Grammy Noms

The Grammy nominations are out.  View the entire list here.  Beyonce leads the pack with 10 noms; guess Kanye’s happy.  Some of the categories and nominees:

Record of the Year

  • Halo – Beyonce
  • I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas
  • Use Somebody – Kings of Leon
  • Poker Face – Lady Gaga
  • You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift

Album of the Year

  • I Am Sasha Fierce – Beyonce
  • The END – Black Eyed Peas
  • The Fame – Lady Gaga
  • Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King – Dave Matthews
  • Fearless – Taylor Swift

New Artist

  • Zac Brown Band
  • Keri Hilson
  • MGMT
  • Silversun Pickups
  • Ting Tings

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance has Springsteen, Dylan, Fogerty, Prince, Neil Young

Alternative Music – Byrne & Eno, Death Cab for Cutie, Depeche Mode, Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

There’s 109 categories in all, most fairly uninspiring.

Bruce is great, Joe says so

So far the only thing to catch my eye this morning is this item from Letters of Note.  It’s a letter written by Joe Strummer in 1997, faxed to Mark Hagen. producer of the documentary film, “Bruce Springsteen A Secret History.”  Click on the image to see it full size.

joe on bruce

Monday Morning

First, two bits of “meta.”  Maybe all of this should be sorted out into separate posts, it probably defies all SEO theory, but that’s me for ya.

Do you have a mobile phone?  Try Hongkietown on your phone’s browser.  I’ve installed a plugin that gives the blog a different interface on mobile phones – for each post the title, date, categories and number of comments.  It loads really fast.

Archives – some people in the past have mentioned to me that they archived my old blog.  I thought I had, too, but in going through things this weekend, I noticed there are some big gaps in the April – June 2006 period.  If any of you do have archives and would be willing to send to me, I’d be grateful.

Sitting here listening to The Complete Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Recordings. I’m sure there are other recordings of this caliber out there that aren’t coming to mind, but this remains a relatively unique experience – the pairing of one of the all-time best pop singers with one of the all-time best jazz pianists – and just voice and piano, no band, no orchestra, purity.  You can focus in on Bennett’s amazing tone and phrasing or Evans’ keyboards – not just succinct and meaningful solos but the way his accompaniment loops under and around Bennett, complementing the singing rather than distracting from it.  This collection features their two albums together (1973 and 1977) along with various alternate takes.

iTunes – sigh.  If you wanna buy something on iTunes or even download a free update for an iPhone app, of course you’ve gotta enter your account ID and password.  And there’s a check box for “remember my password.”  And it simply doesn’t work.  iTunes almost always asks for my password – even for the free stuff – even during the same session.  This used to work fine before Version 9.  I’m on at the moment, still waiting for them to fix this.

I’m feeling a bit frustrated today.  My car has now been for sale for two months and no serious nibbles at all.  Ads are currently on European Motors’ web site (and they’ve put some text ads in the SCMP), GeoXpat and  Good photos (and it’s a sharp looking car, convertible with 19 inch wheels, front back & side body kits) and an asking price well within the current market range.  Conventional wisdom has it that no one’s interested because the car is white.   Actually I didn’t want a white car either, but when I was shopping this was the only BMW 330 convertible I could find within my price range.  Any suggestions for other web sites to try?  If there’s no movement by the end of the year, I’m going to have to start taking it around to used car dealers and will have to settle for significantly less than I’d get via private sale.   Yes, I’ve had my share of problems with it, but it’s running well these days, been recently serviced, lots of parts replaced, etc.   As I said, feeling frustrated.

Someone sent me an invite for Google Wave and I accepted.  But I confess, I haven’t paid any attention to it up till now and I have no idea what to do with it.

The SCMP reports today that a new study by scientists in Norway has determined that Hong Kong’s per capita carbon footprint is the 2nd highest in the world (Luxembourg “wins”).  28 percent of HK’s 29 tons per capita comes from clothing, especially leather goods, imported from the mainland – much of which is simply passing through Hong Kong on its way to some other place.  The fact that Hong Kong is relatively small and that most goods used here are imported also factors in heavily.  One of the authors of the paper says that a key way that Hong Kong could reduce emissions would be to “ensure that it is supplied by clean power sources.”

In a related article, a survey finds that 70% of HK people believe that the government lacks commitment to improving air quality.  The big question is, who are those other 30% and what drugs are they taking?   And 90% of those polled thought that Hong Kong’s air quality is “poor” – again, who are those other 10%?

