Saturday, July 31, 2010

cd saturday: nickel creek's this side

at some point during college, i had my first taste of the incredibly talented band, nickel creek.  their sound was something fresh and new to me.  sure, there were familiar sounds - the bluegrass that my dad listened to - but it was younger, fresher, and had a bit more energy.  it wasn't just about the genre style with them.  all three were brilliant musicians and talented singers.  they borrowed musical flavors from rock, jazz, and country, and most importantly, made it their own.

This Sidethe first nickel creek album i heard was this one.  it spoke to me in a spiritual way.  the melodies floated over me and transported me.  the instruments baffled me with their creativity, and it wasn't long before i was hooked.

i won't bore you with favorite song titles - they are all too good to list only some and leave others off.  it wasn't long after living in los angeles county that i caught wind that two of nickel creeks members, sean and sara watkins, performed regularly at a venue called the little room.  going there for the first time was like rediscovering this album.  i was totally captivated throughout the whole experience.  it was (and still is) a magical thing to participate in, and i can't wait to experience it again.

today's photo is an old photo of 'this side' of our beautiful bridge.  i hope you enjoy.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash
3. cake - comfort eagle
4. blue rodeo - five days in july
5. the beach boys - pet sounds
6. coldplay - viva la vida
7. weezer - pinkerton
8. mates of state - re-arrange us
9. radiohead - ok computer

Friday, July 30, 2010

centennial square

today's skywatch friday offering is the lamp post which celebrates the city's 100th anniversary (back in 1986, dontcha know).  plus, this marks back to back days where the city hall dome has appeared.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

a new blog

in 2006 i made the pilgrimage to baseball's hall of fame.  it certainly was one of the most enjoyable baseball experiences of my life.  we spent the day browsing the incredible exhibits, ate lunch at a baseball themed restaurant, wandered through the streets of cooperstown, and visited cooperstown brewing company to end the day.

the above photo is one of the many that i took that day.  it shows the five original inductees into baseball's hall of fame - all legends in the minds of baseball historians and fans.  since then, the hall has inducted only the biggest stars into its midst.  each year only one or two get in.

i recently decided that i would try and obtain an autograph from every living member of the hall of fame (there are currently 67).  my goal is to obtain these autographs either in person, or through the mail.  to document this process, i started a new blog. 

those interested, can check it out right here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

peace and quiet

tuesday deserves something relaxing.  like a odd blue orb and some potted plants inside of a wall.

strange, right?

Monday, July 26, 2010

outdoor music at the arboretum

on saturday we ventured down the 210 to the los angeles arboretum for a california philharmonic outdoor concert.  this particular event included a selection of john williams' fantastic movie music (including star wars, superman, and e.t.).

we had a great time listening to the sweet sounds of the orchestra, socializing with our friends, and sampling the selection of picnic food we had brought along.  the lawn at this venue is large.  we got there after many had already staked their claim to the prime seating locations, but we were still able to find enough grass space to spread out on.  we'll know better next time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

cd sunday: radiohead's ok computer

listening to this album is like being transported to another world.  songs don't sound like regular rock songs.  traditional pop music instrumentation is traded in for all kinds of crazy sounding stuff - i'm sure much of it was created in a lab somewhere.
Ok Computer
i don't remember what posessed me to purchase this album.  i bought it from a second hand store in pretoria on a trip through south africa.  weird, right?  you would think i would have been buying something south african - but the price was too good to pass up - only a few dozen rand if i remember correctly.

this is considered by many to be radiohead's masterpiece.  the band comes out of the speakers blazing full speed ahead with an industrial charge.  they aren't held back by any systems or restraints, or catering to any stylistic guidelines.  groundbreaking it is, but to me, it is also accessible.  there are some albums that are so experimental that they are almost indigestible.  however this one pulls me in.

some of it is dark, some is melancholy, but it all works pretty well together.  songs that stand out to me are the intoxicating "karma police", the opening track "airbag", and the beautiful "subterranean homesick alien".

i've gotta say, this album stirs up so many different feelings that i had no idea what picture to put with it.  and thus, we get a random shot of some pasadena palms.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash
3. cake - comfort eagle
4. blue rodeo - five days in july
5. the beach boys - pet sounds
6. coldplay - viva la vida
7. weezer - pinkerton
8. mates of state - re-arrange us

Saturday, July 24, 2010

cd saturday: mates of state's re-arrange us

i purchased this fantastic album after hearing a review on the npr music show, all songs considered.  the reviewer explained that the album was such a fun experience that his young children loved dancing around the house to it.

