Monday, April 30, 2007

A song that always leaves me... well, breathless

Here is what kind of a day it was:
I had to say goodbye to my sister, who flew back to San Francisco after a weekend visit. I had to drive down a gravel road for an interview and as I walked into the house I saw a college classmate who I had not seen in nearly 20 years.
I had to write three stories, after an important news release arrived in my e-mail inbox at 6 p.m.
It was a head-spinning day, but one song made me smile so much I played it all the way home.
"Breathless" was Jerry Lee Lewis' third Top 10 single and it peaked at No. 7 on April 1, 1958.
It sounded great 39 years later, with my car windows rolled down and a breeze providing a cool counterpoint to today's unseasonably warm temperatures.
"Wind, rain, sleet or snow, I am gonna be wherever you go.
You -- have left me -- aahhh

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gilchrist stars as Australia shines in the rain

We spent a busy day yesterday preparing for Annika's first Communion and party, which will be held later today.
We cleaned the house, set up chairs and tables outside (40 people are coming over? huh?) and picked up food from the caterer.
In between, I followed yesterday's Premiership football (Man. Utd. rallied from 2-0 down to defeat Everton, 4-2, and inch closer to the title), the NFL draft (my 49ers selected LB Patrick Willis, OT Joe Staley and WR Jason Hill, who grew up in the Filmore District and attended San Francisco's Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School) and the Cricket World Cup final.
Australia defeated Sri Lanka by 53 runs in a match shortened by rain and ultimately darkness in Barbados.
Adam Gilchrist (pictured) starred for the Aussies, scoring 149 off 104 balls as the champions batted first and built a towering lead of 281-4.
Sri Lanka fell too far behind, and the elements and Australian batters hampered their efforts to rally.
Now... on to the church!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Let's hear it for Masaki Kobayashi!

Masaki Kobayashi is gaining ground in my personal list of best film directors.
His "Kaidan" is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, and Kobayashi handles an all-star cast in that film that includes Tatsuya Nakadai, Kei Sato and Tetsuro Tamba. When I first saw "Seppuku (Harikari)," I remarked that the 1962 film was the best-directed film I had seen.
Last night, I watched "Joi-Uchi: Hairyo Tsuma Shimatsu (Samurai Rebellion)," and my appreciation of Kobayashi has grown some more.
The English translation -- "Samurai Rebellion" -- suggests some large-scale insurrection. Instead, this 1967 classic portrays a family backed into a political and emotional corner.
A clan lord orders Isaburo Sasahara (Toshiro Mifune) to accept into his family an arranged bride for elder son Yogoro (Go Kato). There is a catch: The arranged bride is Ichi (Yoko Tsukasa), the lord's ex-mistress and mother of the only male heir). The young couple marry and fall in love, and that is when the clan officials order Ichi back to the castle to resume her role as lord's concubine.
Family members find themselves caught between clan loyalty and true love.
That brief description cannot do justice to the film. The acting is fabulous. Mifune is obviously one of cinematic history's greatest actors. Kato captures a sense of desperation -- much as he did in Hideo Gosha's "Kedamono no Ken (Sword of the Beast)," when he played gold-panning Jurata Yamane. Tsukasa is also wonderful as the bride caught between two families.
What I really love, however, is Kobayashi's sense of composition.
He uses architecture to frame shots and in one memorable scene he shows that a family meeting has disintegrated into animosity by subtracting cast members from the scene, until three people remain kneeling in despair.
"Joi-Uchi: Hairyo Tsuma Shimatsu (Samurai Rebellion)" reminded me how a great director can take masterful control of each of a film's elements. The result was priceless.
REMINDER: The FRIDAY QUESTION feature will return Friday, May 11.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bringing the Bay Area to us

My sister arrives from San Francisco for a visit tonight. I will take the opposite journey in about a month.
This morning we are listening to KCBS AM 740 live online as we celebrate the Bay Area. The sports report details losses by the Warriors and the A's and a win by the Giants. San Francisco have won seven in a row.
As I drive around today, I will listen to my Bay Area R&B playlists.
They include artists such as Rodger Collins, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, Darondo, Bobby Freeman and more.
The playlists always remind me of eucalyptus trees, CalTrans signs and the other little details of Bay Area life that I never realized I would miss.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"The reason why they aren't big in America is because America is not ready for them"

