Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Deadly is the Film Snob

I am *THIS CLOSE* to becoming one of those dreaded FILM SNOBS.
Consider the evidence:
1) I already bore my friends and family to tears with over-excited, rambling tributes to MASAKI KOBAYASHI (director of "Joi-uchi: Hairyo Tsuma Shimatsu," "Kaidan" and "Seppuku" -- the latter being the best-directed film I have even seen).
2) When we go to the cinema, I make the girls sit in the so-called "FILM SNOB SEATS" -- in the middle of the third row from the front -- even for kids' fare such as "Happy Feet" and "Ratatouille." They'll thank me for it later.
3) Last night, I was tempted to organize our DVDs by CINEMATOGRAPHER, rather than the current system or organization by director.
I was watching Joseph H. Lewis' "Gun Crazy," aka "Deadly is the Female," the 1950 B Movie classic starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall as a pair of firearm-obsessed love birds on the lam.
The jaw-dropping cinematography is by RUSSELL HARLAN.
"To Kill a Mockingbird," "Blackboard Jungle" and "The Great Race" are among his works to have been nominated for an Oscar. Remember "Operation Petticoat?" Harlan shot that one. He also shot "Rio Bravo" and "Red River."
Harlan rules! I could easily organize a separate Harlan section of DVDs.
Of course, that would be one more step toward dreaded FILM SNOB status, which might be too much for somebody who is already a MUSIC GEEK.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bill Walsh, 1931-2007

I feel honored to have even SEEN Bill Walsh in person.
Walsh, who led the 49ers to three Super Bowl titles and six NFC West division titles in his 10 years as coach, passed away today age 75, following a battle with leukemia.
I never saw Walsh during a game -- 49er games were priced out of my wage bracket during the glory years.
Instead, I saw him during the Super Bowl XXIII victory parade down Market Street in 1989.

Walsh did so much for the 49ers, so much for the game of football, so much for the San Francisco Bay Area and so much for me. I was able to watch a few of their famous victories on TV with my late father -- the first 49er fan of the family. I have Walsh to thank for being able to share great times of triumph with my dad.

"For home use on phonographs"

I had always thought my STIFF Records 45 of The Damned's "Neat Neat Neat" was the most historically significant of my vinyl platters.
Now, I am sure it has been superseded.
I recently thumbed through some of the literal "albums" of 78s I had inherited from my dad --basically books containing sleeves with the heavy discs inside -- when a "SAVOY RECORDS" label caught my attention:
No way!
"KO KO."
This can't be!
"Charlie Parker, Alto Sax; Dizzy Gillespie, Piano and Trumpet; Miles Davis, Trumpet; Curly Russell, Bass; Max Roach, Drums."
I shook my head: How can it be possible?
A record NPR has called "among the sacred artifacts of American music" was sitting undisturbed and unnoticed in an album on a bookcase for years.
When discussing "Ko Ko" several years ago, NPR jazz critic Murray Horwitz labeled the 1945 recording as one of the 100 most important musical works of the 20th Century, describing the song as "Charlie Parker's breathless, breakneck bebop classic."
Jazz great Gerry Mulligan said of "Ko Ko:"
"The solo (Bird) played on that is like a masterpiece in itself."
I listened to "Ko Ko" -- on my iPod -- last night before bed, while I thought about the moment of magic when I discovered that disc.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Come Sunday

I will be heading to work in a few hours. It is a rather rare Sunday of work and I am scheduled to cover the annual demolition derby at the Dubuque County Fair.
How will I cover this event? What angle will I take? I initially toyed with the idea of pretending I did not know it was staged:
"A series of unexplained auto accidents Sunday caused an uproar among a large crowd gathered at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds."
I really don't know how I am going to approach this assignment.
However, I am not going to worry about covering the derby just yet. Instead, I am listening to DUKE ELLINGTON.
Specifically, I am listening to the 1965 rendition of "Come Sunday" -- a piece from "Black, Brown and Beige" -- that appeared on "Duke Ellington's Concert of Sacred Music."
Vocalist Esther Marrow, a young gospel singer from Detroit, sings with powerful conviction -- recreating a role filled by Mahalia Jackson on a 1958 recording of "Black, Brown and Beige."
This music is beautiful and stately -- perhaps this opposition to the demolition derby is what attracted me to this song in the first place this morning.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Music for one of *THOSE* days

