Monday, June 29, 2009 the Minors

Pretty neat stuff, this.

Wilco, playing in a series of minor league stadiums.
July 10th, in Wilmington, DE home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks. (YeeHaa! got some tix for this show)

July 11th in Lowell, MA home of the Lowell Spinners.

July 13th in Brooklyn, NY home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

July 18 in Wappingers Falls, NY home of the Hudson Valley Renegades.

Contrary to the local rag's "crack" reporting, the Wilmington, DE Wilco appearance is NOT yet sold out. So, for Wilcomaniacs, Wilmington's still a possibility.

Addendum : Chicago Public Radio interview with Jeff Tweedy re. the new album, "Wilco (The Album)".

Addendum 7/13/09: Here's the Inquirer's Dan DeLuca's review. We were standing next to him for the first half of the concert, when Conor Oberst and the Short Band were playing. After Oberst finished, there was a rush forward to see Wilco. Mr. DeLuca was scribbling madly during Oberst's performance, left-handed, in a shorthand that was totally indiscernable from my peeks in his general direction. In the review, he writes, "Tweedy is not always the most articulate lyricist; I'm not quite sure what it means to be "cold as gasoline," as he sings on the new disc's "Solitaire."". It's funny; I knew exactly (or thought I knew) what Tweedy was getting at. "Hladno ko benzin" ("Cold as gasoline") is a Croatian expression, describing a condition where your experience of a situation is in direct opposition to the reaction that condition usually calls for.

Your child is born. You're depressed at the event. Your wife, from her birthing bed, observes the veil of unhappiness slithering down your face. "You're cold as gasoline", she says to you, poking around to see if she can find a match.

Me. DeLuca notes that "Cline was impressive all night, whether shredding violently on the extended "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" or the more lyrical "Impossible Germany.' His guitar, though, could have been louder. So, for that matter, could have been the whole band, which also comprises drummer Glenn Kotche, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, and superb keyboard player Mikael Jorgensen. It was as if the volume had to be kept down to keep from offending motorists speeding by on I-95." I figure he was way back in the crowd at that point. We were about 30 feet front-center from the stage and the sound was clean and powerful. Frawly baseball field borders on the third base line right by I-95, which cuts Wilmington in two at that point. The sky was ominous for a bit but no rain fell and with two encores, Jeff Tweedy and company were returning all of the love the adoring audience was pouring Wilco's way.

The band was outstandingly impressive, transforming, for at least for one night, Wilmington to, as Mr. Tweedy put it, Wilcoton. He promised they would come back; we can barely wait.

Addendum Deaux: The charming Mr. DeLuca, included a short note from me to him re. Cold as Gasoline.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

David Gates on Aleksandar Hemon's "Love & Obstacles

A NYT Review of Aleksandar Hemon's "Love & Obstacles" is here. David Gates does the honors. A sentence like "Hemon’s own brainy postmodernism mostly takes the infinitely regressive form of fictionalizing about fictionalizing. If this strikes you as deal-breakingly precious, you probably didn’t like "The Tempest," either." gives you an idea of how the review goes.

Wish they had someone with a bit more "Slavic" sensibility in them to do the review, say Gary Shteyngart.
Just my opinion, but I can't tell if it's thumbs up, down, or simply wiggling in the air with Mr. Gates' opinion. Let's see the last lines and hope for the best!?!

"The best Hemon’s characters can hope for is an occasional random intersection of private fictions. His readers may have no better hope in their real lives, but in Hemon’s stories they can observe the strange, lonely artistry of the individual imagination from a distance that seems like no distance at all."

Addition: From the WSJ, an interview with Aleksandar Hemon on a tour of Chicago sites that inspired his book "Love and Obstacles".

An excerpt: " I can write anywhere as long as there is good coffee available, for I am a militant caffeine addict and a terrible coffee snob. Whether by the Turkish coffee I make at home, or by what the good people of Metropolis provide, my fantasies are fueled by what ought to be, according to a Turkish proverb, black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love. I take no love in my coffee."