What’s a “snakehead”?  Another article in the SCMP today notes that, “police detained eight South Asian illegal immigrants off Sai Kung yesterday,” and then goes on to say, “they raced after the speedboat that had dumped the immigrants there, nabbing a 26-year-old mainland snakehead.”  No definition of the term is given in the article. Ah, Wikipedia says it’s a type of Chinese gang involved in human smuggling.  Guess I should have known that.

Repost – Monday Night Out

Amazon, which hosts this blog, had a major crash yesterday. The person managing the blog for me got things restored pretty quickly, but one post went AWOL. So here it is again.

It always takes me a long time to get over jet lag and my return from my last trip has proven to be no exception. Now that I’ve been home for a week and have been sleeping somewhat normally, it’s time to start getting out again – the only gating factor being trying not to spend much money.

But last night, out for dinner with a friend and then a short visit to Amazonia. Amazonia has two house bands. They’re both Filipino and they’re both contractually obligated to only play cover songs. By now you probably know I’m a fan of Icebox, the band that’s been resident there for more than 3 years and features Willy, a seriously worthwhile lead guitarist. I also enjoy the second band, Kaktooz – their guitarist was a student of Willy’s and I think their female singer puts in the effort to sing the songs as herself and not merely imitate the records.

So last night, while there, took the opportunity to grab some photos. Having that 35mm f/1.8 lens helps but in order to shoot without the flash and at a decent shutter speed, I had to bump ISO up to 3200. Fortunately, with a decent DSLR, the results are still respectable. Here are a few of my favorite shots from last night.


Actually my right eye has been bothering me for a few days – may go to the hospital to get it looked at later – but one thing that meant last night was that I had to stay in auto-focus mode, I couldn’t see clearly enough to focus the camera on my own.

And yesterday I was quite tempted to spend the money on a Canon G11 or S90, even stopped into a shop and played with each of them for a bit, but so far, at least, managing to resist the temptation to spend. If y’all wanna create a pool as to how long I’ll hold out, feel free!

First listens

If I haven’t been posting too much about music lately, that’s because I haven’t been listening to much.  Listening to music has rarely been a background activity for me; I prefer to play new stuff when I can actually listen to it.

But to make my gf happy, I put on the new Adam Lambert album, For Your Entertainment, in the car yesterday.

And to be honest, by half-way through the third song, I’d had enough.  “I’m not enjoying this, are you?” I asked.  She said no and I quickly switched to something else.  He’s chosen songs that allow him to use the full range of his voice in a Freddie Mercury-like way.  All accompanied by lots of heavy synths that I guess are meant to sound modern but sounded annoyingly 80s-retro to me.  And three songs in, I was still waiting for a song with a hook that I might want to hear again.  Didn’t happen, not even on the probably remix-friendly single.

Then went onto Norah Jones’s latest, The Fall.

This sounded a whole lot better. Working with producer Jacquire King, who has worked with Tom Waits and Kings of Leon, plus musicians like Marc Ribot, it sounds like a serious attempt to update her sound without alienating her fan base too much. On first listen, it worked okay for me.
(Do you find the Amazon frames above to be too blatant, too commercial? Would you prefer simple text links or can you live with it like this? Please let me know.)

Today’s Crazy Lyric

love da capo

Crazy lyric of the day/week/month – should this be a new regular feature here?

Today’s wacky lyric comes courtesy of Arthur Lee, leader of the band Love.  Love was one of the leaders of the L.A. music scene in the late 1960s.  Their music represented a diverse collection of influences and their third album, Forever Changes, is a certified masterpiece.

But another favorite song, She Comes in Colors, comes from their second album, Da Capo, recorded in 1966 and released the following year.  It’s a very good album, but was overshadowed by Forever Changes, which was released a short 10 months later.

Anyway, I was driving the other day, this song came up and it simultaneously makes no sense at all and yet all the sense in the world.  Enjoy!

She Comes in Colors

A thought in my head, I think
Of something to do
Expressions tell everything
I see one on you

Whoa-oh-oh-oh, my love she comes in colors
You can tell her from the clothes she wears

When I was invisible
I needed no light
You saw right through me, you said
Was I out of sight?

