Saturday, May 31, 2008

You know you're in San Francisco when...

You know you're in SAN FRANCISCO when you see people flushing public toilets with their feet. Incredulously watching the hipsters in their pork pie hats guzzling Pabst Blue Ribbon while you're enjoying a Franziskaner is another dead giveaway.
I always know when I'm in The City because I am drawn to MYSTERIES and JAZZ.
I read "FAITH," a short story by DASHIELL HAMMETT, while listening to "SOMETHIN' ELSE" by CANNONBALL ADDERLEY,
en route home from my recent trip to San Francisco, .
"Faith" concerns a migratory cannery worker with a devilish secret. "Somethin' Else" concerns the beautiful trumpet playing of MILES DAVIS, appearing on a Blue Note recording as someone else's sideman for a rare time.
Fog-shrouded cityscapes, Hammett icons such as the Miles Archer plaque on Burritt Street (pictured) and tome-crowded used bookshops make me associate San Francisco with mysteries.
The effortless sophistication that seems to effuse through the city's atmosphere probably makes me associate San Francisco with jazz.

Friday, May 30, 2008

How does "ROUTE 1 Expressway" sound?

Streets named for historic figures dot SAN FRANCISCO, prompting ROUTE 1 readers to ponder the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Who would you name a street after?"
BRIAN M. -- As much as I think the impact of baseball players on society as a whole
is minimal compared to, say, doctors and teachers, I can't help but think a street in
Pittsburgh, Pa., should be named after Willie Stargell, the longtime leader of a
Pittsburgh Pirates team that seemed to bind a city together during the time of their last World Series triumph, in 1979. As the Pirates called the 39-year-old "Pops," he was a father in the eyes of the city, at least for a moment. Stargell, who died at age 61 in 2001, already has a Willie Stargell Avenue named after him in Earlsboro, Okla., the city of his birth. But a street named in his honor, alongside that of his longtime Pirates teammate, I'm sure would be welcome in Pittsburgh.
MIKE D. -- My dad!
MARY N.-P. -- For a different reason than most -- I would not name a street after a
famous/important politician/celebrity -- but because she had such a great name, I
would title a street after my aunt's maiden name: Zelda Mae Herkleman.
RICK T. -- Me!
MIKE M. -- I'd name a street after S.R. Ranganathan (1892-1972), the "Father of
Library Science," whose five laws are (1) books are for use; (2) every reader his or
her book; (3) every book its reader; (4) save the time of the reader; and (5) the library
is a growing organism.
ERIK H. -- Cornell Woolrich penned the story adapted to become Alfred Hitchcock's
"Rear Window" and his tales provided a template for psychological terror for years to
come, but he doesn't seem to rank as highly in the public consciousness as Dashiell
Hammett or Raymond Chandler. Perhaps a street could help raise awareness?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Will I ever find a Japanese glass fishing float?

I have made several important discoveries during my visit to SAN FRANCISCO --
1) My new favorite sushi item: Spicy baked scallops on top of a California roll (available as the "Rock N Roll" at Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St.)
2) My new favorite cider: Magners, the red, Irish cider (available at various locations around town, including the 540 Club, 540 Clement St.)
3) My new favorite niche travel book: "Transit Maps of the World," by Mark Ovenden (learn more about the book here).
One thing I haven't discovered are any JAPANESE GLASS FISHING FLOATS.
Believe me, I have been looking my entire life for the soccer ball-sized floats, which allegedly wash up on the Pacific shore after breaking away from Japanese, Korean or Chinese fishing vessels.
I looked for some this morning at BAKER BEACH, but all I found washed up were a few large pieces of lumber (one with some oddly shaped, embedded iron pieces) and a dinner plate-sized jellyfish.
Of course, I don't know what I would do with a glass fishing float. I don't have enough room in my suitcase to bring it home.
I am not even sure my wife Jill would let me display it. The big glass ball would probably roll off the top of the computer desk.
It doesn't matter, though. I have been visiting the Pacific coast at least once a year for each of my 42 years, but I have yet to find even a fragment of a Japanese glass fishing float. I am sure I could purchase one at some shop in Japantown, but that would take all the fun out of the quest.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

