Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Check out this video of Amiina performing on a TV show in Iceland. This quartet opened for Sigur Ros when they came through a couple years ago. They were amazing, but I forgot to look into them until I just ran across a record on emusic. I've bought that record and am beginning an obsession.

The show's a full half hour and worth watching, but even just the song that opens it will give you an idea.

Obama on Iran

This is the strongest language I've heard from the White House on what's going on in Iran. And still, not a glimpse of or a word from Ahmadinejad.

Here's today's editorial from the NY Times.

Monday, December 28, 2009

RIP Vic Chesnutt

The news that Vic Chesnutt died over the weekend was a solid blow to the gut and a terrible loss for American music. His was one of the most original, sincere, and prolific voices out there, and we will miss his valuable contributions.

I've been struggling with what to say or write about this. Mostly, I've been listening. Going back through his albums, lying on the floor with The Salesman and Bernadette and staring at the ceiling dumbfounded over his wealth of even cast-off material. Drunk, Little, West of Rome, all amazing. Even his oddball collaborations--with the duo Keneipps and jamband icons Widespread Panic--carried weight.

I saw Chesnutt play only once, at the Cactus Cafe in Austin in 1998. The small room was packed and hung on every note and word. I remember particularly his turn through "Maiden"and its long, thoughtful pauses, the impressive vocal range, and the leaning toward insightful self-deprecation that attached him to his crowd as by blood "I'm a sorry, sorry knight in a horrible castle / hoping to avoid certain societal hassles." Chesnutt was gracious and mesmerizing, using the force of every strum and breath to its full potential.

Plenty will be written about this diminutive and injured man who was also one of the best songwriters of his generation. So I'll focus on his music, this week on Range Life. Tune in Wednesday from 5 to 7 mountain time and I'll play a bunch of it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sounds of Nightfall in Tehran

This is absolutely chilling, and impossible to hear without getting a bit choked up. As Andrew Sullivan said, "The cries of freedom. They bring tears to my eyes and hope to my soul. The sound: it makes every human stop in their tracks and demand that this vicious oppression end."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Special Year-End Range Life!

Tune in Friday afternoon to www.radioboise.org for the special edition Range Life Best of 2009 broadcast, wherein DJ CHess counts down the best music to come across my windscreen for the whole year.

I've got some great stuff to play for you, reaching way on back to January and all the way up to last week or so. The best albums, the biggest surprises, the overhyped and overlooked, anything notable from the year is fair game.

Join me for the countdown, 1 to 3 pm mountain time on www.radioboise.org.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Franken v Thune

This, I imagine, is typical of health care reform debate. Go Al!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reckoning for the Right

When it turns out there are no death panels, when there is no bureaucrat between you and your doctor, when the ways your health care changes seem like a good deal to you, and a pretty smart idea, when the American public sees the discrepancy between what really is, and what they were told by the Republicans, there will be a reckoning. There will come a day of judgment about who was telling the truth.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, from the Senate floor.

Dissent Marches On

Foreign media have been banned from covering any activities by opposition groups in Iran, so with a few exceptions we've sort of lost touch with what's gone on there since the post-election crackdown.

Tens of thousands of people, including major opposition figured like Moussavi, flocked to Qum for the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the "plain-spoken senior Shiite cleric and founding father of the Islamic revolution who became a fierce critic of the country’s hard-line rulers."

He said that Khameini had lost his legitimacy. Per the NY Times, he said that "the Basij militia — which has brutally suppressed opposition street rallies — was forsaking the 'path of God' for the 'path of Satan.'"

Protests will continue and we can only expect that confrontation will escalate. What's happening in Iran is not over.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Diluted Reform Is Better Than Nothing?

There's good sense in what Krugman's saying in today's NY Times. I'm as hacked off as anyone at the impotence of the Democratic majority in Congress, and particularly at the Liebermans of the world who are all about themselves the insurance companies they protect.

But the bill as it stands wouldn't be totally useless.

At its core, the bill would do two things. First, it would prohibit discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of medical condition or history: Americans could no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or have their insurance canceled when they get sick. Second, the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance.

It'd feel wrong to give in and pass the crap bill that's made it to this point. But, I think Krugman's right, that we won't have a chance to get something even this good for who knows how many years, and that's unacceptable, having come this far.

So, let's hold our noses and pass the best bill we can and then work to improve it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2009, Extended Version

The depth to which a piece of music hits, or matters, in any given year is not only an effect of the quality of the music. The year itself is part of it. And not only the cultural climate or political landscape. I'm talking about the events in your life, the sh*t that happens.

Make no mistake: I'm not prefacing this year's offerings with excuses. Some great music came out this year, from beginning to end, from January's Merriweather Post Pavilion to November's debut from Real Estate. I'm just saying that the things that really stood out this year might not have dug so deep in another year.