The girls watched McFly videos on YouTube this morning.
It's probably not OK for me to admit, but the songs were catchy, the videos were funny, so I did not mind watching McFly.
We saw the videos for UK No. 1 hits "5 Colours in Her Hair," "Obviously" (a really catchy song) and "All About You" (a funny video in which a recording session with an orchestra is beset by mishaps). We also saw the video for UK No. 3 hit "That Girl" (featuring the band as motorway station attendants).
Kerstin,11, says the British band have not yet become huge in America "because America is not ready for them."
She might be right. McFly seem a bit more intelligent (and certainly have a better sense of irony) than the Hillary/Lindsay/NickTunes crowd.
"I like them because they aren't like all the other bands," said Annika, 8.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I need drugs... powerful, powerful drugs

But I will have to settle for a Kahlua and cream and songs by the Pharcyde.
Why do I need powerful, powerful drugs?
Because I have to help my two daughters clean their room, in anticipation of my sister visiting from San Francisco in a couple days.
So, what could be so difficult about cleaning a room?
Let me put it this way:
Their room is so clothes-strewn and stuffed-animal-laden that it looks like two tornadoes held a wicked competition to see who could wreck it the worst.
There were doll clothes mixed with girl clothes mixed with papers, pencils, broken pieces of toys and even sharp staples that I had to pick up one-by-one by hand.
We only finished with half of the task at hand. So now I am relaxing with the aforementioned Kahlua and cream and Pharcyde songs.
I love the Pharcyde, especially the early songs such as "Ya Mama," "Oh Sh*t" and "Return of the B-Boy."
The No. 52 pop (and No. 28 R&B and No. 6 dance and No. 1 rap) hit "Passin' Me By" is also a classic from Tre "Slim Kid" Hardson, Romye "Booty Brown" Robinson, Imani Wilcox and Derrick "Fat Lip" Stewart.
I'm sure I will listen to more Pharcyde tomorrow: This room-cleaning mission is going to take awhile.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A good morning for the Bay Area

Crazy scenes in Dallas last night, as the GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS shocked the Mavericks, 97-85, in the NBA playoffs last night.
Baron Davis (pictured) received a painful poke in the eye in the second quarter, then he carried Golden State to the victory in their first postseason game in 13 years.
Davis finished with 33 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. Stephen Jackson added 23 points.
Former Mavs coach Don Nelson is back with "the Dubs," and showed last night that he still knows how to coach.
Earlier in the day, the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS beat the Diamondbacks, 2-1, to improve to 9-8. Matt Cain pitched another good game and Barry Bonds homered.
After a slow start, the G-Men are looking better.
Now, the girls and I are listening to the "Murph and Mac Show" on KNBR 680 live online. The station serves as the flagship for both the Warriors and the Giants, so the hosts and callers are really lovin' it this morning.
"Our heads are spinning after that game," one of the radio hosts just said.
Wanna know what kind of a day it is in the Bay Area? The traffic reporter just said that BART is on time and there isn't even a back up on the Golden Gate Bridge coming into the City from Marin.
Now *THAT'S* a nice day!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Central California's Original Funk Brothers"

