Monday, September 24, 2007

Your Disappearance is Duly Ticketed

I checked this story out and, no, it wasn;t a piece that escaped from the tightly controlled news room of The Onion.

Come on! A meter maid? Have the financial resources of this country gotten to the stage of desperation where we are hiring personnel to ticket for expired meters deep in our national forests?

And how is it that a meter maid found these folks when a trained search party did not? Perhaps that is what we're missing in our search for bin Laden. Meter Maids! The only chance he has in staying hidden is if he's packing quarters.


Great 48 Hours

(Link from Pamdora's Box, a blog, as the author puts it, of "Art Adventure". Great pix and descriptions.)

I should know myself by now that if I'm asking, "Hey, should I bring the camera?", it is a rhetorical question to be always answered in the affirmative. This last weekend proved that point. Once again. The only solution is to repeat the weekend again. From start to finish.

The details.
A friend and his can-do-it-all-and-still-look-radiant wife were intimately involved with the production, fine-tuning, and composing of the musical, Gemini, the Musical at the New York Musical Theater Festival, going on in NYC from Sept. 17th through Oct. 7th. The ever-loving wife (ELW) and I arrived in NYC in the late morning, driving through unpredicted buckets of rain dumping inches of water as we wended our way through Delaware and Jersey. The same downpours caught up with us in NYC during the early afternoon prompting that instantaneous NYC phenomenon, the Umbrella Salesman. A photo op, if there ever was one accompanied by the post-downpour result one always sees in NYC, the filled-to-the-gills trash can of temporary water protection. I happened to be strolling by one such vendor when a tourist with a camera asked to take his picture.
"Five dollars", the umbrella-pusher said.
"Five bucks?"
"Yes, $5 and I'll throw in an umbrella with the picture."
The tourist pulled out a five, clicked a few quick pictures, and walked off opening an umbrella that soon caved in under the weight of some raindrops.
The rainstorm disappeared and the sidewalk swallowed up all of the 'brella merchants and their bags of merchandise. The only evidence they were ever there were the packed trash cans.
We meandered around Thompson, Bleeker, Christopher, McDougal Streets, among others, searching for CD/Record stores and cafes/restaurants. Every place was packed with folks who initially rushed in for weather protection and then stayed for drinks and observations. Bleeker Street Records had the largest selection and was low on the dinge factor. Not that I have anything against dinge if it's coupled with potential dirty jewels to be discovered. I was surprised by the reply I got when I asked one of the folks at Bleeker Street Records If I could listen to one CD, opened already, prior to buying it. It was an off-brand recording of a live Little Feat, form the mid-1970's when Lowell George was still alive and kicking; a recording I hadn't come upon before.
"Nope.", he replied.
"But, it's already open and you've got these CD players available.."
"Nope. And.." (anticipating my next question)"...we don't take returns. You could just burn a copy and how would we survive..."
I zoned out here as I completed the sentence in a low mumble,"...Why, by simply providing the simplest of customer services, I guess."
There were enough frothing clients in the place to counter my simple request, so I walked out without a purchase, an act so foreign to the ELW that we had to repair to a small cafe so she could sit, sip, and re-think her impression of my CD purchase mania.

Realizing that my out-of-character behavior was causing my wife to have doubts and resulting in us spending excessive amounts of cash on demitasses of espresso, i bolted over to Generation Records on Thompson Street and purchased an older English production of extended cuts of the Talking Heads. The world was back on its axis, the ELW's faith in her opinions were restored, and I had another CD to throw on the pile. Such a simple act of monetary exchange; so many issues resolved.

I was, until last Saturday, a mojito virgin. I've had the packaged mixes version which were, as expected, awful. In search of a meal before the show and given the opportunity to pick, we settled on the restaurant Cuba on Thompson Street, which just happened to be down the street from Generation Records. No better place, I figured, for an authentic mojito than a Cuban restaurant. The attentive wait-staff were impeccably dressed in guayaberas, the mojitos ($10) were sublime with a slow-acting kick, the appetizers and entres were fresh and delicious, and the seating was close without being confining (for the ladies: the bathrooms were spotless and private). We'll certainly go back again, perhaps for the Thursday Salsa night.
(to be cont'd.)

