Saturday, January 31, 2009

A movie and a boxer

Apparently the WES ANDERSON film "RUSHMORE" is polarizing: People apparently love it or hate it.
I frankly don't see the conflict. I watched it again last night, and I love "Rushmore."
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman): So tell me Curly, how do you know Miss Cross?

Dr. Peter Flynn (Luke Wilson): We went to Harvard together.
Max Fischer: Oh that's great. I wrote a hit play and directed it, so I'm not sweating it either.
I find "Rushmore" funny and endearing, a little bittersweet and boasting an absolutely brilliant soundtrack, which homages "Harold and Maude" through the use of two songs by CAT STEVENS.
Did I mention I find it funny? Cue Max:

"Maybe I'm spending too much of my time starting up clubs and putting on plays. I should probably be trying harder to score chicks."
If you haven't seen "Rushmore" in a while, see it again. You might be pleasantly surprised.
I would be remiss today not to pay tribute to my late dad's favorite boxer.
INGEMAR JOHANSSON died yesterday, age 76.
My dad told me many stories about how Johansson defeated Floyd Patterson to win the World Heavyweight Championship in June 1959. Patterson beat Johansson to recover the title in a later rematch, but not before Johansson was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year".

Friday, January 30, 2009

Don't forget the popcorn!

It has been too cold to go outside for most of us, so this week ROUTE 1 readers recommend a few flicks by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Seen any good films lately?"
RICK T. -- Tonight I watched "Take This Job and Shove It" on DVD. That was filmed in Dubuque, Iowa back in the 80s. It was fun to see the way we dressed back then.

MIKE D. -- I liked the last two "grown-up" movies that I saw in the theater -- "The Dark Knight" and "Australia." I also really enjoyed a movie I saw on TV recently -- "The Road to Perdition" because of its gangster-era, Midwestern setting. However, I'd give a big thumbs-down to the last movie I saw on DVD -- "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." The "nuking the fridge" scene was about the MOST believable part of the flick.
KERI M. -- The last good movie we saw was in theatres, "The Dark Knight." On DVD, "Mary Poppins." "Hancock" was pretty good, too.
BRIAN C. -- Not in a theater or even DVD (not a big movie fan), but on TV this week I did watch again "North by Northwest," the Alfred Hitchcock-directed movie of 1959 starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

STACEY B. -- Theater: "Gran Torino." DVD: "Henry Poole is Here."
BRIAN M. -- I saw "Slumdog Millionaire" last night. I was skeptical with all the hype behind winning the Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination, but it's a good movie. It's a great story, and the visuals were amazing. There was always tension in the air, right up to the mock Bollywood ending. Go see it.
LAURA C. -- "The Fall." Visually amazing, and the little girl who plays the lead is utterly charming and real...
SASKIA M. -- I watched "Sweet Land" on DVD this weekend and really enjoyed it. For me, it was one of those movies you still think about afterwards. It left some questions open that do not necessarily "need" to be answered, but that you are curious about anyway.
JIM S. -- I just saw "Marty" last night. It wasn't on DVD or in the theater, but on television. It was excellent. It won four Oscars in 1955, including Best Picture, Best Director (Delbert Mann), Best Actor (Ernest Borgnine) and Best Screenplay. I also recently saw "Slumdog Millionaire," perhaps 2009's Best Picture.
ANNIKA H. -- "Marley & Me." It is funny and it is sad.
STEVE M. -- Definitely catch "Frost/Nixon" (especially if you were around in the 70s). "Milk" was excellent as well. DVD -- "Away From Her" (Julie Christie is a lady with Alzheimer's). TV -- Anytime you see "Chinatown," "Fugitive," "Godfather 1 or 2," or "In the Line of Fire" are on AMC or TCM, sit down and watch them straight through.
KERSTIN H. -- Well, in the last two weeks I discovered "The Notebook," which is awesome, but in the last month I saw "Twilight," which is awesomer!
ELLEN B. -- DVD: "The Dark Knight." Very good... Movie: "Bedtime Stories." Very cute...
ROBERT H. -- I watched "The Tuskegee Airmen" (1995) on DVD from Netflix last night. Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr., with an excellent supporting cast, tell the WWII story of the 332nd Air Force squadron (America's first black pilots) succeed, while living in unconscionable racism. It helped me understand the extreme exuberance (without regard to politics) over the election of our first black president. We have come a long way in the last 65 years.