Atwater, Lodi, Modesto, Stockton, Tracy, Turlock and their namesake hometown.
These are the places where kids packed the theaters, gyms and ballrooms and made the MERCED BLUE NOTES the biggest band in the big San Joaquin Valley.
I received a wonderful CD compilation, "Get Your Kicks on Route 99" yesterday from
It details the recorded career of the Merced Blue Notes, a legendary R&B collective of the early 1960s. I listened to it last night and we will listen in the car today en route down to Cedar Rapids for my goddaughters' first Communion.
Their sound is akin to a bluesier version of Booker T. & The MGs, although later in their career the Blue Notes revealed the growing influence of jazz organist Jimmy Smith on their sound.
"Bad, Bad Whiskey," "Whole Lotta Nothing" and "Do the Pig" were among their hard-to-find singles that collectors have long craved. The Merced Blue Notes might be best known, however, for a series of singles that included and followed their seminal 1961 instrumental "Rufus" (followed by 1964's "Rufus Jr." and the 1966 single "Mama Rufus.")
The cover photo alone hints at the unique aspects of this band:
(from right to left)
George "Chief" Coolures served as band manager and played occasional tambourine and harmonica. Did I mention he was also the chief of the Merced, Calif. fire department?
Kenny Craig was the band's musical leading light. The guitarist and occasional vocalist founded the band at Merced High School.
Gilbert Fraire provided the thumpin' bass to the proceedings. His Hispanic heritage also added racial diversity to a mostly black band. Sadly, Fraire died in a 1967 car crash.
Carl Mays Jr. was credited with "drums and shouts." "We would get a groove going so much, we were like clockwork," Mays says in the extensive liner notes in the Ace Records release.
Bobby Hunt was the band's keyboard wizard. He later played in a band in France with Bob Welch, future member of Fleetwood Mac and solo recording artist.
Bill "Tiger" Robertson occasionally played saxophone for the band and his wife Marietta Robertson occasionally sang.
Some online reviews of the Merced Blue Notes attempt to disparage the band, referring to them as "a second-rate Booker T. & The MGs."
I laughed as I read those reviews, because they fail to realize a salient point:
Booker T. & The MGs are true instrumental soul demigods, yes, but the enjoyed the advantage of coming from music-drenched Memphis and the groundbreaking sonic laboratory that was Stax Records.
The Merced Blue Notes came from MERCED.
The band's humble beginnings, allied to their outstanding music, makes their little-known story all the more remarkable to me.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

...Beverly Cleary, "Bridge to Terabithia," Vlasic Pickles, Amoeba Records...

I work today and tomorrow we travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for my goddaughter's first Communion. It is an "on-the-go" couple of days, so we are kickin' it into high gear with an ALTERNATIVE HIP HOP WEEKEND.
It began yesterday, as the girls and I prepared for school (and school picture day) and work by groovin' to a PHARCYDE "radio station" on
I listened to a "best of" CD of fellow Oak-Town native DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN as I drove around town yesterday.
I also got "Classic," the latest CD by another Oakland, Calif. crew, LIVING LEGENDS (pictured above).
It's a great album. Any hip hop crew that raps about (yet ANOTHER Oakland resident) author Beverly Cleary, "Bridge to Terabithia," Vlasic Pickles and selling used CDs to (Bay Area institution) Amoeba Records is OK by me.
It's the farthest thing from the posing of gangsta rap, which is one of the reasons alternative hip hop appeals to me.
Del raps about friends who sleep on your couch and the frustration of waiting around for a bus. You wouldn't hear his cousin Ice Cube rap about that stuff.
I interview Sen. Joe Biden later this morning. I will try to stop my head from bobbing to the alt. hip hop thumping in my brain.

Friday, April 20, 2007

FQ: Guilty pleasure film

ROUTE 1 staff will take an INSERVICE BREAK on successive Fridays after this week's FRIDAY QUESTION. Staff will participate in work-study apprentice Annika's First Communion celebration and a little event I like to call MY BIRTHDAY (May 3). The blog will continue to be updated every day, so keep reading.
The ever-popular FQ will return on FRIDAY, MAY 11.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers answered the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Is there a film you probably shouldn't like, but you really do?"
Mary N.-P. -- "The Year of Living Dangerously," a 1983 film by Peter Weir, starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hunt. About the lead-up to the uprising in Indonesia with Mel Gibson as a foreign journalist. Don't know really how good it is, but I get completely wrapped up in it every time I watch it... I can feel the heat and tension (sexual and political) until the wild ending.
Steve M. -- "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective." And the Austin Powers movies.

Scout S. -- I have been thinking about this, and I can't come up with an answer at all.