(N.B.: As we were walking around this part of the Village looking for an eatery, I noticed that on Sept. 29th at Terra Blues Club on Bleeker Street, Mr. Clarence Spady, a blues musician out of Scranton, PA who hardly ever plays outside the Scranton area, will be playing. He's a terrific performer and this is a great chance to catch his act.)


Friday, September 21, 2007

The Gloves are Down. Gordie Goes Legal

This story is very disturbing. I mean, we're talking about the original Mr. Hockey, the inspiration for the Gordie Howe Hat Trick (Mr. Howe had over 100 of these hat tricks in his life), the only professional hockey player to ever appear in a professional game during six consecutive decades (1940s-1990s). "Gordie Howe" is my ever-loving wife's answer to any Trivial Pursuit question about hockey. And guess what? Her answer is right 50% of the time ("Wayne Gretsky" being another 50% and "Punch Imlach" the balance of 20%). I remember him checking a guy into the boards and smearing his face against the glass for a good 40 feet. Gordie was only 48 at the time. The other guy got up and, I swear, apologized to Mr. Howe for getting in his way.

Doesn't Mr. Howe's neighbor realize who Gordie Howe is? This clown should be sitting in the sin bin with Tie Domi! If Mr. Howe had only let some of his older fans know he was in a bit of a spot, I'm sure they would have paid a visit to his neighbor and straightened the matter up. That idiot was messing with a Hockey God.

Note Bene: Speaking of hockey, A Theory of Ice has already started writing about the Montreal Habitants 2007-2008 season. It's great to have her back again.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

The CD That May Not Come Back

I've had my ear on this recording for a while. Used to have the LP version a while back but repeated changes of address and the lousy record storage system, i.e. galvanzied wire milk crates, I had doomed the playability of this 2 record set. It was/is a gorgeous collection of Mr. Allman's slide guitar session work that included Wilson Picketts' "Hey Jude", Aretha Franklin's "The Weight", and King Curtis' "Games People Play". It may just be one of those records that you had as a teenager that you latched onto without any explanation and then played until your roommate threw shoes, sneakers, or textbooks in your general direction to get you to change the record. It may turn out that when I do get this CD, that a cold case of The Thrill is Gone will set in.

How did this CD come up as conversation material? Well, I'd call myself a slipped-Catholic who still gets into the minimal-pleasure multiple-guilt mode of thinking when it comes to CD purchases. A weekend comes and the possible money-spending mental matrix which I'd been constructing in the 5 days building up to the weekend is ready to be exercised. Certain components of the matrix are exchangeable as long as the finished result is the same defined currency outlay. Obviously, if a planned activity/expense doesn't go well or doesn't result in the "planned" happiness (don't get me started..), well, tough noogies. On to the next event/expense item! Keep up your good cheer. But sometimes, sometimes it is tough letting go of a particularly bad-tasting experience/cash loss.

The ever-loving wife and I went to this dreck of a movie. I've read enough reviews that deep-sixed it to the point that I hadn't even put it on my Netflix list. When it's not even worth seeing at home, why would we pay non-matinee prices?

Going to this movie was based strictly on Hope. The hope that a British movie can't be really bad. The hope that a British comedy cannot be truly unfunny. The hope that puerile bathroom-related humor is strictly the domain of American humor. The hope that beating a joke until it has lost all of its nine lives is not a film technique the Brits practice. Well our hopes were dashed completely. This movie is utter shite.

Mr. Allman will have to wait at least another week.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Silica Flowers

A trip out west to Pittsburgh and Cincy to do the college conveyance thing, combined with this year's version of a "vacation" brought in more positive experiences in both cities.
Pittsburgh is a treasure; I know my viewpoint is tilted as my daughter's attending college there. But I'd like to believe I'm being at least somewhat objective about the place anyway. One can't look at the physicality of the city and not be affected by the dips, the drop-offs, the wrap-around turns one whips around, self-assured that there's more pavement around the next bend. In the UPitt and Carnegie Mellon section of town, just outside the outskirts of Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, the buildings rise from outcroppings and soar into the clear blue skies. There's greenery all around the area with Schenley Park and the Phipps Conservatory bordering the north and northeast corners of the Carnegie Mellon campus.

