Monday, May 31, 2010

Cambridge Memorial Day Parade 2010

Memorial Day Parade in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 31, 2010.

Memorial Flags on Boston Common

Memorial Day weekend flag display on Boston Common honoring fallen soldiers from Massachusetts, taken on May 30, 2010.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Izod Indy Cars in Boston Go Back in the Box

Izod Indy cars were in Boston on May 24, 2010. They didn't want to leave them parked out overnight on Warrenton Street in the Theater District, so they put them back in the box. Can't blame them, the neighborhood always strips the cars of theater goers who don't get out by closing time. Not really, this isn't New York City.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Boston Steps up to the Plate for Veterans

U.S Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr. was at Fenway Park on Sunday to welcome runners across home plate for the Run to Home Base 9K. Over 2,000 runners participated in the 5.6 mile run.

The run was sponsored by the Red Sox Foundation to raise money for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. The event raised $2.4 million.

General Casey is a Boston College High School alum. He heads the U.S. Army and is on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The race started and ended at Fenway Park, with a loop along the Charles River through Cambridge.

General Casey pictured with the fastest 17-year-old in the race.

Click here for additonal prictures.

I Got Profiled Twice Today, But Please Don't Boycott Massachusetts

Today has just been one of those days.

First, I got called for jury duty. I'm all for civic responsibility but they want me to show up at 8am at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse in Woburn. And where is that? I've never been there. They say they'll send a map and directions 10 days before my scheduled date. Great, a scavenger hunt.

Goggle maps says my best bet is drive from Cambridge to Arlington, catch Route 3, drive through Winchester and Woburn to Route 128, go east for a couple of exits, then I guess I'm supposed to find the place. I can cut out Route 128 if I find the right turn off Route 3 for Pond Street. Estimated time: 20-22 minutes. Better make it 30 minutes so I'm leaving the house at 7:30am. That's just wonderful.

And then to add insult to injury, there is the demographic information section of the juror confirmation form (didn't I answer these questions on the census?).

They want to know if I am:

__ Black/African American
__ Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
__ Asian
__ White
__ American Indian/Alaskan Native
__ Other (specify)

Then they want to know if I am Hispanic/Latino:

__ Yes
__ No

The instructions are insistent: "You are required by law to complete this section whether or not you serve. Providing this information helps ensure that the jury pool reflects the the diversity of all of our citizens." Well at least if I am convicted, there will be a pool. Better pack my swim trunks.

Do the easy question first, I always say. I took Latin in college so I checked Yes to Question 2. Question 1 is a difficult one, so I have to go by process of elimination. I wonder if Barack Obama is a Native Hawaiian, as he was born there. And I know Sarah Palin is not an American Indian or Alaskan Native, although everyone else in her family is. Does Vancouver Island, British Columbia count as a Pacific Island? I wasn't born in the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Alaska, India, or Asia. I know the Whites, they lived down the street when I was growing up, but we are not related. I would check other, but don't want to give a specimen. So that leaves Black/African American and at least I'm American, so I check that one.

The back of the form has even more on the importance of the demographic survey:

"The integrity of our jury system is critically important to our courts and our society. One means of ensuring this integrity is to closely monitor whether the pools of jurors that are summoned represent the community at large as closely as possible. A juror is never identified by his or her response to the demographic information survey, and this information is not used in any way to determine what happens to a person as he or she passes through the jury system."

It is not apparently important to monitor whether I'm male or female, my age, my ethnicity, whether I'm catholic, protestant, Jewish, Muslim or some other religion, and all the other things that make us unique as individuals.

Well, if that's not enough for one day, I'm out mowing my yard and a woman comes out and introduces herself as my new neighbor. I didn't think much about that at the time, but later I got to thinking how it was possible for her to pick me out of all the other Latinos mowing yards in the neighborhood. She didn't introduce herself to any of the 4 or 5 other Latino men doing yard work within a close radius. What made her pick me out?

I got pretty steamed up about that. It was a hot, humid day to be out mowing. And I considered calling the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. But they would probably want to ask me a bunch of demographic questions. And getting profiled twice in one day is enough.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brighton Camps for Cancer Research

A Relay for Life event was held on May 21 and May 22 along the Charles River in Brighton, Massachusetts to raise money for cancer research.