There's a lot to love about Lake Merritt

OK. It's not really a "lake."
It's called LAKE MERRITT, but the big body of water at the heart of OAKLAND, CALIF., is really a large tidal estuary.
I spent the morning in Oakland -- my birthplace -- after taking BART from San Francisco.
Once arriving in Oakland, I did something for the first time: I walked the complete, 3.5-mile trail around Lake Merritt.
There's a lot of love about Lake Merritt, including the large number of birds that call the lake home (including Canada Geese, herons, cormorants, gulls and the ever-popular American Coot).
It was fun watching toddlers chase the geese while the birds flocked to older folks tossing bread crumbs.
I also spied rowers in the waters during my walk this morning.
Both my parents and my step-father lived near the lake in the years before I came along, and great-looking homes and apartment complexes ring the shore.
When I was a kid, my parents would take me to CHILDREN'S FAIRYLAND, a lakeside park featuring playgrounds, animals and the Open Storybook Puppet Theater, the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the United States.
I snapped photos of the Children's Fairyland sign and other reminders of my distant past -- and reminders of my love for Lake Merritt -- as I strolled along the trail.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nihon Machi, one of my favorite places

If you talk to ROUTE 1 editorial assistants KERSTIN and ANNIKA, the *REAL* reason for my SAN FRANCISCO visit was the procure Japanese stationery for them.
That mission was accomplished this morning, thanks to a visit to the KINOKUNIYA store in NIHON MACHI, San Francisco's JAPANTOWN.
Nihon Machi is one of my favorite places on Earth.
After the 1906 earthquake destroyed San Francisco's Chinatown, many of the city's ISSEI (Japanese immigrants) moved to the Western Addition, one of San Francisco's newest neighborhoods.
By 1920, "Nihonjin-Machi" (town of Japanese people) had become a thriving residential district filled with Issei and their second-generation children, the NISSEI. The community even held an annual sumo tournament at Dreamland, later known as Winterland, at Steiner and Post streets.
World War II changed everything, of course, as Japanese Americans were interned at 10 concentration camps located in desolate areas of the United States.
Japantown and the nearby Fillmore district quickly filled up with war industry workers. The area earned the sobriquet "Harlem of the West," for its African American population and thriving jazz scene.
The last Japanese internment camp at Tule Lake, Calif., closed in 1946 and Japanese Americans returned to the Japantown area, but not to the pre-war population levels.
By 1960, about half of Japantown and much of the Western Addition had been razed for one of the first, federally funded "urban renewal" projects in the U.S. About 1,500 Japanese American residents were displaced, further distancing Nihon Machi from its past.
By the way, I am typing this post while listening to "ALL ABOUT MY GIRL," by soul-jazz organist JIMMY McGRIFF. He passed away this week age 72, and I will miss his wonderful, swinging sound.

Monday, May 26, 2008

For those about to rock -- forget it, Parker Brothers beat you to it

There's a special sense of enjoyment that comes from seeing a great band give an exhilarating gig, and knowing a couple of the band members up on stage.
I came to that little realization last night, at SAN FRANCISCO'S CAFÉ DU NORD.
My sister INGER and I were attending a show by THE PARKER BROTHERS, a San Francisco indie band that revels in 1970s ARENA ROCK CLICHÉS and delivers classic-sounding song after classic-sounding song with tongues planted in cheek and Flying V guitars held aloft. They rock.
If I sound biased, I most certainly am.
Parker Brothers drummer PETER CRAFT is a family friend and a veteran of two of our family's favorite bands, Firecracker and the Bellyachers. Lead guitarist BRIAN MELLO is another family friend. His guitar heroics helped characterize the Bellyachers' memorable sound.
Former Firecracker keyboard player RUSSELL TILLITT, Court and Spark and Preston School of Industry bassist DAN CARR and Rhett Miller guitarist GREG BESHERS round out the lineup (however, Greg is about to move to Washington, D.C.).
The gig was awash in party atmosphere, with the band members acting out their stadium-filling rock posturing and the crowd acting like they were seeing some long-haired classic rockers about 35 years ago.
I smiled just seeing Peter and Brian in action. When you see people you know generating excitement on a stage, feelings of enjoyment and pride mingle. Topping it all off, the band was great!
(Learn more about The Parker Brothers by visiting their Web site, located here.)
Oakland, Calif., indie pop singer-songwriter BRAD BROOKS opened the show with his band. Brooks is an accomplished vocalist with catchy songs. Although you might not have heard any of his records, you might have heard Brooks on video games. He has provided vocals for GUITAR HERO 2 and GUITAR HERO: ROCK THE 80s.
The New Wave-sounding ACTION SLACKS were the gig headliners and closed the show, but we only hung around for a couple songs.
Thanks to the Parker Brothers, we had all the GREAT ROCK we needed for one night.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sipping Scotch at the cinema?

