Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidents Day

It's Presidents Day 2013. I hope you have the day off!

In honor of the day, here are a few posts I wrote about U.S. Presidents in the past...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Are Fewer Airlines Better or Just an Example of What Happens When You Deregulate Markets?

In case you didn't see the news the other day, US Air is merging with American Airlines to form a new American Airlines.

It sure seems that the U.S. airline market has consolidated a lot over the last ten years. You know why it feels that way? Because it has.

Indeed, we've gone from 10 major airlines and all the choice and competition they provided in 1999/2000 to a total of 4 airlines as of 2013. What does this consolidation mean for customers? What does it say about our economy?

Well, first check out the below chart I saw on CNNMoney today that illustrates the changes. Also note that the majority of the airlines went through bankruptcy.

OK, what does that mean?

Well, one thing we've seen over the past decade, and really since the 1980s, is deregulation of the airline industry. Prior to that, airlines and how they competed were much more regulated. With the implementation of the Airline Deregulation Act, this changed. While the FAA still had safety regulatory powers, after the Act, airlines and their consumers were exposed to the full measure of market forces. This was done, of course, with the notion that "freeing" airlines from regulation would enable them to offer more options and lower prices for customers and the airlines themselves to thrive and become more profitable. You know, the whole, "the free hand of the marketplace" solving all ills.

Extend that competitive environment across the ensuing three decades and you get what we have now: fewer airlines (less choice), worse service, and prices that are - while perhaps slightly less than what they were in the 1970s (adjusted for inflation) - still pretty dang expensive. And, as we know, most airlines have gone through or not survived bankruptcy.

So, let me ask you thing airline deregulation and the consolidation of the industry has worked for you? Do you have more choices today? Are costs reasonable for air travel? Is service better?

And finally...and I think this is the lesson time you hear some politician or business leader talking about the need for deregulation of some sector of our economy - energy, auto, finance, banking, healthcare, etc. - think about how deregulation worked out for the airlines. Think about the difference between the fantasy promise of milk and honey that the "the free hand of the market" position promises and the reality that markets that will exploit profit, consolidate and deliver less choice and worse benefit to the consumer.

Is competition good for the economy? Certainly. Is reasonable and sensible regulation also good for the economy? Also certainly. What we don't want, however, are wide-open and unregulated industries such as I've named above. History shows us that this is not a model that works well for society.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

UO owns UW

Ducks beat UW in b-ball last night in Seattle.

That's 9 years running in football + a sweep this year in basketball for UO over UW.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shocker! GOP Doesn't Like What It Heard from Obama

Oh, here's a surprise...Obama's state of the union speech does not impress the GOP.

Really? What a shock. What a bolt out of the blue.

Republicans in Congress have blocked, stymied and countered Obama at every single turn over the last four years. Whatever he was for, they were against. Whatever he was against, they were for. You could set your watch by it. They did that, primarily, as a political strategy to try and weaken him such that he would be defeated in 2012. Didn't happen.

Now, having just been beaten in national elections in November and seen by the majority of Americans as the problem rather than the solution, you would think that the GOP might pick an issue or two to try and work with the president and the Ds on to ramp the economy or address major national concerns. Not everying, just a couple issues. But no. They're doubling down on intractability and stubborness...and doing so in classic hard conservative terms, which is to say, blaming their opponents for the mess they've made and continue to perpetuate.

I'd like to say I expected a little bit of change after the recent elections, but I'd be lying. The way Republicans have reacted to Obama's speech, the priorities he laid out and ideas he shared is, sadly, very predictable.

Your government in (in)action folks.

What Is the Most Played Rivalry In Men's College Basketball?

The University of Oregon plays the University of Washington in men's basketball tonight in Seattle.

Turns out, that this is the second most played rivalry in men's division one basketball history. Seriously. That includes all those east coast or Midwest rivalries you hear so much about (Syracuse v Georgetown, Duke v. N. Carolina, Kansas v KState, Ohio State v Mich., etc.).

The Dawgs and Ducks have tipped off against each other 291 times. In fact, six of the top seven most played rivalries in men's basketball are among Pacific Northwest schools.

The most played rivalry? Oregon vs. Oregon State.

According to this article, the dominance of Northwest schools in this particular statistic is because of their relative isolation from the rest of the nation...particularly acute until, say, second half of the 20th Century.

