First off, the weather is amazing. Summer in Southern California has arrived. Much to the distress of my back, which features large uneven swaths of red, with finger marks around the edges -- wow, sunscreen is peculiar stuff. Sometimes I do wish I were an international playboy, but riding bikes by the ocean and barbecuing with friends on my patio is a pretty satisfying way to spend the hours.

If you're a baseball fan and you like to drink, you may enjoy this: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/20020614sixfourthree.shtml.

And finally, a few notes about stuff I've been listening to...

Lee Hazlewood, Requiem for an Almost Lady: I was looking for something earlier from the legendary Mr. Hazlewood, but this was all I could found. Well, that's fine, because it's one of the finest records I've purchased in the last year. A rich, warm, bittersweet song cycle about lost love, and broken hearts. Hazlewood precedes each piece with a poignant spoken word epigram in his reverberant basso. So lovely, a perfectly orchestrated seamless blend of country, folk, and California sunshine pop. Highly recommended.

Karen Dalton, It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best: I bought this on the recommendation of a couple of friends, including my neighbor, the wonderful Chuck E. Weiss, who mentioned it after hearing me play Fred Neil. This was her first and last album, from 1969, featuring a couple of songs by Neil (a close friend; Dylan was another), and others by the likes of Leadbelly, Jelly Roll Morton, and Tim Hardin. She had an incredible voice, which has often been compared to Billie Holiday's (you'll hear why if you listen to her music). Soulful, ragged, sad, lovely. I guess she recorded only one more record in the early '70s, then vanished from the scene forever.

The Coup, "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish" and "Pimps (Freestylin' at the Fortune 500") from Genocide and Juice, and "Me and Jesus the Pimp in the '79 Granada Last Night" from Steal This Album. All three of these tracks appear on a mix tape a Coup-obsessed friend of mine in New York sent me and they just jump out of the speakers at me every time they come on. The first two tracks go together and they're hilarious: first Boots reveals that he's a pickpocket who uses people before they get a chance to use him. Then he goes into a Burger King and sweet-talks a girl there into giving him a free hamburger, which he takes into an underground garage and eats sitting on a Lamborghini. Next thing you know he's in a tux sneaking around a "Fortune 500" party looking to boost a few wallets. Then the song seques into a comic sequence involving a Getty and a Rockefeller demonstrating their rapping skills. The other song, "Me and Jesus the Pimp," is a bit darker; a narrative from the point of view of the son of a prostitute and an abusive pimp which takes us through the death of the woman and builds to a bleak denoument in a '79 Granada. The old school samples are great, there's a ton of funk throughout all these songs, and the rhymes are amazing.