Portugal. The Man surprises, delights sold-out House of Blues crowd

The lights are dim, the anxious crowd screaming and applauding, the curtains closed.

The TVs around the venue lit up with breathtaking imagery of glaciers and snowy mountains.

Portugal. The Man’s latest single “Got It All (This Can’t be Living Now)” begins to blare through the speakers, but it’s not them playing the music.

A 10-minute theatrical HD music video debuts before the band plays a note.

The video featured lead singer and guitarist John Gourley on some sort of “Into The Wild” adventure in Alaska.

Gourley, wrapped in a fur-hooded parka, is pulled through arctic tundra by a pack of sled dogs. And, without giving away the ending, finds himself on the ground, mouthing words to the song.

After the extended introduction, the four-piece started into a re-envisioned version of an old track from debut album “Waiter, You Vultures!”. Lights flashed as Gourley’s frenetic guitar noodling danced to distorted bass lines.

I’ve watched Portugal. The Man ascent to fame over the years, collecting each album and watching them live a handful of times.

Each performance is different than the last and Saturday was no different.

The Portland, Oregon by way of Wasilla, Alaska indie quartet group releases its sixth studio album “In The Mountain, In The Cloud” July 17 and used its sold-out House of Blues Anaheim audience as ears for many of the new tracks.

The group sprinkled a number of the new songs throughout the hour-and-a-half long performance that include a single song, but 10+ minute encore.

It was clear Portugal was on tour to generate steam for the upcoming release of “In The Mountain”.

Fans sang along to favorites from the popular (and more pop-sounding) album “The Satanic Satanist”, which helped but the band on the map and in 2010, secure a deal with Atlantic Records after two, two-record stints with Fearless and Equal Vision Records, respectively.

The band has progressed a lot since the falsetto vocals matched to drum machine beats and introspective guitar riffs. The sound has opened, Gourley’s voice has progressed — along with the backup singing — and the new stuff sounds wide open, soaring and even a bit grandiose. Somewhere between “Censored Colors” and “Satanist”.

You’ll have to listen to hear what I’m talking about:

Below, videos from the performance!

Pre-Coachella Party: !!! + Zechs Marquise @ Detroit Bar

Nic Offer of !!! likes to dance

Marcel Rodriguez Lopez and Marfred Rodriguez Lopez of Zechs Marquise chop it up at Detroit Bar

The two bands playing Costs Mesa’s intimate, chic-grunge Detroit Bar Thursday night were big. Too big.

Too big for the stage they took, in sheer size, sound and force. Big enough to play Coachella too, to thousands of screaming fans. But on the Thursday night before Coachella weekend, I caught these two astounding bands up close…and for a lot less money.

The night started with instrumental mind-melting jams from Zechs Marquise, the buzzworthy El Paso, Texas prog-rock outfit that not only sounds like The Mars Volta’s little brother, but actually includes three of them. Marfred, Marcel and Rikardo Rodriguez-Lopez play bass, drums and keys respectively, and happen to be the younger siblings of infamous Mars Volta guitarists Omar Rodriguez Lopez. (Drummer Marcel Rodriguez Lopez plays in the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group).

I discovered these guys when they opened for friends and Sargent House labelmates RX Bandits at The Glasshouse in Pomona a few months back. And while I was blown away then, Thursday’s set was insane. Grooving basslines meshed with frenetic guitar riffs, while Marcel was astoundingly able to keep up to constantly changing rhythms. No singing, but a great prog-rock fix when you’ve already mastered the entire Volta collection.

Next up was veteran psychedelic dance-funk !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk). The Sacramento-based band has been starting parties since 1996 and continues to put on an extremely energetic and fun live show. Lead singer Nic Offer handles most of the entertainment with his sexual dance moves that look a little like humping. By the second song, Offer was in the crowd singing face to face with all the fans. It was nuts.