If I could have stayed in bed all day, I think I would have stayed in bed all day.
I was tired from a seemingly endless week at work (one of my stories this week -- about ice falling through a woman's roof -- required many phone calls with sources) and I was a little depressed (a natural "comedown" after the excitement of seeing that ice story picked up by media outlets as far afield as Shanghai?).
So I wish I could have stayed in bed all day.
I couldn't.
Jill has gone to Florida, so I am parenting solo this week.
The kitchen also needed cleaning and some errands needed running.
So, forced out from under the covers, I drenched myself in COUNTRY BLUES.
FRANK STOKES' "T'Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do" is one of those classic acoustic blues songs that I could hear over and over again.
I added some SKIP JAMES, ROBERT JOHNSON, BLIND BLAKE and MEMPHIS MINNIE to the mix, resulting in a humid concoction that took my mind off my troubles for a while.
What troubles?
Well, I have to work tomorrow. I have to cover the demolition derby at the Dubuque County Fair.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Friday Question

ROUTE 1 readers know songs. ROUTE 1 readers know song titles. ROUTE 1 readers know how to answer the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your favorite funny/odd/wacky song title?"
Mike M. -- When I hear Lil Hardin's "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," I imagine myself wearing a clean white tuxedo and Panama hat, hanging out on a sweltering downtown street corner, slurping bottled beer and gnawing on a huge, fat chicken leg.
Rick T. -- "I Went to Bed at 2 With a 10 and Woke Up at 10 With a 2" ("I Never Went Out With an Ugly Woman, but I Sure Woke Up With a Few!"). Sung by Willie Nelson.
Mike D. -- "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?" by Lonnie Donegan.
Scout S. -- "Cletus, For The Very Last Time, Get The Hell Out of Your Sister's Dress, For The Very Last Time," by Golden Delicious.
Brian C. -- "Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35," by Bob Dylan. Forty years later, the connection between the title and lyrics is as elusive as ever.
Erik H. -- "Too Much Commercialization of Rastafari" sounds like a chapter in an angry Rasta pamphlet, not a Jacob Miller song produced by Augustus Pablo. .

Thursday, July 26, 2007

76 degrees, 8:55 p.m. and "Stolen Moments"

The air won't move.
If it moved, the 76 degrees and 79 percent humidity at 8:55 p.m. wouldn't feel so bad.
There is no breeze, though, so the air won't move. The air stifles and you feel the need to push through it just to walk from one place to another.
"Stolen Moments" is the perfect song for this imperfect weather.
Oliver Nelson's "The Blues and the Abstract Truth" is generally considered one of the masterworks of jazz, and the lead track is one of the reasons why.
Nelson, the tenor saxophone player and famed arranger, cut down at age 43 by a heart attack, details the composition in his original liner notes:
"The tune consists of three melodic ideas which extend the basic blues form. Freddie Hubbard begins with a very sensitive and soulful trumpet solo, followed by Eric Dolphy on flute and a tenor solo by myself. Bill Evans completes the series with a beautiful piano solo."
The song is quietly majestic, and is one of those pillars of jazz music -- a tune seems to grow in stature every time I hear it.
Of course, it helps to have Dolphy on board. I put Dolphy among America's greatest-ever musicians.
I am feeling melancholic tonight, so I am going to lay in bed and let "Stolen Moments" accompany me to sleep.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Speed up, slow down, go all around in the end"

I am listening to GUIDED BY VOICES ("Tractor Rape Chain," to be exact) and trying to figure out how cycling will ever recover from this year's continuing series of cheating calamities at the Tour de France.
"Parallel lines on a slow decline -- tractor rape chain."
Tour leader Michael Rasmussen was removed from the race by his team today, apparently because he lied about his whereabouts last month, when he missed a drug test.
"In the first place, it's probably just paranoia, but there's a ghost in my room."
The Tour seems to have been rocked by a scandal about every two days or so.
I have actually lost count of how many riders have been sacked or arrested or quit with allegations of drug use so widespread.
"Better yet, let's all get wet on the tractor rape chain."

