Monday, June 30, 2008

"Four dollars? You know what four dollars buys today? It don't even buy three dollars!"

I watched "SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER" last night, not for a view of the DISCO SCENE of the 1970s, but rather for a view of ITALIAN-AMERICAN LIFE of the BAY RIDGE, BROOKLYN area.
I can't vouch for its veracity, but it seemed true enough, with the emphasis on family relations, the working-class environment, the deep-seated Catholicism and the belief that Manhattan automatically confers a level of sophistication unavailable in their own neighborhood.
At times, the film seems like a television production (apart from the constant profanity) -- and director John Badham has subsequently worked prolifically in TV.
However, it was a better film than I had remembered.
Perhaps the film's soundtrack has overshadowed the acting and screenwriting after all of these years.
"Don't know why, I'm survivin' every lonely day, when there's got to be no chance for me, my life would end. And it doesn't matter how I cry. My tears so far are a waste of time... If I can't have you, I don't want nobody baby."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

¡Campeones de Europa!

If you have watched Liverpool during the past Premier League season, you have seen Fernando Torres scorch defenses to score some memorable goals.
He did the same tonight against GERMANY, scoring in the 33rd minute as SPAIN beat DIE NATIONALMANNSCHAFT, 1-0, in the EURO 2008 final to win their first major trophy in 44 years.
Spain simply outplayed the Germans for much of the game, and probably should have scored more goals.
One was enough, though. I am glad Spain won.

You all forgot "Vienna Calling"

Like association football fanatics the world over, I am anxiously awaiting the start of tonight's EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP final between SPAIN and GERMANY in VIENNA.
Inspired by the excellent FOOTBALL AND MUSIC Web site (you can find it here), I am sitting here, sipping coffee on a surprisingly cool morning while listening to Austria's greatest POP MUSIC export -- FALCO.
I am not sure why, but I am always crusading against the false labeling of musical acts as "ONE-HIT WONDERS." Let's consider the late Falco (killed in a 1998 car-bus collision in the Dominican Republic).
His 1985 chart-topping single, "Rock Me Amadeus," is routinely held up in America as an example of a one-hit wonder. Fine. His earlier entry into the charts, the original "Der Kommissar" in 1981, could only muster No. 72 on the U.S. charts (although it reached No. 11 in Canada, No. 7 in Australia and topped several European charts). If the story ended there, I would concede that Falco could be considered a one-hit wonder.
But what about "Vienna Calling?"
Falco's follow-up single for "Rock Me Amadeus" reached No. 18 on the American charts and was played on the radio quite a lot, as I remember.
So why is Falco tagged as a one-hit wonder? If it is because he only managed one No. 1 American hit, then thousands upon thousands of other musical artists deserve, but don't receive the same derisive billing.
I think it has more to do with memory and the unoriginality of the people who program 1980s music shows on American radio stations.
"Hello, whoa-oh, Vienna calling, calling, calling..."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Before we left, he shot a football that he considered excess baggage."

I watched "BADLANDS" on DVD this afternoon, chuckling to myself at the genius and audacity of writer/director TERRENCE MALICK.
I had not seen Malick's 1973 feature-length debut in a long time -- long enough that seeing it today was like a reawakening.
The photography is beautiful -- give some credit to cinematographer TAK FUJIMOTO ("The Silence of the Lambs," "The Sixth Sense," "Something Wild" and others) -- and the writing is superb.
Holly (Sissy Spacek): "We had our bad moments, like any couple. Kit accused me of only being along for the ride, while at times, I wish he'd fall in the river and drown, so I could watch."
Martin Sheen is memorable as Kit. He actually makes the viewer care what happens to an amoral, probably psychotic killer.
Malick is the real star, though, and not because of the brief cameo.
To think that this masterpiece is a feature-length debut is simply astounding.
Here is how David Kamp described Malick in the "FILM SNOB DICTIONARY:"
"Salingeresquely private Texas writer-director who, shrewdly or unwittingly, has cultivated American filmdom's greatest mystique by shunning publicity and very infrequently making films."
I am just thankful one of his infrequently made films was "Badlands."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vacation all we ever wanted