The Relay for Life is held in a series of events across the country. The Brighton event brought in $122,115.

The Relay does not move along very fast, but camping along the Charles River in Brighton adds a touch of extreme sport. I am sorry I missed the Karaoke at 2am, but glad I missed the Cancer Quiz at 7am. A quiz would be hard after a long night of Karaoke. I've found it's hard to avoid getting up at dawn when you are in a campground.

Mexico is Our Neighbor, Arizona is Our 48th State

Mexico has a per capita gross domestic product of $10,211 ($14,495 using purchasing power parity). That puts it #46 on the list of nations. Not bad considering how many nations there are in the world. India, for example, has a per capita GDP of $1,124.

The United States ranks 9th with $46,381 per capita GDP. Canada ranks 18th with $39,668 per capita GDP. Clearly there is a big disparity in North America between the U.S. and Canada on the one hand and Mexico on the other.

Arizona was the last state admitted to the Union before Alaska and Hawaii. 74% of Arizonans speak English, 20% speak Spanish, and 2% speak Navajo. It's per capita GDP is $32,953.

At the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, Mexican workers coming to the U.S. can make $14,500 or more a year working full time. For many that is better than they can do in Mexico, so why wouldn't they want to come? Once they are here, legally or illegally, why would they want to go back?

Even Felipe Calderon's family appeared to want to stay in the United States after meeting our President, and Calderon is the President of Mexico.

Calderon has been fighting a war against drug cartels since taking office in 2006. From December 2006 through May 2010 around 21,000 have been killed, including over 1,000 troops, police, and prosecutors and 58 reporters. That total number includes a lot of civilians caught up in the fighting, much of which is between rival drug cartels.

Getting away from the Mexican drug war is another reason to come to the U.S. Most of the people crossing the border to get away from the drug war are civilians, but some are drug cartel members seeking temporary or permanent sanctuary.

The NAFTA trade agreement held out the prospect of creating industrial jobs in Mexico that would improve Mexico's standard of living. But many of those jobs were in border cities, and those cities have been hit very hard by the drug war. And the trend these days is to send jobs to India and China where wage levels are even lower than in Mexico.

Beyond the obvious need for tighter patrols along the border, and more border agents to do that job, it is hard to know what to do. I certainly don't want to have to produce proof of my U.S. citizenship at traffic stops. And any law that purports to only require illegal aliens to produce ID is either disingenuous or is going to be ineffective, because how would the police know you're not illegal if you don't have ID?

Calderon's center-right government has gone to great lengths in the drug war and Calderon has been granted knighthoods by Spain, England, and Denmark. He needs and deserves our support.

Arizona needs our support too, and deserves it as our 48th state. Let the concerns about the new laws Arizona has passed be resolved in court. They've backed off the most objectionable provisions. I'm not joining any boycotts.

Whatever is done, we must remember that Mexico is our neighbor, and will forever be our neighbor. So, for example, the disrespect being shown by some to the Mexican flag must stop. And I don't approve of those using the U.S. Flag as some kind of protest symbol, that's disrespectful too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Girl Fight in Harvard Square

I came upon this girl fight during a public demonstration of Capoeira in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 20, 2010.

As a longtime watcher of How I met Your Mother, I know my Article 26 responsibilities: "never hesitate before communicating the possibility of fisticuffs between two humans of the female variety."

No, Elena Kagan is not on this team either.

Discolored Water May Stain Your Clothes

The Cambridge Water and Fire Departments have this say about fire hydrant testing which is currently under way:

Hydrant testing may disturb the sediment that naturally occurs in the water piping system. Water from your faucets and toilet may appear rust colored from this disturbance. Rust discoloration may last for several hours after the tests have been completed. Discolored water does not usually present a health hazard, however; the Water Department recommends that anyone who has doubts about the rust colored water should not drink it. You may wish to store tap water or two-gallon containers in your refrigerator for the day of the test.

We also suggest that the residents check their water before doing laundry because the discolored water may stain your clothes. If your laundry is stained, the Water Department will provide you with a wash additive to remove the stains.