This is the closest I can come:
I had to go and see "Titanic" when it was in it's last weeks in theatres, because I was working at an ad agency, and we were pitching to
. Their big thing was that they were about to offer the VHS of "Titanic" at a super low price when it came out on video, and we were tailoring our pitch to that fact. I needed to see the film in order to write pitch ideas, even though I actively didn't give a sh*t about the movie.
I had also just come out of a long relationship that ended poorly, though I was certain it was going to be a good, solid thing. Thus, I journeyed alone to see Leo and Kate's big adventure. And lo & behold, when he slipped off that piece of debris and sank at the end, oh my GOD was I bawling like a baby. Even that f*cking Celine Dion song got to me. What a big sucker. I've never seen the film again, but I *did* come up with the pitch that won our agency the account. I got fired a few months later, but that's a different story.
Mike M. -- All I can think of is "Napoleon Dynamite," but why shouldn't I like that?
Erik H. -- There are some compelling reasons why I shouldn't like "West Side Story:"
1) It was an immensely popular, mainstream success, with 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
2) Natalie Wood didn't get to sing her own songs.
3) Dancing guys.
There are even MORE compelling reasons why I LOVE "West Side Story:"
1) The collaboration between Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim is simply remarkable. I watched the DVD again last night with a critical eye and listened with a critical ear, waiting for a dud song. "Maria," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere" are not only the opposite of duds, they are stone-cold classics. Even a relatively minor song such as "Gee, Officer Krupke" is memorable.
2) There were two geniuses in the director's chair. Usually, two directors is a potential problem. Not here. Not when the two directors are choreographer Jerome Robbins and former star editor Robert Wise. Wise directed "Curse of the Cat People" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" before "West Side Story." Everyone appreciates how difficult it could be to turn a play into a film. Wise made it look easy in "West Side Story."
3) Dancing guys.
Back to Robbins and his genius: The first time we see the finger-snapping Jets members leap into a dance move while walking, it feels like a burst of excitement. It feels like "Wizard of Oz" when it switches from monochrome to color.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

All hail the king of the grumps!

I am grumpy.
I am parenting alone this week and (most of next) because Jill is on successive business trips to Indianapolis and Sacramento.
Last night, I struggled mightily to get the argumentative (and yelling at each other) girls to clear a path in their clothes-strewn room, just so I could make their bed.
It was so bad that I crawled in bed after they went to sleep and listened to some soft soft jazz piano in the dark.
It was *THAT* bad.
Today the skies are drizzly and dreary, compounding my grumpiness.
Rather than succumb to the gloom, I have decided to EMBRACE it.
I'm going to listen to The Fall today.
Mark E. Smith has been leading Manchester's leading CULT BAND for nearly 30 years. That's three decades of Smith's diatribes against everything you can think of, all set to a post-punk backing. He is the grumpiest man in rock.
It's just what I need today. Today, I'm grumpy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Simple and complicated

Tonight's scenario is as simple as this:
If the Golden State Warriors defeat the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden tonight, "the Dub" will end a 12-year-old NBA playoff drought.
My native Bay Area is abuzz with the possibility.
I am listening to the "Murph and Mac Show" on KNBR 680 (San Francisco) live online right now, and the hosts just spent 17 minutes talking about the excitement surrounding the Warriors.
(Now, however, they are talking about the HORRIBLE BULLPEN of the last-place San Francisco Giants -- OUCH!)
Tonight's scenario is as complicated as this:
Our 5-1/2 year residence in Oregon resulted in the Blazers becoming my FAVORITE NBA team.
Part of me wants to root against Portland tonight.
Actually, a Portland loss would help enhance their chances of getting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.
Maybe two parts of me want to root against Portland tonight.
I don't know. I don't think I can honestly root against the Blazers.
Let me put it this way instead: I won't loudly mourn a Portland loss tonight.
I would like to see "the Dub" extend their season.
The Warriors got the job done.
Baron Davis scored 12 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 14 assists and Golden State beat Portland, 120-98.
"The Dub" opens the first round of the NBA playoffs Sunday versus Dallas.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Welcome to Jeff

