Saturday, January 31, 2009

Munchy says Good Day Sunshine...

Munchy the cat took advantage of the sunshine today - a break in the winter weather - to get some sun rays in!

Photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

A Reminder: The Boss plays tomorrow...

This is just a reminder - as if it was needed - that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will play during halftime of tomorrow's Super Bowl game. This special set is expected to last for 12 to 13 minutes. When a reporter asked Bruce how he and the band would decide what songs to play, he responded: "Well, I'm the boss, the boss! The boss decides what we play. Nobody else decides. People suggest, hint, they cajole, but I decide."

The Boss did promise a high-energy set and we're sure that we can believe him. There'll be a darkness on the edge of Pittsburgh town after the Cardinals win this one.

Photo: USA Today (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)


Running gives me confidence. Steve Prefontaine

(Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Boiling over...

One additional comment about the dreaded Pike Place Roast (PPR) from Starbucks. Other commentators have compared the taste of PPR to the instant Hills Brothers or Folger's coffee that you can make for yourself - cheaply - at home. It is hardly gourmet coffee.

So the question arises, if Starbucks is going to offer its clientele a second or third-rate coffee, why not sell it at a discount? A "tall" (small) cup of PPR should sell for no more than 99 cents if the 'bucks wants to compete with McDonald's.

Has anyone in Seattle noticed that there's a recession on?

Is Starbucks Brewing Its Way into Extinction?

I don't often agree with things I see in the San Francisco Examiner, but one recent headline in the Ex's Business News section appeared to be right on: "Starbucks falsely blaming the economy for faltering sales." Exactly, I don't see that Starbucks' most loyal customers left the coffee chain... It actually appears that Starbucks is running away from its most loyal customers.

What did the old-time loyal customers want? Usually, one of two things. Either a strong, bold, cup of coffee or a good decaf coffee; with either being available at any hour of the day/night. What is the common factor here? The customer who wants one of these brews is either concerned about the effects of too much acid - and darker, bold, coffees have less acid than lighter ones - or the effects of caffeine. These customers were willing to pay a premium at Starbucks for one word: dependability. Sadly, this word is no longer applicable.

At most Starbucks locations, you cannot get a bold cup of coffee after the lunch hour begins, or after 2:00 p.m. And at the great majority of locations you can't assume you'll get a cup of decaf after noon. Oh, some 'bucks shops say you can request a decaf but you'll have to wait while its made. In other words, it has become a special order item and your order may or may not be honored.

What is Starbucks now offering instead? The Pike Place Roast (PPR), a coffee so weak and full of acid that the reader of a newspaper in the Northwest U.S. said, "(It) is so much like McDonald's coffee that if I want a cup, I'll go to McDonald's!" Yes, and save money in the process. (Difficult choice, huh?)

Starbucks was never going to prosper by going after the McDonald's-Wal Mart crowd and it is certainly not going to be a winning strategy now. I'll give Starbucks a bit of advice worth an extra bold cup of coffee: If you want those customers who are now heading to Peet's to come back, offer up at least two bold brews and a decaf option 24 hours a day. Simple.

If a customer actually wants a PPR, make them wait or - better yet - give them directions to the nearest McDonald's!

Friday, January 30, 2009

An attorney who represents himself (Blago blows hot air)...

Has a fool for a client, right? Apparently, this phrase was never heard by the former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. Anyone who listened to his "closing statement" during the impeachment trial that ended with his conviction yesterday could see that Blago - a former criminal prosecutor - made several silly and specious arguments.

One argument he made is that some of the counts or charges against him dated back to the first of his two terms as governor. He asked why charges had not been brought against him earlier if he had truly done something wrong? Well, the senators present were clearly aware that there is no statute of limitations when it comes to impeachment. And this argument sounds more like an admission than a denial... Imagine the drug dealer, for example, who asks why he was arrested this particular week when he's been selling for months or years! It hardly sounds like the argument of an innocent person.

Of course, the impeachment proceeding was examining the totality of his record of service as governor, a point that Blago was trying to obscure. He also argued in his comments that the process was not fair, comparing the impeachment proceeding to a criminal trial, which it is not. It would have been far more honest for him to acknowledge that this was a political process and rest his defense on political grounds and political arguments.

An excellent point made by a news commentator is that when Blago finished his overly-dramatic 45-minute statement, he simply walked off of the stage... refusing to answer any questions. Wouldn't most "in his shoes" (one of his fave phrases) have stood there for hours answering any questions that the state senators - the very people about to decide his fate - chose to ask? Would this really have been so humbling for the king of the Beatles wig cut?