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Verging on Pertinence Analysis

Thanks to Wordle, the last 20 posts or so come out, word hierarchy wise, like this.
Wordle: Verging on Pertinence

(click on picture to ENLARGE) I'm still putzing around with this to get the image larger without distortion. Anyone familiar with the tricks, please let me know!)


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review Blather

For consistent, entertaining, self-deprecating, and enjoyable music reviews it's hard to beat Heather Browne. She's over at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends. Every day is a discovery. How does she do it? She's over on the right side permanent link list.
Ms. Browne writes short and sweet reviews, offers linkage to the band in question, including free downloads of music, posts concert lists... It's a one-stop shop. Why aren't there more sites like hers?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Short Stories: One Author's Opinion

"In a rough way the short story writer is to the novelist as a cabinetmaker is to a house carpenter. Although I said that the short story is a superior literary form, there are plenty of exceptions of great novels that could only be novels. All the same, the short story deserves more honor and attention than it gets. It can be a powerful reading experience. One can go back to a good one over and over and always learn something new about technique. I sometimes think it would be better in creative-writing programs if students cut their writing teeth on novels instead of short stories. Short stories are often very difficult and demanding, drawing on deep knowledge of human nature and the particulars of pivotal events. Every single word counts heavily. The punctuation is critical. Finding the right words and making honorable sentences takes time. The general reading public has no idea of what goes into a short story because it is literally short and can give the impression that the writer sat down and rattled the thing out in an hour or two."

-excerpt from The Paris Review, Issue # 188, Spring 2009
Christopher Cox’ interview with Annie Proulx

Note: The entire interview with Anne Proulx and a seperate interview with John Banville are only available in the hardcover version of the magazine. Both are well worth the $12, especially if either (or hopefully both) writers appeal to you. Both of the interviews are lucid and well-conducted and Proulx's is quite cantankerous...and who's surprised about that?

Speaking of short stories, this recent set of stories is a gem, regardless of whether you're in the Balkan mindset or not.


Ongoing: Kindle Review

In the coming months, I'll post some short 'n sweet impressions of the Kindle, as I continue putting it through the paces. Comments of fellow Kindle-users are most welcome. If I point out a weekness/deficiency and it seems I dont; know what I'm talking about, please let me know! I would love ot maximize the Kndling pleasure.

1) Finished my third Kindle version of a book.
(An aside: Did anyone hear a short piece on NPR yesterday (sorry for the earworm! I can't remember the show) about the difference between a Reader and a Book-lover? Very interesting tie-in to Kindle's appeal and its future. If someone out there has a link to the program in question, please let me know.)
2) Love the easy way to begin reading a book at the page I'd last been on.
3) I love to read before going to sleep. Unfortunatley, I tend to slip quickly beneath the waters of snooze. Almost dropped the Kindle a couple of nights ago. Yipes! Lost some nerve endings juggling the Kindle before safely securing it. Kindle and bed; not a good combo.
4) Hate the fact that I can't skim forward or backward in increments of over 1 page at a time.
5) Love the built in dictionary; hate the slow speed of getting the marker to the word in question.

'Nuff said.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jerry Seinfeld, Philly June 19, 2009