We selected our seats on the computer, purchased and printed our tickets.
After arriving at the cinema, my sister and I ordered drinks at the bar (Famous Grouse on the rocks for me), and took our seats in the balcony for yesterday's 4:30 p.m. showing of "INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL."
It was modern movie viewing at its finest at the SUNDANCE KABUKI CINEMA in SAN FRANCISCO'S JAPANTOWN.
Plush, stadium seats were separated by small tables and -- yes -- patrons really could carry their drinks from the bar to their seats in the balcony, which was reserved for the older-21 crowd.
There were no annoying commercials to endure before the film. Once everyone had taken their assigned seats, the film began.
The Kabuki wasn't always a state-of-the-art cinema. It once served as a key Bay Area venue for new music, and my sister saw her first gig there way back in the day -- THE CURE.
Apparently there is another SUNDANCE CINEMA in MADISON. I might have to check it out on my return to the Midwest.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Live from San Francisco -- It's FRIDAY QUESTION!

Well, here I am, sitting on a cable car in the fog, at Fisherman's Wharf, eating sourdough French bread with heaps of Rice-A-Roni and commemorative 1906 Earthquake tankards full of Anchor Steam Beer.
But enough of these tired San Francisco clichés, let's get right to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What song makes you think of California?"
DAVE B. -- "California Love," Tupac and Dr. Dre. The song is an almanac of the California cities.
MIKE D. -- "Sister Golden Hair," because I always remember my cousin telling me they heard it a lot on the radio during their long car ride to California for their family vacation in 1975.
RICK T. -- It has to be "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." I sing this song every time I'm somewhere they have karaoke. I do a pretty good job on it, too!
KERI M. -- "California" by Phantom Planet.
MIKE M. -- As an ammunition inspector for the government, my dad traveled to far off places every few months when I was a kid. To make up for being gone so much, he always came home with prizes for me and my brother. We had carved volcanic rocks from Hawaii, real machetes in decorative, leather sheaths from Panama, and hand-painted, wooden boats from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. I've never been to San Francisco, but the song "Leaving On A Jet Plane" by John Denver, one of my dad's favorite musicians, makes me think about my dad heading off to California.
JIM S. -- "Hollywood Nights" by Bob Seger. It was way back in 1978 that I visited a friend named Andy Sviatoslovsky (yes, I can still spell it) who had taken a semester off from college to live in Mission Beach, Calif., near San Diego. That song was popular during the wild week we spent together.
BRIAN M. -- "Surrender" on U2's "War." I heard this late at night on San Francisco's KFOG while my friends and I were staying in a hotel just after we arrived on what was my first-ever trip to the Bay Area in May 1983. No radio stations in Grants Pass, Ore., played U2, and listening late at night to a station that played an ALBUM cut off a U2 album seemed so... exotic.
ERIK H. -- There is nothing quintessentially "Californian" about the song, but I always think of the Golden State when I hear "Heat of the Moment" by Asia. The first time I heard that song, my dad and I were driving into the Inland Empire area en route from Phoenix, Ariz., to the Bay Area when I was in high school. The gleaming freeways and heat radiation waves wafting toward the tops of the eucalyptus trees seemed to merge with the song, and now I cannot hear the song without remembering that drive into the heart of the Southland.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"I got a powder-keg leg"

I'm nervous and busy -- surely not the way I wanted to begin my VACATION?!
There are errands to run and bags to pack before I can leave for my home state of CALIFORNIA for a visit with my SISTER.
Errands and packing should be an easy couple of tasks, but for some reason I feel disorganized -- I have only just now located the SUNDAY TIMES ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF FOOTBALL, the venerable British soccer tome that I refuse to leave behind whenever I stray farther than 300 miles from home.
I decided to listen to the magnificent "ELECTRIC WARRIOR" album by T. REX to help calm my nerves as I pack and run the errands.
Marc Bolan's ingenious pairing of mystical, impenetrable poetry and elemental, Chuck Berry riffing has aged so well. Songs such as the opening "MAMBO SUN" seem fresh each time I hear them.
The songs have helped take my mind off its nervousness, too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Plot irregularities be damned

While the girls sparred over which DAVID should prevail on "AMERICAN IDOL" last night, I speculated about the next victim of THE COBRA.
I was reading "THE HOUSE OF KAA" by RICHARD SALE, a purely illogical piece of escapism in "THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS."
The tale first appeared in the February 1934 issue of TEN DETECTIVE ACES. I wonder how many readers at the time questioned the supposedly British characters using American slang dialog, or the questionable plot decision to have one of the characters drive from London to Yorkshire to dump a dead body (an approximately 200-mile drive or three-hour train journey).
Oh well.
Yesterday was a stressful day for me, and the dumb escapism of The Cobra's adventures brought some relief, no matter the rather gaping holes in the plot.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

""Dread 'ave something fi do with the poison flour?"