Wow, "does not usually present a health hazard" and "may stain your clothes" means you better check the schedule.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Who Again Is Running the RNC?

So I get an email last night:

From: Republican National Committee
Subject: The Barack Obama Electoral Misery Tour

Like an annoying tune you can't get out of your head, Barack Obama keeps using his ''rock star'' aura to campaign for Democrat candidates...and they keep on losing. So much for star power and presidential ''coat tails.''

First in Virginia and New Jersey, then Massachusetts and now Pennsylvania just this week, Barack Obama's endorsement has led to election flop after flop.
No matter how his PR team tries to sell ''anti-incumbency'' or blame poor performance on bad campaigns, Barack Obama has Democrat candidates running for the exits.

So I click on the link and it brings me to a contribution form with this screaming heading:


So, if the RNC could just end the "electoral misery" which has "led to election flop after flop" why then Barack Obama would ... stop losing. And Democrats would start winning, it stands to reason. And the RNC wants me to give it money to help make that happen.

Hey, Obama fans, you might want to think about giving to the Republican National Committee. With the great job the RNC is so obviously doing, giving them more money just might work.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hillary Clinton Pimps Her Husband

Remember that debt Hillary CLinton ran up two years ago when she was running for President in 2008? Well she is still trying to pay it off. I missed the May 18 deadline because the email didn't arrive until just before midnight and I didn't see it until this morning. Too bad.

From: Kelly Mehlenbacher, []
Date: Tue 5/18/2010 10:15 AM
Subject: Last chance for a day with Bill Clinton

Dear Friend,

This is it. Today is your last chance to win a day in New York City with President Clinton. Enter Today!

Click here to contribute today and be automatically entered to win.

You don't want to miss a chance at this unique opportunity for you and a guest to travel to New York City to see Bill Clinton! The contest ends at midnight tonight, so don't wait!

Thank you for your continued support.

Hillary Clinton for President

Is that a day with Bill Clinton, or a date? Is he going to "escort" you around New York City. I wonder if Kelly would cash a check from Monica Lewinsky. She's a past donor to the Clintons, if memory serves, and probably would like a day with the former President. Good times.

There's more on the online contribution form. Should I call an Arizona boycott on 5 and 8? It's the law folks.

I confirm that the following statements are true and accurate:

1. I designate this contribution for 2008 primary election debt retirement.

2. This contribution is made from my own funds, and not those of another.

3. This contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank.

4. I am not a Federal government contractor.

5. I am not a foreign national who lacks permanent resident status in the United States.

6. I am at least 18 years of age.

7. This contribution is made on a personal credit or debit card for which I have the legal obligation to pay, and is made neither on a corporate or business entity card nor on the card of another.

8. I am not a registered foreign agent.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

All Quiet on the Waverley Avenue Front

I took a long bike ride Sunday. Out along the Charles River to Watertown Square, then over to Waverley Square, down Pleasant Street to Belmont Center and Arlington Center, then back to Cambridge.

That route took me down Waverley Avenue in Watertown, where the terror money link arrests took place at dawn last Thursday. I had my camera, and took a few pictures.

As you leave Watertown Square going down Main Street, you pass the town hall. They are flying the U.S. Flag and the Massachusetts. (I don't really approve of flying the black flag this way, but they do know how to properly fly the U.S. Flag in Watertown.)

A plaque out in front of the town hall is dedicated to Watertown's heroes in World War II.

In a park beside the town hall, they are flying the flags for the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

The town has a sign up for hazardous waste disposal day on the schedule for this past Saturday, just two days after the arrests. That must have produced some interesting conversations. What have you got in that container there?

After a few more blocks you come to the intersection of Main Street and Waverley Avenue. But good luck, as someone in town has taken the Waverley Avenue off the sign, no doubt trying to keep out gawkers like me.

At the corner is the Asiana Fusion restaurant. They have Stump! Trivia every Thursday night at 8pm. I would have liked to have been a fly on that wall last Thursday.

I bike past the house, which corners onto a side street. Across the side street is an elderly housing building. This picture was taken from the front of a school.

The Watertown Middle school is directly across from the elderly housing, and catty-corner to the house where the arrests were made.

The school has just completed a fund drive raising $24,277.51.

