Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Baker’s Dozen plus Two that Fell on the Floor.

15 books that come to mind in 15 minutes, as per Bleak Mouse (He’s ……ALIVE!) via Cowtown Pattie via Whisky Prajer, in no order of importance.

The timer is on.

1) Blood of the Lamb by Peter DeVries. I’ll let Mr. WP have the last word on this novel.
2) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. The best introduction to the ridiculousness of the world and anything involving plans to a young man.
3) Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse. Because everyone enjoys a good story even when button-holed before leaving the premises.
4) Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Because sleep and the road to sleep are sacred.
5) The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin by Vladimir Voinovich. Chonkin is Schweik's Russian cousin who proves stupidity is the wisest position to assume when dealing with the insanity of war.
6) Immortality by Milan Kundera. It's between Calvino and Kundera, for me, as to who's the most beautiful and heavy-hitting of writers.
7)Good Soldier Schweik by Jaroslav Hasek. War is ridiculous. The Army's a joke. Hey! Let's go have an Urquell.
8) Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. Idealism on a horse that never shits.
9) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. The best laid plans on how to use adjectives.
10) Spinky Sulks by William Steig. "Then they made him watch a parade!" How cruel can parents get!?!?
11) The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. Jersey, low level smolder and collapse.
12) If On a Winter’s Night, a Traveller by Italo Calvino. Calvino is in another world gliding by like a satellite you'll never be on.
13) East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I read this after college on a 4 month hitchhiking trip through Europe. Steinbeck scared the shit out of me as to how great a writer he was.
14)Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. Every day dialogue spun to a cherished and unforgotten poem.
15) It's very hard to make one pick of Billy Collins' books of poems, so I'll go with The Art of Drowning. I carry one of his books, usually this one, in my briefcase daily. I pull it out and open haphazardly for a blessing for a difficult day. He is, IMHO, the most accessible poet of mulled over observations, whose delight in things mundane brings nobility to each day's passing.

Faithful readers, please, start ruminating in the next 15 minutes and make your own picks.


Track #3, Hey Ya

I'm sitting in a pizzeria, awaiting a delivery of two slices while my foot is furiously tapping. I'd just come in from my car where I'd left Potato Hole in the CD player. Track #3 had just finished. The tune's lodged in my head and it has seeped down to my right foot, the one noted as "furiously tapping".

The song starts with five distinctive notes, clearly enunciated by Patterson Hood’s guitar. Five seconds later, loud and deep thumps on Brad Morgan's drum. Twelve seconds into the song, Mr. Booker T. starts with his patented j-j-j-j-j-Ja-JA-JABBING notes. Hey Ya! A minute thirty-seven seconds, you can hear Neil Young’s distinctive string tear and at one minute fifty, he starts shreading a la Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse. The song takes off and spins a furious carousel of blazing summer days and popsicle lighted boardwalk nights. Cars are driving with tops down with everyone bouncing in tune. Mr. Booker T. brings down the excitement a notch. Get folks calmed down a touch, before launching the B-3 "pipes" off again in full accompaniment of the Drive By Truckers and Neil Young.

This song should go on forever, or at least until the temperature breaks 70 from the dismal mid-50’s this spring has plagued us with.

But, no it slowly slides down and disappears into the recesses of the car speakers. At 3 minutes 52 seconds, joy has been swallowed up.

And, that’s what the seek key was made for. Track #3, one more time. One more time, many times over.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Sign of the Times

In a bizarre twist on "Take your Daughter to Work" Day, a woman decides to eliminate the need for a baby-sitter while offering some on-the-job training.

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Booker T. is baaaaack

Had a bizarre dream the night before. I was planning a Morning After show with an emphasis on the B-3 Hammond and all of its illustrious jazz and non-jazz players. Green Onions was the soundtrack for the dream. Mr. Booker T. Jones, one of the coolest cats to have ever lived, was slyly imbuing himself into the sound mix.
How would he be sounding today? Who would he incorporate players into the tuneage of these last few years?
Groups started coming up through the mists of my slumber.
Hey!? How about the Drive-By-Truckers as the backup band? I mean, DBT's Patterson Hood is David Hood's kid and David Hood was one of the original Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Swampers backed up Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin and other singers in the general milieu as Booker T.......so DBT sort of runs a tangent off of Booker T's sphere. right?