"There's a man who lives next door, in my neighbourhood, in my neighbourhood, him die to poison flour!"
I listened to "POISON FLOUR" by DR. ALIMANTADO while walking this morning.
Toasted over Horace Andy's cover of John Holt's "Man Next Door," this classic reggae deejay track portrays an incident during Jamaica's violence-plagued mid-70s in which a number of Kingston residents were killed after eating bread made with contaminated flour.
One of the wonders of reggae is that the musicians could match such troubling lyrical subject matter with such joyously catchy music.
The sun is shining and the skies are blue (following a gloomy day yesterday), so I plan to listen to reggae whenever I get the opportunity today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

That settles it -- I'm a Cornell Woolrich fan

CARROLL JOHN DALY let me down.
I read his novella "The Third Murderer" in "THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS," a fantastic collection of magazine crime fiction of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
Daly used a lengthy letter from a character to tie up loose ends in his story. It smacked of a device used by an author who has found himself in a creative cul-de-sac.
Thank goodness, then, for CORNELL WOOLRICH.
I am now reading "THE DILEMMA OF THE DEAD LADY" in the same pulp fiction book. It is thrilling and fantastic: A tale of a killer on a cross-Atlantic sailing whose victim inhabits a trunk in his stateroom.
"Of all the authors whose forte was turning our spines to columns of ice, the supreme master of the art, the Hitchcock of the written word, was Cornell Woolrich," Francis M. Nevins wrote in his introduction to "Night & Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories by Cornell Woolrich."
Nevins is right. Woolrich had the ability to ratchet up a reader's anxiety from one paragraph to another.
"Woolrich is at his best," Nevins writes, "when he sets a protagonist in a hopeless situation and forces us to share that person's ordeal."
"The Dilemma of the Dead Lady" proves that assessment emphatically.
Not all pulp magazine authors simply churned out unimaginative copy. There was Woolrich, after all.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

L'Inter è campione d'Italia

I just watched live on television as second-half substitute ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC scored twice to lift visiting INTERNAZIONALE over PARMA, 2-0, on the final day of the SERIE A season.
The win gave Inter their third consecutive championship -- Lo Scudetto -- and relegated Parma after 18 years in the top flight.
This championship must mean the most to the nerazzurri. The Milano club won the 2005-06 title when authorities stripped it from scandal-plagued Juventus. Inter won the 2006-07 title with likely challengers Juventus exiled to Serie B.
The nerazzurri (so named because of their black-and-blue striped shirts) won this year's title with a level playing field in Serie A.
Did I mention Ibrahimovic is Swedish? SWEDISH!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ain't no half steppin' to work today

"Rappers stepping to me, they want to get some, but I'm the Kane, so yo, you know the outcome, another victory!"
My car remained at work last night, because we attended a nearby outdoor festival and drove the other car home. I work today, and it is so beautiful outside -- and I will be cooped up inside most of the day -- I decided this morning provided a great opportunity to walk to work.
I dialed up my HIP HOP PLAYLIST on the iPod to
help keep my steps lively during the half hour (or so) march through Dubuque.
The 85-song mix (a little more than six hours of tunes) heavily favors so-called "alternative hip hop" (the Pharcyde, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, acts from the Stones Throw record label, A Tribe Called Quest, etc.) plus loads of Wu-Tang Clan (love the Wu!). I also sprinkled in some OLD SCHOOL, though, because well, I have to KEEP IT REAL.
This morning it was the Old School classic "AIN'T NO HALF STEPPIN'" by BIG DADDY KANE that kept my feet moving toward the office.
"I'm the authentic poet, to get lyrical, for you to beat me, it's gonna take a miracle."
It was on some rap compilation I had back in college, so I have heard this song for ages. I was amazed to discover this song is 20 years old.
"Competition, I just devour , like a pit bull against a Chihuahua."
I heard other songs during my stroll to work, but the one that remains stuck in my head is Antonio Hardy's ode to himself:
"Cause when it comes to being dope, hot damn
I got it good, now let me tell you who I am The B-I-G D-A-double D-Y K-A-N-E."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Let's hear it for the old alma mater

Remember that geeky kid in the back row who grew up to become the mixed martial arts champion? Well, here's the chance for ROUTE 1 readers to share accounts of their celebrity classmates by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Were there any famous alumni from your high school?"
DAVID B. -- Henry Waechter, defensive back, Chicago Bears. Henry's claim to fame is he was the first individual to record a safety in a Super Bowl.