Despite the fact that some of us *HAVE* been on a vacation within the past month, ROUTE 1 readers still wouldn't mind a bit of a getaway, judging from the answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"If you could go anywhere for a vacation this summer, where would you go?"
MIKE M. -- Despite the recent AP story in the TH which confirmed that "vacations in a bottle" lack authenticity and substance (6/11/08, D6), I'd like to be transported into a Corona commercial.
DIANE H. -- Greece! I've sort of become obsessed with the idea of going to Greece. Won't be happening any time soon, though, given the state of the dollar.
RICK T. -- Truckee, Napa, San Francisco -- all in California.
JIM S. -- I'd go to Great Falls, Mont., to see my 21-year-old son, Jay. He is on a summer internship with a minor league baseball team. I drove out with him in May to help him move in, but I just don't think I'll have the time or finances to squeeze in a visit. He returns in mid-August. He's gaining invaluable experience in his quest to become the general manager of the Chicago Cubs (not sure if I should pray for him to reach that goal or not!).
MIKE D. -- My dad was stationed in the Army in Oregon during WWII. He used to tell us kids how beautiful the Pacific Northwest countryside was, especially the Rogue River. He always said he would take us there "when his ship came in." Dad never got to take us on that trip, but I'd like to make the trek in his honor.
ERIK H. -- I would love to visit Ramvik, Sweden -- the ancestral home of the Hogstrom family -- in summer. In the winter, the sun rarely shines in Ramvik and there is snow all over the place. I get enough of that right here, so I think I would wait until summer to visit Ramvik.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Surprise, surprise, surprise

My muscles are a little sore right now -- I helped some friends move this morning before coming to work.
The move was rather uneventful. A computer desk scratched by leg and drew blood, but I always get injured whenever I help somebody move, so it came as no surprise.
The surprise came when I was driving around before and after the move, listening to "BLUES FROM LAUREL CANYON" by JOHN MAYALL.
I realized -- to my surprise -- that this album is easily one of my favorites in my collection.
I credit the memorable guitar playing of MICK TAYLOR.
Taylor shines throughout this wonderful 1968 album.
His work on "2401" and "The Bear" is among the best guitar playing I have heard.
Another surprise came later in the day.
I had to swing by the NATIONAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER MUSEUM & AQUARIUM to shoot some video to accompany a story about the facility's fifth anniversary.
I entered a summer exhibit on venomous animals and -- SURPRISE! -- it was feeding time.
I shot footage of the 11-foot-long KING COBRA DEVOURING A RAT.
Now *THAT* was a surprise!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's just not Arsenal

You don't have to search long to find outrage over the decision by ARSENAL to change their shirt scheme for the upcoming PREMIER LEAGUE season.
Gone is the distinctive red shirts with all-white sleeves.
As Richard Williams explained in the GUARDIAN:
"For 75 years, then, those sleeves have been part of Arsenal's identity and you do not have to be a fan of the club to feel outraged by the first sight of the new home strip to be worn by (manager Arsène) Wenger's team next season. The white sleeves have gone, replaced by two stripes."
It seems to me to be akin to the New York Yankees discarding the interlocking "N" and "Y" on their caps, or Les Canadiens de Montréal dispensing with their distinctive, "CH" logo on the hockey sweaters.
There's something that seems inherently wrong with Arsenal changing their shirts.
(I realize the Gunners wore an all-redcurrant shirt during 2005-06, but that was a one-off, a way to bid goodbye to their historic Highbury ground.)
Williams again writes what many association football traditionalists (myself included) are thinking these days"
"What could they have been thinking of, to allow the marketing men to trample on such a valued piece of history?"
Hear hear.

Monday, June 23, 2008

G'day Vegemite!

VEGEMITE is growing on me.
The Australian cultural icon is a dark brown food paste made from yeast extract, spread on sandwiches, toast or -- in this case -- my morning bagel.
Men at Work immortalized the excellent source of B vitamins -- "proudly made in Australia since 1923" -- in "Down Under:"
"I said do you speak-a my language? He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich."
I am eating my Vegemite this morning while listening to another classic Australian band, MENTAL AS ANYTHING.
Vegemite, for the uninitiated, boasts a DISTINCTIVE AND POWERFUL TASTE.
I would say it is an "acquired taste," and since I picked up a jar of Vegemite during my trip to SAN FRANCISCO last month, I have been slowly acquiring the taste myself.
Learn more about Vegemite by visiting the company Web site, located here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"So many days since you been gone away"