And, since this was a dream, why not have Neil Young show up and demonstrate what a shredding guitar truly sounds like. What the hell? Anything's possible when you're snorin'.

So, when I got to the station on Sunday morning and came upon this CD, sleep & reality combined for quite a pleasant surprise. At this point in the year, I'd say that Potato Hole is my favorite 2009 CD. A cover of Hey Ya, IMHO one of the best summer songs ever, cements my proclamation encapsulation.

The closest he's coming in support of the album is the Sellersville Theater, although he will be on Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon for 3 nights, April 20th through the 22nd.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bad Plus @ Chris' Jazz Cafe 3/28/2009

Saturday night in Philly. The L-shaped Chris' Jazz Café is packed, with the unfortunates, including 2 friends and yours truly, parked in the smaller horizontal part of the L. It’s the third of 4 shows for The Bad Plus at this venue. Friday’s two shows were similarly full, but the band seems none the worse for wear. Ethan Iverson, splendiferous in his sartorial appearance led the group out to the stage, which is parked at the vertical and horizontal juncture of the L. He sat at the piano, caught the eyes of Mr. David King, the linebacker-sized drummer, and the nod of Mr. Reid Anderson, the reedy and bearded bass player, and then launched into "Variation d’Apollon", a selection from their latest release, For All I Care. The band was as tight as their CDs documented, but much more lively than their recorded output reflected. Mr. King was an eternal motion machine, a fact that, from our vantage point, was evidenced by the amount of times we were able to espy his furiously flying wrists and hands extending into our view deep in the lower bowels of the L. The sound of the band luckily bounced back into our area and was loud enough to stifle the din of the waiters preying on the clientele. The band covered some of their older material, including Suspicious Activities' "Anthem for the Earnest". Did I mention that these guys are tight? Mr. Iverson's playing covered the gamut from a Hellhounds of Chaos style that had one quivering in one’s seat to a pastoral gamboling of ewes on a meadow evocation that brought moisture to one's eyes and a need to be dab it away. Mr. Anderson produced clear and singularly powerful notes that kept the web and tangle of the other two players from choking the spirit of some of the compositions. He was the calm in the storm of sound. The stage was set for the arrival of one more performer.

I did not know, nor do I know much more at this point of the story that is Wendy Lewis. Her site indicates other associations and other musical genres.The Bad Plus. Speaking for myself, I was a touch nervous about her appearance. How would she fit in with this group that was unto itself for such a long time? Would the trio be ruined by the addition of another angle? 180 degrees to 360 is a major change. The foursome commenced with Wilco’s Radio Cure, a cover form their latest album. There was no degradation of sound; it was addition with no bad pluses. The crowd went nuts, men were fist-thumping each other, an Eagles game had broken out. Ms. Lewis had us in her clutches and for the next 40 minutes she didn’t let go, The group covered the BeeGees’ "How Deep is Your Love" (much deeper in the Wendy Lewis rendition), Pink Floyd’s "Comfortably Numb", and even "Blue Velvet". For an encore, Reid Anderson started singing, in the Bad Plus style of things, Neil Young’s "Heart of Gold". Midway through, he relinquished the song to Wendy Lewis who then lifted it to another level.
It left most of us breathless; the wait-staff, on the other hand, was still shilling for orders.

A great concert at a not-so-great venue. Oh, if only the Zanzibar Blue were still around. Robert Bynum, where art thou?

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's a Philly Day

It's drizzlin' on and off and then on, a light pluvial orchestration to this day. It's cold, it's warm, it's raining, it seems the weather is of a dual personality. Not sure if it's still Winter, trying to break out in Spring.

But, off to Philly for some standing and shuffling on the banks of the mighty Schuylkill River. Mad rowing followed by long periods of reading, eating, and photo-shooting, ending with more mad rowing. Rain in the air, rain in the water, water in the river, river being pushed aside by university crews.