BRIAN C. -- Glenbard West, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Bobby Rahal (Indy 500 champion)
William Ayers (former leader of the Weather Underground and acquaintance of Barack Obama). He was the older brother of one of my grade-school friends.
Larry Shue (playwright: "The Foreigner")
Sean Hayes (actor: "Will and Grace" and "The Bucket List")
Matt Bowen (pro football: Buffalo Bills)
Bill Pullman (actor: "Independence Day")
Gary Olsen (Dubuque Community Schools: Creator of "Kids in the Kitchen")
When I was a freshman and he was a sophomore, I sat next to Bobby Rahal in study hall, during which he was constantly sketching race cars. "For a sophomore, he needs to grow up," I thought to myself. "Still drawing race cars? Sheesh!"
JILL H. -- Henry Waechter was a backup defensive tackle on the Super Bowl champion, 1985 Chicago Bears.
MARY N.-P. -- Not much chance that a "Gerty Girl" -- a girl from Mt. St. Gertrude Academy, Boulder, Colo., would end up famous -- there were too few of us (about 20 per class).
MIKE D. -- Former Congressman Tom Tauke, former NBA player Kevin Kunnert and actress Kate Mulgrew are all graduates of Wahlert High School in Dubuque, Iowa.

KEN B. -- Dan Turk, an NFL center from 1985 to 1999 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins. Turk, the older brother of punter Matt Turk, died from testicular cancer in 2000 at age 38.
MIKE M. -- Erik says Billy Zoom out of 1980s L.A. punk band X came from Savanna, Ill., but I have never heard of him!
ERIK H. -- None of my classmates became famous... yet... but a couple of people who graduated from Central High School in Phoenix, Ariz., were Cindy McCain (wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain) and Richard Page (lead vocalist and bassist for regrettable 1980s pop band Mr. Mister).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Skanking down memory lane

skank (sk ngk). n. 1. A rhythmic dance performed to reggae or ska music.
Forgive me for getting all nostalgic: I am listening to an iPod playlist I created based on tracks from my first REGGAE ALBUM.
Glorious vinyl! I still have "MORE INTENSIFIED, VOL. 2: ORIGINAL SKA, 1963-67," which I purchased as a teenager living in Phoenix, Ariz.
This record began an undiminished love affair with Jamaican music, but since I no longer have access to a record player, I improvised and pulled some of the tracks of the album from various compilation CDs I own.
There are undeniable classics on the disc, such as "Lucky Seven" by The Skatalites and "Train to Skaville" by The Ethiopians. There are also buried treasures, such as "CONGO WAR" by LORD BRYNNER AND THE SHEIKS.
Brynner, born Kade Simon in Trinidad, represented the calypso influence on the development of Jamaican pop music. In "Congo War," he presents a list of major combatants in a contemporary African conflict:
"Everybody's fighting, to get the fortune and fame," Brynner sings on the 1966 single, "but it is amusing, when I read all the bosses' names, such as Kasavubu and Antoine Gizenga, fighting to gain power over Katanga."
It's like a newspaper story made for dancing, and it's a song that has remained with me, so many years after I purchased the record.
"My father made me to know, that my great-great grandfather came from the Congo in the western province of Katanga, but I can't remember his name, because it was too long, and if I called the name, I might have to bite me tongue."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sometimes you just have to admit you were wrong

I admit it: I was wrong about BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE.
I completely missed their 2002 album "YOU FORGOT IT IN PEOPLE" on its original release.
The name didn't appeal to me... The fact there were at least 10 people in the band didn't make much sense... I had heard one song ("Cause = Time," I think) and didn't really like it.
So I let the album pass me by.
How wrong I was.
I have been listening to "
YOU FORGOT IT IN PEOPLE" for the past couple days now, and I am thoroughly besotted.
The songs are catchy and daring -- two attributes I will always cherish in music.
"Anthems For a Seventeen Year Old Girl" includes banjo, violins and the apparently effects-laden voice of Emily Haines and the song is wonderful. It's the sort of song I wish was played on local radio -- instead of the formulaic, sound-a-like crap that is played.
"Almost Crimes (Radio Kills Remix)" adds saxophone and rocking guitars to the mix.
The instrumental "Pacific Theme" sounds like it deserves to soundtrack a great film.
I could keep writing about "YOU FORGOT IT IN PEOPLE," but I think I have made my point: I was so busy judging a book by its cover (so to speak), I completely missed the classic found within its pages. Until now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vaduz ist in der Super League!