We played the blues today -- BIG BILL BROONZY to be exact -- while we cleaned the house.
We have introduced a puppy into the family, and one of us is frightened enough to hide herself away all day. Her hiding away made us all feel a bit of the blues.
RORY is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that is the household newcomer.
LORELIE is the normally gregarious Burmese cat who is not handling the newcomer's arrival very well.
Big Big sang:
"So many nights since you been gone away, I been worryin' and grievin' my life away."
While he sang, Lorelie hid in the basement and the girls were fretting for their feline friend.
I said that I wished I had Dr. Doolittle's powers of animal communication.
I would tell Lorelie:
"Look, Lor. There is no need to be afraid of this puppy. She is only two-thirds your size (if that). If this little pup ever gave you a hard time, you could totally kick her ass. Or sit on her."
I believe in a few days Lorelie will come to this conclusion. Size does matter in the household animal kingdom.
In the meantime, Lorelie eventually emerged out of the basement and is upstairs hanging out with MIKA, our other cat -- the cat that jumps on a chair and laughs when the puppy tries to chase her.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Surprise showing

Watching RUSSIA celebrate their 3-1 extra-time victory over HOLLAND today on television, it was easy to forget that the team barely qualified for EURO 2008.
Back in November, Russia dropped a 2-1 decision to Israel and appeared out of the running for qualification. Days later, Croatia shocked England at Wembley and Russia edged minnows Andorra, 1-0 to book their unexpected passage.
Today's win over the heavily favored Dutch was just as unexpected.
Roman Pavlyuchenko scored in regulation and Dmitri Torbinsky and Andrei Arshavin scored in the extra period.
Can Russia continue their unexpected run against Spain or Italy? I can't wait to find out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Question brings the wisdom

Emptying water from a basement? Buying a house? Chronicling a flood?
We have all experienced some novel things lately, which brings us to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION on ROUTE 1:
"What is the biggest lesson you have learned this month?"
RICK T. -- Don't make God mad, He'll make it rain on you.
MIKE D. -- A couple of weeks ago, I was complaining that I had to clean some mildew from the block walls in our basement in preparation for a remodeling project. Now, I am THANKFUL that that's the only problem I encountered, as our fellow Iowans face returning to flooded homes and possessions that might not be salvageable.
BRIAN C. -- When backing up your vehicle, it helps to remember when you have a bicycle and rack attached.
JIM S. -- Though mowing can be a pain in the back, I learned that living on a hill is nice when it rains a lot. Our 100-year-old basement stayed very dry.

INGER H. -- Everything takes longer than you possibly think it can.
MIKE M. -- I already knew to love my family and to enjoy life. But before this month, it had not occurred to me that I do not necessarily need to carry a wallet all of the time. It hurts my sciatic nerve, plus I don't usually have any cash, so what's the point?
SHANNON H. -- That the mole defense can work.
DAVE B. -- Don't take your finger out of the dike. Water tends to start pouring out.
ERIK H. -- Don't eat potato salad that has been left unrefrigerated because of a power outage.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What should be done with Barry Zito?

It's not always easy supporting the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS -- the cruel conclusion to the 2002 World Series comes to mind -- but they're the team I grew up loving, and they represent my beloved Bay Area roots, so my undying loyalty is cemented.
That undying loyalty is something I can understand.
The complete and utter failure of BARRY ZITO? That is something I cannot understand.
Zito lasted a mere two innings yesterday as the Giants were beaten by the visiting Tigers, 7-2.
The losses continue to stack up for Zito, who fell to an unimaginable 2-11 this season.
How could it be any worse?
Here's how:
The Giants are struggling at home, with a 14-24 record, and one-third of those losses have come with the high-priced Zito on the mound.
"It feels terrible to let the team down," Zito told the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE.
At home, Zito has "let the team down" to the tune of a 0-7 record with a 7.34 ERA.
Any other pitcher would be sent packing with those kind of numbers. Zito stays, however, mostly because the Giants signed the former American League Cy Young Award winner to a seven-year deal worth $126 million.
Obviously, Zito's performances do not warrant even a hint of that kind of contract.
So, what do the Giants do with him? Make him the highest-paid long reliever in baseball history? Give the Triple-A FRESNO GRIZZLIES a new starting pitcher?
I am not exactly sure what the Giants should do with Zito. I just know one thing: He can't keep starting and losing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Enjoying a film of firsts