Ah... but Guided by Voices were such a great band. Short. Catchy. Memorable. That's their songs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Laszlo Kovacs remembered

I was so sad to hear about the recent death of Laszlo Kovacs.
The Hungarian-born cinematographer was 74. His work includes "Easy Rider," "Five Easy Pieces," "Mask," "Ghostbusters" and (my personal favorite) "Paper Moon."
Peter Bogdanovich called Kovacs: "one of the great cameramen of the New Hollywood era."
"I worked with him more than any other photographer, which speaks for itself," Bogdanovich told the Los Angeles Times yesterday.
One of Kovacs' great achievements was in filming outdoors -- at a time when most films were shot exclusively in a studio.
My favorite Kovacs story concerns his arrival in the West.
He and friend Vilmos Zsigmond were both novice but talented filmmakers in Hungary (Zsigmond's Hollywood work includes "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Deer Hunter").
When the 1956 revolt hit the streets, the pair borrowed a school camera and shot 30,000 feet of film as the Soviets arrived with tanks and steely resolve.
With the Soviets back in control, the film Kovacs and Zsigmond shot was probably enough evidence to get the young filmmakers killed.
So the pair stuffed the film into potato sacks and carried it across the Austrian border into freedom.
Kovacs learned English one word at a time and worked for an insurance company, making prints from microfilm.
In a dozen or so years, however, Kovacs would belong to a vanguard of genius cinematographers who changed the look of films.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"The Yabby You sound are the general sound"

I am waking up to Trinity and Dillinger this morning.
Specifically, the 1977 Yabby You-produced single "Jesus Dread" credited to "Trinity meets Dillinger."
The Jamaican DJs spend the duration of the tune exhorting the popularity of Yabby You's sound and how the producer's works are spreading around the world.
Yabby You's story is well-known amid hardcore reggae fans. Born Vivian Jackson into extreme Kingston poverty, Yabby You was so malnourished as a child that he developed severe arthritis and crippled legs. Although he couldn't work, he had musical talent to spare. He eventually helped develop the "rockers" style of reggae popular in the late 1970s.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Someday my bodywash will come

I was still in the bed of the pop-up camper.
Any overnight breezes had long since stilled, and their removal marked the beginning of the day's steady, upward rise in temperatures.
I lay with sweat on top of grime on top of dirt on top of more sweat.
I just felt... disgusting.
I had yet to take a shower in the "Bath house/Storm Shelter," as the bathrooms at the Elkader, Iowa campground were so oddly named.
So why was I smiling?
The John Coltrane solo on "Someday My Prince Will Come," the Disney tune title track of Miles Davis' underrated 1961 classic.
After Davis, pianist Wynton Kelly and tenor saxophone player Hank Mobley play for a bit. 'Trane comes storming into the frame.
This solo always brings a smile to my face.
No offense to Mobley, but his preceding solo seems rather ordinary compared to the fountain of notes that keep spilling out of Coltrane's sax.
The album marked the final studio pairing of Miles and 'Trane.
If you have never really heard John Coltrane and you want to know what all the fuss is about -- listen to this tune.
If you want to survive a weekend at a hot campground -- just keep thinking about bodywash and the long, hot bath that can cleanse away the soot of the campfire.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Best of YouTube, say the Route1 readers

ROUTE 1 readers offered the following answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is the coolest thing you have seen on YouTube this week?"
Rick T. -- "Knoxville Weekly." It shows the highlights of the races in Knoxville, Iowa (Spring Cars). I love those types of races. (You can see sprint cars here.)
Clint A. -- Muffins. It speaks for itself.
(You can see it here.
Brian C. -- Sam Brown, performing "Horse to the Water," at the tribute Concert for George (Harrison) in 2002. An electrifying performance and, apparently, the only song that appears on the DVD but not on the CD. I have had the CD for years but just this month saw the Concert for George DVD. Why was this left off the CD? (You can see it here.)
Erik H. -- There is so much to choose from at YouTube. Hmm... How about an eight-minute documentary segment detailing how the synthesizer geeks in the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop updated the signature tune for Dr. Who -- quite possibly the GREATEST TV THEME TUNE EVER. (You can see it here.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Porque lo siento, porque tu me elevas como hoja al viento"