The Premier League season concluded in thrilling fashion and the conclusion of the Italian Serie A season looks likely to end with a bang, too.
Still, my favorite soccer news of the weekend came out of tiny LIECHTENSTEIN.
The 62-square-mile principality boasts a mere 35,000 people and one professional soccer team, FC VADUZ.
The team has played in the lower divisions of the neighboring Swiss league since 1932 -- until now.
Monday night, Vaduz played a goalless draw at Chiasso, a result that clinched the club its first title as "Challenge-League-Meister" -- second division champions -- and promotion to the Swiss Super League -- the nation's top flight.
According to Reuters, the Vaduz population of 5,000 means it will be one of the smallest cities ever represented in a top European league.
Swiss league rules state Vaduz won't be considered the nation's champions if they should happen to win the Super League title some day, and Vaduz won't be able to reach the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Cup via the Swiss league.
That hardly matters, though, as Vaduz dominate the Liechtenstein cup, winning the last 11 finals.
Next season they can call themselves a top-flight club, which is probably glory enough.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sixteen chapters in, I still can't decide

Sales of pulp magazines increased 15 percent when his stories were featured on the cover, but CARROLL JOHN DALY doesn't get the respect accorded to Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler or Cornell Woolrich.
I am reading Daly's novella "THE THIRD MURDERER" in "The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps," and 16 chapters into the story, I still can't decide where I personally rank the writer generally considered the originator of the HARD-BOILED DETECTIVE STORY. Is he good or bad, I can't quite decide.
The novella I am reading originally appeared as "'The Flame' and Race Williams," serialized in BLACK MASK from June to August 1931.
It is fast-paced with exciting scenes, but the characters seem shallow, even for pulp magazines.
Stephen Mertz once defended Daly's writing. In a 1978 article in The MYSTERY FANcier magazine, Mertz wrote:

"In addition to being important as an influential pioneer, it should also be pointed out that, the critical establishment aside, Carroll John Daly was a damn good thriller writer."
Mertz admits Daly "had his faults."
"His characters on occasion speak more like 19th century Victorian actors or refugees from a dime novel than like hard-boiled underworld types," Mertz wrote, "and some of his novels are episodic, rather than existing as sustained works building to one all-powerful climax."
Ah ha! That must be it. I think my more modern sensibilities are struggling with the episodic nature of Daly's work. I keep reading, though, because Mertz was correct: Daly could pen some thrilling scenes. Is he good or bad? Maybe it doesn't matter.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Heartbreak and happiness on the final day

There were champagne showers today in WIGAN, where MANCHESTER UNITED secured the PREMIER LEAGUE title with a 2-0 victory at the JJB Stadium.
Things were far less cheerful at Stamford Bridge. We watched live on FOX SOCCER CHANNEL as visiting BOLTON drew, 1-1, with CHELSEA.
Chelsea entered the day level on points with United, but results doomed them to second place. Perhaps worse for Chelsea, the Blues lost captain JOHN TERRY to a elbow injury after only 12 minutes. If he cannot recover in time, Terry's absence could prove huge for Chelsea in 10 days, when they play Manchester United in the Champions League final in Moscow.
At the bottom end of the table, READING and BIRMINGHAM go down to the Championship with the woeful DERBY.
Visiting FULHAM beat PORTSMOUTH, 1-0, to secure their spot in the Premiership on a final day of high drama.
Now, I have just realized the Premier League season has come to an end. I'll miss the weekly matches this summer!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The song that makes cleaning the litter box seem almost, well, pleasant

KEN PARKER cut a string of hits for Jamaica's biggest producers from the mid-1960s until his 1973 emigration to the United Kingdom (he eventually settled in Florida).
He was characterized as Jamaica's answer to Clyde McPhatter, and the song that really sends his soprano soaring is the marvelous "TRUE TRUE TRUE."

I listened to "True True True" while cleaning the cats' litter box this morning. I should have been disgusted and frowning.
Instead, thanks to this song, I was smiling from ear to ear.
The rhythm has become famous in Jamaica, recycled endlessly on various deejay and dancehall tracks.
In fact, I first heard "True True True" as "True True," the version by deejay U-ROY.
The deejay's version includes just enough of Parker's beautiful voice to send reggae fans searching for the original, which I found on an import compilation called "The Story of Treasure Isle." I purchased it several years ago in Reno, Nev., and I never tire of hearing it.
There's even a song on there that can make cleaning the litter box seem pleasant. Behold the power of music!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Longoria wins it for the Rays

It must have meant something special to EVAN LONGORIA.
The TAMPA BAY rookie and SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NATIVE smacked a two-run, walk-off homer tonight to lead the RAYS over the visiting ANGELS, 2-0.
I listened to the game on KLAA 830 (via my Gameday Audio subscription).
Fellow SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NATIVE JAMES SHIELDS tossed a complete-game, one-hitter for the Rays, who are suddenly playing well after years of sub-par performances.
Longoria seems like a future all-star -- regardless of his relatively slow start to this season.