Guess what, in the federal criminal trial, Blago will be asked questions that he'll have to answer and answer under oath, under penalty of perjury.

Perhaps the saddest part of Blago's dramatic presentation was when he brought up former President Nixon and the Watergate tapes. Yes, for six weeks now the media has been making this comparison and so Blago elected - how cheeky! - to bring up the comparison himself, while stating that he was not like the president who resigned in disgrace.

This, of course, likely made the senators present think back to the night before Blago was arrested... That was the night he dared anyone to tape his conversations; likely knowing that the feds were already doing so. There was something about this guy that made him dance close to the edge, some kind of political death wish. (This also brings to mind Nixon who hated his career in politics so much that some have wondered if he engineered his own downfall.)

All in all, it's a huge shame that this man with obvious speaking skills elected to literally leave on the heels of such a tawdry performance. He might have served his state or community extremely well for decades as a talented prosecutor. We'll just have to assume that his argumentative skills were much better when he was a younger man. Fade to black...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This seems like a very good idea...

I recently happened to be in a Starbucks where, interestingly, the staff members were chatting about how a customer had labeled this location as a "non-cozy" one. I presume the customer in question posted this comment somewhere on the web... The funny thing is that this 'bucks is more hard-edged Irish pub than prim faculty club, so it seemed to me to be a very fair comment.

But when we post an e-pinion, or blog comment or a comment on a rating service like Yelp! how do we know that the business we're describing actually hears our voice? Well, when it comes to restaurants we now have a two-way site called This is a site, based in Mountain View, California, that both collects and posts restaurant reviews - you can see the ones for your own community by going to the site and you can search for reviews from other cities - and scours the internet for more reviews and comments on particular restaurants.

If you go to BooRah, you'll notice that selected reviews are posted but not all of them. If the restaurant owner wants to see all of them, he/she can subscribe for a small fee with BooRah to see every comment/review that the web service finds using search instruments. You will see a 1 to 100 percent rating at BooRah for each restaurant, summarizing the positive versus negative reviews. For example, I earlier posted my favorable comments on the Sombrero Mexican restaurant in Mission Valley, San Diego (one of 340 Mexican restaurants in San Diego listed by BooRah). BooRah shows a 100% favorable rating for this chain restaurant at this location.

I see two key benefits: first, we the consumers are not wasting our time making comments on the world wide web because Boorah will find them and publish them; second, the restaurants that subscribe to view the customer reviews will hopefully take them to heart and make the needed changes to keep their customers and boost their approval ratings.

Come to think of it, a few nice couches and padded chairs would look nice in my local Starbucks... and maybe a few nice heavy throws and a working cat or two!

(The photograph shows the co-founders of BooRah.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the mind

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

John Milton

Drink another cup of coffee and savor your mental health?

According to an article in yesterday's New York Times - "Coffee Linked to Lower Dementia Risk" - a study that tracked coffee consumption in a group of 1,409 middle-aged men and women found that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day might lower a person's risk of developing dementia. Dementia is defined as the loss of mental processing ability, including communication, abstract thinking, judgment and physical abilities. It affects everyday living through short-term and/or long-term memory loss, disorientation, difficulties with money and math, etc.

The men and women in this research study group who drank this amount of coffee over an average of 21 years were 65% less likely to develop dementia than those who drank 2 cups or less per day. There's also an apparent, but not statistically significant reduction in risk, for those who drink five or more cups a day.

If you drink two cups a day, like I do, you might want to consider increasing your consumption by that extra cup of Peet's or Starbucks. However, if you do not currently drink coffee, according to this study, there's no evidence that starting to drink coffee will have any protective effect.

Earlier studies have suggested that drinking coffee may also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and/or Parkinson's disease. Of course, the possibility of error exists because study participants may "innacurately" recall how much coffee they consumed over the course of many years. Oh, well...

Just in case, I'm ordering an extra cup of Java today.

(Pictured is the Peet's coffee shop in downtown Portland.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Matt and Kim hit S.F. amid wellsprings of joy...

S.F. Weekly said that Matt and Kim's "updated take on early-90s (music) is as American as the most colloquial heartland rock." Like John Mellencamp, no doubt. "Matt takes the reins with his brash but endearing vocals, while Kim's driving backbeats provide the anchor. Their latest album comprises simple, irrestible nuggets of pop confection. ... Grand (their second and soon-to-be-released CD) is a testament to the power of uncompicated hooks... Matt and Kim's rapid rise to indie fame may be mystifying to some, but these kids are clearly doing something right."