"Here's the thing. I'm old. I'm rich. I'm tired." was the response that Jerry Seinfeld gave to the packed house audience at the 2nd show on Friday, June 19th, when asked if he'd considered bringing back The Show. Keeping with the polite distance that he's effectively maintained with his audience since the early 1980's, Mr. Seinfeld silkily handled the adoring crowd. While we in the audience may have agreed with his "I’m rich." declaration, we knew he could not be serious about his other two proclamations. Looking particularly trim and vigorous in his finely tailored suit, he energetically paced himself through a solid hour and 20 minutes of mostly original material. "Tired?" "Old?" Mr. Seinfeld was using a dictionary I was not familiar with. If anything, he was more insightful and original than in his earlier years. Now married 10 years and with three kids, his source for material has expanded from the limitation of being single ("Dating is like playing waffle ball. You’re not even in the minors") to the motherlode of marriage and fatherhood ("It’s driving a truck with no brakes loaded TNT down a dark dirt road."). He dabbled into political humor ("...and what about these Al-Qaeda E. Coyotes with their rollerskates and jetpacks on their backs..."Boy, I hope it works this time; last time I did a loop-de-loop into a wall."") and continued his love of wordplay by doing his older bit about how how "doing Nothing is difficult (Since doing nothing is something that may lead to anything which eventually ends up with everything..." You get the idea, I hope) and then continuing on into the communication Sargasso Sea that is marriage. Hopefully, a DVD of this tour will be available as even a verbatim rendition does no justice to his complete performance.

The Ever-Loving Wife, a fan from his first performance on Johnny Carson's "Late Night", was in bliss. A man talking with intelligence, manners and wit and in a fabulous suit? I, tight-lipped and blue-jeaned could not and would not (thanks to a mote of intelligence and manners) compete. She was well-prepared for his performance, pad and pen in hand. Aside from still practicing the ancient art of legible hand-writing, the ELW is quite skilled in taking copious notes while Mr. Seinfeld was rat-tat-tatting us with his observations. And in the dark, to boot!

So, what with synapses less snappy and recall functions not as rapid, the notebook that she came out with after the performance was gold. Since Friday's show, she’d bring out the book at different times during the weekend and recite a passage or two. Mr. Seinfeld's voice was still in our heads and the lines simply slipped into our mind’s stage and we’d relive Friday’s tour-de-force performance. A great way to start out the Father’s Day weekend.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Meaning Of...

When first presented with my name, folks tended to hesitate, pull their ear, perhaps even stick a twisted up handkerchief, a la The 3 Stooges, into their right ear and pull it out their left ear.
"Had I heard that correctly?", their face indicates?
Yes, it is Darko.
"And, uhmmmm, what does it mean", comes the usual response indicating that a meaning must be available to help clear up the matter.
I've always told folks that Darko has no meaning; it's simply one of those Croatian things. Inexplicable.

Now, it seems, there's a web site explaining all.

Or so it seems.

Per the site, "Damir" means "Yes Peace". Which is true....sort of. If you split up the name, "Da" does mean "Yes" and "Mir" means "Peace". But "Yes Peace", even when considering how clunky translations can be, sounds awfully....stupid (and primitive), wouldn't you say?

Continuing, per the site, "Darko" means "Gift". Let's look at that a bit closer.
"Dar" does mean "Gift".
But, using the same logic as "Damir" then, you have to come up with the translation for "ko".
"Ko" is a shortened version of "Tko", which means "Who". So, stretching things here, it seems "Darko" means "Gift Who", suggesting something along the lines of, "Gift? Who thinks he's a Gift!?!?".

Not exactly the thought I'd like to give people when I first meet them. Afterwards, they may well think, "Gift? He's more of a Burden!", but that would at least would give me a physical and temporal distance before they would decide if some time to get to know me would be worth the "Darko" mystery.

This whole "gift" thing will play well into the Ever-Loving Wife's hands. My mother, bless her broken Croatian-English vocabulary, has mentioned on occasion to the ELW that I'm a jewel, i.e. a very specific and highly-prized type of gift. The ELW jury's still out on that one, debating whether I'm precious, semi-precious, or simply industrial grade.

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Hunting & Gathering Laughs

Well, tonight the Ever-Loving Wife will be doing something we haven't done in over 21 years. She was carrying our spirited daughter, who was stirring up aplenty, eager to pounce out into the world. So, what better thing to do in that stage of pregnancy than to go see Jerry Seinfeld. This was in the day just after he'd first been on Carson (remember that guy?) and well before he was a speck on tv, on some show that NBC seemed to move around every virtual time slot in fear that people may watch it and like it. The fact that NBC actually stuck with the show is a minor miracle as the network seemed hellbent to kill the show at every bizarro time showing it unveiled it.