Longoria starred at ST. JOHN BOSCO HIGH SCHOOL in Bellflower, Calif., before doing the same at LONG BEACH STATE.
Last season, his second in professional baseball, Longoria combined to hit .299 with 26 home runs, 95 RBI and 73 walks at AA Montgomery and AAA Durham.
Tonight's homer was his fourth of the season. He has struggled a bit at the plate, though, hitting .229 through tonight's game.
Baseball history is full of supposed phenoms who don't quite pan out, but I predict Longoria won't be one of those would-have-been stars.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

So long, Tennessee Plowboy

Another classic country music legend has left us.
I just learned of the death of EDDY ARNOLD at age 89.
His big hit was "Make the World Go Away," but the sheer volume of Arnold's popular output is staggering.
Arnold was reportedly second to George Jones in the number of individual hits on the country charts with 145 -- including 28 chart-topping singles.
I have a couple Arnold tunes on a honky tonk playlist -- they are a couple of drowsy numbers for late-night staring into a beer glass.
Actually, I think half the songs on my honky tonk playlist are intended for late-night staring into a beer glass.
Anyway... the more country music originals that leave the planet, the more sound-a-like, "American Idol"-styled country music "unoriginals" seem to pop up to take their place. That's a real tragedy.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Step away from the piano Lucy

In his autobiography, CHUCK BERRY reveals the origins for the song "ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN."
Berry says he wrote the song about his sister, Lucy, and her domination of the family piano in their youth. Berry wanted to pound out some rhythm and blues on the ivories, but Lucy kept him away with her classical pieces.
In doing so, Berry jokes (half jokes?) that Lucy delayed the advent of rock by 20 years.
I'm glad to hear that explanation for the song, because for years I have approached Berry's work as I approach the work of William Shakespeare: I cannot fathom how one individual could pen such a magnificent body of work.
Like Shakespeare, Berry makes the impossibly great seem so easy it beggars belief.
Consider this example from "Rock & Roll Music" -- "I've got no kick against modern jazz, unless they try to play it too darn fast; and change the beauty of the melody, until they sounded like a symphony."
Sure, Berry wrote about cars and girls (creating one of rock's most enduring templates in the process). He also could succinctly draw the distinction between musical generations while offering informed criticism as well, as demonstrated in the aforementioned line.
I have been listening to loads of Chuck Berry music recently. My marveling at his powers of communication never cease. Roll over William Shakespeare, and tell Ernest Hemingway the news.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The reincarnation of Bronski Beat?

Think Bronski Beat.
Disco has never gone away. Case in point is Bronski Beat. Their style of 1980s disco featured falsetto vocals and entirely synthetic music.
It was catchy but cold.
One of the surprises of my recently completed BIRTHDAY WEEKEND was the discovery that this 1980s style of disco has returned, in the form of New York hipsters HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR.
I played their recent single "BLIND" throughout the morning.
It is catchy and bubbly and propulsive -- all the things you want from a disco song, I suppose.
Like Bronski Beat.
(You can learn more about Hercules and Love Affair here.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Happy Birthday to you too, R.J. Umberger

We capped my BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION last night with hockey and a movie.
We watched Montréal native Jeremiah Chechik's "BENNY & JOON," a 1993 romantic comedy starring Aidan Quinn as Benny, Mary Stuart Masterson as his mentally ill sister Joon and Johnny Depp (large picture) as Sam, the eccentric, Buster Keaton acolyte who profoundly changes the relationship between Joon and her overprotective brother.
There are tears and laughs in "Benny & Joon," as well as a good soundtrack.

Earlier last night, there were tears and cheers -- and even some ironic laughs -- when the visiting PHILADELPHIA FLYERS beat LES CANADIENS DE MONTRÉAL, 6-4, to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
We listened to the game en Français courtesy of CKAC 730 online, while watching the game on Versus TV with the sound muted.
Le Tricolore led, 3-1, early in the second period before the game -- and their season -- slipped away.
FELLOW MAY 3 BIRTHDAY BOY R.J. UMBERGER (small picture), had two goals and an assist to lead the Flyers. I cheered for
Montréal and I actually upset with Umberger for knocking the Habs out of the playoffs -- until I discovered we share the same birthday.
I guess he just celebrated his big day a little differently than I celebrated mine.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

"But they're not pressed in red"

There's a great line in the 1978 D.I.Y. classic song "Part-Time Punks" by the TELEVISION PERSONALITIES:
"They'd like to buy the 'O' Level single, or 'Read About Seymour,' but they're not pressed in red, so they buy The Lurkers instead."
The greatness of that line is the way it lampoons the thinking of musical poseurs: Their flimsy attempt at "cool" gives way when they continually choose style over substance.
I am reminded of that line throughout every day. I remind myself of its sentiments, I guess, whenever I feel myself slipping away from my true self and toward false pretenses.
I gave myself a BIRTHDAY PRESENT today, creating an iTunes playlist to celebrate that classic line, among my favorite lines in music.