Joe Blankholm of Flavorpill said, "It's hard to keep a grin off your face as you watch Matt & Kim tap into their seemingly bottomless wellsprings of joy."

Want to be there at the creation, or near it? You can see Matt and Kim play live for a cover charge of only $10 at the Cafe du Nord at 2174 Market Street in San Francisco, on Monday, February 2, 2009, at 8:00 p.m. Call (415) 861-5016 for information.

Years from now people who weren't there are going to swear that they were!

Note: The Cafe du Nord has no connection to the Nordstrom department store on Market Street.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A follow-up note re: George Harrison

Recently, I was talking with a young music fan and we were discussing that band - Those Guys - that John, Paul, George and Ringo were once in. We fell into the usual debate about who was the true leader of the band, Paul or John; knowing that others were overhearing our conversation. Finally, it was time for this discussion to close and my young friend walked over and leaned in right next to my ear. He then said in a near whisper, "But I have to tell you that George has always been my favorite Beatle."

I think this sense of having George as one's "secret" favorite - as funny as this may sound - is why a lot of us felt close to him. George was not going to ever be considered the leader of the band, being quiet, having only a song allocated to him on each album, and in the film Let It Be showing that he could lash out at being ordered to do things by Paul. And this is what made his breakout album - after THAT band had broken up - so special, so monumental, so mind blowing. Wow, this guy had talent... Not a boisterous talent, but a quiet and respectful talent.

George waited his turn, like an actor's understudy or a second-string quarterback. We're so lucky that he had the chance, at last, to display his gifts, his talents, his skills... We were so unlucky because he left us so soon, far, far too early. Now he plays lead guitar in the All-Heaven band, a bigger band than even... well, you know...

Munchy's heavenly wish comes true...

Munchy was hoping against hope that Santa Claus would bring him a heated bed to ease his arthritic bones. As you can see from these photographs, Santa came through delivering a bed that's just about heavenly. Munchy loves Santa!

For his next wish, Munchy's hoping that Stinky Junior might post a blog photo of her Munchy... Being a cat, Munchy is just a bit curious.

Photos: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ice B. on George Harrison and All Things

When All Things Must Pass first came out I, too, was blown away. The songs, lyrics and music were just all so good. Unlike the Beatles' White Album which had some good songs on it - but also some clunkers and some downright odd songs - George's All Things was a complete box set of wonderful and totally enjoyable music. The song "All Things Must Pass" is one of my ten favorites. As I grow older, it still makes me feel good and I smile at all the things that have happened since 1970.

When the Beatles broke up, there were all kinds of stories about how only John and Paul would continue to be successful. I remember listening to Ram by Paul. I traded it in for a Turtles album at Recycle Records in Foothill Farms. John's Plastic Ono Band was pretty good, but then they had Clapton and Voormann and they played some good blues and rock.

It was December 1970, during my senior year in high school. After getting the mid-month pay from my dishwasher job, I remember going to Tower Records on Watt Avenue in Sacramento. George's All Things was on display in the middle of the "B" isle, across from the Beatles bin. KZAP-FM had been playing All Things one side at a time. I picked up a copy, added it to my armful of records and headed to the front counter. (At that time Tower was the place to go at night and it was always packed. It was a destination place with a very eclectic and happy atmosphere.)

When I got home I remember opening up the boxed Harrison album. After I listened to all three records, I realized that this was one of the reasons the Beatles break-up was inevitable; they never would have given George such freedom on a Beatles album.

From then on, I became a big fan of George's albums. I own some of John's albums and Ringo's cassettes. For me, the best post-Beatles music consisted of the Harrison albums. I even liked the music and songs he contributed to the film "Time Bandits." And, of course, the Traveling Wilburys wouldn't have been the same without George. Ice B.

Notes: George Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an individual musician, as well as for being a member of Those Guys. Ice B. is an artist and social critic based in Sacramento, California.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Looking back at one of the best albums ever...

Anyone putting together a listing of the best albums from the period of 1970 on must give strong consideration to including George Harrison's All Things Must Pass somewhere near the top. All Things reached number one when originally released - as did the single My Sweet Lord - and reached number four on the best selling albums list when it was re-released as a boxed 2-CD set with finely re-mastered sound (and extra tracks) in 2001.

"Released in late 1970, the album was a work of majestic beauty. Fans and critics hailed it as his personal masterpiece. Many still consider it the best Beatles 'solo' album." Contemporary Musicians, Volume 2, Gale Research, 1989.