!!! released a new album recently, entitled “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” Standout tracks are “AM/FM”, “Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass”, and “Hollow”.

Zechs Marquise, formed in 2009, has been touring on their first full-length, “Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare.” A new record on the way. Expect your mind to be blown.

LIVE VIDEOS from both performances below:

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 22 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 68 posts. There were 46 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 31mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 22nd with 38 views. The most popular post that day was The CoCo and Leno Show.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, plugintodan.com, twitter.com, en.wordpress.com, and current.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for amazon mp3 logo, amazonmp3 logo, mata leon, couples retreat, and rx bandits wallpaper.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The CoCo and Leno Show January 2010

2

Mirthless “Couples Retreat”, heartfelt “Wild Things” October 2009
2 comments

3

Pomona’s big changes July 2009
8 comments

4

Bay Area band Mata Leon emerges with fresh focus February 2010

5

First Listen: Gorillaz “Plastic Beach” floats on March 2010

Cal Poly Pomona grad competing in Miss California contest in Palm Springs

Since summer, I’ve been following the journey of one contestant in the Miss California USA beauty pageant.

Her name is Kelleen Lim Chea and she’s a recent Cal Poly Pomona grad. I got exclusive, behind the scenes access to her life as an aspiring beauty queen and how she made it to this weekend’s contest.

On Friday, I had a major feature air on 89.3 KPCC, the largest Southern California NPR station.

Here is the text, but be sure to listen to the report so you can hear my voice and audio from the interviews!

Good luck to Kelleen, representing the city of Anaheim and all the other ladies.

CLICK FOR FEATURE

By Daniel Ucko

The “Miss California USA” pageant is this weekend in Palm Springs. Close to 400 young women are competing to represent the Golden State at next year’s “Miss USA” pageant. One of the contestants is a recent graduate of Cal Poly Pomona.

It’s a hot summer evening in August. Kelleen Lim Chea – or as her sash says, Miss Anaheim USA – glides across the floor of a rowdy Huntington Beach nightclub in high heels & a form-fitting evening gown. She’s leading a parade of young women in bikinis and lingerie. It’s a fashion fundraiser. A portion of the proceeds go to a campaign to help stop human trafficking. It’s just another day on the job for an aspiring beauty queen.

“I had this expectation of becoming a doctor but I just don’t feel like it’s my time or it’s my passion,” says Chea.

Since graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a chemistry degree, Chea’s had one eye on her career and another on beauty pageant glory. Now, she’s seeking the crown of Miss California. Med school will have to wait.

“And it’s been a struggle because I always knew this is what my family expected of me; however, deep down inside it just didn’t feel right,” says the petite 23-year-old.

But with her silky long black hair, winning smile and girl next door good looks, Chea is just right for pageant recruiters like Erik DeSando.

I met DeSando at a busy outdoor cafe in West Hollywood. He’s the middle man between pageant producers and the thousands of girls who apply for the Miss California and Teen USA pageants every year. He gets more than a dozen messages during our interview.

“The type of girl I attract for the contest is a five-finger girl. On the four fingers, we have loving, caring,” says DeSando.

“Then I point to my big finger, middle finger which is non-judgment. Then on the thumb, that’s where the beauty comes in.”

So now you know; the thumb is the most beautiful digit.

Kelleen Lim Chea tries to keep her beauty wholesome. Scar removal below the knee and teeth whitening are the only surgical enhancements she’s had. There are however other enhancements. Interview skills and stage presence are sharpened with the help of a pageant coach; Giselle Boone, a fashion show choreographer and former model. Chea & Boone spent the summer working on everything from posture to stage presence.

Competing in beauty pageants also means marketing a glamorous image through sponsorship deals. Sponsors help raise money, and Chea needs it. All contestants must pay a $1700 dollar entrance fee just to compete in this weekend’s pageant. That covers everything from food to personal security.

