Saturday, May 02, 2009

Slash hears Adam

After his mentor sessions today with the American Idol contestants, Slash tweets:

Friday, May 01, 2009


From the L.A. Times Music blog on Adam Lambert:
But a very particular gift allows him to go beyond the average show tune belter — or the average heavy-metal squawker. I think this gift puts him in a league with some of the best singers of the rock era. It has to do with the passaggio — his ability to transition from the lower register to that killer falsetto.

A friend who is a singer pointed this out to me (thank you, Erika Gunn!). She noted that many of the vocalists we find most unearthly and stirring can go from their earthy chest voice to the more piercing head voice without stumbling into the weak, constricted zone that often plagues singers as they make the leap. One blogger described it this way: The voice is like a stick-shift car, and the passaggio is the area of shifting, that risky spot where you'd better be both flexible and totally in command.

There's a lot of interesting technical stuff written about the passaggio. I'm no expert on vocal technique, so let me leave my thoughts within the territory I know: the effect of a certain voice on listeners. Lambert's natural range is fairly high — he's a tenor emerging at a time when most rock-oriented singers are baritones, like those kings of the "Idol" jungle, Chris Daughtry and David Cook. (R&B singers are a different matter altogether; the lingering influence of Michael Jackson means that soft, high voices still do well in the field.)

What's most striking about Lambert, though, is way he can linger in between registers without cracking, wavering or producing a "tight" sound. That's why his rendition of "Mad World" struck many as his best performance of the season. It lived in that space. The way Lambert's voice moves gives definition to grace, the way an Olympic skater does when executing a triple toe loop.

This was from April 27, 2009, before Paula compared Adam to Michael Phelps. In our house, we compare him to Lebron James.

[Update 5/4/09: LeBron named NBA's Most Valuable Player. We use the LeBron comparison for Adam because by the time they each came on the scene, they were fully formed, freakishly skilled and in possession of all the intangibles necessary for greatness.]

In my endless pursuit of all things Adam Lambert, I've been reading, a blog by a voice instructor who, among other things, critiques the Idol performances. Here's what she had to say about Adam's live performance of Feeling Good:
What a performance, Adam! For me, this performance absolutely confirmed the outstanding technical foundation that is at the core of each and every one of your showcases. That feelin’ upper note - perfectly sustained for what seemed like an eternity -was blanket evidence of this fact. That tongue ( how could we miss the tongue?) - was lying flat and relaxed in the front of your mouth, thus freeing any constriction in your throat and adding rise to the soft palate as well.

As a result, you were more than capable of applying strong support from your diaphragmatic muscles when sustaining the “i” vowel in the second syllable of the word “feelin“. And, of course, you made absolutely certain that your jaw was relaxed and free, thus liberating your vocal sound even further so that it could resonate perfectly in your vocal masque.

And that downward vocal spiral after you held this note, flawlessly executed without a breath or even the remotest facial evidence of concern, was testament to your highly refined technical skills. The descending scale was seamless, pure and centered.

It actually reminded me of the technical strength and power of classical artist, Cecilia Bartoli, who is, to my mind, the best classical singer in the world today. I saw her execute the same vocal feat, but, obviously in her case, it was during a classical number. I can’t remember the name of the song, but I do remember the moment and you brought it all back to me with your enormous talent and skill during this week’s Top 5 showcase.

Until you buy it on iTunes...

and until it gets removed from youtube, here's the studio version of Feeling Good:

Chicken Little wing

Here's an amusing mockery of the Chicken Little wing of the Republican party/talking heads:

I think you are understating Obama’s threat to America. John Hawkins makes it clear- Obama is Julius Caesar and he will lead America to ruin! From single handily running all the empire’s major companies and banks, to hating Christians, to the comment at the end about releasing the zoo animals. To do what? Eat the Christians? Mark my words- your children’s children will be Muslims pouring Paul Newman’s spicy Obama dressing on their arugula salads.

I've taken several weeks off from watching/reading any news, so I've got nothing substantive to contribute. There's just too much going on to stay on top of it all. I got overwhelmed and gave up. Will get back to paying attention.

Fear of the [Bush] White House?

From Noonan’s column today:

Republicans are also up against themselves. On Capitol Hill they are up against the Bush era, when through fear of the White House or mindless opportunism they supported things they now decry. It will take them a while to seem credible again. The smarter of them know this. They're waiting for time to pass and a new cliché about them to take hold. Old cliché: "They're not a credible alternative." Future cliché they hope for: "They've learned a lot in the wilderness."