The entrance to the old Junior High is on the side street. It looks a bit like my Junior High.

Across the side street from the school is a park and playground. A couple of guys are setting up the batting cage, two other guts shoot hoops while a girl watches, a tennis game is in progress, and a couple kids play on the jungle gym.

Back to the corner is the house at 39 Waverley Avenue where the arrests took place. The lawn could use a mowing and the hedge a clipping. Like my lawn and hedge.

Here is the front door. What is that next to the door? A mailbox. And what is in the mailbox? Mail.

We may have to revise the U.S. Post Office's unofficial creed: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor suspected terrorist abode stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

I guess the USPS rules are that if you don't have a court order to redirect the mail, you deliver it. There was no visible surveillance, and I was tempted to go look closer at what was in the box. But not enough to do it. Click the picture to enlarge it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

You Might Be a Terrorist If ...

This is your family's home in Peshawar, Pakistan:

This is your home in Shelton, Connecticut:

The world (let alone America) doesn't owe you a living, kid. And certainly doesn't have to support you in the manner you may have become accustomed to.

This is your wedding picture in Pakistan:

This is you and your wife and baby in America:

The New York Times reports that when you insisted your wife start wearing a hijab headscarf and move back with you to Pakistan, she packed up the children and moved back in with her parents.

Way to love, honor, and cherish. Does The Noble Qur'an (English language translation) you left behind in Connecticut say anything about that? I haven't read it but suspect it does. I won't be calling you a radical Islamist, because you don't deserve it.

Left Bank of the Charles Is Not Banksy

Elusive graffiti artist Banksy has reportably tagged Boston.

A restaurant in Chinatown got tagged with this. Photo by Essdras M. Suarez of The Boston Globe staff.

Central Square got tagged too. Photo by Geoff Hargadon for The Boston Globe.

All of this is really likely a promotion for the film Exit Through the Gift Shop, now playing at the Kendall Square Cinema.

Left Bank of the Charles is not Banksy. I just want to put out the rumor before it got started. No need for the Police to search my apartment for paint and brushes and such. How many days until the next Hazardous Waste Disposal Day?

The Most Politically Incorrect Street Sign in Greater Boston

Hurry up, deaf person. You're slowing up traffic. What, are you stupid?

The most politically incorrect street sign in Greater Boston has to be this one on Pleasant Street in Arlington that says "Slow Deaf Person".

Of course, by the time you have read "Slow Down for Person with a Severe Auditory Impairment Who Lives Just Around the Next Bend in the Road" you have run the deaf person over. And by the way you Prius owners, to you we are all deaf people. When you are running on batteries we never hear you coming.

When I slowed down and stopped to take a picture of the sign, a passing jogger looked at me slowing down and looked at the sign and then asked me if I was OK. I cupped my hand to my ear and pretended not to hear what she said. She, by the way, had in her earbuds and was listening to her iPod.

The Secret Tunnel in Belmont Center

OK, maybe this wasn't a secret secret but I didn't know about it so it was a secret to me.

I was biking around Belmont Center this afternoon. And thought I might head back to Cambridge.

The tunnel under the railroad tracks going eastbound toward Boston on Concord Avenue is always a drag when you are driving, because you have to make that left turn against oncoming traffic from two directions with no one sure of the right-of-way (like that would matter here in Greater Boston). It's even worse on a bike.

So I go through the tunnel and veer off to the right and into the rotary (did I mention the rotary, yes that is part of what makes that intersection a killer). What do you know there is an World War monument (that would be World War I) and a Support Our Troops banner.

But what's that under the tracks along the rotary? A tunnel entrance.

The other side comes out about halfway down the hill from Pleasant Street, so it's hidden. But there is a bike path, so that's my eastbound path from now on. Westbound, I think it still makes sense to use the main tunnel.

P.S.: I've always identified the train station in Belmont Center with the one described by William Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury. The station where Quentin Compson gets off when he takes a train ride out to the suburbs.

The Kick-Ass Movie Kicks Ass

What is not to like? It is The Professional meets Kill Bill: Vol. 1 meets Spider-Man and Batman meets Superbad.