Anyway, tonight we'll be in Philly watching the master at work. The ELW will most probably be taking notes as she did the last time we saw him. Only this time, she won't have the benefit of having a natural desk that our daughter served as while the latter was taking up temporary residence in Chez ELW.

Aside from the continual laughing that night a century ago, I'm still amazed that we made it through the night without having a delivery.

A current show's review is here and here.

A video of the night of the Seinfeld show finale.

And, finally, some of the new stuff we're hoping to hear in person.

AND...AND the final one (I promise), a Serb-related OP piece.

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Vacation a Trois

Only an author would think of this. Only Nick Hornby could carry it through. Oh, yeah, September is just around the rainy corner.

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Wheel of Organization

In the realm of infinite possibilities that is particular to sleep, occasionally the self-guided engagement of personal problem-solving takes purchase in the frontal lobe. In indirect relation to my work-related tasks, my level of (dis)organization at home is both cause for embarrassment and for easy ridicule. As a weak defense, I offer up W.C Fields' horizontal methodology toward filing, which works well if you're into sedimentology and hope that the crush of paper will "concentrate" your filing needs. With the cure-all of shut eye, my problems are solved. It's with waking that the reality of definite solution conflicts with the perfection of dreams.

What I truly need are desks; the more multiple the better. Though the attraction of file cabinets is strong, my home-related preferred lifestyle is not to shut away things but to leave them out as reminders and brain-hints. Space is obviously an issue when discussing furniture addition. In a dinky home, space, furniture and the interplay of the two become seeds for daily chewing. How to arrange and how to stock and how not to go bump in the night leaves one exhausted enough to eagerly welcome sleep from which all successful (if only temporary) solutions flow.

So, I came up with this. A water-wheeled desk. Circles are perfect, no? The paddles would be 18-25 inches deep and all hinged, on each side, in one space. So, as you turn the wheel, the magic of gravity keeps the upcoming desk level. For those previously cursed with cathedral ceilings, fell blessed now as your water wheel desk can have a diameter that we, with 10 ft ceilings can only dream about. I’d have the wheel made from cedar, so as to provide a fabulous scent to one’s desk-sitting, and the desk surfaces made in a variety of woods, say birch, cherry, and maple.

Just have to see if this idea will fly with the Ever-Loving Wife. She just may be on her last organization-related idea nerve; the next idea may just push her into the Chuck-It-All Zone.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sacks Desk

Here's why Twitter is sometimes worth the effort. (Note: Check out the details of this picture by clicing on the magnifying glass in each "box". Specifically, check out the box labelled "Heavy metal"...a good gift-giving idea from Mr. Sacks.

Most effortless Tweets? I'd say they come from this young fellow and this tantalizingly named lass (whose blog site I've been visiting for years)

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Bad Plus @ Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, 2009

I-95 cuts through the center of Wilmington. Just north of the city, a bypass cuts off from the Interstate for the folks who want to ignore Delaware's largest city. Just south of the city, this bypass, I-495, rejoins I-95 on its short run through the northern part of the state. The massive I-295, barrelling across the Delaware Memorial Bridge (name after the river it crosses, NOT the state it unloads onto) shortly joins up with I-95, a second vehicle tributary feeding, at times, an overflow of cars and trucks that gridlock this major highway. Driving the short piece of I-95 through Delaware is, in most cases, a herky-jerky experience. You're doing 65-75 one minute and then crawling at 3-5 mph the next. You finish off the short drive by getting sucker-punched with an exorbitant toll charge as you cross over the state line to Maryland. "Thanks for the money....Sucka!!" should be Delaware's state slogan at that point.
Why the travelogue from Hell?

