Playlist: Gambling, Peace Queers and Weird Things from Woodpiles

Perhaps the most consistent distraction I've had over the last two years has been Scrabble. The wife and I started keeping track of our games in late 2006. This past week, we played our 101st game.

The series now stands at 50-50-1. And in the one tie game we played, I had three tiles on the board when my wife went out. Those three tiles?


I wonder if I can get a line on our next game ...

As if my recent foray into Facebook wasn't a big time-suck, I'm starting to slowly be pulled into the gambling world. I'm not a risk-taker, but you don't have to be with centsports. It's not real money. Here's the deal. Sign up, they give you 10 cents. You bet on upcoming games. You can build up your money and eventually cash out. Or if you lose it, go back and you start all over. It's like playing with someone else's money. Click here to find out more ...

Up in the Air. Walter Kirn.
Ryan Bingham is a career transition counselor. Basically, he fires people. This job keeps him on the move with no real home. And Bingham is happy with that. He finds solace in his groundless life of airports and hotel chains. In Up in the Air, Bingham strives to reach his ultimate goal -- a million frequent flier miles -- and get to his sister's wedding on time. Since it was published before 9/11, the novel seems a little outdated. Still, it's a a very perceptive book that will hit home with anyone who regularly flies.

Juno/Thank You for Smoking director Jason Reitman is directing the movie version of Up in the Air, which will star George Clooney as Bingham. The film is expected to come out later this year.

Peace Queer. Todd Snider
Trouble in Mind. Hayes Carll.
It only takes one look at the cover and the title of his latest to release to realize that Todd Snider is not going soft. Recorded earlier this year, you can call this a send-off to George Bush. The album opens with Mission Accomplished, where Snider rips on 43 over a Bo Diddley beat with phrases like:

I’m so turned around I could calm up a riot.
Fighting for peace? That’s like screaming for quiet.

There's a spoken word poem about a bully called Is This Thing Working?, which is repeated with slight acoustic accompaniment on another track as Is This Thing On? And Snider turns in a memorable slow take on John Fogerty's Fortunate Son.

A friend, who is a huge folk fan, gave me the Snider CD along with the latest by Hayes Carll. I had heard good things about Hayes Carll, but avoided him most of the year. I had enough of the country-leaning, singer-songerwriter type.

Carll is a definite Snider protege, a wiseass who can write a memorable tune about losing a girl to Jesus, then vowing to kick his ass. The music at teams leans to close to middle of the road country, but Carll usually finds a way to kick it up a notch, whether he leans to honky-tonk or a little outlaw country. Great songwriting throughout.

The Story Podcast.
If I ever get on the radio, I'd like Dick Gordon to interview me. On the WUNC North Carolina-produced The Story, Gordon talks to regular folks -- pharmaceutical reps, women who worked on the line at a chicken processing plant and an Ethiopian immigrant. Their stories are diverse, personal, fascinating and memorable. They're regular people, but their stories are anything but boring. Gordon's show is a great example of how public radio works. If you can't find The Story on your local radio, you'll find the podcast on iTunes.

McSweeny's Issue 29.
Nice rebound from the beautiful, but too short fable issue. The latest edition of McSweeny's Quarterly features short stories by Roddy Doyle and Yannick Murphy, and a backpage done by Joyce Carol Oates. But the highlights are Blaze Ginsburg's hilarious My Crush on Hilary Duffy and the disturbing Laura Hendrix story A Record of Our Debts, where you're not sure what the young couple has found in the woodpile -- even after they take them home and train them.

LIFTED, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. Bright Eyes.

Often cited as Conor Oberst's strongest album as Bright Eyes. And it's not bad. The intensity is there, but it lacks the sophistication of his later work. Still, it's worth revisiting. And it's easy to see how Oberst earned the nickname the "indie Dylan" back in the early 2000s.

Weekly Playlist 1/9

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