Re-Arrange Ushearing that might encourage some of you to never take this album for a spin, but it is exactly why i love it.  it is filled with poppy goodness - simple music with positive melodies and fun lyrics.  lots of lovely high strung melodies and barely a minor chord in the whole thing.  each song is driven by an uptempo drum beat and quirky keyboard sounds.

once again, this album is unlike anything else in my collection, and i think that is why it is one of my favorites.  check out the super-upbeat songs "now", "my only offer", and "blue and gold print".  total ear candy.

you might be wondering about the above photo.  it is from a friend's fun birthday party a few months ago.  music like this makes me yearn for more moments like those in my life.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash
3. cake - comfort eagle
4. blue rodeo - five days in july
5. the beach boys - pet sounds
6. coldplay - viva la vida
7. weezer - pinkerton

Friday, July 23, 2010

beautiful pasadena sky

friday is here. 

as usual, the pasadena sky takes the center focus. 

more skywatch friday, of course can be found here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

free sushi!

when my neighbor told me he was going to go help out at his mom's restaurant, i will admit i was disappointed.  this meant that several nights of the week were now off limits for hanging out with my good friend.

and while i'm still sad i don't get to see dave as often as i used to, the new positive development is the incredible food he brings home from hana sushi!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

for my friends in palestine

one of the members of our church family is currently working in the west bank with christian peacemaker teams.  he recently sent us the above photo and a bit of his story is below.  why is this being posted on a blog about pasadena?  well, aside from the fact that pasadena is john's home community, the conflict he and his teammates are in the midst of is something that ALL of us - regardless of where we live - need to be aware of.  certainly the tension between israel and palestine has been going on for a long time.  and certainly there is much blame that could be passed around to the people of this region.

yet when injustice like this happens it breaks my heart. 

here are john's words...

My first full day with CPT was blurred with the very presence of evil.  Our group awoke to a telephone call summoning us to Beqa’a Valley, an agricultural area right at the edge of the city of Hebron.  “The soldiers have come and they are cutting down our plants.”

When CPT arrived, Palestinian farmers were watching as Israeli soldiers were commanding the dismantlement of a Palestinian farm.  Israeli soldiers kept Palestinian farming families at gunpoint as hired workers cut up the ropes that supported vegetable plants.  The workers would continue by removing the water piping from the ground and eventually dumping the piping into a garbage truck.
One Palestinian farmer exclaimed, “"These tomatoes are for the kids, for the babies, to feed the kids and to sell them to buy other food for the kids." 

For the Palestinian farmers, their troubles lie with their Jewish neighbors.  While this area is miles within the boundaries of what is commonly known as Palestine, Israeli “settlers” have come to live.  Among the goals of the Israeli settlers is to drive the local Palestinians away to make room for more settlers.  This is at the heart of what happened that day.

Monday, July 19, 2010

shrine of the eternals induction day 2010

one of my favorite annual pasadena events took place yesterday afternoon at the public library - the annual shrine of the eternals election day, hosted by the baseball reliquary.  this year's class of inductees was sports writer roger angell, former player pete rose, and former player and manager casey stengel.  unfortunately none of these esteemed gentlemen were there to accept their award in person (angell and rose with prior commitments, while stengel passed away several years ago), however that did not stop the gathered crowd from having a wonderful time.

as usual this event was very well attended and filled with memorable moments.  i think i could have spent all day listening to the baseball stories that were shared.

among my personal highlights...

- the star spangled banner and take me out to the ballgame were performed by award winning whistler, carole anne kaufman
- hearing baseball stories of a cleveland indians fan from sister mary assumpta (photo on right) and tasting her "nun better" cookies
- witnessing writer ron rapoport hold up an actual hall of fame ballot to explain how he writes in pete rose's name every year (photo on left)
- seeing stengel's neice, toni mollett, hold up the former manager's shoes and place them on the stage to symbolize that he was here with us (photo at top of page)
- hearing stories of life as a major leaguer from pete rose's friend, greg goossen including a humorous moment about breaking curfew and meeting his manager (casey stengel!) on the elevator

not sure why blogger didn't publish this at my normal 12:01am time.  for some reason, recent posts have been saving as drafts instead of scheduled posts.  sorry faithful followers for the late state of this blog!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

cd sunday: weezer's pinkerton

i imagine this one might be a controversial choice.  after all, it was weezer's self titled debut album (unofficially known as the blue album) that broke through the music charts and made this band a phenominon of the 90s.

their follow-up album was much anticipated, but compared to blue, pinketon (or is it pink or tan?) was considered an epic failure.  many fans were disappointed, critics were harsh, and yet that did not deter my good friend jeff from falling in love with this album.  it was his enthusiasm (and singing along with the music turned up as loud as his parent's minivan could handle) that sold me on this disc.