I will say that the sound quality at the Somerville Theater was super bad, with feedback and distortion intermittently kicking my eardrums throughout the whole movie. This means I must get it on Blu-Ray, and you should go somewhere else to see it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Terrorists, Interrupted? on Waverley Avenue

The big news in Boston this week was the dawn Thursday arrest of two Pakistani immigrants and the interrogation of a third in connection with the attempted Times Square bombing two weeks ago by Pakistani native Faisal Shahzad. (Technically he is an alleged terrorist, but he is reported to have confessed.)

The men arrested lived at 39 Waverley Avenue in Watertown, which is about 4 miles from where I live in Cambridge. Or, to put it in terms my Iowa father will understand, about the distance from the red barn to the lower eighty on Honey Creek.

I considered getting out to Waverley Avenue in Watertown to shoot some video, but the blogger Da Tech Guy beat me to it, and a job done well doesn't need to be done twice.

Here is his interview with Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who lives around the corner on the parallel street Westminster Avenue:

Marilyn is on the Massachusetts Governor's Council, an eight member elected body that meets weekly to approve payments from the state treasury, criminal pardons and commutations, and gubernatorial appointments of judges, notaries, and justices of the peace. You can guess what they'll be talking about at next Wednesday's meeting.

Here are some quotes from Marilyn:

"I don't know what is being done by the government to safeguard us."
"This is my own amateur look at it."
"What is the government doing to protect us from illegal aliens?"
"I don't have any solutions, I'm not an expert on this subject."

That is refreshing honesty from an elected government official. But I will remind Marilyn that she is up for reelection in November and I am one of her constituents. Marilyn, you are the government, so get going on this.

Da Tech Guy has more video of the neighborhood.

I know this area of Watertown very well. There are a lot of multi-family homes such as the one where the arrests occurred mixed with apartment buildings. In the old days, the owner would live on the first floor of these multi-family homes and rent the upper floors. That contributed to a strong neighborhood.

These days many of the multi-family homes are owned by absentee landlords who rent all the units. Or in some cases the building have been converted to condos, some of which are owner-occupied and some rented by a necessarily absentee owner.

Renters in this section of Watertown used to include a lot of young professionals, especially young singles just out of college getting their first apartment for a job in the city. With the breakdown of the yuppie economy, landlords increasingly rent to immigrants. With either the American yuppies or the foreign immigrants, there is a lot of turnover. That can give these neighborhoods a more transient feel.

Still Watertown is a great place to live, with lots of parks, restaurants, and other small businesses. I know several people who've gone to Watertown High School, and attended a wedding in Watertown last summer. One of my favorite bike paths along the Charles River runs through Watertown. And it's a patriotic place where they know how to fly the U.S. Flag.

Waverley Avenue connects Watertown Square and Waverley Square in Belmont. Nearby McLean Hospital was the inspiration for the 1999 movie Girl, Interrupted with Wynona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.

102 Reasons Al Qaeda and the Taliban Can't Win

Reason 101: The Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division are being deployed to Afghanistan for the summer offensive planned against the resurgent Taliban in Kandahar Province and elsewhere.

Never heard of the 101st Airborne? Here is an excerpt from General Order Number 5, which gave birth to the Division under its first commander Major General William C. Lee at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana:

"Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush its enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies."

Let's recap the storied history of the 101st Airborne:

June 1944 - parachuted into France behind German lines on D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy.

December 1944 - held the town of Bastogne against a ferocious German attack and encirclement during the Battle of Bulge.

1957 - sent by President Eisenhower to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court's order in Brown v. Board of Education to desegregate the schools.

1969 - won the Battle of Hamburger Hill in Vietnam. Viet Cong commanders routinely told their fighters to avoid the "Chicken Men" as they were sure to lose.

1991 - fired the first shots of the Gulf War and captured the main highway along the Euphrates (with an open road to Bagdhad that was not used).

2002 - deployed to the Shoh-I-Khot Mountains of eastern Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda.

2003 - followed Eagle 6 with the charge, "The 101st Airborne Division's next rendezvous with destiny is north to Baghdad." Eagle 6 was General David Petraeus.