All Things is said to have been the first three-album set ever released by a single musician, and I'm still tremendously impressed by the breadth and scope of its ambition. George himself looked back in 2001 and said, "The big production that seemed appropriate at the time, (may) now seem a bit over the top with the reverb in the wall of sound."

Of course, George didn't really create the album by himself. Phil Spector produced it. Eric Clapton and Dave Mason augmented George's lead guitar work, the fine musicians in Badfinger and the Dominoes (as in Derek & the...) all contributed, Ringo played at least half of the recorded drum work, Billy Preston and Gary Wright played organ, and Klaus Voormann and Carl Radle put down the bass lines. Whew! As if this was not enough, a young Phil Collins played the congas on several tracks.

The only quibble I've ever had with All Things is that the original version of Isn't It A Pity seemed to go on a bit too long, in the vein of Hey, Jude. So I prefer the shorter version included as a bonus in the 2001 version. Perhaps the other issue is that the length of the whole collection makes it - like a movie that runs three hours or more - a hard collection to find time for...

With this in mind, I've given some thought to putting together a single CD compilation; an easy-to-travel-with version. I've come up with the following tracks list - in my preferred order - which comes in at 76:44:

What is Life / If Not for You / I'd Have You Anytime / Behind That Locked Door / My Sweet Lord / Wah-Wah / Beware of Darkness / Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) / Awaiting on You All / All Things Must Pass / I Live for You (bonus song) / I Dig Love / Let It Down / Isn't It A Pity (version II) / Run of the Mill / Art of Dying / What is Life (instrumental version) / It's Johnny's Birthday (instrumental jam) / Plug Me In (instrumental jam) / Beware of Darkness (alternate acoustic version)

Next: Ice B. on All Things and George Harrison

A Special Photograph

Yes, you have no doubt seen many photographs from the inauguration of President Obama. However, this one was taken by someone who sat in the audience and thus offers a unique perspective on this special event.

(Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Some cats...

Just know how to relax... Really relax.

(Click on the photo to see a slightly larger version.)

There's something about Danville...

Danville, California is usually considered to be a quiet, quite expensive-to-live-in town, one that does not make the news. According to the Sacramento Bee, the median household income of Danville residents is "around $115,000." That actually seems like a very, very low ball estimate based on the large, million dollar plus, homes located there.

It seems that this week there was a convergence of factors that brought this particular community into the media forefront... I believe there's an old saying that the news comes in three's. That rule is on display this week.

First, a 17-year-old San Ramon Valley High student was killed on Tuesday in front of his parents' home. In another place this might not be major news, but this was the first homocide in Danville since January of 2007.

Second, a biography of Sara Jane Moore, the would-be assassin of President Gerald Ford, was just released. The book is entitled "Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford." I doubt there's anything actually remarkable about her story, but the San Francisco Chronicle noted that Moore "went from being a housewife in Danville to a wannabee political assassin in San Francisco."

Third and finally, it was a Danville resident who became a true American hero when he ditched his U.S. Airways Air Bus A320 into the Hudson River on January 15th after losing both engines on take-off from LaGuardia Airport. All 155 passengers and crew members on Flight 1549 were rescued.

Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger will be honored tomorrow in a celebration at 1:00 p.m. on the Town Green, 400 Front Street in Danville. Captain Sullenberger clearly deserves to be honored for his skills and heroic actions.

But let us hope that Danville returns to being the community that stays out of the news. No news is...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Turn, Turn, Turn (to everything there is a season)...

Tonight, Mrs. Bear went to use a portable CD player and found that it wouldn't work because a battery had corroded after being left too long in the machine. She did, though, get it to work. Oh... So this explains why I overheard part of a conversation earlier today in a large major-chain grocery store...

A woman nearby says something to her partner that I can't hear due to the piped-in music from the 60's (like These Eyes from the Guess Who). But I do hear his strongly voiced and overly loud reply, "Well, I take very, very good care of my electronic equipment! My stereo, my TV, my computer, my car - all are in very, very good operating order! I make sure of that!"

Wait a second, a car is now considered a piece of electronic equipment? I swear, you can't make these things up, although for the longest time I thought that maybe the San Francisco Chronicle did for its daily "Public eavesdropping" feature. Now I believe... I'm a believer.

Note: Speaking of believing, this is the 150th post on Troy Bear... And they said it wouldn't last! "Simple survival is the greatest victory." Bob Dylan


I know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel no matter what I've been through. Ken Volonte

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's a living...