As with most museums and publicly available exhibit spaces in Pittsburgh, a student ID from any of the major colleges and universities will get you in free. Which is a great deal for the student but, alas, not a good deal for the parent of any college student as the college fees include this privilege. So, the parent is "permitted" to pay for their students' "freebie", but is not privy to the "freebie" themselves. Well, the money all goes to a good cause, right?

After multiple visits to Pittsburgh, we finally made it to the Phipps Conservatory. The wait was well worth it as we were able to catch the Chihuly Exhibit which will be at the Phipps until November 11th.

Living where we do, botanical gardens, while gorgeous, tend to glaze my eyes after annual visits at Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, or The Philadelphia Flower Show. Not being the avid gardener that my ever-loving wife is, I tend to view visits to these fine places as portent of being laid up due to back-pain induced by diggin' 'n carryin'. So, coming to the Phipps and specifically the Phipps Chihuly Exhibit was a truly relaxing experience. I could not manufacture any of the glass art pieces nor could I afford any of the available-for-sale pieces offered. It was a look-but-don't-touch/buy event. Fiscally, any of the arrangements we saw at the Phipps were impossible to duplicate back home. Finally, rest for the weary!

I'm your basic minimally art-trained kind of guy. Now, while Mr. Michael Blowhard and Mr. Donald Pittenger of 2 Blowhards, may portray themselves as minimally trained, if you take a gander at some of their pieces on art, you can conclude fairly quickly that they understate their capabilities of appreciation and analysis. The nuns would have been switching them for fibbing, in my day. While I dabble in art analysis, I tend to keep my cognitions to myself, staying true to Mark Twain's opinion about keeping one's mouth closed. So, please excuse me as I prattle on. I'm not clear as to whether Chihuly's stuff can be called art. It is produced in a factory setting. He guides rather than gets involved with each piece intimately. He's in the Warhol camp of art manufacturing along with Jeff Koons. I'll throw in the self-described Painter of Light (or should that be Lite) in here as well. I'm certainly not equating the talent or resulting product of these artists, simply the evident non-uniqueness of their output. So, I have a conflicting view of Mr. Chihuly's glass pieces. They look stunning and beautiful but so does this, but it is not unique, nor does it pretend to be.
And yet the combination of the glass objects and the setting of the Phipps had me mesmerized. It was possible to admire and to curse simultaneously without having one's head explode. At times it was mentally exhausting holding the positive and negative feelings in, but I did as spending the balance of our Pittsburgh stay in a holding cell was not a viable option.
I loved it. I hated it. I'd strongly suggest to anyone within driving distance of Pittsburgh to go see it. It is a good walk not ruined. Be sure to drop into the gift shop to check out the continual play DVD of Chihuly in Venice and to eye the Chihuly pieces available for purchase. Put a stick between your teeth so as not to bite off your tongue. If you've seen the exhibit in NYC's Botanical Garden or Missouri's Botanical Garden back in 2006, let me know what you thought of it.

Let me say a few things about the pictures of the Chihuly Exhibit. I apologize for any pix that seem ordinary or blurry and I take no credit for the pictures that turned out fine. You'd have to be a caveman to have the limited talent to take a lousy picture there. All it required was pointing and shooting. For lots more pictures of the Chihuly Exhibit at the Phipps go to this Flickr site. I'll be adding more pix as my Flickr account allots space.