Reason 102: Let's say that Al Qaeda and the Taliban defeat the 101st Airborne and follow them home to the United States of America. They still have to get by the likes of Heather LaCroix:

Heather hails from Pollock, Louisiana not so far from old Camp Claiborne. I'm guessing she didn't inventory her entire arsenal on YouTube. You can never tell what is hiding out there in those Louisiana swamps.

My advice for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and wherever else you are around the world: Surrender now. It's rendezvous with destiny time again, and there is no honor in that for you. Surrender now. You cannot possibly win and if you think you can I just have one word for you: "Nuts."


Reason 103: After you get past the 101st Airborne and Heather LaCroix at Jeff3230, you still have to get past Hit-Girl. And just because she was fighting a drug dealer in Kick-Ass, doesn't mean she can't fight Al Qaeda terrorists in Kick-Ass 2 and Kick-Ass 3. Trust me, it will be humiliating to have your ass kicked by a little girl. Surrender now.

Update 2: Rule 5 chasers don't blame Smitty for the 11-year-old, that update was added after his Rule 5 post. And sick your pedophile police on the movie's writers, director, and producers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, and Brad Pitt.

Woody Allen Advises Lies and Self-Deception

Woody Allen is in Cannes to showcase his new movie You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. He has a few thoughts on life:

"I do feel that it's a grim, pitiful, nightmarish, meaningless experience. The only way that you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies and deceive yourself, and I'm not the first person to say this or the most articulate person on it. It was said by Nietzsche, it was said by Freud, it was said by Eugene O'Neill. One must have one's delusions to live. You look at life too honestly and clearly, life does become unbearable, because it's a pretty grim enterprise, you must admit."

And what could be making Woody Allen's life so unbearable? In his words:

"You can imagine how frustrating it is when I do these movies with Scarlett Johansson and Naomi Watts, and the other guys get them. And I'm the director. I'm the, you know, that old guy over there is the director. I don't like that. I like being the one that sits across from them in the restaurant and looks in their eyes and lies to them."

That's a hard life, Woody.

Dave Rawlings Will Put on the Pants at the Paradise

The Dave Rawlings Machine will play the Paradise Rock Club on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston on Saturday, June 5.

I've been listening to Dave Rawlings for years as the musical partner of Gillian Welch. They have been recording together since Revival in 1996. Gillian Welch (and Dave Rawlings) went big after being on the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou.

Famously, Gillian said that she and Dave were equal collaborators in a band named Gillian Welch. But no one ever doubted that Gillian wore the pants in that band. It had been a while since the last Gillian Welch album Soul Journey in 2003. Fans had begun to wonder.

Then the Dave Rawlings Machine appeared in 2009 with the release of A Friend of a Friend in November. And who is in the Dave Rawlings Machine? Gillian Welch. But this time Dave is wearing the pants.

I saw Gillian and Dave as part of the Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue at the Fleet Pavilion alongside the Boston Harbor in August 2004. They performed with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Buddy Miller. I will have to cross the Charles River again to see them at the Paradise.

In a curious coincidence, Patty Griffin will be appearing with Buddy Miller at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street in Boston on June 6.

Here's a problem, the Dave Rawlings Machine's MySpace page say the show starts at 10:15pm. Ticketmaster says the shows starts at 8pm. The Paradise says the doors will open at 7pm.

I've got to believe that the Dave Rawlings Machine won't go on until 10:15pm. So who goes on at 8pm?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Compass Records Catalog Goes on Sale for Nashville Flood Relief

Nashville-based Compass Records has one of the finest catalog of bluegrass, Americana, and folk artists in music today.

CDs in the catalog of over 175 albums have been put on sale from May 13-18 for $11.99 each with $5 per CD to go to the Bluegrass Trust Fund to benefit bluegrass musicians who have suffered losses due to the flood. Most albums are also available as digital downloads.