OK, first things first:
I am still having a hard time believing that any kid of mine could even REMOTELY be old enough for middle school.
So, during tonight's middle school orientation for KERSTIN at THOMAS JEFFERSON MIDDLE SCHOOL, I mostly walked around in a hazy state of denial.
Middle school? Nah!
She's just a lil' kid. Right?
Earlier in the day, I was just as disbelieving while exploring PANDORA.COM, located here.
Pandora is an unbelievably cool Internet radio station, developed by musician and film composer Tim Westergren and based in my BIRTHPLACE -- OAKLAND, CALIF.
The premise is simple: You type in the name of a song or artist you enjoy, and Pandora generates a streaming radio playlist featuring that artist and artists in a similar vein.
It's free (there are minimal ads) and completely legal: As a musician, Westergren recognized the importance of paying royalties.
Pandora is sweeping college campuses (I learned while interviewing students for an upcoming technology page feature for the newspaper).
I am loving it, even while I cannot quite believe it's true.
I have only created two Pandora "radio stations" thus far:
1) A station featuring artists similar in style to ace soul-jazz organist BROTHER JACK McDUFF.
2) A station with artists similar to country harmony demigods THE LOUVIN BROTHERS.
I'll make many more, of course. I'll listen to them while telling myself:
"She can't possibly be old enough for middle school... She can't possibly be old enough for middle school... She can't possibly be old enough for middle school..."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hard boppin' to the vet's office

The girls and I took our two cats to the vet's office this morning for their annual checkup and some recommended vaccinations.
En route there and back, I tried to calm the cats' nerves by playing some Miles Davis.
I have been pulling out some of my old jazz CDs recently. One of the all-time classic albums is "Walkin'" by the Miles Davis All Stars.
Well, it probably should have been called "All Stars and one guy named David Schildkraut."
Always a genius at spotting and nurturing talent, Davis did indeed collect a bevy of great musicians for his 1954 classic. Davis' rhythm section at the time was Percy Heath on bass, Kenny "Klook" Clarke on drums and my favorite pianist, Horace Silver.
All three made big names for themselves. Heath and Clarke helped found The Modern Jazz Quartet with Milt Jackson and John Lewis. Silver virtually invented "hard bop" as a founder (with Art Blakey) of the Jazz Messengers.
Joining Davis on the front line on two tracks were J.J. Johnson on trombone and Lucky Thompson on tenor saxophone. These guys are great.
On three of the tracks, Davis is joined by Schildkraut, one of the great what-might-have-been stories in jazz. Schildkraut played alto saxophone and famously fooled Charles Mingus into thinking he was Charlie Parker during a blind test. According to Davis historian Dan Morgenstern, Schildkraut was already holding down day jobs to support his family when Davis cut "Walkin'" and the altoist dropped out of sight by the early 1960s. A Google search indicates Schildkraut died in 1996, but yields little additional information.
Schildkraut played beautifully on one of the most famous albums in jazz, but then effectively vanished.
I am listening to "Walkin'" and both cats are presently basking in the sunshine streaming through our front window, so I think the Miles Davis must have worked.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Finally exposing my lifelong love affair with Julie London

I am creating one of those Sunday iPod playlists for one of those mornings after a night on the town.
I just heard "Cry Me a River," and it made me think about Julie London: I've had a thing for her since I was a kid!

Julie London (1926-2000) was born Gayle Peck in Santa Rosa, Calif. -- one of my old stomping grounds. I lived in Sebastopol and spent many hours in Santa Rosa, the county seat for Sonoma County. It's one of my favorite cities!
"Cry Me a River" soared to No. 2 on the pop charts in 1955, but that's not what sparked my childhood interest in Julie London.
She played Dixie McCall on TV's "Emergency!" from 1972-79.
*THAT'S* what sparked my childhood interest in Julie London!
"Emergency!" was one of those shows that I always seemed to watch when I was a kid. Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto seemed so cool, rescuing kids from rooftops and things like that. They always took patients to the same hospital -- Rampart General -- where Dr. Kelly Brackett and Dr. Joe Early were always ordering people around.
Ahh... and I can't forget Dixie McCall.
I don't think I was capable of fully articulating my feelings at the time, but DIXIE McCALL WAS KIND OF HOT.
She was older than my dad, but JULIE LONDON WAS A HOT, MIDDLE-AGED CHICK!
Now, of course, I am more familiar with the Julie London of the 1950s. "Hot" doesn't even do justice to vintage Julie London. They haven't even invented a word to describe Julie London from the 1950s and...
...why, I... I... I...
I just took another look at that 1950s' album cover and now I can't really remember where I was going with this blog post.
I think I'll just quit writing and listen to "Cry Me a River" again.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Licor Delicioso" and the Nats

We're hosting a party for Jill's birthday later today
Right now, we're listening to the Mets and the Nationals on WTWP 1500/107.7, courtesy of's Gameday Audio service.
Ryan Church and Chris Snelling have homered in the sixth inning and Washington leads New York, 6-1, at Shea Stadium.