“You wanna do this? I will show you 15 different ways to get that money together,” says Miss California recruiter Erik DeSando laying out another unconventional beauty pageant formula.

“A girl has a 20-100 sponsor. A 20-100 sponsor is $20 from 100 people,” laughs DeSando. “Now it’s simple as hell, but think about it, you can find 100 people to give you 20 bucks.”

You can also find friends willing to work for you on the cheap as agents, photographers and stylists. Chea has tapped several. It didn’t always work out though. Several friendships, including with her now x-pageant coach Giselle Boone, were cast aside in the quest for the crown.

“I couldn’t say if it was me or the other party, all I can say is we’re just not in alignment for the path I’m going to,” says Chea.

“My mother, she would probably be wishing that I would be going to medical school right now. But she understands life is short. Do you what you want to do.

But the life of an aspiring beauty queen is short. Kelleen Lim Chea is 23. At 28, you’re considered over the hill – even if you’re a winner. But just showing up to compete can pay off handsomely in scholarship money, endorsements, modeling jobs and more.

And the winner of this weekend’s pageant also gets the chance to represent the Golden State at Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas next summer.

Live stream on Justin.TV – http://justin.tv/missca2011/b/274306759

Google results of my feature below:

Life after college

President Barack Obama at the State Of The Union

This post originally published here on the Current TV News Blog.

I’ve been out of college for a little while now.

Six months, two weeks and one day to be exact.

Thing is, I’m not totally sure what I’m doing.

Then again, who is?

Options for college graduates are slim in this economy. And recovery isn’t happening overnight.

Jobs — or at least good ones — are still hard to come by.

One in 10 people in this country are unemployed. In California, it’s one in 12.

Fewer than 20 percent of 2009 grads that applied for a job have one, according to this survey. And it’s no better back in school.

State universities have been cutting courses and programs, like labs for science classes and student exchange programs. All with fewer days of education and tuition fees that keep increasing.

President Obama addressed the needs of the middle class during his first State of the Union address yesterday and expectations were high. He has plans on the way to help the job market, reform higher and lower education, cut taxes and keep his presidency accountable.

They’re minor in comparison to last year’s massive bailouts and the struggling healthcare overhaul, but not a bad start.

While the president attempted to bring back some of that hope we’ve all been missing, I was still left uneasy about the state of the nation.

My generation is experiencing the toughest times our age group has ever seen.

Today’s students, while often supported by their parents, have it harder than ever: we’re constantly under pressure to perform.

Between SAT scores, AP classes and GPAs, there’s always a new way of evaluating how qualified we are for the next step.

Yet, when do we have time to actually figure out what that next step is?

Personally, I’m in a hurry to stop losing money. I work part-time and freelance on the side, but the freelance market for writers isn’t exactly what it used to be.

Savings is a thing of the past. While my parents supported me through college, the deal was you’re on your own once you finish.

So I’m thrown into the wild with $15,000 in debt, not enough work in the field and little time to figure things out when rent is due each month.

There doesn’t appear to be any clear-cut path anymore.

“A high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job,” Obama told the nation yesterday. Yeah, well neither does a college degree.

But at least he’s listening. “In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college” was another line from his speech.

It was our generation that ushered him into office, after all, so we should be entitled to some high expectations.

Obama is promising a $10,000 tax subsidy for community college students and loan repayment reform that forgets a students’ debt after 20 years.

He’s also planning to give tax breaks to parents with kids in college, extend unemployment and create new green jobs.

It all sounds great. Let’s just hope it happens — sooner, rather than later.

For now, empower yourself: understand your student loans, watch the job market, and hold our president to his promises.

Education Schmeducation

EDUCATION SCHMEDUCATION? GOVERNOR DOES SOMETHING TO HELP CA SCHOOLS

Not everyone is as happy as Arnold is about California's public education system.


Originally published HERE 1/12/10 on Current.com’s News Blog:

Finally: a step in the right direction toward bringing public higher education in California out of the gutter.