Believe it or not, this cute cat is working. Yes, he's working at the Nekorabi Cat Cafe in Tokyo, Japan - where young customers pay $10 per hour to watch cats like this one play... and shred the big yellow mouse pillows.

Munchy thinks it's all rather silly.


We must adjust to changing times and still hold on to unchanging principles. Ms. Julia Coleman (President Carter's high school teacher)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Cube that's as cool as ice

The automobile pictured above, the Nissan Cube, created a bit of a stir at the L.A. Auto Show... Road and Track magazine called it a "funky yet functional box-on-wheels" while another source said it looks like it was designed for the next Roger Rabbit movie! I think it looks like the result of a cross-mating between a Scion xB, a Chevy HHR (Heritage High Roof wagon) and a VW New Beetle.

Despite what you might think, Nissan did not steal the shape from the Scion as the Cube has been on sale in Japan for the past ten years. The Cube will finally be sold in this country come spring. Yes, it is another retro-futuristic design - looking both backward and forward - and a pretty good one in my humble view. In Super Black (one of the scheduled paint colors), the car might look like it's wearing a Darth Vader mask, just the thing for Oakland Raider fans.

Munchy the cat thinks the Cube looks so neat that he'd almost be willing to volunteer to go to the vet in this lean, clean, retro-machine. Almost...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lives and a dream...

I don't know if we all think about the fact that there are activities we won't be participating in during this lifetime... and lives we won't be leading. This illustration reminds me that I will not ever be yachting... nor playing golf. That's just not me.

And last night I dreamed that Mrs. Bear and I were visiting New York City, using the elevator to get to the top of the Empire State Building. As we rose, people asked us why we had our cat Munchy with us and I responded, "Oh, he goes EVERYWHERE with us!"

Munchy says YRRRRROORRW! - which means you can bet on that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals!

Congratulations to the Super Bowl-bound Arizona Cardinals. The pitch and catch duo of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald practically beat the Eagles of Philadelphia all by themselves; and the Cardinals defense bent but did not break in the second half.

Sadly for Philly fans, Donovan McNabb showed - once again - that he simply does not come through in the big games on the biggest stages.

Go, Cards! Beat Pittsburgh!! Shock the world!!!

Do the Linden...

Sometimes you just need a reason to down a few good beers. The San Jose Mercury News recently printed an article entitled, "City of Oakland has put Linden Street Brewing on the ropes." I won't restate it except to note that it explains why the Linden Street Brewery has experienced two years of bureaucratic delays. These delays have placed the brewery on the edge of going out of business even before it has officially opened.

I've never been to this brewery and have no connection to its owners. However, I was extremely impressed when I went to Yelp! and found 31 five-star reviews posted by Linden Street's customers. (That's a batting average of one thousand!) Joe B. said that, "It's a small crafty brewery... that harkens back to Oakland's working-class history."

So if you're in or visiting Oakland, you might want to head down to the Port of Oakland area and stop in at 95 Linden Street, Suite 8, Oakland 94607. Try the Urban Lager draft (pictured) and tell 'em that Munchy sent you!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Run the mile you're in. Ryan Hall

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jenny Dalton's New Vision (by Ice B.)

The noted artist and social critic Ice B. was generous enough to send us his comments on Jenny Dalton, which we are reproducing below:

There is no doubt that Jenny Dalton is a wonderful singer and songwriter. I also view her as a poet. "Daughters of the Dead Sea" is a valuable new addition to the cycle of poets emerging in the 21st Century. I remember a poem by Gary Snyder: "The twang of a tire iron, the taste of rust..." In those few descriptive words you could feel our society age. In Ms. Dalton's book of verse, Entry 9, she writes, "I drink warm water..." and you sense that society can be reborn after cleansing itself of that which makes us weak and lethargic.

With the recent passing of Philip Whalen, it is good to know that there's a new generation of poets and writers providing us with fresh ideas and new thoughts.

Note: The photograph shown here might have been a fine illustration for Jenny's song Snow Mazes of Norway. However, the photo was actually taken in Switzerland. I wouldn't know the difference, but naturally Munchy the Norwegian Forest Cat was pretty clear on this.

Old Lady Munchy - a poem

Here's a poem about a very, very well-loved cat with a fine name, with major thanks to Stinky Junior!


Munch has farted
Just a little
"pfft" noise as she
stood up from the futon
we share.

She runs her head
into me
wanting my love
as her stink,
a mix of rotten bread and athlete's foot,
envelops the room

This morning I found
another spot of vomit
little chunks of
Science Diet, Sensitive Stomach brand
cat food, floating
like little islands,
in a pond of green bile.