2010 Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Nominees

The 2010 Americana Music Association Honors and Awards will be held September 9th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. Nominees are:

Album of the Year
The List, by Rosanne Cash
A Friend of a Friend, by Dave Rawlings Machine
Downtown Church, by Patty Griffin
A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no c), by Ray Wylie Hubbard

Artist of the Year
Ryan Bingham
Patty Griffin
Levon Helm
Steve Earle
Ray Wylie Hubbard

Duo Group of the Year
The Avett Brothers
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Band of Heathens
Dave Rawlings Machine

Instrumentalist of the Year
Buddy Miller
Dave Rawlings
Will Kimbrough
Sam Bush

New & Emerging Artist
Sarah Jarosz
Ryan Bingham
Hayes Carll
Corb Lund
Joe Pug

Song of the Year
"The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart)" written by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett and performed by Ryan Bingham
"Drunken Poets Dream" written by Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard and performed by Ray Wylie Hubbard
"Ruby" written by Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch and performed by Dave Rawlings Machine
"I and Love and You" written and performed by The Avett Brothers

Left Bank of the Charles will vouch for Patty Griffin, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dave Rawlings (although we haven't seen the Machine), Buddy Miller, The Weary Kind, and Patty Griffin again (true story).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

BP Stock Price Takes 20% Hit for Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

One thing you've got to admire about free markets is their ability to put a price on anything. That's not to say the price in the market is always fair or true, but nonetheless it is a price.

Much attention is being paid to the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster, and the efforts to cap, plug, or catch the 210,000 gallons of crude oil gushing daily into the Gulf of Mexico. In the near term, that is going to be an environmental disaster on the Gulf coast, perhaps not as intense as the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 but over a wider area of ocean and a more populated coastline.

The British oil company BP has been the focus of this attention in the media. But let's look at the stock market. Here's how Christine Tiscareno at Standard and Poor's summed it up in a research report on May 11, 2010:

"BP will be responsible for the clean-up costs of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster. So far, based on publicly available information, it appears to us that BP can absorb the expense without damaging its finances or prospects. It also appears that the accident was caused by another company working on the well."

The stock market agrees. In April, before the spill, BP stock was trading at $60 per share, now it's trading at $48 per share. That's a 20% hit. Total lost stock value, around $40 billion. And Christine now rates BP stock a buy.

What about Transocean, the Swiss company that owns the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which burned and sank after an explosion that caused this disaster? Transocean trades on the NYSE under the symbol RIG. It was trading at $92/share in April and is now at $67/share, a 27% hit representing $8 billion in lost value. Stewart Glickman at Standard and Poor's rates RIG a hold:

"In May, RIG said it believed its indemnifications from BP were broad, and that BP consequently would cover environmental clean-up costs and associated third-party liability (such as to damaged fisheries). However, we think RIG still bears legal risk in terms of the crew members killed or injured, and in the event that RIG were deemed to be grossly negligent in its operation of the Deepwater Horizon."

Stewart also has a hold rating on Halliburton, the oil field services company involved in the accident. Its stock was trading at $35 in April and is now at $29, a 17% hit which represents $3 billion in lost stock value.

Out of pocket costs are less. BP says it has spent $450 million so far. The value of the oil spilled to date at today's prices (95,000 barrels at $74/barrel) is around $7,000,000, and continues to spill at $370,000 per day. A relatively little spilled oil can cause a lot of damage.

Testimony in Congress this week suggests that the blowout preventer which might have averted the accident had a dead battery, and that has raised questions about whether proper maintenance and safety procedures were being followed. I have only one question. When was the last time you checked the batteries in your smoke detector? Go do that now.

And how does the Deepwater Horizon spill compare to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound? That spill at 10.8 million gallons was the largest ever in U.S. waters. The Deepwater Horizon spill is at 4 million gallons total, and at the current rate will take another month to reach the Exxon Valdez total.

The big human tragedy is the 11 persons (9 rig crew and 2 engineers) missing after the explosion who are now presumed dead. We'll give the last word to Texas folk singer Nanci Griffith, singing here in 2006 a year after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast:

"Gulf coast highway, he worked the rails
He worked the rice fields with their cold dark wells
He worked the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico
The only thing we've owned is this old house here by the road
And when he dies he says he'll catch some blackbird's wing
And we will fly away to heaven
Come some sweet blue bonnet spring"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Shelby Lynne Trains Findlay Brown and Tames Peter Wolf at Johnny D's

The great thing about Johnny D's in Davis Square is that you can be just walking by and see on the marquee that someone you love is playing. And that's the way it was late Friday night when I noticed that Shelby Lynne was playing early Saturday evening. I showed up at 6:45pm for a 6:30pm show that didn't start until 7:30pm. In the meantime there was an opening act. And coming in, I met a couple trying to go out. "Can we get a refund for these?" they said handing back their tickets. "This is not what we expected."

