Friday, October 23, 2009

Troy Andrew Barker

 This is Troy Andrew Barker's first look around at his brave new world, the first time light hit his retinas and he realized he can see. He was born to David and Lucy Barker at 4 AM on October 23rd, 2009 at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, CA. I am now a grandfather. Yikes!
 A hospital is very quiet at 4 AM, and Troy did not disturb the peace. He came into this world very quietly.
 Lucy had a difficult time with childbirth since she has a tiny, under 5 foot frame. Troy weighed in at 7 pounds 10 ounces, two ounces over average. As of right now, mother and baby are resting comfortably in the hospital and are likely to go home on Saturday morning.
My wife missed the excitement as she was on company travel. Me, I waited patiently in the wee hours of the morning in the birthing lobby, watching KPBS. Classical music was being aired - it was Gustavo Dudamel, at the far left of the screen, as the new conductor of the Los Angeles Symphony. Here's to hoping that Troy too is a classic.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Labor

Apparently David and Lucy are at the hospital right now, with Lucy in labor. I'm going to grab a bite to eat and head on over. I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top 10 Best Rock Albums Ever

I've finally succumbed to that malest of traits: making a list of my favorite music. The trait has been well documented in popular culture, most notably in the movie High to prove I'm male, here is my list. Note I did make two rules: to make it into the top 10, the album had to be at least 10 years old. The reason is that I think it takes ten years to determine if a recording has staying power, ie does it withstand the test of time? Second, I have to still listen to it on occasion. If it just sits on the shelf, well it must not be that special to me. The ten albums in this post have withstood that test and still make it into my CD player. In alphabetical order:

Jethro Tull's Aqualung (1971) is undeniably a classic in my book. The songs are unique, they are very memorable, and it lyrically says things that noone else dares say. Since the first time I heard Aqualung in 1975, I really related and latched on to it. To this day, I listen to it at least a few times a year. It warms my heart. In a weird way.

Okay, I admit it. I was a teenager when AC/DC's Back in Black (1980) came out. I was full of raging hormones, and this album fed every last one of them. It is one of those albums where I have to be in a very special mood to listen to - a heavy partying mood! But I do still listen to it on ocassion...not that I have to dig it out. It is still played quite regularly on the radio and at clubs. Apparently I'm not the only one who loves it.

Apparently America agrees with me on this one, too. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1973) stayed on the charts longer than any other album ever. And that's saying something. Several on the songs on here (Money, Us and Them, Time) are still very regularly heard in daily life. For good reason. They are excellent. I want to give honorable mention to another Pink Floyd albums that holds a special place in my heart: The Wall (1979). Anyone who was in their late teens when it came out probably can relate.

Now this one will probably surprise you. This probably makes it onto very few Top 10 lists. But I think Brian Setzer's Dirty Boogie (1998) is stunning. It is fun, classic, enjoyable music that always make me want to get up and dance. My wife and I started listening to this when our kids became older and we started getting our evenings free again. That may be one of the reasons I really like it. In any case, it just barely makes it past my "10 year" more albums make it past, this top 10 list may change. To see who future challengers may be, look at the top 20 list.

Any teenager from the 1970s will have no qualms with this selection. Led Zepplin IV (1971) is universally loved and garners and understanding head-nod from persons of my vintage - no explanation needed. An interesting note for the younger crowd: when we used to buy this album on vinyl (gasp! yes we bought actual records), almost EVERY ONE of these damned things were warped. If it wasn't warped when we bought it, it was within six months. We never did figure out why, but it ensured we bought many a copy of Led IV, as it is affectionately called. Honorable Mention: Zepplin's In Through The Out Door (1979).

Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous (1978) is an often overlooked gem. This album has some very fast, moving, hard rocking songs like Jailbreak, Rosalie/Cowboy's Song, and of course The Boys are Back in Town. And it has some very slow, moving ballads such as Dancing in the Moonlight and Still in Love with You.

While raising my kids, I really didn't have time to listen to music much. But a little band called Nirvana caught my attention on TV one night, and it was addiction at first sight. I bought everything I could get my hands on of theirs. I didn't fall for grunge so much as I fell for this one grunge band. Big Time. Because of it's uniqueness, timelessness, and sheer musical beauty I nominate Nirvana's Nevermind (1991) to my top 10 list.

I struggled for awhile on this one. I could not make a top 10 without Queen. But Queen's best stuff is littered over 5 or 6 albums. I narrowed it down to two: Queen's Jazz (1978) is excellent, but it was beat by a nose by A Night At The Opera (1975) which probably marks their zenith...especially due to the inclusion of Bohemian undeniable classic. Oh, and a third great album is The Game (1980) even with it's heavy disco influence...and News Of The World (1977), and...see my delimna?
 I can narrow down my all-time favorite album to one of three.  Aqualung, listed at the top of this post, is one of them. Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic (1974) is another. I can't explain why this album speaks to me so loudly - it just does. Perhaps part of it is because I discovered it after my family had moved across the country in my mid-teens and I was lonely. Maybe it is because the music really is that good. I'll probably never be able to look at P.L. in an unbiased way, but no matter. It is definitely in my top three.
And the third? The album I wasted a great deal of my youth listening to. I was known far and wide as the largest Aerosmith fan in Stillwater, OK. My claim to fame in those years. And my favorite of all Aerosmith albums is Toys in the Attic (1975). I have this album memorized from start to end and can play it in my mind at will. Not sure if I'm proud of that or not. In any case, honorable mention goes to two other Aerosmith albums that are a close second and third in my Aerosmith favorites: Rocks (1976) and Get Your Wings (1974) which is an oft-overlooked gem.