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head and you have no idea what the singer is going on about?
Last night, as I headed home after a flood-related, busy day at work, I popped into the car stereo the "Billboard 2001 Latin Music Awards" compilation CD.
I was hoping to find some Chicano hip hop, but the first five or six tracks were all ballads.
My head hurt from writing, so I had no patience for Spanish-language ballads. I kept advancing the CD after hearing the first few bars of each song. Then it hit me.
It was quite possibly the catchiest song I have heard in weeks.
PAULINA RUBIO -- "La Chica Dorada" -- was singing "LO HARE POR TI" and I was transfixed (this was *BEFORE* I had her photo in front of me, I will have you know).
The song blends pop and dance sensibilities and features a big hook in the chorus:
"Lo hare por ti, porgue lo siento, porque tu me elevas como hoja al viento y cuando me besas siento que disparas en medio de mi alma!"

I was attempting to sing along (in horrible "Spanglish") and I even drove the "long way" home so I could hear the song a second time.
I still have no idea what she is singing about, but I really don't care.
The song is still stuck in my head, about 12 hours later.
Rubio is arguably Mexico's most popular singing export these days, and she has made major advances on Billboard's pop charts -- not just the Latin charts.
It is a shame I have to skip all these other tracks on the CD, but I guess that's a small price to pay for a memorable song.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Forget the voice, listen to the piano

It won't stop raining.
I just checked the National Weather Service Web site: There are reports of flooding in northern Dubuque County, with roads closed and as much as 6 inches of rain have fallen in some areas in the region.
I am sipping my coffee, slowly waking up and trying to process the information.
I am also listening to a "best of" instrumental collection by the NAT KING COLE TRIO.
As much as I enjoy Nat King Cole's singing, I fervently believe he was a much better pianist and band leader. Indeed, his trio lineup of piano, guitar and bass was considered revolutionary at the time.
Later, of course, countless piano trios took that same formation.
Most people don't recognize that part of Cole's career.
An easy listening fixation on his vocals acts as blinders to his real talent.
Jazz musician and critic Brian Priestley wrote that Cole's playing style "consolidated the piano's vocabulary in a way that was crucial for its adaptation to bebop."
"Nat was taking a key role in turning the idea of 'trumpet-style' right-hand lines into a conception more akin to the saxophone or clarinet," according to Priestley.
Nat is also taking a key role in helping me wake up to face another rainy day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The girl could R-O-C-K

I am listening to GIRLSCHOOL and their version of "Bomber" this morning.
Kelly Johnson, the lead guitarist for the band, died over the weekend age 49 of cancer of the spine.
Johnson could rightly claim her place among the top guitarists coming out of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the 1980s. Her solo on "Bomber" is incendiary.
I first heard GIRLSCHOOL because of their long association with Motörhead.
However, I first *SAW* GIRLSCHOOL while glimpsing through issues of KERRANG! magazine back in the day.
I remember GIRLSCHOOL as being TERRIFYING.
These were girls that looked like tough customers. They probably had to look rough, just to stem the jeers of chauvinistic metalheads.
Whatever the reason, these girls looked like you would never want to run into them in a dark alley.
Ahhh... but they could play. Especially Kelly Johnson. We didn't lose one of the best GIRL GUITARISTS when Johnson passed away this weekend. We lost one of the best GUITARISTS. Period.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"Swimming pools... movie stars"

Excuse me for laughing: I have been watching some clips from "The Beverly Hillbillies" on YouTube this morning.
Specifically, I have been enjoying some of the appearances by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

The bluegrass stars provided the show's theme tune, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," and took the song to the top of the country charts in January 1963. (Apparently, the only other TV theme tune to accomplish that feat was Waylon Jennings' "Good Ol' Boys" from "The Dukes of Hazzard.")
What most viewers of Beverly Hillbillies might not have fully appreciated was the presence of a musical revolutionary in their midst.
Prior to Scruggs joining Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the late 1940s, most banjo players played with a downward stroking "clawhammer" style. Scruggs took a more melodic route, refining a three-fingered picking style he had learned as a boy in North Carolina.
According to music writer Jon Weisberger, this style enabled Scruggs to "pick out melodies with unprecedented precision and surround them with regular patterns of other notes."
The result is a complexity that other banjo players soon strove to emulate.
None of them were quite as funny on television, though.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Swing chicas patas, este es mi borlo