Whoa-oh-oh-oh, my love she comes in colors
You can tell her from the clothes she wears

When I was in England town
The rain fell right down
I looked for you everywhere
‘Til I’m not around

Whoa-oh-oh-oh, my love she comes in colors
You can tell her from the clothes she wears

CDs & DVDs I Bought On My US Trip

In truth, it might make more sense to post this after I listen to all of it but wtf …. 90% of this is easily available in HK, it was just a lot cheaper to get it “over there.”

* Where the Action Is: Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968. Four CD set, the fourth in Rhino’s Nuggets series (an expansion of Lenny Kaye’s original 2 LP compilation, I think it was on Elektra?). I’d downloaded this but thought it was worth it to actually own it – in part because I love this music, in part because I have every other volume in the Nuggets series and especially because it features an absolutely fabulous book with detailed credits and info for each of the 101 songs on the set. Standells, Byrds, Love, Buffalo Springfield, Captain Beefheart, Lowell George, Iron Butterfly, Bobby Fuller, Rising Sons, Sonny & Cher, Doors, Seeds, Music Machine, Spirit – that’s just some of the bands on just the first disc of this kick-ass set.

* Foo Fighters – Greatest Hits – the “deluxe” version that includes a DVD of their music videos.

* R.E.M. – Live at the Olympia – again deluxe version with 2 CDs and 1 DVD, early thoughts are that they’ve really been a shadow of their former selves in the studio for the past decade but still can cut it live.

* Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland – I’d wanted to get this “collectors edition” that includes a DVD with a documentary on the making of this, one of my all time favorite records, finally bit the bullet when I came across a used copy at Amoeba.

* Glen Campbell – Reunited With Jimmy Webb – for my money Webb is up there with the all time great songwriters and he got even better once he made the conscious decision to stop chasing hits. Campbell, one of the top session guitarists in the 60s, when he feels like it and when he has the right material, is a terrific singer. 14 bonus tracks clinched the deal for me.

* Barry Goldberg – Barry Goldberg – the original mix of the only non-Bob Dylan album produced by Bob Dylan, recorded in Muscle Shoals. Goldberg was my piano teacher while he was working on this record and two songs co-written with Gerry Goffin became big hits for others (Imagination for Gladys Knight, Spotlight for Rod Stewart). Maybe one of the worst album covers of all time. Barry introduced me to Goffin and Mike Bloomfield but I never got to meet Dylan – just as well, what the hell could I have said to his Bobness anyway. Further trivia: during this period Goldberg had an instrumental hit on r&b radio but had to change his name because the program directors said they wanted to play the record but couldn’t because his name sounded too white for their stations. So for one record he became “Snake Eyes.”

* Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out 40th Anniversary Edition – a relatively typical ABKCO disgrace – the first two CDs could have fit on a single disc. Haven’t watched the DVD yet. Whatever, the original album was great, and I say that not just because I went to one of these shows but because it was great.

* Flo & Eddie – New York Times – two CD set of tracks selected from their 15 year run of Christmas shows at the Bottom Line in NYC. Flo & Eddie of course being the leaders of the Turtles, members of the Mothers of Invention and two of the busiest session back-up singers of all time (everyone from Springsteen to Bolan), they could do amazing pure pop and biting rock satire.

* Big Star – Keep an Eye on the Sky – long overdue box set for this seminal group. They may not have recorded much, they may not have sold much, but their influence over everything that came after them remains huge to this day.

* U2 – Unforgettable Fire – the original album, a 2nd disc of bonus tracks, a DVD documentary and a really nice hard cover book.

DVDs purchased – again mostly available in HK but cheaper to buy there

* The Story of Roxy Music – More Than This – had been debating on this, again a cheap copy at Amoeba helped make up my mind

* Wings of Desire – one of my all time favorite films gets the Criterion Blu-Ray treatment, no way I could resist because the DVD I have of this looks like shit

* Third Man – I wasn’t going to spring for this Criterion Blu-Ray, I’m happy enough with the standard def disc, till I found out this was going out of print. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s a fucking amazing film. If you haven’t seen it, what’s wrong with you?

* Howard’s End – Merchant/Ivory get the Criterion Blu-Ray treatment. (Noticing a trend here? In the past I’ve bought as many Criterion releases as possible and rarely been disappointed; their Blu-Rays are even better.)

* Monsoon Wedding “and Seven Short Films” – yes, another Criterion Blu-Ray

* Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – the complete 9 disc set sold only via the net by Time/Life

* Food, Inc – bought this because I thought it was important for my mom to see it. I wanted to leave the disc with her after we watched it, told her she should loan it to all her friends, she said none of her friends have DVD players so it stays with me.