I get the point though I’m not sure how much of it was "fear." Certainly there was plenty of mindless opportunism but fear? Nobody seemed to [update: I'm a dope: too] scared of the White House when the attempt was made to touch the third rail. I’d like to think some of the silence on the things now decried was due to support of a wartime president.

Feeling Good

I highly recommend downloading Adam Lambert's STUDIO version of Feeling Good from iTunes. I guarantee you'll get more than $0.99 worth of enjoyment out of it. (The live performance wasn't great.)

Twitter: Slash

From Slash (from Guns 'n Roses) who's the guest mentor for Idol this week for the final four who'll be singing rock songs:

David Souter

retiring. I'm certainly not broken up but can't help but be concerned about what is about to be foisted upon me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I've put my toe in the Twitter water to see what the fuss is about. Reading Twitter is sort of like reading Herodotus, because they're both composed of letters.

As far as I can tell, the fun of Twitter is not in tweeting myself or in following people I know personally, but instead in following public figures -- celebrities, journalists, athletes, politicians, musicians. Here's what one gets from Stephen Colbert, for example:

I'm also enjoying Ezra Klein, Andy Roddick and Rob Dyrdek. Andy's life consists of four things: "going to the track," "practice," "eating!!!!!" and "watching the BB game". Dyrdek occasionally shares pics of his two bulldogs and seems to have a staff dedicated to finding funny youtube videos for him to share on Twitter. You could use it less for entertainment and more for utility: local businesses, theaters, restaurants, community organizations, non-profits, etc Twitter too.

It's not Eagle's not the owl...

It's Scooter's Buzzard Cam! Yech.

From my driveway today:

Special thanks to my neighbor for leaving all the c--p in the driveway.

Watership Down

This was a book club pick. It won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Award for Children's Literature back in the '70s. I read it in 1982 and loved it. Didn't enjoy it this time as much. Richard Adams claims it has no allegorical meaning. Yeah right. He presents several different bunny societies, operating under differing governing philosophies with varied results and expects us not to look for a message?

Trivia: Adams wrote the novel based on stories he made up and told to his kids to pass the time during car trips.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The pain

Clients who have paid promptly in the past are now sloooooooow to pay. And until the check arrives, there's no way to tell the difference between "slow to pay" and "stiffing the attorney".

Just in case LJ missed This Day in History

The Dachau Concentration Camp

I'm sure you can sell C on Munich; it's beautiful.

The joy of home ownership

Can someone please tell me why anyone would want to own a home? They are all money-pits....the only mystery is to what degree. Throw in a pool and/or hot tub and the cost, headaches, and blood pressure just goes up.

Last Tuesday, the upstairs a/c unit stops cooling. We have a small freon leak and this happens every 11-12 months. It's easily fixed by calling out the a/c guy and having him fill up the freon. Two days later, on Thursday, the downstairs unit (which we never have had problems with) starts doing the same and making a weird noise every minute or so. A/C guy comes out yesterday, fills up the upstairs unit and says the compressor has gone out on the downstairs. He'll call today with a quote for a new compressor. Good thing, because I will need to to talk to him. Why? Because 3 hours after he left, the upstairs unit stopped working altogether....burning smell, loud whining noise.

So it looks like I'm going to be in the market for 2 NEW a/c units, plus new coils, plus installation. Oh joy.....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter leaving Rethugs

This is really bad for my ilk. Rationed healthcare here we come.

Update: can McCain be far behind?

Update II: Ace reminds me that Phil Gramm at least had the decency to resign his Democrat congressional seat before running as a Rethug. My law school roommate (a big Dem.) was furious at the time. Whatever one thinks of Gramm, that seems the more honorable way to do it since those who elected you did so at least in part due to your party affiliation. From Wiki:

In 1976, Gramm unsuccessfully challenged Texas Democratic Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen, in the party's senatorial primary. Then in 1978 Gramm successfully ran as a Democrat for Representative from Texas's 6th congressional district. He was reelected to his House seat as a Democrat in 1980, and again in 1982.

Following his 1982 reelection, Gramm resigned his House seat on January 5, 1983, forcing a mid-term special election. Gramm ran in that election on February 12, 1983 to fill the vacancy that he had created, but as a Republican. Winning, he became the first Republican to represent the district since its creation. After he left the House the seat was retained for the Republican party by Joe Barton.