I am groovin' to some early Chicano R&B this morning, including the marvelous "Chicas Patas Boogie" by Lalo Guerrero (pictured).
Guerrero is often cited as "the father of Chicano music," and his most popular recordings still sound vibrant today, as he mixed R&B with traditional, regional Mexican sounds to create a fresh, danceable concoction.
I am listening to Arhoolie Records' "Pachuco Boogie," a great sampler of Chicano music that proved wildly popular among Mexican-American listeners in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
I especially like "Chicas Patas Boogie," as Guerrero provides a virtual tour of central California dance halls -- he names Turlock, Sacramento, Fresno and Stockton during the course of the song.
The Smithsonian Institution named Guerrero a "national folk treasure" in 1980.
I am calling him "a masterful maker of hip-shaking music" on July 15, 2007.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Your true lovin' daddy ain't comin' back"

I adore HANK SNOW, the "Singin' Ranger" from Nova Scotia.
I am listening to this greatest of Canadian country singers while the girls and their guests fuss and fight.
Kerstin hosted a sleepover last night, the half-dozen preteen girls stayed awake until 2:30 a.m. and now they are tired and bitching at each other.
So, I hope you won't mind me cutting this post short. I am going to turn up the Hank Snow, sip on my beer and try to avoid the developing cat fight.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Little know moments in music

"What is your favorite little-known or inauspicious musical moment?"

Dave B. -- Didn't Bono get his "stage" from an optometrist store in Dublin?

Mike D. -- In 1971, Linda Ronstadt's then-manager, John Boylan, extracted Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner from their previous affiliations. They were short a drummer until Frey phoned Don Henley, whom he had met at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The band backed up Ronstadt on a two-month tour then decided to form their own band. The new group chose the name "Eagles" as a nod to The Byrds (Leadon had been in The Flying Burrito Brothers with former Byrds bassist Chris Hillman). Written by Roger Nichols (music) and Paul Williams (lyrics) as a jingle for Crocker Citizens Bank in 1970, "We've Only Just Begun" caught the attention of The Carpenters' Richard Carpenter. He and sister Karen recorded it for the LP "Close to You." The song crested at #2 on the U.S. Top 40, becoming the pair's second gold single and one of their signature songs. On the Adult Contemporary singles chart, it was the duo's best-performing tune, lasting seven weeks at No. 1. The song won the 1970 Grammy Award for Song of the Year and Best Contemporary Song.
Erik H. -- There are too many to mention. However, here is one nugget in LITTLE KNOWN MUSIC HISTORY, courtesy of George Gimarc's "Punk Diary":
July 4, 1973... Young London hooligans STEVE JONES and PAUL COOK help feed their musical ambitions by stealing musical gear belonging to DAVID BOWIE. Bowie had played two nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. Jones and Cook slipped into the hall while crew were disassembling the gear and made off with expensive microphones and PA equipment.
Practicing on the stolen gear, Jones and Cook were preparing to form the musical backbone of the SEX PISTOLS.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Beach Boy nephew chooses UCLA over MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS

I am sipping coffee, listening to T.Rex's "The Slider" album and waiting for (Oregon native) KERSTIN to wake up so I can wish her a HAPPY 12th BIRTHDAY.
I also reading the LOS ANGELES TIMES online.
Today there is an interesting feature that touches on two of my loves: music and MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS.
KEVIN LOVE (pictured) is by all accounts one of the best high school basketball players to come out of Oregon.
In the TIMES feature today, Love (6-10, 250 pounds)
discusses what it means to prepare for a college basketball career at UCLA after winning plaudits as essentially a "big fish in a small pond."
Love attended high school in Lake Oswego, Ore., and his decision to forsake MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS for the big, bad Bruins created quite a stir up and down the Willamette Valley.
It's not just that a prized recruit chose to head south. One of the main reasons that so many people wanted Love to wear green and gold while playing college hoops is because his dad starred at Oregon.
A University of Oregon athletic hall-of-famer, Stan Love led the 1970 Duck team that upset No.1-ranked UCLA -- back in the days when the Bruins rarely lost. Southern California native Stan Love later played in the NBA.
OK... so what's the music connection?
It's a big one: Stan Love's older brother Mike got together with their cousins Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson to form the Beach Boys.
We'll have fun, fun, fun 'til the Bruins take our recruit away.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Call of the Wild: Good Morning!