So there you go, some trivia before tonight's game.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Duck Helmet for 2013 Spring Game?

Since Chip Kelly came on board as head football coach at UO in 2009, the week of the annual spring game for the University of Oregon Ducks also features a set of interactions with veterans with players donating time to local veteran organizations and on-field "tributes" to the military...typically in the form of special jerseys and after-game exchanges. 

While Kelly has moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles, it looks like this year the Ducks are not only going to continue their spring game tradition, but may be taking it to another level with a special helmet. 

Check it out...

We shall see.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Such B.S.

I saw that the recently defeated right wing politician Allen West posted the following on Facebook after reading a recent article in the New York Times about himself...

It seems some writer at the NY Times is at it again, calling the GOP in disarray and racist. Perhaps this gent needs a little history lesson. The Democrat party gave America slavery, secession, segregation, and socialism. Jim Crow laws, poll tax, literacy tests, and providing women checks for having children out of wedlock are further examples of Democrat policies. President Lincoln broke the chains of physical bondage. President Reagan broke the chains of economic bondage. The writer thinks the GOP is in disarray, but it's thanks to liberal progressive policies emanating from the Obama administration that America is in disarray. The demise of our economic, energy, and national security are evident and the State of our Union is horrific. I would much rather be a member of a political party that rewards my individual industrialism, than one which promotes my individual subjugation.

So many reactions to such an out-of-touch statement:

First, Allen West and others on the right…it’s “The Democratic Party” and those in it are “Democrats.” It’s not “The Democrat Party.” That’d be like calling the Rs “The Republic” party. Using “The Democrat Party” is just stupid and sends the signal that you’re either ignorant or automatically so right wing you won’t even consider a civil debate. I suggest you change your tactic on that one if you want to be taken seriously.

Second, for those of you willing to quickly jump on Allen's ignorance-strewn rant…KNOW YOUR HISTORY:

  • Thomas Jefferson and James Madison formed the Democratic-Republican Party in the 1790s as a force to do electoral battle with Alexander Hamilton’s Federalists.
  • After the Federalists disbanded in the 1820s, the Democratic-Republican party split. The faction of the D-Rs who favored Jeffersonian principles formed The Democratic Party. At this point the Republican Party was minor and parties such as the Whigs were more competitive with the Democrats. 
  • By the 1850s, slavery was becoming a huge issue and anti-slavery Democrats left their party and joined with components of other parties to form The Republican Party.
  • Meanwhile, the old Democrats further fractured prior to the election of 1860 along north-south lines. This splintered party was defeated by Abraham Lincoln, Republican.
  • It is true that after this until the early/mid 20th Century, Democrats primarily remained rigid in their social and economic policies as well as splintered internally as they tried to battle Republicans….leading to many Republican presidential and Congressional wins.
  • In fact, except for the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, the Rs controlled things in the 1920s and right into the Great Depression.
  • This economic calamity finally set up the big conversion of the Democratic Party and the Repubican Party into what we know today. The Ds became a unified party primarily focused on civil rights, social welfare and regulation of big business. And, at this same time, the Republican Party lurched to the right to battle against these “New Deal” policies and started calling themselves “conservatives.”
Why go into this history? Because guys like West are counting on you not knowing. They’re counting on you for being ignorant and not understanding that in the same way they are misrepresenting the name of the party, they are misrepresenting the history and legacy of the Democratic Party in hopes that you will think they are not credible or good for the country.

Look, either Allen West is ignorant of all this and truly thinks that the old Democratic Party from the 1800s is the same one as today, OR (far more likely) he all to well knows the history of the parties and how they evolved…and is PLAYING RUBES FOR FOOLS as is typical of ultra-conservative politicians.
Third, President Reagan by all means did NOT break “the chains of economic bondage.” Far from it. Indeed, our nation ran up the biggest debt in its history at the time under Reagan’s two terms…passing on that debt to future generations. Further, his now-disproved theories of “trickle down” economics stagnated job growth and wages for average Americans and initiated the great offshoring exodus of good paying jobs...all while making a small percentage of already wealthy citizens even more wealthy. Turns out that if you give a multi-millionaire a big tax break, he doesn’t go out and start new companies that employ lots of people…he buys a yacht and a vacation home in France.