(Please click on any of the pictures for a larger version

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pseudo Movie Review

Our cable package doesn't include HBO, Showtime, Cinemax (does that still exist?), or the 1,001 versions of ESPN. Aside from that being way too much of a video temptation, I could never delude myself to believing the extra money is worth it. Yeah, I miss some of HBO's original programming, but that's about it. Thanks to Netflix, those shows are available on a slight time delay, so really, unless I die in the next few months, what loss is that anyway? I don't think the Pearly Gates will be having an up-to-the-minute HBO series quiz and if I take the elevator to the basement, I'm sure interviews are not part of that welcome party invitation.

But, Netflix is another matter. Don't you be thinking you'll take that away from me anyday! I've been with Netflix since 2002 and haven't regretted the monthly charge one time. Where else would I have been able to view, at minimal cost, such out-of-the-way enjoyable movies like (and forgive the long list as I hope by listing these films, a very small selection from the ones I've rented, one may catch your eye and you'll be drawn in as well to these movies):
I Like Killing Flies
Lista de espera (The Waiting List)
What Eva Recorded
La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep)
Gori Vatra (Fuse)
Layer Cake
Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs)
Diamond Men
Aragami: The Raging God of Battle
The Good Soldier Scweik
Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief)
Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player)
La Grande séduction
Être et avoir
The Horses's Mouth
Nine Queens
Buffet Froid
L'Emploi du temps
Fear of a Black Hat
Big Deal on Madonna Street

I've rented the usual suspect movies, the Bournes, Talladega Nights, etc. but it's the odd and foreign movies that are the reason, for me at least, to continue supporting Netflix. I've yet to be disappointed.

The other day, Game 6, a small, make that very small, picture with, among others, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Griffin Dunne (who also produced the movie), Harris Yulin, Catherine O'Hara, and Bebe Neuwirth arrived in the mail. Not a Five Star movie, but certainly a Four, if only for the folks involved and for the story told. Yo la Tengo did the music score and Michael Hoffman directed. The most intriguing piece for me and what prompted me to rent the movie was that Game 6 was the first original screenplay from noted novelist and playwright Don DeLillo. Mr. DeLillo, a strong believer in the unexpected dangers around us, provides a nervous picture of life in the Big City complete with environmental incidents (think White Noise), baseball and life (think Underworld), haircuts and limos (think Cosmopolis). Foreigners drive all of the taxis, which once a fare enters, do not move. There's a lot of attempts at movement in the film, but instead, action becomes sedentary and sitting becomes talking. And with DeLillo's dialogue in place, sitting is a good place to be.
The movie deals with one day in the life of Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton), playwright, on the day his newest play opens and Game 6 of the Red Sox-Mets World Series game (yes, the Buckner game) is played. You could tell early on that this movie was done with a lot of love and dedication and a minimal amount of money (in the Extra features, the director goers through a litany of how this movie should never have seen the light of day due to the money issues; seven thousand bucks was the entire costume budget), but the fine cast of actors chew up the scenery quite well, thoroughly enjoying the chance to speak the DeLillo words. The movie starts with the break of dawn on a NY rooftop and ends in the haute squallor digs of a feared theatre critic, one Mr. Steven Schwimmer (Robert Downey, Jr.). It is surprisingly a "happy" movie, not a film you'd expect to see penned by the gloomish Mr. DeLillo but the path to happiness is dotted with the necessary touches of misery and near-misses that any Red Sox fan would be accustomed to. I'd recommend it for a wet Fall Saturday, after the World Series conclude.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I am ashamed, and that is putting my condition mildly. While writing the previous entry, I came upon this most excellent of posts regarding a record and turntable emporium on Murray Ave. in Pittsburgh that I have passed many a time, Jerry's Records. I never went in because the storefront seemed incredibly small, indicating to me that the interior was as well. What the heck could Jerry have in there that I'd be interested in?

Well, appearances are deceiving, as you can...uhhmmmm, see. Next time in Pittsburgh, which should be within a month, yours truly will be parking himself at Jerry's.

A tip of the linking hat to Don Lindich (nice Slavic name, that) over at Sound Advice.