I'm also sipping on a Kahlua and cream.
It might not be the perfect beverage for baseball, but it sure tastes good today.
Shawn Hill is pitching well for the Nats. He just got plunked by Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who was tossed from the game for his troubles.
I watched soccer this morning on TV -- Manchester City and Liverpool played unusually leisurely en route to a goalless draw in bright sunshine.
Their lackadaisical pace matches my current mood: I am just happily sipping Kahlua and listening to baseball on the radio.
It doesn't get much better, does it?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sit back and RELAX, thanks to the FQ

The ROUTE 1 staff were traveling back to home base after an Easter break in the Des Moines area. I put GRANT GREEN'S 1961 album "GRANTSTAND" on the CD player, and within moments , ROUTE 1 work-study apprentice Annika (age 8) was deep in a sound sleep. That insomnia-smashing episode prompted this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What did you hear this week that helped you relax?"
Scout S. -- Explosions In The Sky, "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone."
Rick T. -- My XM radio, especially the comedy channel. Makes me laugh.
Mike M. -- Johann Sebastian Bach's Ciaccona, Partita No. 2 in D Major, BWV 1004, from the album "Hilary Hahn Plays Bach."
Laura C. -- Cesaria Evora. It's impossible to listen to her sing without moving your hips and feeling all the tension leave your body.
Mike D. -- While driving home from grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon, I
flipped the radio dial and stopped when I heard Big Band music. It was a Tommy Dorsey tune with a some soothing clarinet weaving throughout. It brought back fond memories of my father, who grew up with the music of that era.
Clint A. -- "Salsa Explosion: The Sound of Fania Records" was my soundtrack as I drove down Highway 1 from Monterey to Big Sur and to Pfiffer Beach.
Tom J. -- "I Feel," by The Sundays.
Erik H. -- "Slow High," from Dr. Lonnie Smith's 1969 soul-jazz album "Turning Point" is one of those songs that I could hear over and over again. Here is how Detroit disc jockey Ed Love described the song in the original liner notes:
"The Smith original 'Slow High' will prove to be the favorite track on the LP for many listeners. It's a medium tempo blues that a lot of swingers I know can really unwind and do their own thing to while listening or dancing."
Or sleeping in the backseat on a long drive back home, perhaps?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A great, let-it-snow-all-it-wants-to record

Lou Donaldson's "Midnight Creeper" is one of those records that I hear and I think: Why don't I listen to this record more often?
Donaldson, an alto saxophone player, teams with people like Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ and George Benson on guitar to produce a great, soul-jazz sound.
In fact, I would recommend this record to people who say they "don't like jazz."
I tend to find that these people say they don't like jazz because they simply haven't found a variety they enjoy hearing.
As an April snowstorm threatens to smother us today, I will at least be able to enjoy Donaldson's 1968 masterpiece. I'll probably listen to it on the iPod as I shovel snow tonight.

Monday, April 09, 2007

"What's black and white and read all over?"

I have spent nine years at my current newspaper, about nine months or so at my previous newspaper and about five-and-a-half years at my newspaper before that one.
That's more than 15 years in the newspaper business. My, how time flies when you're covering rock, paper, scissors competitions and county board of supervisors' work sessions. I am currently studying notes on teaching the rest of the reporters our new editorial "front-end" computer system.
I had to laugh to myself, then, when my 8-year-old daughter Annika asked me the following riddle as I tucked her into bed tonight:
Annika: "What is black and white and read all over?"
Me: "Um... I don't know."
Annika: "A newspaper!"
Me: "Oh, that's a good one..."
Annika: "... because the words are black and the pages are white, and it is read, not red like the color, but read like reading."
I acted like I had never heard that oldie but goodie before, and I suppose, given the unbridled enthusiasm Annika showed in telling (and then explaining) this riddle, perhaps I never really have heard it before.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Groovin' with Green, all the way home