But, tonight is The Bad Plus at Chris' Jazz Cafe, one of the few venues still in operation in Philly that caters solely to jazz. Aside from the trio, a vocalist, Wendy Lewis, will be joining the group on their latest tour. They're touting "For All I Care", which prominently features Ms. Lewis. Producer was Tchad Blake, a favorite of mine, who's done fantastic work with Los Lobos, Bonnie Raitt, and ex-wife, Suzanne Vega . He is the master of the Thick sound, which makes "For All I Care" a treat to listen to over and over and over.

Come rain or shine, it'll be a great night in Philly tonight.

Tomorrow, I'll be d.j.ing the usual on WVUD-91.3 from 9:00 until noon. Aside from pre-planned heavy medicinal does of the B-3, I'm sure I'll be playing The Bad Plus. Tune in, check it out.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Glamorless- It's a Good Thing

Yeah, I checked the date of this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And, no, the date was not April 1st.

Yeah, I checked that the story was in the Post-Gazette and not some clip form The Onion or Pittsburgh's version of The Onion, The Carbolic Smoke Ball. And, the answer was no on both accounts.

So, the sentence, "VisitPittsburgh is now marketing the city as a glamorless destination for the post-luxury age."

I quote,
""Why risk the possible issue of booking in what would be considered a resorty type of destination when you can get all you need in Pittsburgh?"

The thinking goes that if financial institution Wells Fargo had planned its employee rewards trip to Pittsburgh instead of Las Vegas after the federal bailout, no one would have balked.

VisitPittsburgh is hoping for a repeat of 2008, which was a record year for conventions at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The center hosted 49 conventions, up from 38 in 2007.

Mr. Davis said Pittsburgh is proving to be a popular alternative to larger cities.

"We have a reputation as a destination where people actually show up," he said."

I love Pittsburgh; I'm not sure why it has to downtrodden (can I make this a verb?) itself to get folks to come. Really! It's a great city to visit, even if it's not Las Vegas gaudy.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morning After, this Sunday, the B-3

The weather's supposed to be a tad bone-chilly and rain-y this coming weekend. I'm on duty at WVUD for the Sunday morning show, with plans on playing a lot of B-3 music. Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Larry Young, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Melvin Rhyne, Joey DeFrancesco, Larry Goldings, and a few others. What better way to warm up the bone structure than the sounds of jazz on such a holy instrument. Tune in at 91.3 F.M. or on the Internet, from 9:00 a.m. until Noon, this coming Sunday.


In the Booth

Went to Pittsburgh this past weekend for an extended stay. Among other things, we had a chance to re-visit Falling Water, finally make it inside and through the fabulous Cathedral of Learning, and, for masochistic reasons, go to the Warhol Museum...yet again.

At the latter, we finally took advantage of the best permanent exhibit at the museum, the photo booth. It's located on the basement floor, underneath the staircase. For $2, you too can look like one of the pictures/paintings that are regularly exhibited on the many floors above the booth.
Some people, like say my Ever Loving Wife, look quite good in photos processed within this box. Granted, she is also one of those people who looks great on her DMV photo. Yeah, she's one of those rarities. I, on the other hand, look as if I should be immediately arrested once my 4 picture strip drops from the machine. With the Warhol Museum photo booth, there's the added "pleasure" of your pictures being processed, IMHO, in some bath of rancorous fluids that adds a layer of repulsiveness and remorse to your little portraits. Your minor 15 minutes of shame, I guess.
for two bucks it's the cheapest souvenir you can get although I'd swear I felt about 10 seconds of my soul being sucked out when I sat on the swivel chair, awaiting my minor moment in life.