The Governator last week proposed significant legislation calling for a reshaping of priorities, so that California will “never again” spend more on prison uniforms than on caps and gowns.

It will not alleviate the sunshine state’s education crisis immediately. But as long as we’re spending more on kids than criminals, we can all sleep a little better at night. Right?

Cuts to public education in this state have caused both outrage and outcry — near riots at UCLA, “Save the CSU” protest rallies in Long Beach.

No one likes paying more for less, yet that’s exactly what many of California’s college students have been faced with in the last year.

A former Cal State student myself, I managed to escape (graduate) just as things went south. But I can’t imagine what my friends and former classmates are experiencing right now.

So much for paving the way for future generations, eh?

California’s public universities have been giving students and teachers fewer days of school to save precious funding through “furlough days.”

All this while cutting programs, increasing class sizes and raising tuition as much as 15 to 35 percent.

Today’s students are now burdened with a whole new set of pressures.

And I’m not talking about final exams.

Living on your own? Finding a career? Paying off student loans?

Naw. How about making sure the courses you need to graduate are still being offered? Unlucky freshmen may even find their majors dissolved before they make it to upper division.

Skeptics will write this off as too little too late. But at this point, almost anything is a good thing.

Keep it coming Arnold.

*Reshaping Priorities from Prisons to Universities:  http://bit.ly/6wBBLW

*Find the latest CA info here: http://gov.ca.gov/

An epidemic of [swine flu] fear

I just got vaccinated today at Cal Poly Pomona’s Student Health Services.

It was free, and despite the concerns over the mercury thermosal (used to preserve the vaccine and prevent germs) and the minute chance of autism, I took the plunge.

It was the injection and not the nasal spray, but it was painless — other than a sore left arm, which is standard for all shots.

Maybe it’s my laid-back northern California nature, but I’m really not too worried. People have been getting vaccinations all through their lives, and not until there’s one for this new case of H1N1, or swine flu, does everyone become a cynic.

WIRED magazine had a cover story last month called An Epidemic Of Fear that is an enlightening read. The jist? Like with all controversial topics, there’s a plethora of misinformation that floats around, much of it coming from bias sources with a stake in the game. Jenny McCarthy is one advocate linking autism to vaccinations, despite evidence that proves otherwise.

The article reads:

The parent who reads what Jenny McCarthy says and thinks, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t get this vaccine,’ and their child dies of Hib meningitis,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s such a fundamental failure on our part that we haven’t convinced that parent.” Consider: In certain parts of the US, vaccination rates have dropped so low that occurrences of some children’s diseases are approaching pre-vaccine levels for the first time ever.

If you want to prove me wrong, go read this: http://bit.ly/5PughD. I don’t doubt that there’s research and studies to link vaccinations to autism and other harmful things, but contracting swine flu is pretty harmful too. Perhaps less severe, but I’ll take my chances and avoid the current pandemic.

from wired.com

I did a feature on swine flu concerns on college campuses recently for 89.3 KPCC.

DOWNLOAD THIS MP3:
http://www.box.net/shared/ng7bgol919

[file name = swine flu college mixdown]

It’s my public radio debut and I don’t have mp3 uploading capabilities on the blog just yet. Here’s the script:

H1N1 – the “swine flu” virus – is hitting young people especially hard.  That’s why local college campuses are on guard.  But getting students to take the “swine flu” threat seriously can be a challenge.  Reporter Daniel Ucko has our story from Cal Poly Pomona.

Daniel Ucko: It’s lunchtime – and thousands of students are roaming the Cal Poly Pomona campus. It’s “university hour” – with no classes in session. Think recess for big kids.

Ucko: It’s the perfect time for Student Health Services workers to pass out fliers that remind people to practice basic hygiene to avoid the flu. But it’s a tough sell.

Eric Au: I’m actually not too worried about it.