I watched the JOHN SINGLETON film "BOYZ N THE HOOD" on DVD last night.
I had seen the 1991 film years ago, so on this return viewing I both reacquainted myself with the movie and was reminded of its significance.
The cast includes Lawrence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Angela Bassett and CUBA GOODING JR. -- in his first major role as Tre Stiles.
Tre is a studious young man finding his role in a world -- South Central Los Angeles of the early 1990s -- characterized by random shootings and the eerie sound of police helicopters constantly circling overhead.
His father, Furious Stiles (Fishburne), attempts to guide his son down a path of black self-reliance -- a path that seeks to avoid the black-on-black violence plaguing the community.
"Boyz" was one of the first films to attempt to depict the constant menace of violence in some parts of Southern California.
Singleton also became the youngest person ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and the first African-American to be nominated for the award.
It was a joy to see Gooding in this role. His career highlights include "Jerry Maguire," "Radio" and certainly this film, too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Amid all of the flood-related activities of the weekend, I also learned of the death of Swedish jazz pianist and composer ESBJÖRN SVENSSON.
Svensson died age 44 in a scuba diving accident.
I had admired him for rejuvenating young people's interest in jazz, particularly in Europe. I think, all too often, people view jazz as a music of the past. Svensson's work with his group, the ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.), proved jazz is very much a music of the present and future, too.
I listened to the E.S.T. song "Strange Place for Snow" immediately upon learning of Svensson's tragic passing on Sunday.
He will be missed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

They're not from San Francisco. They're from Marin!

The cloudless blue skies (a real rarity these days) prompted me to dial up some HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS on the iPod for my morning walk.
I once spent my summers working as an intern, accompanying my mom to her firm in CORTE MADERA, CALIF.
The hipsters at the office could recall walking a few blocks to catch HUEY LEWIS and the band before they made the big time, playing at Uncle Charlie's in Corte Madera.
Lewis (born Hugh Anthony Cregg III) was raised in Marin County, attending schools in the Mill Valley area.
I began following the band when I was in high school -- I purchased "HOPE YOU LOVE ME LIKE YOU SAY YOU DO" upon its 1982 single release.
Listening to Huey Lewis this morning, I think this song remains my favorite. With the active horn section, Lewis' blue-eyed soul vocals and the backing band shouting "yeeeaaaaah!" at regular intervals, "Hope..." sounds like a loving pastiche of classic 1960s soul on AM radio.
The reliance on mid-1980s production values on some of the bigger hits later in the decade means songs such as "Jacob's Ladder" have not aged as well.
No matter. Listening to Huey Lewis and the News is the aural equivalent of a blue sky day -- something that has been in short supply in flood-drenched Iowa recently

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day escapism of the highest order

The girls and I took our customary "FILM SNOB" seats at the cinema -- third row from the front, middle -- for an afternoon viewing of "KUNG FU PANDA."
It served as welcome relief for me, after a week chronicling unprecedented FLOODING and battling a suspected case of FOOD POISONING (we think it might have been caused by potato salad left unrefrigerated because of a power outage on a steaming hot day.
Today's film did the trick. We didn't think about anything but the movie's twin successes:
1) The visuals are absolutely stunning from start to finish. One scene, involving an ancient tortoise and a flurry of pear blossoms, is worth the price of admission.
2) The filmmakers' knowing, tongue-in-cheek nod to the cliché-ridden genre of the Hong Kong kung fu picture. The film is full of action and funny enough to keep kids enthralled. The artful use of common kung fu plot devices and themes is enough to keep ASIAN FILM BUFFS (that would be me) grinning while reminiscing about other films.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Enough is enough

It breaks my heart, seeing the city where I went to college inundated by record-high floodwaters.
CEDAR RAPIDS is only one of many area cities at the mercy of catastrophic flooding.
Water's indiscriminate wrath has targeted big, medium and small towns alike -- destroying everything from the biggest businesses to the smallest community centers, the newest home in a subdivision to the oldest book in the public library.
I have been so busy chronicling the disaster the past few days at the newspaper, I hadn't any time to take stock of the breadth of tragedy.
Then, physical illness struck. I must have suffered a bout of food poisoning. I woke up vomiting and feverish. I worked two hours and slept about 18.
For the few remaining hours, the video images of the merciless flood began to fully register.
The cities, towns, villages and people around here have never seen flooding to this extent in our lifetimes.