MIKE M. -- Yes, about a week ago I watched the charming 1933 comedy "Lady Killer" on DVD, starring James Cagney and Dubuquer Margaret Lindsay. When it originally came out, the Chicago Tribune's Mae Tinee (a pen name for an assortment of reviewers adopting a chatty persona) called this movie "zestful, punchful and smartly dialogued," and an "A-1 vehicle for pugnacious, popular and unpulchritudinous James Cagney."
BEKAH P. -- Of course I have! First and foremost, "Frost/Nixon," which is spectacular. Then, my fiancé and I had an old movie marathon the other night, where we watched (in this particular order), "Arsenic & Old Lace" with Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" and then "Casablanca." Stellar, all of them. It's part of our plan to watch all the movies on Robert Ebert's 102 Movies You Must See list.
MARY N.-P. -- Since we never see first-run movies on their first run, I'll have to go with a classic I just rented to see with my 91-year-old mom -- "To Kill a Mockingbird." I had forgotten how excellent it was, from acting to cinematography, it is superb (not to mention, it's a hard-hitting story).
ERIK H. -- I had only seen snippets of Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude" until I watched it on Turner Classic Movies a little while ago. I was surprised at how much laughter it generated. Perhaps more surprising was discovering how influential the film has been, particularly on filmmakers such as Wes Anderson. I also thought the pop music soundtrack (featuring Cat Stevens) was at least a decade ahead of its time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Doesn't quite stand the test of time

"SPARTACUS" by THE FARM seems to be one of those albums that hasn't aged well.
The LIVERPOOL band released this debut album in 1991, when a host of U.K. musical acts were mixing dance beats, psychedelia and pop hooks in a style called "MADCHESTER."
Not many of those bands enjoyed lasting success, swept away later in the decade by the more straightforward approach of Blur, Oasis and the other "Britpop" bands.
"Spartacus" is also one of those albums that sits on my CD shelf, gathering more dust than plays.
I listened to it on the iPod this morning while walking on the treadmill. The grooves are catchy, but less than memorable.
Perhaps that is just what was needed in 1991. It just doesn't seem to stand the test of time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Facts probably Keri only knows

A big brown book has been teaching me about our neighbors to the north for nearly three decades.
The CANADIAN BOOK OF THE ROAD was published in 1979, and I picked up a copy of the hardbound guide book shortly thereafter, during one of our summer trips to BRITISH COLUMBIA.
The book highlights about 180 scenic drives throughout the length and breadth of CANADA, providing bits of information about every little town (and seemingly every spot on the road) along the way.
I occasionally pick the book up and browse. I learn something new each time.

Here are three facts about Canada, lifted while opening the book to three random pages:
1) The "Frank Slide" of April 29, 1903 sent a wedge of limestone 915 metres wide, 640 metres high and 150 metres thick hurtling down the side of Turtle Mountain in southwestern Alberta, crashing into the town of Frank and killing 70 people.
2) Bread is baked in two outdoor ovens -- les fours Turgeon -- alongside the highway near Château-Richer, Québec.
3) Orillia, Ontario was the model for Mariposa in Stephen Leacock's "Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town." The economist, historian and humorist had a summer home in Orillia that has been converted into a museum.
Now, loyal ROUTE 1 READER KERI (SASKATOON division) probably knows all that, since she lives in Canada.
The facts in my big brown book might come in handy for us down here in the States, though, as we make sense of the GREAT WHITE NORTH.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reverse generation gap in full effect

"What band is this? Although, I can't really call it a band... the drummer has yet to keep the beat, and the singer is really only yelling."
That wasn't a grandmother talking, that was 13-year-old KERSTIN, on the drive to school this morning.
We were listening to AT THE DRIVE-IN and their 2000 post-hardcore album "RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND."
While Kerstin dissed, all I could think was: "Is there some strange, REVERSE GENERATION GAP in play here?"
A few generations ago, the parents complained about the kids' loud music. Now, the kids are complaining about the parents' music.
Change has come to America!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kovalev, Marty and the Roadrunner