A Word of Caution: Do NOT go over to Sound Advice unless you've put your checkbook and wallet in a safe, secure, and not easily accessible place. If you have a weakness for stereo equipment elements, bargains, and small shiny objects, readily available instruments of payment should not be within your reach. Also, if you go there, bring along a drool rag as some of the items he discusses and the stereo-porn pictures he posts will have you salivating. Tying yourself up in your computer chair would be advisable.....but I don't want to get weird here.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

I, Receptionist

On a recent summer trip to Pittsburgh, we had a chance to walk around the campuses of Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh and, in between the two, stop over for a 3 hour visit at the Phipps Conservatory, where a Dale Chihuly exhibit was in full display. I'll post various aspects of the trip in smaller entries, with a load of pictures available particularly for the Chihuly @ Phipps visit.

I'll start with Carnegie-Mellon University, which is located by the Shadyside, Oakland and Squirrel Hill "villages" of Pittsburgh. Schenley Park, a beautifully maintained park of rolling hills borders the university on the southeast. There's an older apt building just south of the football stadium where Mr. Rogers used to live and overlook from one of the highest points in Pittsburgh as patron saint of the university. It's an urban college smack in the middle of neighborhoods and protected green spaces. When we visited, there were quite a lot of students walking about the place. Not too many lounging or sitting-in-the-sun types. Simply students with a purpose. Since the college wasn't in session, we assumed that they were mainly grad students. We meandered around going through the buildings without hindrance. Two of the buildings that seemed to have the most activity were the Collaborative Innovation Center and Newell-Simon Hall. Both are heavy users of computer related technology and application. Next to Newell-Simon there was a huge pit where the Gates Technology Building will be constructed. There is energy all around this part of campus, as if something important will be launched skyward. What with students and staff all working on the Next Big Things, they're experimenting with computerizing the mundane without upping the mundanity factor onto the user. Herewith, the Roboceptionist. She used to be named Valerie back in 2005. She is now Marion (Tank) LeFleur. The most interesting part of this project for me was the interdisciplinary group that worked on this project. The nationally renowned Drama department at CMU was there to put the soul in the machine concocted by the Robotics Institute.

I remained locked in place in front of Ms. LeFleur communicating with her through her keyboard for way too long. Even the students in the building, running high on the geekometer, were eying me with suspicion.

Off to the Phipps, where the interest is in the living!

(Please click on the picture for a grander view

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Friday, September 07, 2007

"...and I'll take any legal tender with a white man in the center"

says Lyrics Born from the first track, What You Need, of Galactic's new release, From the Corner to the Block. Shades of Tom Wait's "Step Right Up" ! A double jolt for any Galactic fan. Rapping and humor. This CD will take a while for your core Galactic fan to latch onto. And, I believe, that fan will latch on. Stanton Moore stroking through on drums, Ben Ellman blowing his heart out on harmonica and horns, Robert Mercurio laying the lowdown (the way...low...down) on bass, Jeff Raines adding squiggles, hoops, and funk on guitar, and Mr. Rich Vogel riffing off of Mr. Raines and Mr. Stanton; yes, it's the same Galactic. This would be their party album phase, I guess. Whatever phase they're in, they are a group worth staying in touch with. Some have compared this album with that of Philly's own The Roots. I think that comparison works to the extent that both groups rely on live musicians and no drum machines to accompany the singers/rappers. However, the comparison ends at that point, IMHO. The Roots have their own thing going, their own influences, adaptations, and inclusions. Galactic, being from Louisiana, has absorbed the particularities of New Orleans into their music and that flavor carries through this album, regardless of the addition of hip-hop artists to 10 of the 14 tracks. Aside from Mr. Lyrics Born's hilariously engaging opening track, Jurrasic 5's deep-voice-in-the-bowels-of-the-'hoodChali 2na's "Think Back", the title track, From the Corner to the Block, with Juvenile & Soul Rebels Brass Band, "Tuff Love" with Trombone Shorty, and...and, well, let me make it easier. I only skip through 2 of the 14 tracks of this album; "Hustle Up" with Boots Riley and "Squarebiz" with Ladybug Mecca & Nino Moschella. Once was enough for those two tracks, so I gave them 6 listens to be fair and equitable. Two purely instrumental Galactic carrying on's would have been more appreciated than these somewhat annoying songs. But, even with that, I'd say From the Corner to the Block is one of the top 10 releases for 2007. Play it Loud; Play it Proud.

