Two underrated albums

I have two albums in my iTunes collection that I think deserve a bit a positive press. The first I downloaded last year was a freebie called We Are Smug, by Darren Hayes (of Savage Garden fame) and Robert Conley.

Darren Hayes is a pretty arrogant little artist, who perhaps let fame get to him a little much. Since finishing with his Savage Garden partner and brand and launching off on his own, his career has fallen with every album, despite them being overall very good pop albums.

Darren Hayes suffers from a curse in that he’s known for writing cheesy pop love songs, and his voice often suits that style, but his art wants to take him in a more electro-alternative direction. In an interview, he sounded almost grumpy that his new album (Secret Codes and Battleships) had to be another sweet pop album, albeit (again) a very good one.

We Are Smug was done pretty much only by Darren and Robert, released as a free download on the net with no publicity or marketing, so Darren was free to let loose and create songs just like he wanted. And it shows – the album is more of a true mirror to Darren’s art and personality. It’s snarky and sarcastic, fun and risqué, full of experimental and old-school electronic elements, bewilderment at lost fame, yet unapologetic and brash. I love it.

Because it’s not promoted, only hard-core fans had probably looked for this album. It’s not generic pop music for the radio. But it’s well worth the download, not least because it’s still free.

The second is one I’ve just bought – Joe Jonas’ Fastlife. I’ve read a couple of reviews who said things like ‘he’s trying to be R&B’ ‘it doesn’t work’ ‘he doesn’t sound like he means what he’s singing’ ‘it falls flat’. Now I’m way too old to be a Jonas Brothers fan, but now that Joe Jonas is all growed up, I can at least be a Mr Joe fan. I reckon that most reviewers have pre-judged him “Oh look, a Jonas brother trying to make a real record.”

In reality, this is a very good pop record. Like Britney Spears (who he’s currently touring with), he’s harnessed a bunch of great producers and musicians to make his songs sound good. Unlike Britney, he can write clever, mainstream, catchy pop songs that work really well within the R&B/dance/pop pastiche that is applied over them.

So get over the whole teen-screaming J-Brothers thing and crank up Fastlife on the radio when you want a cool up-tempo beat and some smooth pop.

Time Zone Refresh Part III – The United States of America

The USA really does have a grand name, doesn’t it.  Unfortunately it’s not an entirely accurate name, as the country doesn’t even unite the states of North America, let alone all of America.  Only the 48 states in a central zone of North America, Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands and a few other territories are included.  But as currently the most powerful country on earth, the USA deserves its grand name. 

Many people inside and outside the USA grumble that the country just can’t seem to get some essential things right: debt, healthcare, immigration, plutocracy.  I can’t help the US with these problems, but at least I can fix their time zones!

Go here to see my Time Zone Refresh for Mexico and Canada.

At the moment, the USA has the following time zones:

Hawaii Time Zone (-10 GMT):  Hawaii

Alaska Time Zone (-9 GMT):  Alaska

Pacific Time Zone (-8 GMT):  Washington, Oregon (excluding an eastern segment), Nevada, California, North Idaho.

Mountain Time Zone (-7 GMT):  Montana, Idaho (excluding the northern panhandle), Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso Texas, southwest North Dakota, western South Dakota and Nebraska, and a sliver of west Kansas.

Central Time Zone (-6 GMT):  The remainder of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska; almost all of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas (excluding El Paso), Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, the northwest sliver of Michigan, west Kentucky, west Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and the western part of the Florida panhandle. 

Eastern Time Zone (-5 GMT):  Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, most of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, east Kentucky, East Tennessee, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Daylight Savings is used by most places, except Arizona (excluding some First Nations in the northeast), and Indiana. 

There is a strong possibility I got a few details incorrect, missed a few exceptions to these time zones, or even missed an entire state.  If you know of any problems, please let me know and I’ll update this post.

Here are the changes that should be made.

Alaska needs to move one hour back, to join Hawaii at -10 GMT.  The Alaskan panhandle however should stay at -9 GMT – also called the new Yukon Time Zone. 

All of Oregon and Idaho need to be in the Pacific Time Zone.  Also, Montana west of the Continental Divide/Helena should be there too.

Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas need to join the Mountain/Plains Time Zone, as does the remainder of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The following states need to move into the Central Time Zone: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.  The remainder of Kentucky, Tennessee and all of the Florida panhandle west of Highway 75 need to do the same.  If Georgia really compains, maybe the coastal third of the state could stay in the Eastern Time Zone.

All in all, the USA hasn’t done too badly in their interpretations of time zones, with the exception of Alaska.  The states just need to be moved around some to better align with the real time zones.  I haven’t split states by time zones, except where there’s a clear geographical split like a mountain range or a panhandle. 

As usual, I dislike Daylight Savings, but if a state decides to adopt it, they should exercise their power and apply it over the entire state.

The Price of Milk

I was stunned to hear that the cheapest price for 2 liters of milk in New Zealand is now $4.30 ($USD 3.30, or 3.7 grams silver.)  Here in Mexico, the price of 2 liters of milk is 15.8 pesos ($USD 1.29, or 1.4 grams silver.)

One of New Zealand’s largest export earners is dairy products.  It’s famous for its green rolling pastures, long growing season, few diseases, highly efficient farms, and advanced dairy technology.  Mexico has only a few dairy farms, is a semi-arid country, and is known for needing to bring in cow feed most of the year, hot, dry summers, inefficient farming methods, and low use of technology.

Neither country uses subsidies or tariffs for its dairy products anymore.

What am I missing here?