Spring is coming -- and we need it
It's already warmer than it was yesterday -- and it's only 6 a.m.
That's a sure sign SPRING is on the way, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we're all ready for the WINTER to end.
While we dealt with near-record amounts of snow and cold days, we never experienced the brief thaws that can make winter more palatable. Since Dec. 1, the temperature in DUBUQUE has reached 40 degrees or higher only six times -- and three of those were during the first four days of December.
Instead, we suffered from day after day of below-zero temperatures that froze pipes, broke water mains and generally made life miserable.
I think we're all ready for spring.
Plenty of 'what ifs' in the history of The Kinks
I just began reading "THE KINKS: ALL DAY AND ALL OF THE NIGHT," a 352-page, day-by-day history of the British band by DOUG HINMAN.
It's full of interesting facts about the group that produced "You Really Got Me," "Waterloo Sunset," "Lola" and other musical gems.
I learned that ROD STEWART, a classmate of RAY AND DAVE DAVIES, sang in one gig by the school rock band that would become The Kinks and that Kink-to-be MICK AVORY played drums in rehearsals with an early version of THE ROLLING STONES.
There are plenty of "what ifs" in rock history, and the history of The Kinks in particular.
Resnais mastered the New Wave art of film reinvention
The French NOUVELLE VAGUE director ALAIN RESNAIS has died age 91.
We have his 1959 drama "HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR" on DVD, and I turn to it when I want to experience an exquisite kind of sadness.
The plot is simply a series of conversations between a French actress and her Japanese architect lover about the past, memory, forgetfulness and regret.
Resnais raises the film to high art through his use of flashbacks, imaginative point-of-view shots and a nonlinear storyline.
One of the hallmarks of France's new wave of cinema was the ability to shed unnecessary film "rules" to create a fresh approach to storytelling.
Resnais was a master of this ability.
1968 was a great year for The Kinks -- even if nobody knew it at the time
THE KINKS are my favorite "British Invasion" band, but my favorite era was the late-60s edition, when the public began to ignore the band just as RAY DAVIES was producing his most enduring music.
I love the irony, but abhor the unfairness of the contemporary indifference to such brilliant music.
Davies was busy creating the music that would become "THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE PRESERVATION SOCIETY" album in the summer of 1968 when the band's American label Reprise demanded a new album for stateside.
As ANDY MILLER describes the period in his book-length examination of "The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society," Davies acquiesced and sent the Americans 15 tracks for an album tentatively titled "FOUR MORE RESPECTED GENTLEMEN."
Reprise never released the album, and the tracks either appeared on "The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society," "The Great Lost Kinks Album" compilation or "The Kinks Kronikles" compilation.
In the CD era, the songs have appeared as bonus tracks on expanded editions of the officially released albums of the period.
I made a playlist based on the original tracklisting of "Four More Respected Gentlemen," as chronicled in Miller's book.
The songs offer a fascinating glimpse at the music emerging from Davies during the creative blossoming that would eventually produce "The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society."
The tracks include "She's Got Everything," "Monica," Mr. Songbird," "Johnny Thunder," "Polly," "Days," "Animal Farm," "Berkeley Mews," "Picture Book," "Phenomenal Cat," "Misty Water," "Did You See His Name," "Autumn Almanac" and a pair of DAVE DAVIES tracks, "Susannah's Still Alive" and "There is No Life Without Love."
Listening, I can imagine a parallel universe where "Four More Respected Gentlemen" enjoyed a wide release and Ray Davies didn't have to wait 30 years to be proclaimed a pop genius.
The music is that good, you see.
Remembering an iconic announcer: Jim Lange
You know an announcer has become an icon when you appear as yourself on TV shows and movies.
That was JIM LANGE, who died this week age 81.
A Minnesota native, Lange emerged into the national spotlight while hosting a radio show on the legendary San Francisco station KSFO -- famous breeding ground for indelible voices.
He moved to Los Angeles and hosted numerous game shows on TV, including "The Dating Game" and "Name That Tune."
He portrayed himself during guest appearances on sitcoms such as "Bewitched" and "Laverne & Shirley."
Lange was a classic announcer, who eventually returned to radio.
Today's generation of Carson Daly, Ryan Seacrest and the like might not realize the debt they owe to Lange.
Trust me, it's huge.
Can the fiery Blakey percussion beat this enduring chill? Here's hoping!
We can't seem to escape the icy grip of WINTER.
It's only supposed to "warm" to 10 degrees Fahrenheit today, and tonight the bottom falls out and temperatures plunge as winds increase: The forecast calls for a low of minus-12 and wind chill values as low as minus-30.
My reaction (besides complaining) is to bundle up and listen to the fiery JAZZ of ART BLAKEY & THE JAZZ MESSENGERS.
Blakey was the hard-bop drummer whose rotating cast of players read like a who's who of modern jazz: Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, Chuck Mangione, Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis, to list just a few.
Behind these fabulous players was Blakey's remarkable percussion.
Critic Ralph Gleason wrote:
"Blakey is like a man on fire. When he drums, every inch of his body is involved in it. He can get a greater variety of counter rhythms going at any time than any drummer I have ever heard."
As a result, no piece of Blakey music can ever be called "dull," because there is always something interesting to hear.
I need something fiery to hear today. Anything to try to beat this enduring chill.
Vizzini brought shadowy subject into the light
It's difficult reading the NED VIZZINI novel, "IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY," after the events of Dec. 19, 2013.
That's the day the author committed suicide, after producing works of fiction that featured struggles with MENTAL ILLNESS.
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" is a first-person account of those struggles, told by New York teenager Craig Gilner.
Gilner's matter-of-fact account of depression are memorable:
"Some days I woke up and got out of bed and brushed my teeth like any normal human being; some days I woke up and lay in bed and looked at the ceiling and wondered what the hell the point was of getting out of bed and brushing my teeth like any normal human being."
Most people have someone in their lives who have dealt with mental illness. It's a subject veiled by stigma, however, so it's an illness that usually festers in the shadows.
Vizzini's great achievement was bringing the subject into the light of the modern young adult novel -- hopefully, the awareness he raised prevented others from following his suicidal lead.