Pinkertonmuch like many of the albums featured on my top 20 list, this one is unique.  it features lyrics that make you cringe, cry, and laugh, all at the same time.  the music is somewhat dark and rough around the edges, but is all comes together in one complete package.  some have said that it ushered in the "emo" music style, but but nothing i've heard from that genre comes close to the complexity featured on this record.

favorite songs from this collection are the cleverly written fan mail song "across the sea", the sexually frustrated "pink triangle", and the quiet acoustic guitar song that closes the album "butterfly".

you might be wondering what pinkerton has to do with the norton simon museum, and quite frankly, very little.  however the giant banner on the side of the museum advertises a current exhibit featuring the artist, hiroshige, from whom the band borrowed the cover art for the album.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash
3. cake - comfort eagle
4. blue rodeo - five days in july
5. the beach boys - pet sounds
6. coldplay - viva la vida

Saturday, July 17, 2010

cd saturday: coldplay's viva la vida (or death and all his friends)

oh coldplay.

i loved this band for a long time.  i payed a ridiculous fee to a ticket scalper to see them on their first major north american tour.  i've been to every tour since then, including the recent tour for this album from which today's photo was taken.

Viva La Vida this album might just be the band's best work.  coldplay's latest offering is just the candy my ears are hungry for - catchy melodies, minor keys, harmonies, unusual timing and rhythm, and a big ballad of a stadium anthem to end it all.

i'll admit it took a while to grow on me.  the first listen through - done online before the album was even released - was underwhelming.  it was a little too much of a diversion from their previous work.  it didn't have the same ring to it.  but every time i listened after that, i liked it more.  radio hits like "lost", "violet hill", and the title track, are all memorable, but some of my favorite tracks are the ones that did not receive as much attention.  tracks like "reign of love" and "death and all his friends" are some of the best songs i've heard in a very long time.  and have you seen the music video for "strawberry swing"???  awesome!

Prospekt's March EPmy one gripe about this recording was the bonus disc that was released a few months later.  i really enjoy many of the tracks on prospekt's march, the 8 song ep that followed viva, but it wasn't really new material.  several of the songs were simple remixes, and others - like the opening track, the lyric-less "life in technicolor", was re-released as "life in technicolor ii", and was expanded to be a full song.  i love this variation of the song.  why didn't the band just put it on the original album?  there are a few new songs, but again, why not just add them to the original packaging?  seems like a nice quick cash grab in my mind - especially for hard core fans who bought the original album, the prospekt's march ep, and the new packaged version of viva la vida that includes both discs.

never-the-less, this album is certainly worthy of my top 20.  if pushed, i might have to say that it is my current favorite album - or at least the one i listen to the most.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash
3. cake - comfort eagle
4. blue rodeo - five days in july
5. the beach boys - pet sounds

Friday, July 16, 2010

kaiser permanente building

one of pasadena's large buildings, located along los robles, just south of the 210.  today it gets featured as the skywatch friday offering.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

shrine of the eternals induction day

the baseball reliquary is one of this area's most incredible treasures - part memorabilia collection, part historic preservation, and all baseball celebration.  the reliquary frequently put on incredible displays of obscure baseball artifacts, artwork, and presentations, that are open to the public.

part of their legacy is an annual selection of baseball pioneers to their "shrine of the eternals".  33 baseball icons have been inducted to their hall of fame, ranging from josh gibson (known as the black babe ruth), to jim abbott (a pitcher who played in the big leagues despite having only one hand).  this month the main branch of the pasadena public library is displaying a collection of items paying homage to these 33 individuals, and this coming sunday the reliquary is set to induct three more.

this event is free to the public, and if you are interested in reading about my experience from last year, you can check it out right here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

mlb all-star fan festival

yesterday i mentioned that i attended the mlb all star fan festival at anaheim convention center.  we enjoyed a fun-filled day of exhibits like the one above of the world's largest baseball, or test your pitching speed, or race against an mlb player. 