Fourth, so...West is trying to argue that the modern day Republican Party is not in troubling times for itself? I'd concede perhaps not disarray. They still seem pretty unified in their help-the-wealthy, oil, small government, anti-women/gay platform. Seems like they are searching for a way to package that stuff up in a palatable way to remain relevant to most Americans after spending the last 30 years moving further and further to the right. 

Fifth, Allen is trying to pin downturns in our economy, energy sector and national security on Obama and the Ds. What? National security? I'm sorry, when was the last time we were attacked here at home? Oh yeah, 9-11 with an all R government. Who had the interest and balls to go after, find and kill Bin Laden? The Obama administration gets the credit there people. And lets not even get going on the economy. Implementation of conservative economic practice (even under Democratic president Clinton) during the 1980s and 1990s weakened our economy severely such that the all-R government from 2001-2007 fully crashed it in nearly devastating fashion. Since then, it's been recovery time...that's right, it's taking a while to get things back on track. 

Sixth, what's this "subjugation" West is talking about? You feel less free now than you did in, say, 2007? If you're saying yes, why? What specifically is it that the Federal government actually done to limit your freedom? Can you go anywhere you want? Can you talk to anyone you want? Can you buy as many God damn guns as you possibly can afford? Can you drive the kind of vehicle you want assuming you can afford it? Can you marry who you want? Are you forced to enter the draft to serve in the military? Do you have a choice of 87 types of toothpaste at the store? 

Finally, what do all these things tell us about a guy like West and those who follow him? I think it shows either a fundamental disconnect from actually, everyday society that's predicated on the "religion" of conservative politics OR it shows a genuine, sad ignorance of some Republican Party leaders. Either way, the nuts are running the show over there in R land and it ain't pretty...which is too bad because an authentic conservative voice is one that should be part of our political dialog. But instead we get Allen's type of rhetoric a lot. 


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Soundgarden Live in Seattle

This just in: rock and roll is alive and well in the form of Soundgarden. How do I know? Well, I attended their show in Seattle Feb. 7 at the Paramount, and I can tell you from being there that this band is delivering the goods with a heavy, loud, intense, guitar driven presentation that puts virtually any other current band to shame. You want squealing guitars with articulate solos? Check. You want thudding bass laying in a heavy layer of low end? Check. You want power chords? Check. You want thundering drums? Check. You want a powerful, soulful voice? Check. Soundgarden has it all.

Soundgarden is the only "big" Seattle band from the grunge era that I had not ever seen live, so I was looking forward to this show. And I knew at some level I'd be hearing some great songs from the past...and did. But, this is not a band simply cashing in on past fame. Far from it. This is a vital and creative band showing today's listeners what rock and roll can and should still be by not only cranking out their "classic"back catalog, but playing songs from their brand new album - King Animal - that sound just as good as anything they've ever done.

You can read the Seattle Times review of the show that I saw HERE.

In the meantime, check out the pictures I took from the floor of the gig...

All pictures in this post taken by Marc Osborn. Use for any purpose is NOT permitted without prior written permission from Marc Osborn.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Album Review: Wolf's Law by The Joy Formidable

 The Joy Formidable is a band out of the UK, Whales to be precise. Formed a few years ago, they've developed a tight, compelling sound that rocks with roaring heavy riffs while incorporating quiet moments and songs for affect. But the world is full of bands like that. No, the master stroke of this band in my opinion is front woman Ritzy Bryan. Her guitar work, intensity and more importantly her vocal delivery set this band apart in my mind.

The Joy Formidable
I've been listening to TJF for a couple years now and really enjoyed their first full length album called The Big Roar. You like rock and roll? Check that out. But now, they've just released their second album and are out on tour.

The title of the new set is Wolf's Law, which is a play on words of Wolff's Law - a medical theory from the 1800s that healthy bones will adapt and strengthen to meet whatever pressure or strain they are constantly under. So in that respect, the title could be an affirmative statement about persevering through hard times to emerge stronger. But then there's also the overt idea of "wolf's law" (as in, the animal itself) evidenced by the picture of the wolf (is he dead or resting?) on the cover. And that could just be an allusion to the need to be a predator or aggressive in this world in order to survive. Anyway, a couple thoughts there on the title.