Friday, June 13, 2008

We don't call it a "repeat Friday Question." We call it "Friday Question Classic."

The ROUTE 1 staff reached deep into the archives for this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Who is your favorite film villain?"
MIKE M. -- Strother Martin, the prison captain in "Cool Hand Luke" who said, "What we got here is... failure to communicate." That guy reminds me so much of my high school principal.
RICK T. -- Vincent Price.
INGER H. -- Welles' creepy charming and ruthless Harry Lime from "The Third Man."
MIKE D. -- Dr. Evil, from the Austin Powers films, because he's "been a frickin' evil scientist for 30 frickin' years, okay?"
ERIK H. -- We watched "The Night of the Hunter" the other night, and I was reminded of charisma masking the terrifying ferocity of Robert Mitchum's Harry Powell.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Even in the electrifying Pavel Bure years, Trevor Linden was my favorite

How should you feel when your favorite hockey player announces his retirement?
I feel sad.
TREVOR LINDEN ended his NHL playing career today as the VANCOUVER CANUCKS' second-leading scorer.
The Medicine Hat, Alta., native is the Canucks' all-time leader in assists (415) and games played (1,140) and ranks second behind (MY DISTANT RELATIVE) MARKUS NASLUND in goals (318) and points (733).
Linden also played for the Washington Capitals, Les Canadiens de Montréal and the New York Islanders, but he will always be a Canuck. Hockey won't be the same without him.

Just another day at the office

While I spent yesterday collecting FLOOD REPORTS for the newspaper, ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC was scoring one of history's classic goals for SWEDEN in their 2-0 victory over GREECE at EURO 2008.
Yesterday was marked by memorable performances on the pitch, as DAVID VILLA scored a hat-trick to lead SPAIN over RUSSIA, 4-1.
Zlatan's goal is a thing of beauty, though.
When most players strike a moving ball hard with their foot, the ball takes flight and zips well over the goalmouth and into the stands. You see it in almost every professional match. Zlatan struck the ball hard and it never rose more than six feet off the ground. The ball headed straight for the corner of the goal and the 'keeper never stood a chance.
ESPN has been showing the goal as part of its highlight package today. You just have to see it. (This Web site has it. Click here.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two turntables and a microphone... it's Maaaaaaantronix!

I have spent the past few days dodging raindrops while listening to a playlist devoted to MANTRONIX, the electro pioneers who paired fully synthesized beats with rapping in the mid-1980s.
I loved "Mantronix: The Album" and "Music Madness" when I originally had the albums on cassette. Now, I can appreciate how far ahead of their time and prescient DJ/producer Kurtis "Mantronik" el Khaleel and Touré "MC Tee" Embden were when they crafted their catchy dance music.
Nate Patrin in Pitchfork agrees, writing:
"(the) first major release, 'Needle to the Groove,' personifies our current idea of how drum machine hip-hop sounds -- even if, upon its 1985 release, it sounded pretty damn out there compared to its peers."
I have really enjoyed re-acquainting myself with this great music during the past several days.

Monday, June 09, 2008

June showers on May flowers

Winds gusting as high as 80 mph prompted local emergency managers to activate TORNADO SIRENS in DUBUQUE last night.
The sirens sent kids, stuffed animals and pets scurrying into our damp basement. The adults reached the safe area in time to bring everybody back upstairs with an "all clear."
HEAVY RAINS accompanied the winds. While we escaped the flash flooding that plagued other parts of town, the rains did lay siege to the flowers and vegetables we planted last month.
The sun is supposed to emerge this afternoon -- finally -- and forecasters predict "mostly sunny" skies for tomorrow.
We need some sun. We have had our fill of rain.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The day for some inside entertainment

Pounding rains and oppressive humidity kept legions of tri-state area residents inside today. I think.
I don't actually know for certain, because pounding rains and oppressive humidity kept *ME* inside all day.
Oh well.
I have several diversions inside to keep me entertained:
1) Mark Ovenden's "TRANSIT MAPS OF THE WORLD" was one of a trio of books I purchased in SAN FRANCISCO. It's brilliant. The author compiles every subway map in the world, while detailing the histories of the subway systems and their maps. Focused on tunnel-based travel, it is the ultimate inside book.
2) Tottenham signing LUKA MODRIC scored on a fourth-minute penalty, then CROATIA held on against a surprisingly good AUSTRIA to win, 1-0, in a EURO 2008 match I watched. Croatia were really given a scare by the hosts.
3) Now, I am listening to DANNY BAKER on his brief return to the popular "6-0-6" sports call-in show on BBC RADIO FIVE LIVE. The humorist hosted the show in the early 1990s, creating the template for the irreverent radio institution, which takes a skewed view of football. Baker hosts the show throughout the month of June.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