Well my ears pricked up at that. What they weren't expecting was Findlay Brown singing Love Will Find You. Findlay hails from a small village in East Yorkshire, by way of York, London, and now New York City.

Findlay laid it on thick, commenting how he loves touring our wonderful country, how for him America is a musical pilgrimage. He listed his musical heroes as American's Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Townes Van Zandt.

This night Findlay definitely had the look and sound of Roy and Elvis. I wasn't always sure where he was going, but I wasn't leaving. No refunds were issued to the couple, by the way. They were convinced to stay.

I discovered Shelby Lynne somewhere between I am Shelby Lynne and Identity Crisis. She's got an old-fashioned country style and a lot of sensibility.

She's out singing songs from a new album, Tears, Lies, And Alibis, that she cut on her own record label. It features some great new songs like Old #7, Alibi, and my favorite Loser Dreamer.

She also had a bonus act with Peter Wolf, who she called up for a duet on the song Tragedy from his new album Midnight Souvenirs. He's got a great story about how a country music artist like Shelby Lynne gets duets with a rock and roll star like Peter Wolf. I'm loving it!

Would Peter Wolf arranging a J. Geils Band reunion show at Johnny D's be too much to hope for? I'll watch the marquee. If you don't want to wait, you can catch Peter Wolf on May 25 at the Wilbur Theatre and the J. Geils Band with Aerosmith on August 14 at Fenway Park.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ian McFeron and Alisa Milner Eclipsed at Bloc 11

Ian McFeron and Alisa Milner played at Bloc 11 in Union Square, Somerville, Massachusetts on May 5, 2010. Wednesday nights are becoming a folk scene at Bloc 11, if by scene you mean a dozen or so people hanging out in the back of a coffeehouse until the place closes at 9pm.

It's a great setup. You can sit in the cozy back room and take in the stage. Or you can sit in the forward room and take in the fresh air and street scene through the open windows. Or sit in the side courtyard and take in the stars. From any location, the acoustics are good to take in the music.

Ian and Alisa brought their best Bob Dylan and Joan Baez impersonations all the way from Seattle, Washington. The song we came in on rankled us with its trustafarian sensibilities, "Baby you know that I won't need you when I got half a million dollars and a bottle of red wine."

They have been performing this song since at least 2007, before the financial crisis, which begs the question how much of that half a million dollars can be left.

I found myself distracted, however, by a sandwich. The Eclipse combines turkey, pro­sciutto, slices of hard-boiled egg, Gorgonzola cheese, maple dress­ing, and spring greens on whole wheat. The sandwich was great!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Harvard Square Dances Around the Maypole

Yes, it was another MayFair in Harvard Square this Sunday.

The modern dance equivalent of dancing around the Maypole.

Grafton Street, are you fencing the general MayFair riff-raff out or fencing your drunken MayFair partiers in?

A walk down Brattle Street. Yes, Cambridge, this is what you look like in Spring 2010.

Railbird on the Club Passim stage. We like a song like this that starts slow and takes a while to get going.

The David Wax Museum on the Club Passim stage. Suze, you go girl. You can sing too, girl.

The orange trucks of Cambridge Public Works wait on Story Street.

Chalking up Another Mayfair

Guitar Guys on the Charles River

I wasn't sure if this was a rehearsal or a concert when I ran into these guys on the Charles River near the Weeks Memorial Bridge.

Goose Sighting, Cat Sighting

Goose sighted along the Charles River.

Cat sighted along Brattle Street.

New Parks in Cambridge

I discovered a couple of new parks in Cambridge when I was out this afternoon.

I was surprised to find this park along Memorial Drive near Peabody Terrace. It appears someone built an underground garage for a new residential development and had to build a park atop it.

The back side of Danehy Park has a new dog park. This is next to the parking lot that abuts the Fresh Pond Movie Theater. It has a gravel bed which is designed to stay clean and mud free.