So there it is. My top 10 as of October 21, 2009. Subject to change. Void where prohibited.

Top 20 Best Rock Releases Ever

Now for the next 10 albums in my top 20. These albums don't have to be at least ten years old, but I do have to listen to them once in awhile. Since they haven't stood the test of time yet, this part of the list will probably change over time. So be it! In alphabetical order:

Dire Straight's self-titled album (1978) is likely to remain on the list simply because it has been a favorite for so long. It is hard to describe how new, crisp, and utterly unlike anything that preceded it this album was in 1978. Dire Straights no longer sound unusual because of all the other D.S. that have followed and all the airtime that those albums get. But in 1978, I can tell you that this was the album to have in most any freshman college dorm room.

Another album you probably did not expect, and that you may not even know about. The Uncle Kracker album Double Wide (2001) has quickly become a favorite of mine. It probably has a great deal to do with the fact that it sounds a lot like Kid Rock - another favorite of mine. Give it a listen - you may be surprised. (Note: no K.R. has made it onto my list yet because there are usually great cuts on his albums, and miserable cuts on his albums...not very consistent. But I'm seriously considering adding Rock N Roll Jesus (2007) to my top 20)

Now, folks, now we're talking! If you haven't noticed, this is the first female singer on my list. I really didn't like most of the female singing from decades past (Heart excepted), but since 2000 there has been an abundance of great stuff out there. The first I noticed this was with Ciara's Goodies (2004) and there has been a continuous stream since then. Welcome to my collection, all you female singers!

Now I've been using a rule that a band can't have two places in my top 20, which almost gets broken here since Mr. Fagen is half of the duo we normally think of as Steely Dan. But this album came out of his solo career, so I don't count it as a Steely Dan recording. Kamakiriad (1993) is very jazzy, very laid back recording that just sparkles. I'm not sure why and I'm not sure when I got hooked. But I am most certainly hooked.

Here's another one: Gwen Stefani's Love Angel Music Baby (2004) is rarely not found in my car interior somewhere. I just love it. I love it so much that I have to watch carefully that I don't play it too much and burn out. My favorites include Luxurious, Harajuku Girls, and Rich Girl. Very nice work, Gwen! If you don't agree, let me take you for a spin in the Vette one Saturday night with this playing...I think you'll change your mind.

And here is the album we discovered when we discovered gyms. I credit this album with motivating me to do just one more set each night, which in turn motivated me to lose weight, which in turn motivated me to a stronger self image. Yes, Black Eyed Peas Monkey Business (2005) has been very good to me.

It's a crying shame that Eric didn't make it into my top 10, but I would not be able to sleep at night if he wasn't in my top 20. So here is Slowhand (1977) which is in my opinion head and shoulders above anything he did before or since. Just listen to Wonderful Tonight, Lay Down Sally, and We're All The Way and tell me you don't agree. I dare you.

OH, Oh, oh. Does this album ever hold a special place in my musical collection. We had just bought this CD when we went to Vegas and, perchance, were given a convertible as a rental. We ran around that town until daybreak every night with this playing in the warm night air, with the bright Vegas lights making our heads glow. There is some very memorable music on Outkast's double album Speakerboxxx / The Love Below (2003) and I'm sure it would be in my top 20 anyway, but that Vegas weekend sure didn't hurt it any.

Let's jump into the way-back machine one more time and take a gander at this Edgar Winter classic. In some ways I'm miffed that it got knocked from my top 10, but in other ways I'm perfectly content it is still in the top 20. No matter what your age, no matter what type of music you like, check your pre-conceived notions at the door and listen to They Only Come Out At Night (1972) when you are in a relaxed, content, open-minded mood one evening. It's great and I would really like to expose it to as many people as possible. Take care.

My oldest son introduced me to Stone Temple Pilots and I'm very glad he did. We were just starting to explore their discography when Tiny Music - Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996) came out and we fell in love almost instantly. This one is a favorite of our entire family. And we immensely enjoyed the STP concerts we've attended (the most recent: July 4, 2009 in Pala, CA). Please give this a listen. Actually, ten listens as I don't think one can truly appreciate music until it has been played 10 times within a week or two.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don't Tread On Me

Well my beloved cell was run over Friday night by a Ford Explorer...full on, no glancing blow. And it still works! The screen shattered internally, so it is now toast. That's too bad, as it has an excellent feel in my hand...Feels very high quality, fits perfectly, very very nice. Except that that damn keypad made texting a royal pain.

So the Sprint store manager showed me a new like my hold phone, but it has a qwerty keyboard too! I can text so much more easily now...can't believe I lived without qwerty for so long...
The only problem is this new phone is larger than the old one - the extra bulk is very noticable but also probably very necessary to fit the keyboard. And this new one doesn't have the nice, heavy, metallic feel of the old cell phone. It is plastic and feels that way.
Oh well, if that's what it takes to get a qwerty keyboard, so be it. I just need to make sure it stays out from under car tires.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vegas Summer 2009

 Our annual spring Vegas trip did not happen until summer this year...we had a great time. Here we are at the Hostile Grape in the M Resort.
 Levi and Crystal getting ready to enjoy a fine Japanese dinner...
 ...and just a little farther down, here is my wife and Lexis.
 Now I have been intrigued with the Photobombing series on TheChive lately, which is no doubt what possessed me to do this mugging...or maybe it was the wine, who knows.
 Another shot of us....

And finally, atop the M Resort. The shot above is of the Vegas skyline (the strip is to the far left) and to the right is one windblown shot of the two of us. Very glad we went - it was a very fine weekend...thanks to all who joined us!