"you know what, Kool Keith, yo, tell 'em what's on your mind"

I don't want to unfairly characterize people, but I am rather certain I was the only person listening to the ULTRAMAGNETIC MCs while driving to today's SUMMER FARM TOY SHOW in DYERSVILLE, Iowa.
I just don't think the toy tractor-collecting crowd have much time for KOOL KEITH and the gang.
I usually don't have much time for the toy tractor-collecting crowd, but my weekend assignment at the newspaper required me to make the time.
So, I popped a mix CD into the car stereo and away I went. I had to crank up the sound because the car windows were wide open -- the heat index at 3 p.m. was an unusually toasty (for early June) 94 degrees. Whoop!
The bass was really bumping by Track 10 of the mix CD (courtesy of San Francisco's DJ TREV).
It was the song "GIVE THE DRUMMER SOME" by ULTRAMAGNETIC MCs -- one of the most-sampled songs of the hip-hop age.
You might have heard its line, "Smack My B*tch Up," when it was reconfigured by British electronica act Prodigy.
Other bits of the song are also familiar, found scattered as samples dotting numerous, subsequent hip hop and dance tracks.
I just love the song, a classic old-school sound.
Ah! Old school, just like the Farm Toy Show. I knew there had to be a connection.

Friday, June 06, 2008

What did you purchase?

We don't know about where you are, but here at ROUTE 1 World H.Q., it is a GLOOMY, RAINY Friday morning -- absolutely perfect for staying inside and listening to music!
Too bad we have to go to work.
Oh well. We can at least think about music, as readers answer the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was the last album (or song) that you bought?"
BRIAN M. -- The last CD I bought was the new Counting Crows CD, "Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings." I've listened to it in its entirety once, and I need to a couple more times to let it sink in a little.
The last song I bought on iTunes was a song called "We Fall Down" by Bob Carlisle from 1998. Carlisle is much more known at-large for his "Butterfly Kisses" song from a year earlier, but came out with this song about... grace... and mercy. I admit it: The song is six minutes long and bloated with big orchestral flourish, but it revolves around a simple story and Carlisle emotes like no one else in gospel music.
RICK T. -- "Country Top Hits of the 50s-60s-70s-80s." Loads of good country music in six CDs.
MARY N-P. -- "Buffy Saint Marie's 1964 "It's My Way" -- to replace the dog-eared vinyl album I had. I listened to it hundreds of times in my high school/college years and it still transports me back to those wonderfully free, exciting years.
KERSTIN H. -- "Don't Matter" by Akon.
MIKE M. -- I recently downloaded Don McLean's song "American Pie" from for 89 cents so my toddlers Owen and RJ could sing "Bye, bye! Bye, bye!" while toolin' around town in the car.
ERIK H. -- I recently purchased "Nice Up the Dance: Studio One Discomixes" from iTunes. It chronicles the late 1970s Jamaican trend of remixing classic early reggae hits from the late 1960s. The resulting concoctions are extended songs with interesting dub interludes. It sounds perfectly suited to sweltering summer days.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Start the EURO 2008 party

Switzerland plays the Czech Republic and Portugal take on Turkey Saturday -- the first day of the 2008 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS of what the rest of the world calls football.
I usually support ENGLAND in these affairs -- the team won the World Cup the year I was born, after all, so I always consider the destiny factor.
The Three Lions failed to qualify for EURO 2008, however, so I am throwing my support behind the team of my father's family.
The Swedes open their tournament account Tuesday against Greece, the unlikely winners of the 2004 and most recent edition of the European Championship.
The pundits generally give Sweden high marks for attacking play, thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Allback and Johan Elmander, but not-so-high marks for the other facets of the team's game. Most forecasts predict Sweden will finish third in their group (which includes Russia and Spain, in addition to Greece).
Only the top two teams from each group advance, so Sweden could be heading home after only three games.
No matter. Sweden's fans could make following the team a joy that extends beyond the results on the field.
Here is how Britain's Observer newspaper recently described Swedish supporters:
"Expect lots of attractive blond women in skimpy blue-and-yellow outfits and lots of unattractive, sweaty men in Viking gear."
Now then... Where did I misplace my Viking gear?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"You're just like one of those rubber balls on the end of an elastic."