I've been listening to Wolf's Law now for a week or two. To be sure, the lyrics are challenging as Bryan sings lines that can be interpreted in many different ways. That's kinda a cool thing though about this band. The lyrics can lend themselves to multiple interpretations. I like that. In any case, I can detect some themes. Things such as repairing relationships, the power of redemption, taking leaps of faith and the middle ground gray area that many of us occupy when it comes to important relationships in our lives. Throw that together with the musical prowess of Bryan and team, and - well - you have one of the best new albums of the young year.

Here is my song-by-song review of the album, followed by some recommendations of what to get.

This Ladder Is Ours. "Lets take this walk, it's long overdue." Now this is the way to kick off an album. Get right into it with the best song and latest single right at the top. And what a slab of rock and roll this is. Don't be fooled by the first 40 seconds of quiet synth sound at the beginning. This thing kicks into high gear quickly.
Touching on reinventing oneself or repairing a challenged relationship, this song uses the idea of a ladder as a portal or passageway to a new, desired break away from the stale present. And that's all fine and good. I like it. It's compelling. But, it's the music and the vocal delivery that's the most impressive to me. Loud power chord guitars, a catchy up-and-down-the-scale melody, a fast past pace, synths at just the right place and the great voice of Ritzy Bryant are the full package - power, pop, melody, rock and roll. List and enjoy. This is the stuff. You can see the official video for the song HERE and live on Jimmy Fallon HERE (30 second commercial at the beginning courtesy of NBC.)

Cholla. "Where are we going? What are we doing?" Another monster song, the band put this one out as a single in 2012. Blasting out of the gates, the song draws you in immediately as the band deliver big guitar hooks and an interesting "wha-wha-wha" sound effect (or is it voice?) to get things rolling. Lyrically, this song is a bit of a puzzle. "Cholla" can refer to a cactus, a type of horse, a bad ass Latina gangster type...or other things like a province in South Korea or even a particular type of bread associated with the Jewish faith. Seriously. Look it up. None of these things seem to fit with the "story" of the song, however.

Setting aside the meaning of the word, in this song, TJF seem to be saying that there is a way forward to break out of a negative situation or environment by "rushing to the future to paint it." Sure, it might be hard to do, but "when nothing comes easy, only the finest are left." But the song also carries a warning that escape might be difficult to do because when "nothing is growing" then "hands turn to daggers again." Anyway, kinda obscure. But, by all means, a very nice second song from the album. Video HERE.

Tendons. "Aimless on a fated road, this life keeps us hunting 'cause I'm not home." Overall this one is a mid-paced song that initially follows a low, guttural buzzy guitar riff as its backbone and builds up from there into a more substantial tune that hits several crescendos and ultimately to to blustery ending.
Lyrically, it's a bit of a puzzler. Tendons are the things that hold all of our muscles to bone and bones to bones. Perhaps the metaphor here is that we are all like tendons. Tender but strong. Binding together. Stretching - sometimes too far until we break. And within that framework, perhaps the other lyrics about relationships and trying to fix things makes sense. I'll go with that.

Little Blimp. "Wind yourself tightly to me." Speed is back to start here with a bass line and voice leading into guitar noise that pretty much sustains a good way. Bombastic. That's the sound of this song. That, overlaid with some nifty guitar work. And what is this song about? Not sure. The words about winding together, holding on tight, never looking back down and being able to "ride this easily" may suggest jumping on an acceding blimp as metaphor for taking a leap in a relationship. In any case, in my book this fourth song makes Wolf's Law at this point four-for-four to this point.

Bats. "I had a reason, but reason went away." Starting with a aggressive choppy talk/sing intro, TJF are quickly rocking hard in this one with some heavy riffs. Think Nirvana meets Jesus and Mary Chain...or something like that. Lyrically, this thing is all over the place. The theme seems to be depleted momentum in life and what do you do with that? "The idea is the fuel for a spirited life" starts the song, but the it's "the grey coals on a dying pit" and "I had a reason, but the reason went away." Stacked up against the aggressive music, this seems to be a rant against the dying of that youthful spirit that can (and should) power us all along for as much of our lives as we can keep the fire burning.