The playlist opens, of course, with the aforementioned TVP song.
It continues with "East Sheen" and "Pseudo Punk" by the 'O' LEVEL. Both the Television Personalities and the 'O' Level emerged from Fulham's London Oratory School. Bands from that scene swapped members in various guises, including The Times and Teenage Filmstars. In any of their incarnations, these bands helped create the template followed by countless British indie bands to come.
"Read About Seymour" by SWELL MAPS follows the 'O' Level songs on my birthday playlist. Brothers Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Godfrey) and Nikki Sudden (Nicholas Godfrey) founded Swell Maps several years before the advent of punk, and they were always more experimental than their contemporaries. Swell Maps' noisy alternative sound influenced Pavement, Sonic Youth and many other bands. Sadly, both brothers have since passed away.
THE LURKERS conclude the playlist with four of their mindlessly fun songs: "Ain't Got a Clue," "I Don't Need to Tell Her," "Pills" and "This Dirty Town."
The Lurkers have been described as the British version of the Ramones, without the originality. That's probably why the Television Personalities singled them out for derision in "Part-Time Punks."
I'll listen to this playlist throughout my birthday. It will help me celebrate the gifts we get from music.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Did you hear the one about the dog busted out of the pound so it could attend its owner's funeral?

We've heard some strange things this week over at ROUTE 1 WORLD H.Q.
ROUTE 1 readers have heard some strange things, too, judging from the answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is the weirdest news you have heard this week?"
MIKE D. -- Gotta be the Smiley Face Gang, allegedly involved in the drowning death of an East Dubuque man a few years ago.
ELLEN B. -- This is good and only at Wal-Mart: "Strange Behavior results in Arrest. Police were called to the Dubuque Wal-Mart store at 11:40 p.m. Tuesday on a report of 'an intoxicated subject rolling around in a bag of chips.' Brian L. Jameson, 34, 444 Angella St., was arrested on a charge of public intoxication. After he refused to get into the police squad car, a charge of interference with official acts was added, police said."
BRIAN C. -- I'll go with the widow who was trapped for days under the body of her obese -- and recently deceased -- husband. The sick, incestuous man in Europe is too sick to be classified "weird." "Weird" can convey an odd or sometimes even humorous element; nothing of the sort with that sicko.
MIKE M. -- "Biggest squid ever caught may be a minnow."
There are live Webcasts, photo galleries, the dissection and thawing schedule and colossal squid blog available from Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, located here.
JIM S. -- That snow was predicted (and fell) on April 28, 2008, an exact year after I married Kristen Smith on a warm -- albeit windy -- and sunny day in Dubuque. We'll remember both days well. Wonder what April 28, 2009 has in store for us all?
ERIK H. -- Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo was caught in a sex scandal involving three cross-dressing prostitutes. After dropping off his girlfriend at her house in Rio de Janeiro, the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year picked up three prostitutes. Once they arrived in a hotel room, Ronaldo discovered all three were men.
Ronaldo alleges the transvestites attempted to extort him. The prostitutes allege Ronaldo threatened them after discovering they were men. The AC Milan striker is in Brazil recovering from knee surgery.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why am I so interested in Yu?

It's weird: The closer I get to returning to SAN FRANCISCO, the more interested I become in JAPAN.
I do love sushi and Japantown, and San Francisco is easily the most Asian of America's cities, so perhaps that's why my Japanese interest becomes so piqued.
I am traveling back to the BAY AREA at the end of this month.
Today, I find myself turning to the Japanese sports pages to follow the recent exploits in the CENTRAL and PACIFIC BASEBALL LEAGUES.
Yesterday, the visiting FIGHTERS beat the MARINES, 6-3, despite the shakiest start of the season by YU DARVISH.
Yu (pictured) is the current Japanese ace, sporting a 5-0 record and boasting the devotion of thousands of fans. His father is Farsad Darvish, an Iranian businessman, and his mother Ikuyo is Japanese. His parents met at college in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Yu's father played soccer. Farsad and Ikuyo married and moved to Osaka in 1982.
Now, Yu is dominating Japanese baseball, while attracting the attention of loads of American scouts.
Yu gave up a season-high 10 hits yesterday, but American slugger Terrmel Sledge came to the ace's rescue, driving in three runs to help lift Hokkaido Nippon Ham to the win over Chiba Lotte.
Interested readers can follow Yu's exploits throughout the season by visiting the Darvish Watch blog, located here.
I am sure my approaching trip will add further fuel to my interest in all things Japanese, including the baseball.