I clean up her mess
and she comes over
to apologize
I pet her crown
trying to take
her pain into me.

I wish for a cure
some pussycat pepto
to make her feel
an elixir
to make her
young again.

My Munchy, who
meows like an enraged Bette Davis.

Who always sounds
like she is yelling for
more scotch and
a fresh pack of camel lights.

Munchy, who sat
quite under my feet
in the cab of my GMC Sonoma
on our cold, November
journey from Chicago
to Hollywood, while
her sister rang choruses of
"Let Me OWT!" to the plains,
mountains, deserts and ocean.

My Munchy who has
warmed chairs for me,
tripped me on
my midnight trips to
the toilet &
listened to me cry
curling up on my belly to
soothe me, leaving
half her soft coat to remind
me to be ok.

The ER Vet told us,
last March 23rd at 1:30 a.m.,
nothing was specifically wrong
"cats this age just
tend to have problems"
sometimes fatal
in Munchy's case
"sometimes just painful"
Then the vet relieved us of $500.

My Old Lady Munchy is now -
IBS, special food and funny noises
followed by
not so funny smells

My Munchy
is only gonna get
more expensive
from now on.

But I'll be as
patient with her,
as she has been with me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Faces Have a Really Good Time on Long Player

One of the popular features on this site is the retro record reviews. So how do we know when the time is right to post an album review written so many years ago? The truth is we have absolutely no idea... We simply let the old reviews sit until the time seems right to bring them back again.

In this case, we recently purchased a CD copy of the old album and found that it was not bad. So let's enter the time machine and go back to March 26, 1971, when this review was originally published in The Pacifican, the student newspaper of the University of the Pacific (UOP):

"The Faces philosophy of music is that it is to be enjoyed... The group appears to throw its sounds at the audience and feed from the rebound." Melody Maker

The strong feature of Long Player is 15 minutes of live give-and-take between the Faces and their audience. The live recordings are covers of Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed and Willie Bronzy's I Feel So Good. The recordings here are not lush but honest. Oddly enough, everyone in the band is audible (Rod Stewart, lead vocals extraordinaire; Ron Wood, guitars; Ronnie Lane, bass: Ian McLagan, keyboard; and Kenny Jones, drums). Other attractions:

Bad 'N Ruin - Opens the album with a guitar riff so strong that Wood is isolated from the rest of the band on the left channel. Jones goes through some fine rhythm changes, and Stewart certainly has some fun with his lyrics - "Going home/'Cause I failed you mother/Back home to Baton Rouge/With my tail between my legs/Should you not recognize me/I've heavily made up my eyes..."

Tell Everyone - The Faces playing as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Rodney with a slow soulful vocal; Wood playing complementary runs; Jones on a constant pattern; Motown bass.

Sweet Lady Mary - In case you didn't read the Rolling Stone review: "... an immediately attractive tune, lovely Garth Hudson-ish organ, a beautiful steel guitar solo, and magnificent Stewart lyrics about becoming resigned to irreconcilability with a former love."

Richmond - Features Ronnie lane on bass and vocal. If you like the band Free you'll like this one. (Like a Free rhythm/melody it will grow on you if you give it a chance.)

Had Me A Real Good Time - As soon as the drums kick in, it's obvious where this one came from. The Faces getting their Ya-Ya's out with their answer to the Stones' Honky Tonk Women and Free's All Right Now. It's no coincidence that Warner Brothers wanted this released as a single. (Note also: Nicky Hopkins-like piano; saxophones at the end a la the early Small Faces; patented SF fake ending.)

On The Beach - A delightful tale. A great drinking song.

Jerusalem - Charming bottleneck guitar solo by Ron Wood. Only 1:53 long, but it closes this L.P. that runs 45:19 in length.

PS: Fortunately or unfortunately - depending on your musical tastes - this Faces collection lacks a Led Zeppelinish-Fleetwood Macish-style steel slide guitar monster number like Around the Plynth from their earlier album The First Step.

On the road to find out...

Everything you need you already have. You are complete now; you are a whole, total, person, not an apprentice person on the way to someplace else. - Wayne Dyer

On and on I go, the seconds tick the time out

There's so much left to know and

I'm on the road to find out. - Cat Stevens

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How could two things so similar be so different?

Pictured to the right are two beers that are labeled as Pale Ale. So they should be pretty similar, right? Wrong, they're quite different.