Stratfor on the First 100 Days (geopolitically)

George Friedman at Stratfor made the point in his book—The Next One Hundred Years—that administrations are often given very little choice when it comes to foreign relations due to “geopolitics.” Accordingly, administrations driven by national self-interest often have their policies foisted upon them rather than being driven by ideology. In today’s Stratfor newsletter, Friedman (somewhat self-servingly) makes the point that President Obama’s first one hundred days looks very much like the Bush administration save in two areas. First he comments about perception and atmosphere and how brilliantly the administration’s team has handled that on the European trip.

A very short part of his comments:

On the whole, the Europeans gave two big nos [on a German stimulus and help in Afghanistan], while the Americans gave a mild yes [Obama’s agreement to mildly support the IMF’s bailout of European banks]. In substantive terms, the U.S.-European relationship is no better than it was under Bush. In terms of perception, however, the Obama administration managed a brilliant coup, shifting the focus to the changed atmosphere that prevailed at the meeting. Indeed, all parties wanted to emphasize the atmospherics, and judging from media coverage, they succeeded. The trip accordingly was perceived as a triumph.

Campaign Promises and Public Perception

This is not a trivial achievement. There are campaign promises, there is reality and there is public perception. All presidents must move from campaigning to governing; extremely skilled presidents manage the shift without appearing duplicitous. At least in the European case, Obama has managed the shift without suffering political damage. His core supporters appear prepared to support him independent of results. And that is an important foundation for effective governance.

Next, he wrote of the trip to Turkey as the real area of change:

Turkey and the Substantial U.S. Shift

One substantial shift has taken place, however, and that one is with Turkey. The Obama administration has made major overtures to Turkey in multiple forms, from a presidential visit to putting U.S. anti-piracy vessels under Turkish command. These are not symbolic moves. The United States needs Turkey to counterbalance Iran, protect U.S. interests in the Caucasus, help stabilize Iraq, serve as a bridge to Syria and help in Afghanistan. Obama has clearly shifted strategy here in response to changing conditions in the region.

Intriguingly, the change in U.S.-Turkish relations never surfaced as even a minor issue during the U.S. presidential campaign. It emerged after the election because of changes in the configuration of the international system. Shifts in Russian policy, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and shifts within Turkey that allowed the country to begin its return to the international arena all came together to make this necessary, and Obama responded.

None of this is designed to denigrate Obama in the least. While many of his followers may be dismayed, and while many of his critics might be unwilling to notice, the fact is that a single concept dominated Obama’s first hundred days: continuity. In the face of the realities of his domestic political position and the U.S. strategic position, as well as the economic crisis, Obama did what he had to do, and what he had to do very much followed from what Bush did. It is fascinating that both Obama’s supporters and his critics think he has made far more changes than he really has.

Of course, this is only the first hundred days. Presidents look for room to maneuver after they do what they need to do in the short run. Some presidents use that room to pursue policies that weaken, and even destroy, their presidencies. Others find ways to enhance their position. But normally, the hardest thing a president faces is finding the space to do the things he wants to do rather than what he must do. Obama came through the first hundred days following the path laid out for him. It is only in Turkey where he made a move that he wasn’t compelled to make just now, but that had to happen at some point. It will be interesting to see how many more such moves he makes.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

Monday, April 27, 2009

Is the stock market cheap?

In response to Anonymous' question earlier about whether it's time to get back in, notes that "every time the P/E10 has fallen from the first to the fourth quintile, it has ultimately declined to the fith quintile and bottomed in single digits." If that pattern holds true this time, we're still on the way down.

Bear: age 18.5 months

From as of the end of the day Friday, April 24:

Swine/Avian/Human/Mexican Flu

Hmmm, about 60 miles south of me. From the Houston Chronicle:

A San Antonio-area school district is closing for at least a week after two students there tested positive for the swine flu.

About 10 suspected cases are being tested — all from the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District or those who have come into contact with the infected students. They range in age from 6 to people in their 40s, said Dr. Sandra Guerra, regional medical director for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Schertz has also closed its public library, Guerra said. Cibolo has closed its parks and is asking churches and places where people gather to postpone activities.

Can anybody spare a mask?

Best 4-iron hitter...ever

I think I saw him display his talents on Sunday. Also saw said player using only a 9-iron to make par on a par 3. The next Tiger????