we also stood in line for autographs, listened to major leaguers talk about playing in the bigs, and browsed the miles of memorabilia and artifacts.  of course the day wouldn't be complete without cheesy fan experiences like this one (visit and vote for me!).

fun stuff!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

mlb all-star home run derby

to make a long story short, yesterday started out with the extremely fun all star fan festival - which is what i planned to show a picture of today (i may post a few pictures of that later this week).  but it evolved in to somehow getting in to the home run derby at angel stadium without paying anything at all for our tickets!

i went with my friend sam, and needless to say we had an amazing day!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

colorado street bridge celebration

 this event is a local tradition here in pasadena.  although last year's event was canceled due to lack of funds, this year's event went off with much success (at least in terms of turn out!).  the beautiful colorado street bridge was packed with people, food vendors, activities, music stages, and festivities.  plenty of food and fun was to be had.

this was my first time at the event.  a few initial reactions - this is a fund raiser for pasadena heritage.  and they got our funds.  $15 to enter the street fair, followed by more money spent on food, drinks, and dessert.  it was certainly not a night of free fun and cheap eats.  on the other hand it was clearly an event that was totally unique to pasadena - how many other towns close down a historic bridge to throw a party?  the setting was truly beautiful with the vista del arroyo hotel to one side, and the rose bowl lit up with lights from the ongoing soccer game on the other.  it was also packed.  as the above photo shows, walking was not easy, especially near the popular food and drink booths, or around the music stages.  i think we were even more tuned in to this fact because we had a baby in a stroller, making it even harder to navigated the crowded street.

nevertheless we had a great time.  kudos to the planners.  i hope to see this event continue!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

cd saturday: the beach boys' pet sounds

i'm not sure what inspired me to purchase this album.  i owned a beach boys greatest hits album that had only 10 songs - their biggest surf hits - and i rarely listened to it.  but something in me wondered what their studio work was like.  some quick research pointed me toward pet sounds - an album considered by many to be one of the most influential recordings ever made.

a quick glance at the back of the cd case showed many songs i already knew ("wouldn't it be nice", "sloop john b"), including one of my favorite beach boy songs of all time - "god only knows"... 

Pet Soundsah, i can't tell you how much i love that song.  beautiful words, music, harmonies,..  it all comes together to create one perfect melodic work of genius.  just seeing that this song was on this album would have sold me right there, but i was pleasantly surprised by everything else as well.

this album became the soundtrack to what i envisioned it would be like when we moved to california.  i'll still pack it in the car when we drive along the coast, and pretend this is music and scenery i grew up with.  but it speaks to me more because this beach boys album is more folky and less about the surf rock sound that made them famous.

i think this is precisely the reason a canadian boy was never really blown away by the greatest hits album that contained songs like "surfin' safari" and "i wish they all could be californian".  it took more heart and depth to win me over to this classic band.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash
3. cake - comfort eagle
4. blue rodeo - five days in july

Thursday, July 08, 2010

city walk #2: little tokyo

a little while ago i mentioned that some friends had passed on a pack of city walk cards.  the other day we ventured down the gold line to little tokyo to check out the city walk there.  in the image above, meredith stands in front of a friendship knot - erected to symbolize the friendship between the city of los angeles and the little tokyo neighborhood.

we had another great experience!  looking forward to our next city walk (only 48 left to do!).

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

hahamongna blog day

faithful followers of this blog will remember that earlier this year i ran a series of posts on pasadena's city parks.  pasadena also boasts several larger park spaces - one of those being hahamongna watershed park.  as the name suggests, this space is more than just a park.  it also acts as a sediment and debris basin due to the topography of the area and its proximity to the highly erosive san gabriel mountain range.  if you look back at this image i posted earlier this year, you can see the flood plain in full blown soggy action.

the city has decided that this continually evolving and unstable area would be perfect for some new soccer fields.  i'm not even joking.  fortunately people are beginning to speak up to save this space - including this group (check out their very informative website).

other local area bloggers are writing about this important subject today and the story has been picked up by the pasadena star news.  check out the following list...