The Bad Plus were in town last night, the opening act (a criminal slot!?!? These guys should have been headlining!) for Wednesday's show of the week long 2009 DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival. The grey skies were threatening, dropping sporadic precipitation on rain-brave crowds. Half-way through the set, the downpour began. But it was too late.

The band was in high gear and no one was leaving. Going through 3-4 of their own songs (Set list (as best as I can remember; I took no notes, my memory banks are defaulting), they arrived at point in the show where, as required of all performers at the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, they played a Clifford Brown composition. Their choice was Joy Spring. As per their usual when doing covers, The Bad Plus takes a tune and bends and twists it into barely recognizable shapes. So too with "Joy Spring". They placed the tune in a car driving down I-95 and through northern Delaware. It began at high speed, slowed down to a crawl, was pushed along by a blaring trucker in the form of Dave King's incessant drumbeats, sped up again, slammed on the brakes, paid the toll, and happily left the state. It was a thrill and it was the song that hooked the audience into paying attention to these guys. Their rendition was tight, each player attuned to the quick change in speed. A deserved long round of applause followed the song's completion.

Set List (With apologies for absences and play list order)

"1972 Bronzer Medalist" from their first album, These Are The Vistas
"Song X", a typical Ornette Coleman composition, i.e., somewhat difficult to follow with a tapping foot.
"Everybody Wants to Rule the World", "Physical Cities" and "Mint" from Prog
Clifford Brown’s Joy Spring (performed here by a great piano duo of Mr. Monty Alexander and Mr. Billy Taylor)

Surprisingly, nothing from For All I Care. Yes, their last album did feature extensive vocals by Minnesota native Wendy Lewis but there were songs on the album without vocals. Interesting choice on their part not to promote their latest effort even though they played without Wendy Lewis.

Wish they’d played Anthem for the Earnest, as the outdoors venue would have particularly suited this banging-on-all-notes composition.

As per their usual, Dave King was engagingly rambunctious and demonstrative with his drum-playing, Reid Anderson was understated and without the spoken word in his bass-playing, and Ethan Iverson was alarmingly quick and thick with the layers of notes he pours on when dashing across his keyboard. The sound was crystal clear, the background noise was minimal, the concert was free, and the audience was respectfully quiet during the playing. We left shortly after their set was done, not because of the downpour then commencing but rather due to the group that was to follow, a smooth-jazz conglomerate that would certainly ruin the discombobulated thrill of the last Bad Plus notes still floating in the air. The Minneapolis boys did quite well.

Here's a NYT review of their performance the night before in NYC.

(Hint: Click on the photos to ENLARGE them)

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Music & Car Keys

My reliable 1999 Camry has 221,045 miles on it. I recently purchased a set of 4 60,000 mile tires, so I'm betting that Ol' Red will take me to 300,000 miles, which is a bit over 2 more years based on my annual mileage. I'm hoping that when I put her to rest after the 300k mile mark there will be auto technology available that will allow me to dispense with car keys altogether. All I'll have to remember is how to hum the melody to "Rosalita" and I'll be behind the wheel! Who knows? Maybe even an American manufacturer could come up with the solution, although I'm betting on either Toyota (my preference) or Honda to come up with the Keyless Musical Entry System.


Pittsburgh 360

Mr Steve Mellon at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does it again with his panoramic pictures of the Penguins Stanley Cup Parade on Monday, June 15th. Check out his Pittsburgh Revolution. Be sure to hit the "Enlarge Screen" button and then turn yourself around and around a beautiful day in Pittsburgh.

While you're there, scroll down to his 360 tour of Jerry's Records, every wife's nightmare! He captures the spirit of the place beautifully. Hey! Was that Savoy Brown's Hellbound Train I saw pass by?


Monday, June 15, 2009

City of Champions*

* Except the only way the Pirates may becomes champions is to have the Penguins as the players.

Big Parade in town!

Note: Pittsburgh population in 2007 U.S. Census, 311,218.
Estimated # of Pittsburgh Steeler fans at February, 2009 Super Bowl Parade? 350,000.