A lot of runners first experience the beers from Deschutes Brewery - of Bend, Oregon - when they participate in the Portland Marathon. Their beer seems to be everywhere downtown, including at the host hotel and it's the Mirror Pond Pale Ale that seems to be the most popular of their offerings. This Pale Ale is as smooth as a slide on the ice (made from Pristine water from Oregon's Cascade Mountains), and it says right on the label that it offers a "lush floral aroma."

This may strike a few guys as just a bit feminine and the art work on the label is so floral that a spouse or girlfriend will no doubt comment on how "pretty" it is. But it's a light beer - with the same alchohol content as in most domestic beers - that goes down just fine for those who've completed a 26.2 mile run with a few thousand friends.

Contrast this with the macho-look label of the India Pale Ale from the Rubicon Brewing Company of Sacramento, bottled by Sudwerk. The label says "tough" and the taste of this IPA is like that of a bold coffee ranging somewhere between a French Roast and a Sumatra blend. The masculine approach is naturally matched by a higher alcohol content. With the Rubicon IPA odds are that no one will feel the need to tell you how attractive the label is, nor will they wonder if it has a lush floral aroma.

Smooth and light like tea, or dark and bold like coffee, both of these are exemplary beers. Just don't wait until you get to Portland or you may have to run more than 26 miles before you get served.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The tail of how Munchy got his name...

Early in my career, I traveled to Santa Barbara County, among other counties, between two to five times a year. On my first work trip, I found a good mid-range business hotel about a mile and a half walk from the old mission. Since this was before the age of computers, I had to walk into the lobby, fill out a registration card and wait for the resident owner-managers to come out. The first time I walked into this then-strange place and grabbed a registration card, a big brown tabby cat startled me by jumping onto the lobby counter. He chatted with me during the entire time that I spent filling out the card.

When the middle-aged manager walked in, he told me that the cat was Munchy, who had just performed his first job. "One of his jobs is to entertain our guests while they're registering." The man read my personal information, checked my identification and credit card or check - sometimes people paid for their room with a check back then - and asked me if I was visiting for business. Yes, I responded.

He then asked what seemed to be a unique question, "Do you have a cat at home?" I thought about ignoring this, but then I responded no... "Why do you ask?" As he then explained to me, "Well, Munchy's second job is to be a loaner cat for people who travel and miss their house cat. He's trained to stay with guests in their room. We can put his food and litter box and water in your room, if you'd like. When you go to sleep, he'll jump on the bed and sleep on top of the blankets."

On this initial visit, I declined this very unique offer... But every time I returned to the hotel, there was Munchy running up to greet me with a whole lot of news! After almost ten years, I finally decided to change jobs and realized that my next business trip to Santa Barbara - and to the original Munchy - would be my final one for quite a while.

So on the next trip I asked if Munchy could stay in my room. Yes, I was told and he did turn out to be well mannered; during the afternoon and early evening he stayed on the floor or on a chair. But when I was finally ready to turn out the lights he jumped on top of the bed and went immediately to sleep! What a neat cat, huh?

As I checked out I told the husband and wife team of managers, "One day I'm going to get a brown tabby cat and I'll name him Munchy after this one." OK, they responded, we'll hold you to it.

Many years later, a family event brought us back to Santa Barbara. I asked Mrs. Bear to stop at the hotel so I could say hello to Munchy. That was when I learned that Munchy and his owners had retired to south Florida. Sigh.

Not that long after this, at a shopping mall pet store, we found a kitten who seemed perfect for the role of carrying on old Munchy's legacy. But he seemed to be black rather than brown. The salesperson at the pet shop said, "Don't worry. He's a Norwegian Forest brown tabby. Believe me, he'll turn brown!" He was right.

A week or two after this kitten went home with us, I took the new Munchy to see a veterinarian for the first time. The vet said that the kitten checked out fine. He then asked me what name we'd chosen for this young male. I proudly responded that his name was Munchy, which is quite unique. The vet then left the room... (What's going on?)

He returned carrying a young male kitten that he said he'd just adopted. This gray tabby kitten wore a collar tag with his name on it... The name was... Munchie.

OK, so maybe the name is not quite THAT unique. Sigh.

Photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Munchy recommends a Blog! (Yeowk!)

Last night Munchy the cat was surfing the web as he usually does in the evening. Suddenly he let out a Yeowk!, the word he uses when he's extremely excited. It turns out that he'd discovered a blog that mentioned another cat named Munchy; this one being a 17-year-old female.

At Munchy's request, I've added the blog in question - Stinky Junior's Blog - to My Blog List. We both enjoyed this blog site and recommend it to you for your consideration.