Chandler was such a masterful writer. My favorite of his stories is "Red Wind," also included in this 1,000-page collection of classic pulp crime fiction of the 1920s, 30s and 40s.
Oddly, when "Finger Man" first appeared -- in the October 1934 issue of Black Mask -- the protagonist was an unnamed private eye. In the version included in the "Big Book," the protagonist has been identified as PHILIP MARLOWE, Chandler's greatest creation and -- with Sam Spade -- probably the most identifiable, fictional "dick."
I'm savoring this story, as I do the stories of Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich.
The writing is crisp, the lines are memorable and the excitement rarely fades.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sorry Hinder

I take a deep breath and tell myself: "It's going to work out OK."
I really did not know what to expect tonight. Soon-to-be teenager KERSTIN asked me to help her purchase some songs off iTunes.
Would the songs be cringe-inducing? Would I react like a 1950s parent facing rock-n-roll for the first time? I gulped and prepared myself for the worst.
While "tweener" child ANNIKA remains in MILEY CYRUS territory, my oldest child is beginning to expand her musical horizons.
Tonight, thanks to the iTunes card, I glimpsed Kerstin's emerging musical tastes.
Among her selections:
1) "BLEEDING LOVE" by LEONA LEWIS (pictured). The biggest surprise about this song is that its co-writers are Ryan Tedder (of OneRepublic) and Jesse McCartney. Jesse McCartney? I'll admit: "Beautiful Soul" was a guilty pleasure of mine (I am not too comfortable admitting). After that song? Last I knew, he was guesting on "Suite Life of Zack and Cody" episodes.
2) "APOLOGIZE" by TIMBALAND (FEATURING ONEREPUBLIC). This song was featured prominently at the girls' just-concluded dance recital.
3) "4 MINUTES" by MADONNA (FEATURING JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE). I like this song, but I wonder: Isn't Madonna old enough to be Timberlake's mom?
4) "LIPS OF AN ANGEL" by HINDER. Yeah, I know a subsequent single made it to No. 31 on the charts, but "Lips of An Angel" still seems like it has "One-Hit Wonder" written all over it.
5) "LOW" by FLO RIDA (FEATURING T-PAIN). It's a catchy hip-hop song, and I like it.T-Pain seems to be featured on just about every other hip-hop release these days, or at least all the ones from Florida.
So, on the evidence of what she purchased, Kerstin enjoys the "danceable" side of mainstream pop hits. I actually like a couple of the songs and can easily bear to hear four out of the five tunes. Sorry Hinder.

Monday, June 02, 2008

I am too sad to watch a movie

I expected to return to work after my vacation today, but I am scheduled to work this coming Saturday, so I am actually off again.
Presented an unexpected day off, I planned to watch some Japanese film on DVD.
Then I heard that BO DIDDLEY had died.
Now, I am sipping Scotch, skipping the movie, and listening to the Diddley songs in my collection.
People probably remember the glasses and the homemade, SQUARE GUITAR.
I remember the ELEMENTAL RIFFS that sprang forth from that square guitar.
Diddley died today, age 79. He helped pioneer ROCK N ROLL and had the audacity to title one of his classic songs "Bo Diddley." How rock n roll is that?
I was overjoyed several years ago to learn that MARK E. SMITH of THE FALL venerated Diddley. It convinced me that people who *KNOW* rock also know where to place the credit.
"Who do you love?"
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley have you heard? It's you, man. R.IP.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Chilling news for film buffs

I am listening to KNX 1070 live coverage of a massive fire at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California.
I remember enjoying the Universal Studios theme park as a kid, visiting relatives in the Southland.
The news sounds grim thus far: More than 100 firefighters are battling the blaze, which has destroyed several movie sets as well as the "King Kong" exhibit seen from the popular tram ride at the park.
More worrying is news that a film vault building could be engulfed in flames. For a film buff, that sort of news sends a chill down my spine.