Album Review: Train – Bulletproof Picasso
September 20, 2014
I don’t normally review albums but figured “what the heck?” I just listened to Train’s latest album, Bulletproof Picasso and felt moved to share.
So you know where I am coming from, let me say I am a big Train fan. Don’t believe me? I have tracked my listening for years using Last.fm and here are a few tidbits related to Train:
- In 2013 Train dominated my listening with 7 songs in the top 10.
- In 2012 Train’s Drive By was my most listened to song of the year.
- In 2012 Train had 11 songs in my top 20.
- In 2010 Hey Soul Sister was my #3 most listened to song of the year.
Okay, now that I have verified I am a true Train fan, on with the album review. In a word the album was “meh.” Okay, that’s not a real word but you get the idea. Normally, when I have a new album, I will listen to the entire thing once through and one or two songs will jump out as the ones that I think should be the singles released. Then after I listen about five or six times, I find a hidden gem or two that is much better once you take the time to listen to them.
For some reason, I didn’t get any of that from this album. The track Train released as the first single, Angel in Blue Jeans sounds just like Mermaid off California 37 (which I loved thoroughly.) I am sure it will get played to death on the radio and eventually will grow on me – like Hey, Soul Sister did back in 2010. (I really disliked that song when it came out and after hearing it every fifth song for months on the radio, it became a fun little diddy.)
So does this mean Bulletproof Picasso is going to be major suckage? Who know? I have only listened to it twice through and nothing has grown on me.
Rather, the song, “Give It All” actually pisses me off. It is an apologetic mixture of guilt over success and some sort of love song… it feels manipulative. I can already see the video – it will show homeless people and single mothers and wane from those tugged heart-strings to a wistful remembrance of a former love interest. Again, it just feels staged.
Check back with me in about six months after three songs have been played ad nauseam and I’ll probably be singing along with everyone else.
by Chris Doelle
Prison, Trains, Love and Other Drugs: The Man in Black
September 19, 2014
2014 Book Goal: 52 (mostly non-fiction)
2014 Books Read: 55 (91% non-fiction)
Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn is a fascinating biography of the Man in Black.” While there has been no lack of information about Johnny Cash, this book delved a bit deeper and told more about the struggles, demons and insecurities JR (he didn’t start going by Johnny until he career took off) Cash fought.
I grew up listening to Johnny Cash as my father loved (and seemingly patterned himself after) this edgy anti-hero. The book was useful to me as much to understand my own father better as know Cash. My father was in the Air Force, as was Cash. My father combed his hair like Cash. The big difference was that my father was a frustrated musician not in the same universe musically as Johnny Cash.
I learned a lot about Cash through this book. My biggest takeaway shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me because you see it in so many artist – insecurity. It seems that the bigger the star, the more they are fighting to prove their worth.
Hilburn does and excellent job of putting the reader inside the head of Johnny Cash. He also keeps the reader interested with his ability to tell the story. The interaction Cash had with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard and Johnny Horton are enthralling and creates a whole new understanding of the music industry of the 50’s and 60’s.
If you are not a country music fan, you will still like this book. If you have any interest at all in Johnny Cash, this could be the definitive biography for you.
by Chris Doelle
Surprise: Sports Classes are Easier than Accounting!
September 12, 2014
Not long ago, I wrote about the MOOC (massive open online courses) options available and signed up for several of them. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to review what I have discovered in the two classes that started already.
Both classes are in their second week and while the structure and operational aspects of them are similar, the experience is quite different.
The two course are:
- Sports and Society from Duke University – a 7 week look at the role societal changes have in the sports culture
- Introduction to Financial Accounting from the Wharton School of business – a 10 week course covering the basics of financial accounting
Sports and Society has entertained largely because of the content. Professor Orin Starn is entertaining and the subject is something that holds great interest for me. It has been extremely easy – to the point where the weeks assignment takes me the time to watch the few videos +about ten minutes extra for the homework and weekly quiz. I have scored perfectly on every bit of the homework and quizzes with the exception of one question on one quiz that I thought I had clicked the answer but missed the button.
I really look forward to each iteration of this course and feel sure I will enjoy the journey en route to my perfect scores.
Introduction to Financial Accounting is another story altogether. Professor Brian Bushee is certainly well-versed in his subject and entertaining in his video lectures – albeit a bit cheesy – but the subject is thick stuff. There are a ton of practice exercises and the volume of information is quite a bit. We are talking 9 videos from 10-15 minutes each this first week.
These videos are not quick ones you can play in the background while folding laundry. The exercises are designed for you to pause the video to work on the problem and then restart to see the answer – this means that a 15 minute video takes about 30 minutes each. I have spent a great deal of time taking notes, pausing and continuing – it took a far cry longer than the sports course did. I ended up putting in about 4-5 hours the first week before doing the homework.