One thing that I will admit about going to the Warhol. If you have any phlegm stuck in your chest or even further down in some cavity in your body, a visit to the Warhol is a guaranteed curative to get things up and out of your body. Quickly. There will be at least one floor of exhibits, sometimes two if an exhibit of Yoko comes through again, that will serve to dislodge from the bile that is lodged within. Somehow, the catharsis is both cleansing and muddying at the same time. A visit once every 6 months is enough of an art enema for me. Thanks, Andy!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

584 Minutes

Decalogue is a commitment, not just a box of movies. The Polish director, Krzysztof Kieślowski, and the script writer, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, came up with 10 movies, each running about an hour, for Polish TV. As per Wikipedia, "The series was conceived when Piesiewicz, who had seen a 15th-century artwork illustrating the commandments in scenes from that time period, suggested the idea of a modern equivalent. Kieślowski was interested in the philosophical challenge and also wanted to use the series as a portrait of the hardships of Polish society, while deliberately avoiding the political issues he had depicted in earlier films. He originally meant to hire ten different directors, but decided to direct the films himself, though using a different cinematographer for each". The movies all deal (or not???) with one (or multiple??) of the Ten Commandments. Here is a partial subjective summary of each film's aim. There are 3 CD's, with the first one containing an introduction to the movies by Roger Ebert. As always, he does an excellent job of setting up the movies without revealing too much. You can, as he suggests, watch them all the way through which is a loooong day parked on your couch. I watched either one or two, at most, at a time. IMHO, it gives you some time to appreciate each film. They are all exquisite and all quite heavy on the soul. The majority of the films regard happenings to folks living/working in and around one of those God-awful Iron Curtain era high-rise concrete apartment buildings. You may notice one character from one of the films as a passer-by or inconsequential character in another of the films. One character, a despairing hollow-eyed shorn-of-fat man, walks through each film, like a witness from Heaven (or Hell) of the braking of commandments. My Polish is non-existent, but there were enough words that sounded Croatian-like that I can pick them up and notice that the subtitles did not reflect their presence in the movie. If there is any fault to this collection it's my perception that the translation, while carrying the spirit of each individual movie, did not reflect the earthiness of the work. Sometimes, there would be a dis-connect with the subtitles and the action and you knew there was a good chance you missed something, hopefully not too significant.
So, for best viewing, comb your neighborhood for some Polish speaking fellow/gal and invite them to watch the movie with you. Otherwise, keep your finger on the remote control; you may want to be hitting "REWIND" more so than usual. Decalogue is well worth the hassle and, seriously, each movie is strong on its own. However, please....PLEASE do not ruin the selections by viewing more than 2, 3 at most, at one time. These are pearls to be fingered slowly and uniquely. I think even God has the Decalogue collection in his DVD library.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wish I Had Not...


It was loooong (and worse, it felt even longer).
It was overly self-involved (It reminded of the first Star-Trek movie where 3/4 of it was spent oohhing and ahhing over the ***New*** USS Enterprise).
Dr. Manhattan sounded awfully like this "guy".
The most interesting characters (The Comedian and Rorschach were short-shrifted on screen time.

...worst of all, this was a truly boring movie.

Forget my money, I want my 2 hrs and 45 minutes back.



Evidence that the U.S, the economy, and Philly are coming close to ending as we know it.

Then they got personal: "Tony sold out to The Man!"

Say it ain't so, Tony!


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

There is Chutzpah, and Then There's...

...this guy.
"Regulators said Mr. Greenwood, of North Salem, N.Y., went a step further and asked for more than $350,000 for "upkeep of properties" and nearly $1 million to keep his 80-horse farm running -- a request the CFTC called "beyond the pale."

Some examples of Mr. Greenwood's stated needs, according to the CFTC, are: feed ($70,000); hay ($60,000), blacksmith ($60,000); property taxes ($211,584); orthodontics ($35,000); and landscaping ($40,000).

This clown, Greenwood, and his buddy, a Mr. Walsh, have "...misappropriated more than $553 million since 1996, of which $160 million was lavished on such items as cars, horses, rare books, real estate and collectible teddy bears."

And now, after being arrested, they have the stones to ask for money for hay. Between U of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University, a total of $114 Million the two universities had entrusted these two thieves with endowment investments stands to be lost.

I'm not feeling very empathethic; in fact, my general mood is Attila the Hun-ish. I'd tie these two guys by their feet and have them dragged around their horse farms until all traces of hubris are wiped away, which, based on their monetary pleas, would be when they have expired.
What's been missing in all of the financial finaglings of the last 6 months is some basic street justice. I truly believe these large pieces of dreck have completely lost touch with humanity. Why should they be treated as if they are still human?


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