar. The tunes also show off the capabilities of Perkins’ band; his brothers Clayton and Jay on bass and rhythm guitar and W. S. Holland on drums lay down a solid foundation on which Perkins builds what the liner notes refer to as “country guitar laced with blues and whiskey-fueled aggression” (check out the solos on “Honey Don’t” (the b-side to “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Boppin’ the Blues” for outstanding examples).

The set is short—35 minutes—but manages to cover the breadth of Perkins’ work from 1954 to 1957 at Sun, including songs from six of his seven Sun singles, two tracks from a 1957 “dance” album, and one track (“Put Your Cat Clothes On”) that was unissued during his years at Sun and has only appeared on compilations. Unfortunately the liner notes, while providing an excellent biographical sketch, leave it to the reader to figure this out; I used the excellent Perkins discography at Terry Gordon’s Rockin’ Country Style for information on the sessions and releases.

One wonders how the course of rock history would be different if Carl hadn’t gotten into a car crash on his way to appear on the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows behind “Blue Suede Shoes,” sending his career into a slow slide into alcoholism and obscurity (Perkins would eventually escape both in the 1980s). Perkins once described his frustrated career: “I was bucking a good-looking cat called Elvis who had beautiful hair, wasn’t married, and had all kinds of great moves.” Fortunately for us all, history has been kinder to Perkins than the market was, and he’s now recognized as one of rock’s founding fathers. This set, while brief, does an admirable job of showing why.

Note: This compilation is one of a series of Sun years reissues from Roy Orbison’s label, Orby Records, which together with Orbison’s own recordings are being newly distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

Review originally posted at BlogCritics.

3-0 and a red moon

As someone wrote on a mailing list today, “I’m going to go out in the morning and shake my trees, because there will be pork in them.” The Sox just got the last out. Game 4. 3–0. I hear fireworks and horns in the streets. I’m going to bed.

But I can’t resist asking: if things come in threes, and we are having two signs of Apocalypse tonight (one atmospheric, one Bostonian), what’s the third?

When the kids learn the truth about freedom of speech

Daily Kos: Free speech, Bush style. At Richland Center High School in Richland County, Wisconsin, students were told in preparation for a visit from the President that they could not wear pro-Kerry clothing or buttons or protest in any manner at risk of expulsion.

Expulsion. Getting thrown out of school for the rest of the year. Because one chooses to wear an item that supports the Democratic candidate for president.

It’s never too early to learn that free speech isn’t for everyone, but only for those that can afford it. That schools restrict political activity during presidential campaigns instead of creating teachable moments is one of the greatest failures of our educational system to date. That the campaign would make this request in the first place is the final proof (as if we needed it) that they care neither for our rights nor our children’s education.

Suggested action? Patrick Nielsen Hayden links to the story and provides contact information for the school and its administrative personnel.

New iPods, new iTunes

The new iPod U2 Special Edition, iPod Photo, and iTunes 4.7 are out. The U2 iPod was widely leaked and so there are few surprises, except maybe its release 3 weeks ahead of The Complete U2, and the fact that it won’t be pre-loaded with the band’s albums, rather coming with a $50 coupon for the boxed set. Smart money says the Complete U2 will cost rather more than $50…

The iPod Photo is more of a surprise, but only because the rumor sites appear to have been correct for once. I rather like the form factor and the idea of bringing my photos around with me in easily-previewable form, and even the concept of being able to hook my iPod up to a TV with a video cable. I think that the boat was missed in one area: the iPod Photo should have a built in USB connection so that you could transfer photos straight from most digital cameras to your iPod’s hard drive. It’s also interesting that iTunes will be used to sync photos to the iPod, rather than iPhoto, but I suppose it saves a considerable amount of development effort to just reuse the existing sync code in iTunes rather than developing it again in iPhoto—then having to release bug-fixes for both apps for sync problems down the road.

Regarding iTunes 4.7: the only new feature on the Mac platform, if you don’t have an iPod Photo, is the ability to find duplicate tracks. This would have been a useful feature. Except that the criterion for “duplicate” is apparently same artist and song title. What about an artist who recorded the same song in the studio and live—in very different versions and with very different run times? At the least you’d think that run time would be included in the criteria—with a one- or two-second window to account for variations in ripped vs. downloaded versions.

Nice catch-all: Bush campaign emails show up at anti-Bush site

Wonkette: Bush letters sent to the wrong e-mail address. Wonkette points to the Dead Letter Office at GeorgeWBush.org. Apparently some people on the president’s staff can’t tell .com (the reelection campaign) from .org (the protest site). As a result, there are a ton of interesting emails that have accumulated in the catch-all mailbox at georgewbush.org, including one staffer making the career-limiting move of observing how good he would look with First Daughter Barbara Bush (load the page and search for Barbara).

The only potential smoking gun I can see on the page is the thread about The Middle Eastern American National Conference endorsement of Bush, in which the draft email has several signatories’ names missing, with the note that the names are being scrubbed by the campaign and that “we need phone numbers, city, states.”

Get the story straight

A rare glimpse from the New York Times on how the response has evolved on both sides to the missing explosives from Al Qaqaa. Josh Marshall has been tracing the emerging storylines as well, including the emergent “they were gone when we got here” theory which seems to be discredited by the facts.

In this case, one might well ask, with Pilate, “What is truth?” In this case, the only truth appears to be: The Bush administration and its proxies have known about the missing explosives for almost 18 months and haven’t done anything about them. Now that the story is breaking, based on the October 10th letter from the Iraqi interim government, the administration is falling all over itself and can’t get the story straight about what happened and why it hasn’t acted.

Leaving aside the other issues in Iraq, this is a simple failure of competence by the incumbent leader of the western world.