Despite the fact that I have done accounting for 20+ years, the homework for this course was MUCH harder as well. You are allowed two attempts to complete the homework and I scored a 60 the first time I tried. Yikes! Talk about a blow to the ego.
On the second go-round I was able to get an 80. This is going to be a tough course, but I will stick with it mainly because as I work toward my MBA I am sure all this subject matter will come up again.
This will certainly be the more useful course and I will definitely feel like I earned something by the time it is completed.
Whether it is a gimme jock class or some nuts and bolts class like accounting, I am digging the online education thing.
by Chris Doelle
Book Review: The Witness Wore Read: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice
September 11, 2014
2014 Book Goal: 52 (mostly non-fiction)
2014 Books Read: 54 (91% non-fiction)
The book The Witness Wore Read: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser is a shocking look at how a psychopath used the faith, compassion and trust of his Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saint congregation to sickening levels. I learned about the book after reading My Story by Elizabeth Smart… that was another shocker of a book.
These books are a continuance of the research I have done about psychopaths in general. I am blown away by the lack of humanity these people have. The whole idea of doing stuff like these psychos do to the fellow humans is so incomprehensible to me. I’m not a naïve person and I have met my share of bad folks, but this kind of stuff is beyond understanding.
It is sickening how the Jeffs family prayed on the goodness of others. While I can’t dismiss what Rulon Jeffs did as the “prophet” of the FLDS church, it was nothing compared to what happened with his son, Warren Jeffs took over. His psychopathy was all that more disturbing.
I had heard the story of the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) ranch just outside of San Angelo, Texas back when the Feds raided the compound and filed it away under “crazy, weird story.” After reading Smart’s book, I sought out this book.
I know these are completely unrelated cases, but both involved some nutjob pretending to be a prophet and using innocent victims for his own gratification both sexual and mental. I think there should be a special prison for these types as my research has convinced me that they are not salvageable. They cannot be rehabilitated. There is some basic wiring differences in their brains.
Other related books I’ve reviewed on psychopaths:
Book Review: Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
Book Review: The Pyschopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry
Woody Allen Stinks Up the Place
September 10, 2014
I’ve never been a big Woody Allen fan – I mean, there are one or two movies of his I liked – Sleeper and…. well, okay maybe just Sleeper. I was invited to this movie as one of those afternoon date flicks and had never even heard of it but I was game. The appeal was going to an afternoon movie with my wife, so the movie didn’t really matter.
I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt when during opening credits I discovered it was a Woody Allen film. I discovered it had Colin Firth in it, whom I have liked for the past 20 years – since seeing him in Pride and Prejudice and felt sure I was going to find it at least mildly amusing.
It was not to be… Magic in the Moonlight is bad – just bad. It seemed to drag on and just never got entertaining.
That is actually too kind. It wasn’t that it failed to be entertaining… it hurt to watch. I’m not joking!
It was two hours of dialogue… not even witty dialogue. It was just rambling that hurt my head.
And when Colin Firth kissed Emma Stone at the end of the film, I was totally creeped out at their difference in age. I was apparently making a face like I had eaten something nasty and glanced over to see my wife making the same face, “Yeah, totally creepy,” she said without any prompting from me.
To give you a good idea of how bad this film actually was… long time readers know that period piece movies usually get a 3 star bump in their rating just because I love the scenery, costumes, buildings, vehicles etc.
RATING 2 out of 10
Put your reading into Overdrive
September 9, 2014
Sorry for the bad pun – but the app, Overdrive is really cool and it was the only catchy title that came to mind. It is an app that works in conjunction with your library membership that allows you to check out ebooks and audiobooks – yes, you can read/listen to these books completely free, just like traditional books in the library.
This app allows you to search titles from all your approved libraries and download them directly to your device.
I use two copies of the app – one for the iPad and one for the iPhone.
As most of my audiobook listening takes place in the car and my iPhone automatically connects to my Civic, I use the phone for audiobooks. I download the ebooks to the iPad as that is where I do my “eyes on letters” reading.
It isn’t a license to download copies of titles and never return them, that is handled automatically by the app. You check out a title for 15 days and whether you are finished or not it returns.
To protect the authors, just like a physical book, the libraries have to purchase these versions of the books as well. When I have a title checked out, nobody else can read it. They are allowed to put a hold on the title and it will automatically be delivered after returned by previous reader.
My new library, the Kyle Public Library is a part of the Central Texas Digital Consortium. I don’t have a ton of info on this network, but it appears that they share their catalogs and allow each others members to check out their owned items. This means that more copies of popular titles are available.
If you like reading (and obviously you do because you have read this far) then join your library, download Overdrive and put your reading into overdrive. (Sorry couldn’t resist.)
by Chris Doelle