Here's a YouTube of Chali 2na with Galactic doing one of my favorites from the release, Think Back.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

One Day in Philly

Over the Labor Day weekend, the ever-loving wife and I had a chance to head north to Philly to take in some movies that most probably would not wend their way south to Delaware. Along with two flicks ,we were able to catch a meal at Eulogy Belgian Tavern, a small 'n tight establishment in Old Philly, stocking over 100 varieties of beers from almost every beer-brewing country except Slovenia and Croatia. I’ve written before about Eulogy and their twice-fried fries (and yes, they have to be fried twice because a once-fry doesn’t load the fries with enough artery-clotting cholesterol).

The movies?

Rocket Science and 2 Days in Paris.

Rocket Science, a pseudo-biography of the childhood of, Jeffrey Blitz who had previously gifted us with that great documentary, Spellbound, deals with high school, New Jersey, stuttering, and debate clubs. Each of those topics are potentially depressing and discouraging enough; combining all four subjects has got to be a death knell for a good time at the movies, right?
Well, just as he did with Spellbound, Jeffrey Blitz takes a squirmy topic, well actually 4 of them, and brings a quirky and a consuming view of them. Mr. Blitz, who both wrote and directed the movie, has put more of himself into this movie than in the documentary, Spellbound. But, there is no sugarcoating and no gratuitous easy solutions for the main characters. No John Hughes Sixteen Candles tie-it-all-up in a pantie ending, which makes it simply a great movie.

Reece Daniel Thomson, in the lead role of Hal Heffner, is simply brilliant; an Oscar nomination has to be guaranteed. Hal’s family are played by actors who lurk in your movie peripheral memory; semi-known but shadowy in their importance.

The plot deals with a stuttering Hal Heffner (Mr. Blitz stuttered when he was young and still has a slight speech impediment) and his being drafted by a young Woman of Interest into the high school debating club. I’ll leave it at that; I’m afraid of revealing anything more as each scene is a marvel.

Eff Barzelay did the music, which wraps the movie in the tense anxiety of teenagederdoom, without those overhanging notes of suicide premonition or pap that so many movies dealing with high-schoolers have. Think Little Miss Sunshine without the sunshine and with Jersey.

You should definitely see the movie and then Netlfix it; the dialog is outstanding as is the nifty turn that Heffner/Blitz pulls off at the end with his movie dad. Well, I’ll let you tell me what that turn is.

2 Days in Paris, written and directed by Julie Delpy, with Ms. Delpy and Adam Goldberg in the leading character roles of a transplanted French woman visiting family and friends on a short stopover during a visit to Europe with her American boyfriend (Goldberg), slowly rolls out the appeal/distrust/fear of having a French girlfriend. Within the two days stay in her newly purchased apartment, which is one floor up from her parents’ place,

The movie reminds me a bit of one of my favorite films, Bertrand Blier’s Préparez vos mouchoirs (Get out your Handkerchiefs). While one woman drives one man emotionally off the edge in 2 Days in Paris, Carol Laure successfully drives 2 men off that same cliff. The main difference is that Ms. Laure pulls off the misery so well, you (well a guy) would gladly step in as a human pin cushion for Mr. Depardieu or Mr. Dewaere. Must be because Ms. Laure is French-Canadian rather than simply French. Ms. Delpy, while pleasing to the eye, inspires no such voluntary masochism. 2 Days in Paris has its moments, usually when Mr. Goldberg is on the screen or when Ms. Delpy’s on-screen parents, who are also her parents in real life as we know it, eat up the scenery. It’s worth a DVD rental for fans of Mr. Goldberg (as I am) and for voyeurs who think having a French girlfriend is a positive step in one’s relational life. Well, the one thing one can certainly say is a benefit of a French girlfriend is that the caliber of the food rises as one's confidence in the relationship sinks.


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