Hospice, by Brooklyn band The Antlers, grabbed hold of my brain and would not let go. The reasons might be obvious, but the music is anything but. It's a wrenching account of hours spent in a hospital, days, helpless, watching the inevitable have its way. Meticulously wrought, sung in a quaver and a wail, sometimes textbook quiet-loud-quiet, sometimes staggeringly insightful and disarmingly gorgeous, the record is bursting with moments of overwhelming emotion and beauty. Tracks "Two" and "Kettering" still stop me cold, every time.

And this sentiment travels on through the list. The deeper, the more complex, the greater the effort required, the fewer easy answers, the better. Not too many straight-up rawk records this year. Because it wasn't that kind of year, for me.

So without further delay...

Top 10 Albums of 2009
  1. The Antlers ~ Hospice
  2. Grizzly Bear ~ Veckatimest
  3. Califone ~ All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
  4. Animal Collective ~ Merriweather Post Pavilion
  5. St. Vincent ~ Actor
  6. Atlas Sound ~ Logos
  7. Dirty Projectors ~ Bitte Orca
  8. Fever Ray ~ Fever Ray
  9. JJ ~ No 2
  10. Sonic Youth ~ The Eternal

Top Next 10
The xx ~ xx
Neko Case ~ Middle Cyclone
Thao ~ Know Better Learn Faster
Dinosaur Jr. ~ The Farm
Built to Spill ~ There Is No Enemy
Au Revoir Simone ~ Still Night, Still Light
Shuta Hasunuma ~ Pop Ooga
Obits ~ I Blame You
Yo La Tengo ~ Popular Songs
Micachu & The Shapes ~ Jewellery

Outstanding But Overshadowed
Yeah Yeah Yeahs ~ It's Blitz
The Swell Season ~ Strict Joy
Black Moth Super Rainbow ~ Eating Us
The Wooden Birds ~ Magnolia
Times New Viking ~ Born Again Revisited
Volcano Choir ~ Unmap
Vivian Girls ~ Everything Goes Wrong
The Twilight Sad ~ Forget the Night Ahead

Surprisingly Ungreat
Silversun Pickups ~ Swoon
The Thermals ~ Now We Can See
Tortoise ~ Beacons of Ancestorship
Why? ~ Eskimo Snow

Short and Suh-weet
Flying Lotus ~ LA EP X3
Animal Collective ~ Fall Be Kind EP
Deerhunter ~ Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP
The Octopus Project ~ Golden Beds EP

Finn Riggins ~ Vs. Wilderness
Le Fleur ~ Din Din

Indie Up and Comers
Real Estate ~ Real Estate
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart ~ The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
Desolation Wilderness ~ New Universe
We Were Promised Jetpacks ~ These Four Walls
White Rabbits ~ It's Frightening
Japandroids ~ Post-Nothing
Cymbals Eat Guitars ~ Why There Are Mountains

On the Decks
Diego Bernal ~ For Corners
DJ Signify ~ Of Cities

Don't Believe The...
Girls ~ Album
Passion Pit ~ Manners
Friendly Fires ~ s/t

Good Form
Lou Barlow ~ Goodnight Unknown
Beirut ~ March of the Zapotec & Real People: Holland
Sunset Rubdown ~ Dragonslayer
Gui Borrato ~ Take My Breath Away
The Raveonettes ~ In And Out Of Control
The Dodos ~ Time to Die

Wondrous Noise
SunnO))) ~ Monoliths & Dimensions
Fuck Buttons ~ Tarot Sport

Discovery ~ LP
Moby ~ Wait for Me
Lily Allen ~ It's Not Me, It's You

Sound Sophisticates
Jacaszek ~ Treny
Victoire ~ A Door Into the Dark
Worried About Satan ~ Arrivals

Nice. Not thrilling, but nice.
Here We Go Magic ~ s/t
Wilco ~ Wilco (the album)
M Ward ~ Hold Time
Camera Obscura ~ My Maudlin Career
Phosphorescent ~ To Willie

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Tuesday evening around 6pm, we let go of our dog Gus.

He got a cancer diagnosis 3 weeks previous, and at that time he had declined so fast we didn't think we'd get him home from the vet. But we did, and thanks to prednisone and nonstop attention from Cathy, he got a good happy 3 weeks tacked on. But we knew, too, that his time was short.

A few weeks ago, on the 9th of November, as I went downstairs in the morning to get ready for work and let the dogs out and feed them, Gus couldn't get up. He eventually did, but he was having problems, where the night before he seemed fine. He ate, but he wasn't right. He recovered a bit, but the next day, he was still bad and maybe worse. So Cathy took him to the vet to have him checked out.

I got a call from Cathy shortly after getting home from work that evening, a Tuesday. She was at the vet and had been crying. "He has cancer," she said, "It's really bad." I got on the bike and rode out to the vet's office to find Cathy and Gus on the floor of an exam room. He was on his side, breathing heavily, she sitting next to him stroking his head. When I came in the room, he didn't get up, didn't lift his head, but he thumped his tail on the floor as he looked up at me, breaking my heart into pieces.

A tumor in his spleen had apparently metastasized into his liver and lymph nodes. It was big and terrible and too late to do anything about it. At this point, surgery wasn't a viable option. Our only hope and focus at that moment was to get him out of that office and home, at least for the night. He couldn't go yet. Not like this.