Silent Treatment. "I'll take the easy cynicism, less talking more reason." This is the first legitimate slow, toned down song of the album. And wow, what a song. Second to "This Ladder Is Ours," this is the the star of the Wolf's Law for me. Contemplative and featuring an aching and emotive vocal from Bryan as well as some intricate acoustic guitar work...this song perhaps is about a tension filled stasis between people in a relationship. The silent treatment is the common denominator in the situation. "I over you, that's all you'll get from me" turns into "I over you, that's all you left for me." To me, this is actually a beautifully sad song - one that can hit close to home if you contemplate your own relationships (friends, family, etc.).

Maw Maw Song. "Let me show you the wilderness." Starting with, and splicing in throughout with an almost Asian melody, this song is both parts slow chunky riff and hyped rave up. You'll recognize the "maw maw" refrain in the first few seconds and in a few sections throughout when it's revisited. To tell you the truth, I have no idea what this song is about. Some stuff about "I want it all" and "this slant pulling and empty jar" just leave me confused. And, compared to some other gems on the album, this one kinda does not do it for me. But hey, give it a listen at least once for yourself.

Forest Serenade. "Don't be the hand that takes." OK now we are quickly back to "A" material. This thing brings together all that TJF is great at - big power riffs, emotionally great vocal delivery, change of pace, building pace, explosive pay offs. And sure, the lyrics are again a bit confusing, but like the best of this band's songs, it can mean what you want. Meantime, feel the music on this one and let it take you away.

The Leopard and the Lung. "Hate is going to overrun this town." A bit of stark piano and thumping bass to start this one...then layering in drum and finally a wall of guitar. Bryan then chimes in with her high voice and sings an almost lullaby first stanza before breaking into the more aggressive chorus about how "hate is going to overrun this town." The song features a few "dropout" sections in the middle that then build back up again to the now familiar riff and added guitar sound. In terms of the words on the song, the singer character appears to be addressing someone who is equal parts "destroyer" as they are a "fort" to protect from the ills and perils of the world. The singer also apparently has or had a relationship with the protagonist and a lament about that seems evident - perhaps reinforcing the destroyer part of the character's persona. Or something like that.

The Hurdle. "Do you hear that sound? The hurdle crashing down." The intro here seems to be the sound of someone walking on gravel...then the song starts. This one is structured with a catchy tune against a classic soft-loud-soft pattern punctuated with noisy choruses replete with roaring guitar riffs. Based on the intro and the lyrics, this song seems to be about remembering a remote and beautiful place that used to be refuge and someplace important to the singer and her family...but apparently is no longer. Is this a real place out in the wilderness as indicated by the words? Or, is it a more metaphorical "place?" Is it about a relationship? Not sure.

The Turnaround. "There's love here." A soft, slowish and touching tune to end the album. Featuring strings and acoustic guitar, the song is perhaps as straight forward lyrically as any on the album. It seems to be about the desire to salvage a relationship before it is too late...before the two people involved miss "the turnaround." Building slowly to a crescendo, this is a nice ending to the album proper.

Wolf's Law. "I want to go along and pretend its dawn." This is a hidden track that starts after a silence at the end of the previous song. Building from a minimal voice-only beginning, percussion and piano layer in before strings and guitar join...creating anticipation that is paid off with a controlled explosion about halfway through the song. This song invokes and slightly modifies the idea of Wolff's Law to say that people under pressure can adapt to the pressures they are put under.


These are my picks for the best songs on Wolf's Law because they showcase what The Joy Formidable are about and best at.
  • This Ladder Is Ours
  • Forest Serenade
  • Tendons
  • Silent Treatment
While perhaps not at the sublime level as the "must have" songs above, these are solid tunes that you can easily love.
  • Cholla
  • Little Blimp
  • Bats
  • Wolf's Law
With eight of 12 songs either "must have" or "good," there's little filler here. The below songs are all quite good, but if you don't want the entire album, then you could avoid these and still get the "best of" the album.
  • Maw Maw Song
  • The Turnaround
  • The Hurdle
  • The Leopard and the Lung

Sunday, February 3, 2013

First Gig of the Year - Pictures

This weekend, I attended my first gig of 2013 - a great double bill of Mudhoney and The Sonics.

No, not the Sonics basketball team...the ORIGINAL Sonics, the band.

I'll be doing some writing on this in the near future, but for now, below are a few pictures I took of both bands. The first two are Mudhoney, the rest The Sonics.