The song that grabbed me and shook me awake this morning?
"Call of the Wild," the second track on Dr. Lonnie Smith's masterful "Think!"
David "Fathead" Newman's flute and Melvin Sparks' guitar open "Call of the Wild" with a deceptively quiet grace.
Then the musicians unleash the GROOVE about two minutes and five seconds from the start.
Timbalero Henry "Pucho" Brown, a pivotal figure in the Latin boogaloo movement of the sixties, joins the ensemble, as does his fellow member of the Latin Soul Brothers, conga player Norberto Apellaniz.
The result is a head-shaking mash of Latin, jazz and funk that jolted me out of my slumbering state more effectively than the strongest coffee.
Smith's organ provides the flourishes and Lee Morgan provides one of his trademark, catchy trumpet solos, but Pucho really propels this fantastic song.
It is no surprise to me that denizens of the UK jazz-dance scene of the early 1990s "rediscovered" the vibrant sound of the Latin Soul Brothers.
Based on this morning's evidence: These cats could COOK.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Saunter: to walk with a careless leisurely gait

Yesterday's uncomfortable combination of steaming heat and stifling humidity meant a brisk walk to a downtown appointment was strictly out of the question.
It was a day for sauntering (if you were forced out of air-conditioned comfort). So I walked to the appointment while listening to the ULTIMATE SAUNTERING SONG.
"One for Daddy-O" appears on Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's classic 1958 album, "Somethin' Else." The song languidly struts on by, which is the pace at which I took my walk yesterday.
Miles Davis occupies the rare territory of sideman on the session, but on many occasions his trumpet playing steals the show.
Davis seems to make every solo seem so effortlessly easy. It's hard not to close your eyes for fuller appreciation.
I don't recommend closing your eyes during a downtown walk on a hot day, but I do recommend listening to "One for Daddy-O" and the rest of "Somethin' Else."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Some like it hot, but not too hot

Jill and I celebrated our anniversary last night with a MOVIE NIGHT with the girls.
We first watched Rob Reiner's "The American President," with Michael Douglas as the widowed president who falls for lobbyist Annette Benning. It is a funny film that the girls in particular really adore.
We switched gears slightly for the nightcap film, watching Billy Wilder's "Some Like it Hot."
The girls had never seen the film before, and laughed at Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and cheered for Marilyn Monroe (hey -- who doesn't?).
I was reminded of the tales from that movie... Stories such as the one about Monroe needing 47 takes to say the line "It's me, Sugar" and that Curtis' high-pitched voice as Josephine had to be dubbed.
It is a wonderful film, and we all enjoyed it.

I was still thinking about the film this morning, until I heard about the fires springing up all over Nevada.
My mom and step-dad live in the Silver State (in Reno, to be precise).
What's more, my cousin Webb is a wildland firefighter based in Winnemucca.
So, imagine my concern this morning when I read:
"An 8,000-acre wildfire forced hundreds of people in Winnemucca to leave their homes."
Today I will frequently check the National Interagency Fire Center Web site, located here, for updates on the Winnemucca fire and others burning in the West.
Last night's incident report lists 471 new fires, including 33 new large fires.
Included among the Winnemucca-area fires is the Thomas Fire -- 600 acres at 30 percent contained as of last night. This fire is located 2 miles southwest of the city.
I hope my cousin stays safe. He loves what he does, but fighting any kind of fire remains a dangerous endeavor.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Home Cookin' to celebrate

I took the girls to "Ratatouille" yesterday afternoon.
The Pixar animated feature tells the story of a rat who realizes his true calling as a genius chef.
Patton Oswalt provides the voice of Remy the rat. Television viewers know Oswalt as Spence Olchin on "King of Queens" and as the utterly hilarious dungeon master Boozehammer of Galen on "Reno 911."

