Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I've had a touch of insomnia the last two nights--I woke up about 4:30, tossed and turned for around for an hour, and finally just gave up on sleep and got out of bed. It's probably a combination of sinus pain and sudafed (the real stuff) taken to treat my sinuses.

Sometimes, I don't mind getting up early and just reading or listening to music or something, but these last two mornings it's been a drag. I haven't felt well enough to do anything productive and it's winter so it's chilly in the house at that hour.

Strangely though, I don't feel all that tired. I'd like to get one good night sleep before I go back the gym, since if I actually could stay asleep until 6:45, I'd like to catch up a bit.

I know that as I get older, I'll probably need less sleep. So, I think I've got more insomnia in my future.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Top 40 Radio

When I was a kid in the early and mid 70s, we would listen to Top 40 radio, usually WABC when we drove around in the car. It was great. Not every song would be great, and some were really terrible. (Billy, Don't Be a Hero; My Name is Michael, I've Got a Nickel are two songs painfully branded into my brain, a trauma I will never forget.) But Top 40 Radio, as a radio format was great. Basically, any song that reached the Top 40 could be played. So you'd get rock, country, soul, pop, r and b, all on the same station. You'd hear Eric Clapton, the Osmonds, and Helen Reddy on the same station, maybe in the same set. Melanie's Brand New Key would never be played anywhere but Top 40, and it's a great song. Novelty pieces like Mr. Jaws were a staple of Top 40 as well.

Sure, there were restrictions--songs were singles, and generally under 4 minutes. But unlike the abominable format "Album Oriented Rock" or AOR, you didn't have to be white to get airplay. And the decline in the importance of rock music as part of youth culture can be traced to the decline of Top 40. The point of AOR seemed to be to erase African Americans from the history of rock and and roll. The end of Top 40, sometime in the late seventies as it was overrun by disco and cheesy pop.

The FM answer to Top 40 wasn't AOR or even worse, the Classic Rock format--those formats were more like easy listening format in that they assured their listeners they would hear the same songs over and over again. No, the FM response to Top 40 was free-form, a format where DJs selected the records. In the late 60s and early 70s, that's where you'd hear Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Tito Puente, and maybe even Glenn Gould. The format could be a bit demanding on listeners--you had to be ready to embrace the unfamiliar, and you had to trust the DJ.

For a brief while, MTV in the early 80s was sort of like Top 40. Thomas Dolby and Michael Jackson along with Bon Jovi. MTV played new wave acts who weren't played much at all on the radio. But the demographic for MTV was too narrow to really have the same kind of impact.

It might seem odd to the average hipster to equate Top 40 and free from radio, but they share the idea that music is not about genre. It's about good music. The thing the hipster misses is the artfulness of a well crafted pop song. The slicing and dicing of music into razor thin genres (emocore?) means you're going to miss a lot of great music unless you really make a major effort to seek it out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Orleans

I've just returned from New Orleans, my first post-Katrina visit. Since I spent most of the trip in the Central Business District (I was there for a conference) it's hard to say how the city is doing. As far as its crime issues, I felt perfectly safe day and night. My wife and daughter walked around by themselves, and did not feel uncomfortable either. That's not to say that the crime issue is overblown, it means that tourists aren't a target.

The city seemed sedate. It may have been that visiting between the BCS game and Mardi Gras was simply a quiet time, but compared to other visits, it seemed like a lot was missing. The hospitality industry is back in force, and there are lots of conferences and conventions, but you could tell that there were a lot fewer people around, even in the tourist areas.

We drove the Garden District, Faubourg Marigny and Treme. There, you see houses that aren't being repaired, with the eerie xs left by those searching flooded building for bodies. It was chilling. Money is still being made available, so it's possible that people will still come back to these homes. There are a ton of properties for sale as well. Rentals, by contrast, are tough to come by, and I learned rents are 46% higher than they were before Katrina.

The food and music are still great. Went to Preservation Hall, and that was outstanding. We ate at Mothers, Herbsaint, Sukho Thai, Serios, Port of Call, Cafe DuMond, among others, and all were outstanding. I didn't get any oysters, unfortunately.

Lots of people are trying to bring the city back. There does seem to be a lot of interest in bringing the city back, and the fact is there is no place like it anywhere. It's still worth a visit.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


So the people say they want change, and they're going to vote for the person who is going to change things.

But why? Thing are already changing, and they're changing rapidly. Mostly, things are getting worse. We didn't like paying $2 a gallon for gas, so they're changing that. To $3.50 a gallon. Crime is getting worse, and more teens are getting knocked up.

In fact, if there's any promise about the future, it's that it will be different.

And it's not as if things are really so terrible now. I'd vote for someone who promised not to make things worse. I'm all for the status quo.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa Preview and Analaysis!

I'll save everyone a whole lot of time. Here's everything you need to understand tonight's results. Don't worry about which issues resonated with Iowa voters, or Huckabee's non-negative negative campaigning, or anything else, because it won't matter tomorrow. Unless, of course, I'm wrong.

Politics, especially the game of nominating Presidential candidates is about expectations. You can win a primary by exceeding expectations, you can lose by falling short of them.

Accordingly, Iowa has become more important than usual, since the polls are so close among leading candidates in both parties, everyone who matters (except McCain and I suppose Giuliani) has a reasonable expectation of winning. So, losing, even by a little will be falling short of expectations. For Edwards and Huckabee even more, a loss will be devastating. Romney and Clinton can recover in a couple of days if they get decisive wins in New Hampshire. Obama could also recover with a decisive win in New Hampshire, but I have a hard time seeing Obama winning New Hampshire unless he wins (or at least come very close to winning in Iowa.

On the Republican side, McCain has already won Iowa.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Holidays are coming to an end

No, no New Year's post from me.

I'd rather post about the fact that the holiday season is coming to a blessed end. Of course, being an academic means I still have two weeks before classes start up. And I'm going to New Orleans in a week and a half.

But soon we'll pull the tree down and take the lights off the house. We'll start planning for what we want to try to do with the yard this year. (I think we'll try to plant some forsythias and try to get an early start with the tomatoes.)

Everything will be going back to normal.