We returned from our EASTER WEEKEND in central Iowa this evening.
I had purchased a couple of FINE CDs Saturday in Des Moines, and we listened to them en route home.
GRANT GREEN'S "GRANTSTAND," from 1961, is absolutely fabulous.
Green only garners about three paragraphs in "The Rough Guide to Jazz," which is a shame. He might not have blazed as many musical trails as some other musicians, but he is easily one of my FAVORITE GUITARISTS.
Jazz luminaries Yusef Lateef (tenor sax and flute), Al Harewood (drums) and my man BROTHER JACK McDUFF (organ) give Green support on "Grantstand." It's the type of music I could hear all day, every day.
The other CD I purchased Saturday was JIMMY SMITH'S "MIDNIGHT SPECIAL."
I already have "The Sermon" and "Back at the Chicken Shack," and I am a HUGE JIMMY SMITH fan.
He is a fabulous organist. Here, though, tenor saxman Stanley Turrentine nearly steals the show. Nearly.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Shakin' your booty FQ

ROUTE 1 readers take a guess while answering this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What one song have you danced to most in your life?"
Dave B. -- Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax," the greatest dance song of all time.
Kerstin H. -- "Summer of 69," because I made up a dance for it.
Mike D. -- I'll sound like a real hick, but it's probably "The Chicken Dance," a
staple at wedding receptions of my large extended family. Other contenders are "Brown-Eyed Girl" (with my wife), "Twist and Shout" and "Love Shack."
Inger H. -- Does head-banging air-punching count? That would have to be Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." There is an itch that only that one song can scratch.
Annika H. -- "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk."
Mike M. -- Maggie says I don't dance, but she's never seen me with a Sony Walkman and a tape of Whodini's "Freaks Come Out at Night."
Erik H. -- I loved the idea of "Pump Up The Volume" by M/A/R/R/S before I even heard the song: British indie bands Colourbox and A.R. Kane (from the artsy label 4AD!) were joining forces with scratch-and-sample pioneering DJs Chris "C.J." Macintosh and Dave Dorrell.
"Put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record when the drumbeat goes like this!"
Cue up the Ofra Haza sample (I even had an Ofra Haza 12-inch record in my collection!) and away we went on the dancefloors of my college days and nights.
We added to the lyrics, of course, substituting dorm-floor cult legend MARK VARNER for "Volume."
"Pump up the VARNER, Pump up the VARNER, Pump up the VARNER -- DANCE! DANCE!"
Now, I know that the one-off collaboration contained more than 250 samples and is a towering achievement in the progression of modern dance music.
Then, it just sounded so great blasting out of the speakers at SPANKY'S.
"Rhythmatic, systematic, world control. Magnetic, genetic, dement your soul."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Two decades before "Rockit"

This morning I am listening to one of the absolutely killer piano solos of all time.
No surprise: It's by Herbie Hancock.
Possible surprise: It's not on "Headhunters" and he recorded it 20 years before "Rockit."
The Hancock solo is his gem on "Old World, New Imports," on Hank Mobley's classic 1963 album "No Room for Squares."
Mobley does a great job on tenor saxophone and he composed the tune. Donald Byrd also sounds great on trumpet. (I love Byrd's full name -- Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II -- it's one of the great names of jazz.)
Hancock steals the show, however, with his solo beginning at the 2:56 mark of the more than eight minute tune
Great stuff, a fun way to start the day and a reminder that Hancock has produced great music for decades.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A: Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Marine World Africa USA, Bill Buckner, the California Maritime Academy, E-40...