We did lift him into the car and take him home with a tiny ziplock full of prednisone and pepcid. We didn't think he'd make it through the next day.

But prednisone can work temporary miracles in dogs. He rebounded and started acting like himself. He wagged his tail and walked around and sniffed Henry and ate food. He was still very weak, and his belly remained distended and full of fluid or blood or both. But he was happy. The vet said 1 to 2 weeks at the outside before he eventually used up all his clotting factor and bled out. We just wanted him to be free of pain and able to get up on his own, just for a while.

He ate whatever he wanted--first wet dog food, then cheeseburgers, vanilla ice cream, pastrami, leftover turkey, and at the very end, pretty much bacon only. But he stuck around for three weeks. He even got to meet The Swell Season on Thanksgiving day, when lead singer Glen Hansard fed him ham, a highpoint in the life of Gus. He was happy and excited to be part of the party.

He got daily trips to the park where he would lay in the grass with Cathy, chase balls on 5 to 10 foot throws, sniff and investigate and be a dog out in the world. He brightened every day for his trip to the park, showing the spark and bounce he always had. But the rest of the time we could tell he was just tired.

When someone goes suddenly, you always wish for just another day, another week. More time so that you could know the meaning and value of every moment and take nothing for granted. Gus gave us that time. He got 3 weeks tacked on at the end, and he and Cathy made the most of it.

On Monday, November 30, he was tired all day. So much so that he got a break from going to the park because he didn't seem up to it. And that night, he couldn't get up. His belly was so big and bloated, and his bladder so full, that we were afraid he'd pop. We coerced and carried him outside, but he couldn't support himself, and we had to hold him off the ground so he could go to the bathroom. When he'd sink to the ground, he'd just stay there, and we could see him giving up. It was a terrible thing, and we were afraid we'd been selfish and waited too long, but it just came on so fast we failed to see how bad it was.

We made plans for the vet to come out the next day.

Thankfully, the next morning, Tuesday, he was in better shape. He could get his legs under him and hoist his weight to standing. He peed--about 2 gallons--and we breathed a sigh of relief. But we kept the appointment. We didn't want Gus to go through another night like the previous one. His dignity wouldn't stand for it. If Gus was anything, he was dignified.

Throughout the day, he was alert, but not as he had been. It was time and he made sure to tell us so. He was catered to all day, never left alone, ate bacon and cheeseburgers and was petted and hugged and cried over likely far past the point of his own tolerance. But he let us do it, because we needed to.

The vet came at 5. The room was candle lit, with soft music, Gus on his favorite bed. He'd got a tranquilizer before the vet came to reduce the stress. It worked, though I think he was ready anyway. He didn't flinch a toe when the needle went into his leg, and the long slow movement of the syringe's plunger paralleled the slowing of his breathing and heart rate. He never moved or protested, me sitting above him petting him, Cathy on the floor stroking his face and talking him through it. Gus went very peacefully, his heart slowing to a stop that was almost unnoticeable for its gradual decline.

You'd think the previous three weeks prepares you for the end. But you'd be wrong. It hit hard, and it still hurts, still stops me short and makes me weepy all of a sudden. Cathy, as is to be expected, is taking it very hard. She's very sad, and we both feel that things just aren't the same now. Henry, too, is a bit off. He seems very subdued, depressed almost, and won't leave our side during the day. Things aren't the same for him either; he's lost a brother. There's never been a Henry without a Gus, and now the hound has to stand on his own.

Things aren't the same, but of course we'll be okay. Something inside me says that Gus has been sick for a long time and has stuck around as long as he has because we've had a tough couple years. He's been here to see Cathy through the terrible times, though the sadness and grief and frustration that has followed us as we've passed through the fire. And I think, now, things are on their way to being okay. I think he knew that. I think he stayed as long as he had to, as long as he was able, because he was needed. And I think now he knows we'll be okay, so it was his time to leave.

We miss Gus, and we always will. There's a special place in our hearts for that dog, that quiet, dignified, ever-present friend that we came to count on in the good times and especially the bad. He was our reason for getting up in the morning some days, taking care of his and Henry's basic needs, for getting out into the world when we'd have rather holed up and smothered from grief. His panting grin and hopeful bucking got us dressed and to the park when we needed it and didn't know it. He's been the best friend a person could ever ask for.

Our friend Kimberly said, on the night that we let Gus go, that heaven for dogs looks a lot like Montana. Gus spent a good amount of time in Montana, vacationing and visiting friends and a 3 month stint in Browning on the Blackfoot reservation when Cathy worked in a hospital there, and it was definitely one of his favorite places, running through fields of tall grass and splashing in creeks with sticks that were more logs than sticks and loping alongside us on dirt roads and trails and sitting on porches as the sun set. I like to think of him now in a place like Montana, playing with Yeti and Boone and GuntherMobley and all the other dogs that run free there. He deserves that. They all do.

Take care of yourselves and your dogs.