Ucko: Cal Poly junior and graphic designer Eric Au says he’s not worried about the “swine flu” even though faculty and students file in and out of his campus office all day. He admits that where he works, germs spread easily.

Au: Anytime flu season comes around or something, we always have that talk in a meeting. And so if this is indeed still flaring up, we’re definitely gonna talk about it here.

Ucko: David Patterson is doing more than talking. He’s Cal Poly Pomona’s director of environmental health and safety.

David Patterson: I would say we have to plan for the fact that we will probably see some cases on campus.

Ucko: There’s only been one confirmed case of H1N1 at Cal Poly Pomona. But it’s hard to say for sure. The campus health center no longer tests for the virus. New guidelines from the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say test only if a patient is hospitalized. The CDC says health officials should instead focus on treatment and containment. David Patterson.

Patterson: It’s the same thing if you live at home and the same thing if you go shopping down at the mall. An old adage I’ve used for years and years is to keep four feet most of the time between you and other people. Avoid sneezing or coughing on people by covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough. You know, frequently washing your hands.

Ucko: Next week, Cal Poly Pomona will host one of LA County’s H1N1 vaccination clinics. The university has a “swine flu” web page that answers basic questions about the virus, and debunks myths – including one that got some play on campus.

Ucko: The agricultural school has about 10 pigs in its swine unit. Despite a campus rumor, you can’t get “swine flu” from these specially bred Cal Poly pigs. But grab your little brother’s piggy bank while he’s sick in bed – and you just might get it.

Patterson: Pretty much the same thing we’ve heard again and again.

Ucko: Cal Poly Pomona health and safety director David Patterson.

Patterson: The issue here is that this is the flu, and given the current severity that CDC’s reporting on the H1N1, it’s a fairly mild version. So it’s as much the same precaution as for any flu or any diseases. It’s all about protections the individual can do or things the individual can do to reduce their chance or risk.

Ucko: Of particular worry on campus are dormitories, shared bathrooms – and, of course, frat parties.

Nick Spagnola: I’ve made a joke that I think that there’s going to be a correlation between the spread of swine flu and the amount of frat parties attended by freshmen.

Ucko: Senior Nick Spagnola is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He thinks the H1N1 virus will spread when partygoers share drinks. But he says there could be an upside to an outbreak.

Spagnola: Oh absolutely! If it becomes like a serious thing, I intend to miss class a decent amount. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to lie to teachers or any sort of administrator or anyone listening, but if I was looking in my arsenal of excuses, “swine flu” would probably pop up there.

Ucko: Cal Poly Pomona anticipated a pandemic of phony “swine flu” absences. Professors will post class notes online for students who really are sick – but those students will need a note from the doctor.

So much for justice for all…

A recent decision to close California courts for a day a month could slow down already-crowded Inland area courts.

Inland Empire courts have some of the highest caseloads in the state.

Populations have grown so fast in the past two decades that the courts haven’t been able to keep up.

Starting in September, these courts ­–– along with every other in the state –– will close their doors the third Wednesday of every month.

The move is expected to save the court system just a portion of its nearly half a billion-dollar shortfall.

The closures are part of a new deal struck to close the state’s 24-billion-dollar budget deficit. Riverside and San Bernandino county courts will each lose nearly 10-million-dollars.

Local courts have already been cutting positions to save money. New judges were expected to come in this year, but those positions are history.

The reduced hours will also mean a pay cut for court workers. State law protects judges from pay cuts, but some may choose to voluntarily reduce their salaries.

The economy…still an issue

calopoly1

Back on January 27, The Poly Post put out “the economy issue” and created CALOPOLY, the economic crisis game of chance, distress, and foreclosures.

I would really like to see our creation turned into an interactive graphic available on our website. That would mean putting my graphic designer/web guy to work even more, as he already has the weight of our website on him weekly. If not an actual animated game, at least something where people can scroll over different boxes for information and links and the related stories we published.