Altadena Above It All
Altadena Hiker
A Thinking Stomach
East of Allen
Finnegan Begin Again
LA Creek Freak
Mister Earl's Musings
My Life With Tommy
Pasadena Adjacent
Pasadena Daily Photo
Pasadena Latina
The Sky Is Big In Pasadena
Webster's Fine Stationers Web Log
West Coast Grrlie Blather

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


tucked in to the arts district is a restaurant that specializes in gourmet sausages and belgian and german beer.  sounds heavenly, right?  if you can handle the price tag (somewhat pricey for both the beer and sausage), this new eatery is well worth the trip - especially for those of us who recognize a good brat and beer pairing.  each sausage comes with your choice of peppers, onions, and sauerkraut, and can be topped with any of their specialty mustards (five to choose from).

Monday, July 05, 2010

fifth of july

i found this fishy flag in the window of a pasadena art gallery.  what an interesting symbol.  i wish i knew more about the artist's intention.

i hope you all had a wonderful family and firework filled fourth.  there is so much about this country that i struggle with - yet it is my current home, and it can be a wonderful place to live and learn.

i'm a canadian-american with ties to several african nations, and deep european roots.  i come from a faith tradition that has been persecuted and tormented, and yet in pasadena, a person with such mixed background can find relative freedom to live almost as i wish - especially compared to some other parts of the world.

yet i'm also painfully aware of how frequently our military might, power, political decisions, boundaries, and money have abused and destroyed the fabric of our world.  certainly the usa is not alone its destructive forces - yet it was with mixed feelings that i "celebrated" independence day.  one very touching moment was when our church congregation sang this incredible hymn (audio here).

i hope that wherever you were yesterday, you were blessed with both joy and discomfort.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

cd sunday: blue rodeo's five days in july

yesterday's album review was the first on my list that makes me think back to my days working on the sweet corn farm.  if cake's comfort eagle can be considered a cornpicking album, then five days in july would be like a greatest hits.

Five Days in Julyearly in my years at rouge river farms (image above is of a corn field at sunset, btw), someone found a cassette tape of this album buried under a pile of tim hortons coffee cups in one of the field trucks.  fortunately it still worked, and even more surprising, so did the tape deck in the truck.  it wasn't long before many of us on the crew had purchased this album for our own collections and even learned how to play a few of the songs on our guitars.

this album speaks to me on many levels.  of course it reminds me of hard work and summer fun.  but i also connect to it because blue rodeo is a classic canadian band (a perfect fit for independence day, right?).  the musical style ranges from country, to blues, to folk, to rock - always with clean vocals, deep harmonies, and wonderfully poetic lyrics.  the album even features a young sara mclachlan appearing on guest vocals on a few tracks.

from the opening notes that the harmonica plays on the first track (the somewhat strangely titled "five days in may"), i find myself singing along and remembering great times with friends - whether we were hard at work, or lounging by the lake at the cottage.  by far one of my favorite albums of all time.  to see my friend mike's much more thorough review of this album, click here.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash
3. cake - comfort eagle

Saturday, July 03, 2010

cd saturday: cake's comfort eagle

this weekend, we continue the rundown of my favorite 20 albums of all time.  today and tomorrow features albums that almost instantly make me think of my summers picking sweet corn with rouge river farms (hence today's picture).

i'm not sure who introduced me to the band cake, or why i became such a fan.  their music is odd, but in a good way.  their music is weird, but in a good way.  odd, weird, but good.

right from the get-go, this album transports me to a different time.  a time where one of my fellow corn pickers would pop this in to my crappy discman (which was connected to the car stereo through a cassette addapter) and we'd all sing, clap, and harmonize along with john mcrae and the rest of the band.  loudly.  and as often as we could.  we'd listen to it in the morning on the way to the corn field.  we'd listen to it on the way to lunch or dinner, and then we'd listen to it in the car on the way home.

Comfort Eaglewe had no idea what the lyrics meant (and still don't?), but that wasn't the point.  the music was fun - and completely different than anything playing on the radio.  oh sure, the big hit from this album, "short skirt/long jacket", got plenty of airplay, but nothing else really ever made a dent in the mainstream audience.  and we loved it anyway.

for this list of my favorite albums i tried to pick those that i can listen do no matter what mood i'm in.  i don't have to be in any particular mood to put this on, and i rarely get tired of it.  it has peppy upbeat songs like "opera singer" or "pretty pink ribbon", darker songs like the title track "comfort eagle", and to further push the fact that this is an odd album, jay-z sampled the track "arco arena" in his song "guns and roses".  weird.

those of you following along will remember that i started this album countdown because i was inspired by my good friend (and fellow corn picker) mike's current album review blog.  apparently the next album he will be reviewing is this very one.

1. u2 - the joshua tree
2. dave matthews band - crash