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Sunday, October 14, 2007

 

The Counting Crows

I find television shows I like in reruns, movies on DVD, and music on reissued CD's. Rarely do I set the trend, or even closely follow it. More likely, I pick up on something long after its hot streak is over. So it is again with the Counting Crows.

I didn't know this group existed until watching the Feature Commentary on my Rounders DVD and heard Director John Dahl introduce the closing credits with the words, "And now the Counting Crows." The song played behind those closing credits is the fabulous "Baby, I'm a Big Star Now." I decided I needed to hear more of this.

Unable to find a CD with that song on it (I guess the movie's producers locked up the rights for the soundtrack), I bought the group's first album, August and Everything After (1993). My only mistake was not to buy the current reissue with several live versions of the songs added. The eleven songs on this record, nearly all of them written by lead singer Adam Duritz, like a lot of first albums by outstanding groups, have nary a clinker, and are obviously the result of considerable polishing and reworking. My favorite cuts are, well, all of them, but the ones with the hooks that newcomers to the group will love right away are "Round Here," "Mr, Jones," "Time and Time Again," and the incredible "Murder of One." But after enough hearings, I think all 11 are first rate songs, and first rate performances.

As for Mr. Duritz, his stylistic affinity to Van Morrison is obvious, and his lyrics have also been likened to Dylan. Actually, I hear more of the early Springstein, especially with the extended phrasings and short bridges.

Anyway, my next mission is to pick up the rest of the CD's (there aren't all that many, this is a group whose rep rests as much on their live performances, with lots of improvisation, as on their studio recordings) and then be on the lookout for the coming DVD of their Town Hall tour finale from last September 18 (reportedly, a knockout - how did I miss it!).

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We inch closer to the Presidential primaries, and it seems that more and more commentators are coming to terms with the inevitability of a Hillary/Rudy faceoff. Even Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize (somehow devaluing it forever, I think) hasn't slowed down the NY Senator's momentum. Believe me, none of the announced candidates seem to have a prayer against her, so Gore was the only hope for those Dems who fear that she is not electable. But they are needlessly pessimistic. A Hillary - Rudy race will be very close, but I would have to make her the favorite at the moment.

On the Republican side, the Romney run is in reverse, Thompson peaked before he formally entered, and McCain's problem is that he is 71. Newt won't run and the people who really know Huckabee know he's not Presidential timber. So there are really no meaningful obstacles to a Rudy nomination. It may be the wrong year for any Republican though.

I think Hillary will choose Richardson as her running mate, locking up the southwest as Kerry failed to do. Guiliani may counter with McCain.
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Bush's veto will probably hold with respect the the ACHIP bill, but Congress will then pass a compromise he can sign. This is just the preliminary for the health care battle to come, when we'll see if Americans want universal coverage enough to fund it publicly, and are willing to accept the rationing of health care prevalent in Europe and Canada. My guess is that they won't quite go for it, but may continue the journey along that path. Eventually, care may have to be rationed anyway, since doctors don't feel they are getting paid enough to continue to practice, and there is already a critical nursing shortage. At that point, we might as well adopt a single (government) payor. That's when we'll learn to appreciate the system we have now, with all of its deficiencies.

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On Wednesday, as I indicated in the last post, I sold my 150 share position in UIC at 80.57. This is one time where it pays to use a limit offer, since a tender offer is outstanding. Since the stock has to move to the offer price over time, you can be fairly sure to get your price (assuming you leave enough on the table for the arbitragers). Since with my discount broker, the difference in commission between a limit and a market order is $5, I only needed 4 cents to make it worthwhile to limit the sale price of the 150 shares and I got more than that (versus Wednesday's opener). All of these shares were short term gains, and the average purchase price was 51.21. I decided again not to add Textron to my buy/hold list, because of its high price to book ratio and the absurd salary the CEO collects.

Then on Friday, I bought 200 shares of I2 Technologies (ITWO), a big average down in a "zero buy." This is a stock where I am well under water, but the dealsters are trying to put this one in play, and we may be able to cut the losses.

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