If you're willing to backtrack through some older (earlier) posts you'll find a great poem from December of 2006, Old Lady Munchy, which confirms that the female Munchy is a well-loved cat.

Maybe Stinky Junior won't mind if we re-post her poem at some point on this blog. Oh, and our Munchy says to pleaz say Yeow! to the other Munchy.

Next: How Munchy (our Munchy) got his name.

Photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Munchy does his morning yoga stretch...

Munchy the Norwegian Forest Cat finds that doing his morning yoga stretch helps him to keep young and limber!

Photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Better Known Vacancy - a song by Jenny Dalton


The sun is weary as it makes its way down
The sound of gravel crunches under my feet
as I walked up to that house where the water rushed in
Clenching sand in my fist, the tide was reaching for me

Sometimes I wish I could float back to you
where it was safe and sound 'cause it's a jungle out there
It's funny how they'll always drive me...

The space is empty, more than it already was
We're disassembled, let's pick up and dust off
I woke up in that house when the water rushed in
Clenching sand in my fist, the tide was reaching for me

Sometimes I wish I could float back to you
where it was safe and sound 'cause it's a jungle out here
It's funny how they'll always drive me
to that better known vacancy

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Variety, not fruit, is the spice of beer

There are few experiences more frustrating than buying a 6-pack of a new beer, only to get home and find that the first bottle contains some strange ingredient. In a recent case, I excitedly brought home a new wheat beer only to find that the brewer had added banana flavor to it! Banana flavor. Now, really, what manly guy is demanding that fruit flavors be added to his beer?

Yes, I know that Heineken contains lemon flavor. Fine, but one fruit-flavored beer is enough.

This is the reason that Sam Adams Boston Brewery deserves some credit for releasing the Brewmaster's Variety Pack. The currently released 12-pack contains two bottles each of six distinct styles. In the current pack - there are different samplers released depending on the time of year - you'll find 2 basic Sam Adams lagers, 2 of Sam's Winter Wheat Ales, 2 very smooth Boston Stock Ales, 2 four-malt Scotch Ales, 2 Black Lagers and 2 Honey Porters.

The sampler pack gives you the chance to find out what you like and don't like with a minimal investment. In this Variety Pack, my favorite is Black Lager which tastes like a very dark and bold coffee, with absolutely no aftertaste (one of the bottles contains a clear explanation of the steps taken to eliminate the usual aftertaste). My least favorite - not so hard to guess - is the Honey Porter. But beer, after all, is still beer.

By the way, how do you get rid of a beer you find out you don't like? Wait 'til a special friend comes over and tell him, "Hey, you'll never believe the great beer I found that has bananas in it! Want to taste it?"

Here's today's cute cat photograph...

This photo is of Cala the San Francisco cat, with clementines. (Cala, a very well-loved cat during her life, now resides in Cat Heaven.)

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle/Reader Photos

Friday, January 9, 2009

Where in the world...?

Is this Starbucks coffee shop located? Hint: There are twelve Starbucks locations in this city.

Yes, it is located in Seoul, Korea. One of the Starbucks coffee shop locations in downtown Seoul is reported to be the largest and maybe the busiest Starbucks in the world. Alas, there's not an El Pollo Loco in sight!

the passage

Now he was going to bury his grandfather. He couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't supposed to be like this, that there was something important he had forgotten to do that had caused everything to go wrong.

Is it possible, he thought, that getting older is a process of losing pieces of yourself along the way, and that it just goes on until there's nothing left?

John L. Parker, Jr. - Again to Carthage

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oversimplifying is dangerous...

Our local paper recently ran a front-page story with the headline: Recovery relies on housing. What's wrong with this? Well, in the last few weeks I've seen these headlines... Recovery depends on retail sales. Recovery depends on automobile sales. Recovery reliant on drug sales. Recovery relies on success in Iraq.

See, you can finish the headline with almost any word or words and it will appear to be true. But telling us that the recovery of the nation's economy depends on one single factor is simply not accurate. It's a way of coming close to lying by making things seem simpler than they are.

If you think the economy is simple, watch MSNBC any day and you'll see dozens of "experts" who contradict each other and disagree on any topic, any solution. Maybe no one really knows anything despite their MBAs. If so, telling us this - the American public - would be far more honest than giving us supposed one word solutions. Oversimplification is dangerous.

PS: Munchy the cat, though, says it is simple. The recovery of the U.S. economy is dependent on increased cat food sales - especially of Friskies Party Mix, his favorite treats. Yeow!