The film's depiction of culinary adventures inspired the girls: They demanded we create a SPECIAL DINNER SURPRISE for Jill on our anniversary, which is today.
The girls transformed the dining room into a restaurant while I ensconced myself in the kitchen, jamming to Jimmy Smith's wonderful album "Home Cookin'" while making POLENTA with a THREE-MEAT SAUCE.
Jill was indeed surprised and it was a memorable meal -- root beer in the girls' wine glasses and all.
This morning our anniversary dawned with me ensconced once again in the kitchen -- this time cleaning up the MONUMENTAL MESS.
I played "Home Cookin'" once again as well.
Smith always dazzles on the organ. On this album, however, the real star seems to be guitarist Kenny Burrell. His composition "Sugar Hill," in particular, is a fabulous example of swinging, stunning jazz.
It provides a great soundtrack for cleaning up a kitchen, too.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Summer classics

The sun beats down, sweat fills the eyes, throats turn dry and waves of heat seem to ripple up from the scorching pavement.
It must be summer!
But we wouldn't know it... we're listening to summer-related music inside while enjoying the air conditioning.
This week, ROUTE 1 asks the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is the best 'summer song' you have recently heard?"
Rick T. -- "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran.
Dave B. -- Hooters' "And We Danced." Every time I hear that song, it reminds me of the Summer of 1985.
Mike D. -- "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys. It always reminds me of the 1980s Sunkist orange soda commercials, which gave the song new life. Another seasonal oldie I heard recently was Y&T's "Summertime Girls," whose video featured bikinied babes on a beach. And of course, the guitar work just sizzles on The Eagles' "Hotel California" ("...sweet summer sweat.") You can just see the wavering mirage as the sun sets on the sandy horizon as you listen to the ending solo. Pass the lemonade!
Brian C. -- Even after all these years, "Hot Fun in the Summertime," by Sly and the Family Stone, still conveys the gentle, carefree days of summer.
Mike M. -- Most definitely "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry. Runners-up: "Rhyme for the Summertime" by G. Love and Special Sauce and "Blister in the Sun" by Violent Femmes. All heard today on "A Paean to the Music of Summer" at NPR.org.
Erik H. -- I heard it the other day and it just struck me as the ultimate summer anthem: "Round round get around, I get around, yeah, get around round round I get around, I get around." Not all of Brian Wilson's genius songs are complicated!
"We always take my car cause it's never been beat, And we've never missed yet with the girls we meet."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I felt like crap and I was listening to a song called "Dance Cadaverous"

"Dance Cadaverous" is a great song, actually.
I just couldn't enjoy it much when I heard it today.
I was listening to Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil" as I drove around today. Unfortunately, I was also in the throes of intense nausea as I drove around today, too.
And when I sat around. And when I walked around. You get the picture: I FELT SICK ALL DAY LONG.
When I was kid, we called it a "24-hour bug." Now, I think it might be called food poisoning.
I couldn't even keep coffee down this morning. Then one of the cats threw up, and it triggered a nasty chain reaction.
Shorter's "Speak No Evil" is a fantastic album, and I hope I feel better tomorrow. I will listen to it again so I am able to appreciate "Dance Cadaverous" and the other fine songs.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

04 juillet, 2007

Happy Fourth of July everyone!
I am celebrating America's birthday by listening to a true American original -- ORNETTE COLEMAN.
He was one of the most polarizing figures in jazz history, but in hindsight it's difficult to see what all the fuss was about.
Jon Pareles in the New York Times in 1985:
"At jam sessions 30 years ago, musicians would walk off the bandstand when Ornette Coleman came onstage. They complained that he couldn't play in tune or in time, that he didn't fit in."
Coleman alienated many jazz fans in the 1950s and 60s by dispensing with conventional harmonics and structure. Instead, he focused on the interaction between improvising players.
As Ashley Kahn (one of my favorite jazz writers) once wrote:
"Coleman burst on to the national scene in 1959 and split the jazz world in two. He was accused of arbitrarily breaking the rules of jazz when he was actually returning to a point when jazz had fewer rules."
I say point well taken. Listen to Coleman play with Don Cherry and his other cohorts, and to me it sounds like a slower but similar approach taken by many of the Dixieland combos of the early days of jazz. Then, collective improvisation ruled the day. Framework was not as important as melody.
Pareles again:
"Through the years, Mr. Coleman has been praised, scorned and ignored. Yet his bluesy, asymmetrical saxophone solos, his infectious compositions and his 'harmolodic theory' of music have influenced and galvanized musicians from John Coltrane to Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny to Yoko Ono."
Some critics complained the Coleman and fellow avant-gardists ruined jazz, or at least their comfortable concept of "jazz."
George Hoefer recorded the reaction of many people to Coleman's 1959 residency at New York's Five Spot:
"Some walked in and out before they could finish a drink."