Q: Name some people and things to come out of VALLEJO, CALIF.
Of course, you would have to add CON FUNK SHUN to any list of people and things originating out of "Valley-Joe."
You know a band is great when 11-year-old Kerstin can't help bopping her head to songs such as "Ffun," "Chase Me," "Confunkshunizeya" and "Shake and Dance With Me."
Kerstin even lauded the songs as being "very catchy."
I have been listening to a lot of Con Funk Shun lately, choosing songs for a "Funky Feet" playlist for working out.
Con Funk Shun began as Project Soul, a much-sought-after backing band featuring high school classmates Louis "Tony" McCall and Michael Cooper. Lead singer/songwriter Felton Pilate -- also from Vallejo -- joined after a rival band broke up.
Like another Vallejo native -- racing's Jeff Gordon -- Con Funk Shun had to leave town to gain fame. Con Funk Shun set off for Memphis and their funky compositions eventually led to hits.
Their songs are warming me today -- a day when springtime snowflakes are falling in Dubuque.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The O's on HFS and Gosha's great film

I listened to baseball last night thanks to the wonders of an Gameday Audio subscription (audio of any game, home or away feeds available). I heard the Twins defeat the Orioles, 7-4, on the Orioles' Radio Network and 105.7 HFS (WHFS, the O's new FM flagship station).
There's something oddly comforting about listening to the baseball on the radio.
I guess because I have done it since I was a little kid.
The Giants were on the radio constantly during my youthful summers, especially when I visited my grandparents in Maxwell, Calif. My grandmother was a bigger Giants fan than I could ever hope to become, as impossible as that sounds.
After last night's ball game, I switched gears and watched Hideo Gosha's great 1965 film "Kedamono no Ken (Sword of the Beast)" on DVD.
Mikijiro Hira plays Gennosuke, a fugitive ronin samurai who stumbles upon a couple forced to pan for gold by their clan.
Gosha explores the nature of loyalty in the face of betrayal through plotting and frequent flashbacks.
Toshitada Tsuchiya's cinematography is memorable: He shoots many of the action scenes through weeds or past other visual obstructions. The result is a slightly disorienting, tense feel to the sword fights -- probably the feeling an observer would have at the scene.
I recommend both Gameday Audio for your listening pleasure and
"Kedamono no Ken (Sword of the Beast)" for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thirteen FUNKY minutes

I used an iTunes card last night to acquire some FUNKY songs for a project of mine:
I am creating a trio of "Funky Feet" playlists for use during workouts.
I am compiling the third of the playlists, and it opens with 13 FUNKY minutes -- the original 12-inch version of "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by The Gap Band (pictured).
Remember the cheesy video for this song?
It was one of the first videos I can remember seeing during the early days of MTV and its imitators.
Phoenix, Ariz. had an MTV imitator -- a rather crude, locally produced video music channel -- during my high-school days. I cannot remember what it was called and Googling for information hasn't done anything to trigger my memory.
I do, however, remember seeing The Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" video several times per day.
"I... I-I... I-I-I won't forget it,
I... I-I... I-I-I won't forget it, You dropped a bomb on me, baby"
I am following the 13 minutes of "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" with the absolutely marvelous "Cold Heat" by Lil' Lavair and the Fabulous Jades, the title track from the essential "Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rarities" compilation by Now-Again Records.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Malinga and the lads in action

Sri Lanka versus the West Indies. Cricket on the radio. It doesn't get much better.
Well, it does, but not today.
Dubuque's weather is grey and oh-so-dreary.
The weather in Guyana is apparently not much better, but at least it is good enough to play a Cricket World Cup match. I am listening to Indian radio commentary of the match live online.
Sanath Jayasuriya (the Albert Pujols of Sri Lankan cricket) scored 115 runs and Mahela Jayawardene (the Carlos Beltran of Sri Lankan cricket) added 82 as the Sri Lankans raced to 303-5 in their innings.
Now, the West Indies are attempting to erase earlier disappointments in this World Cup in their innings.
Things are not going too well for the hosts. They have 32-1 after seven overs (every six balls bowled is an over, and one-day cricket such as this match features 50 overs per team).
The "Windies" have some work to do. It's fun listening to them try to accomplish it against Lasith "Slinger" Malinga (pictured), who is one of the revelations of the tournament after taking four wickets on four consecutive balls against South Africa.
Well, that was rather pathetic from the West Indies. They could only reach 190 all out for a comprehensive, 113-run loss. Stupid errors did in celebrated batsmen such as Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan.
Sarwan's fellow Guyanese Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the only leading light for the "Windies," as he scored 76.