Estimate for June, 2009 Stanley Cup Winners Parade? 350,000+. School's out now and the weather looks fabulous.

..and in other, Penguins-related news, shades of Joe Biden, we have this.


"I like pretty much all food, but eat that Croatian food, man, and you just feel the power in your veins" - Judah Friedlander

Just this. 'Nuff said.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Game 7: Couch Potatohood Is Accepted

It's the ultimate game in the sport with the most consistently hardest working athletes in the world. Drama aplenty, but no melodramas.

Passion against Steel.

Tonight. Sit and enjoy! That is a directive.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bibliothic Nirvana

Totally immersed in Alexandar Hemon's Love & Obstacles, Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger. Reading all three simultaneously and feeling like Goldilocks jumping from one perfect bed to another. Each is humorous, insightful, and written by authors who love words and the paces they can be put through.

Not looking forward to finishing any of the three. I'm putting off that agony as long as I can.

Although....Arthur Philips' The Song is You and Geoff Dyer's Jeff in Venice, Death in Varana are just waiting around the Kindle Korner.

This is going to be a great summer of reading.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Finalized. Clifford Brown 2009

So, all of the acts have been finalized with the Friday, June 19th mystery hole filled by the incomparable Jason Moran and his band, Bandwagon.
So, the nights definitely NOT to miss are:
Wednesday, June 17th Bad Plus
Friday, June 19th Jason Moran
Saturday, June 20th Javon Jackson
Odeon Pope Saxophone Choir

Interesting night should be Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk on Tuesday, June 16th. Sounds like a whole lotta fun.

I'd posted about The Bad Plus and their latest release here.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Dancing Tuneage: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Venting here.
Sasha Frere-Jones, music critic for The New Yorker, irritates me with all things musical in the same way the Andy Warhol Museum irritates me in all things painting/visual art. I'm drawn in each time to see what and how Mr. Frere-Jones will be writing about a musical act and generally am dis-pleased with what he's got to say. In the latest issue of The New Yorker, he scribes about the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, a most interesting band that, while certainly needing the publicity, is unfortunately written about by Mr. Frere-Jones.

I've heard these guys before; they are definitely worth the listen. I do agree with Mr. Frere-Jones about the danceability and drive of the music. The same result, except with a bit more oozy hip-sliding as is immediately in place when listening to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Listening to the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble reminds me of the Either Orchestra, another brass-based jazz group that drifts from the New Orleans sound.

The gasoline to my Frere-Jones fire this time? How about this choice line, "The band had eliminated one of the dreary commonplaces of jazz, that class-recital rhythm of soloing - "you go, I go, and so on", until the main melody returns." This man should not be allowed to review any jazz-related group, simply based on this idiotic, IMHO, line. It's as if he really had not listened to the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at all!??! Come on, buddy, each song has solos and returns. That's part of the BEAUTY not the "dreariness" of jazz.

I've purchased CD's... a long, long time ago, based on Mr. Frere-Jones' recommendations. Never again (and that "never" has lasted 3 years now)! My likes are not in line with his. Now, with the Philly Inky's Dan DeLuca and Tom Moon? Never a problem; I love what they love. I've never not loved a recommended artist they've written about favorably that I'd not yet heard of (enough double negatives there for you?).

So, thankfully I'd already heard of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Otherwise, my admitted prejudice against Mr. Frere-Jones' recommendations would probably have shut the aural door for me on this interesting group. My recommendation? Start out with this recording (downloaded only $7.99). They're still working out some kinks and the production is a bit "tinny", but you can tell that these guys must be fantastic live. And I'm sure you'll be moving body parts you thought couldn't move, listening to the CD. They're allegedly finishing an album with Mos Def. Hopefully, there will be a bit more coinage spent on the production of the album.

Other commentary on dance tuneage? Check out Yukon Cornelius reminiscing of Days of Dancing Past.


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