I think saying Coleman ruined jazz is like saying Jackson Pollock ruined painting.
It's ludicrous.
My journalistic hero Ralph J. Gleason wrote that the members of the jazz avant-garde "went out and made music that broke all the rules except that art must be true to beauty and to the creative spark and to truth."
Coleman and his groundbreaking brethren showed the importance of stretching boundaries, of continuing exploration in the face of adversity, or venerating personal expression and of prizing originality.
Isn't that what America is supposed to be about?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"He's bluffing, he wouldn't shoot the nose"

I was in need of a laugh last night.
I had to write a story about fatality rates of auto accidents at work, the national and international news was filled with stories about President Bush stepping in to spare a convicted aide from jail and doctors joining in the British terrorist attacks, and when I returned from work it was to an empty house -- except for the cats -- as my wife Jill and daughters Kerstin and Annika were out of town.
Last night, I needed the sort of laugh that Woody Allen provided in "SLEEPER:"
"I'm what you would call a teleological, existential atheist. I believe that there's an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey."
It had been years since I saw this 1973 film in its entirety.
I was always struck by its combination of an automated, future dystopia and silent-film-era sight gags.
Last night, I concentrated on the witty dialogue:
"When I asked my mother where babies came from, she thought I said 'rabies.' She said you get them from being bitten by a dog. The next week, a woman on my block gave birth to triplets... I thought she'd been bitten by a great dane."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday with Miles

I am listening to Miles Davis and trying to figure out what clothes to wear to work.
It will be an odd week. Jill and the girls are out of town and I worked yesterday. I also work today and tomorrow... I am off Wednesday (July 4)... I work Thursday... Then I am off Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
It will be difficult to keep it all straight.
It is also difficult to keep straight the entire Davis musical journey.
"The greatest single thing about Miles Davis is that he does not stand still," wrote San Francisco Chronicle jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason in 1974. The evolution from "Birth of the Cool" to "In a Silent Way," for example, is quite remarkable. Except for the brilliant trumpet, it would be easy to mistake the music as coming from two completely different musical realms.
Today I am listening to "'Round About Midnight," with the classical original Quintet -- John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers, Red Garland and Davis.
The music is intriguing and soothing and beautiful. It also seems to make picking a shirt-and-tie combination for a Monday on the job somewhat easier.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


There are many reasons why I consider "Reno 911" to be among the best American comedies of the past decade.
I have been watching series one on DVD for the past couple days -- including right now, following a rare Sunday of work at the office -- and here are three reasons why I LOVE "RENO 911:"
1) Although primary location shooting occurs in Southern California, the series is set in Reno, Nev.
Reno is really my family's "home away from home," what with my mom and step-dad (the girls' grandparents) living there. Thus, I always laugh at the second-unit, cut-away shots of the city. It's just funny to think a show would be set in Reno.
2) The cast is fabulous. Show creators Thomas Lennon (Lt. Jim Dangle), Ben Garant (Deputy Travis Junior and most of the male criminals with blurred faces) and Kerri Kenney (Deputy Trudy Weigel) deserve mountains of credit.
They offer spot-on portrayals of their characters.
I would also like to give a shout out to Carlos Alazraqui, who plays Deputy James Garcia. He also provides the voices of countless cartoon characters on other shows (Rocko, from "Rocko's Modern Life" and "Mr. Denzel Crocker" from "Fairly Odd Parents") and -- like yours truly -- grew up in the suburban wonderland known as Concord, Calif.
3) The writing is drop-dead funny. For example, every time Terry the Rollerskating Male Prostitute opens his mouth, I burst out laughing so hard it scares the cats...
"I heard a rumor... Mexican werewolves are coming up from Mexico and selling crack!"