It was fun watching DU MATCH DES ÉTOILES DE LA LIGUE NATIONALE DE HOCKEY (the NHL All-Star game) on television last night.
Hosted by
MONTRÉAL, the game featured an entertaining mix of the legends of hockey past and the stars of the current game.
ALEX KOVALEV, star of the hometown LES CANADIENS DE MONTRÉAL, scored two breakaway goals and then scored in the shootout to help give the EASTERN Conference All-Stars a 12-11 victory over the WEST.
Kovalev became the Canadiens' fifth All-Star game MVP along with Jean Beliveau (1964), Henri Richard (1967), Peter Mahovlich (1976) and Mark Recchi (1997).
My favorite pair of moments from last night's game featured two QUÉBEC natives:
1) I loved the wrap-around goal by MARTIN ST. LOUIS in the second period.
2) I cheered when the public address announcer introduced YVAN COURNOYER. "The Roadrunner" was my dad's favorite hockey player, and I heard a lot about him growing up.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Making a joyful noise unto God

I am listening to some ABSOLUTELY SWINGIN' GOSPEL MUSIC this morning, both by the early BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA (pictured, circa 1940s) and the marvelous SWAN SILVERTONES.
"We're gonna wake up, wake up and swing on the golden gate!"
-- "Swingin' on the Golden Gate," the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Obviously, it wasn't the intention of these pioneering vocal groups to influence R&B (and in particular, the soul and funk strains) but -- "GOOD GOD!" -- that is exactly what happened.
Simply put, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, James Brown and so many others either emerged from the Gospel scene or were profoundly influenced by it.
Beyond its importance musically, this music certainly does help recharge my spirit.
"O come, let us sing unto the Lord: Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation."
-- Psalm 95: 1-3.

Amen to that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Our little baby's all grows up"

As a writer, I love well-written films, so you can imagine how much I adore "SWINGERS," the 1996 comedy directed by Doug Liman and written by JON FAVREAU.
It's the type of film that makes me want to quote lines:
"This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy," VINCE VAUGHN as Trent says about Favreau's Mike.
The LOS ANGELES TIMES included "Swingers" in its list of the 25 BEST FILMS ABOUT L.A. IN THE PAST 25 YEARS, and one exchange in particular seems to really ground the film firmly in the SOUTHLAND.
It occurs after (the boy named) Sue has pulled a gun on a passing group of toughs.

Mike: What the f*** are you carrying a gun for? What, in case somebody steps to you, Snoop Dogg?
Sue: Hey man, you're not from here, alright. You don't know how it is. I grew up in L.A.
Trent: Anaheim.
Sue: Whatever, man. It's different out here. It's not like New York, Mikey.
An Angelenos' elitism over denizens of the O.C. is in that exchange, as is the O.C. identification with a greater, "cooler" Southland.
Favreau nails the Southland experience in that exchange and throughout the film, making "Swingers" one of my favorites.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Working for the ideal weekend

In an ideal world, ROUTE 1 would embark on a memorable retreat every weekend.
Instead, after watching an early morning soccer match, we're usually giving the bathroom its weekly cleaning.
Below, readers discuss their perfect weekend plans by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your ideal weekend retreat?"
KERI M. -- The lake in the summer.
ANNIKA H. -- A beach... in Jamaica.
RICK T. -- A short drive to Chicago and enjoying the weekend sight seeing.
KERSTIN H. -- England!
BRIAN M. -- My ideal retreat takes place in summer, because all good retreating takes place in summertime, and that's when minor league baseball (at any level) is in season. You can see three different games in three different cities, if you start on Friday night. You can explore the nightlife in your Friday city, enjoy the afternoon and evening in your Saturday city, and enjoy the spectre of a day game on Sunday... with lots of romantic freeway driving in between... and still make it home in time for work Monday morning.
INGER H. -- Going down to Monterey/Big Sur is probably my ideal. It's close enough that you're not exhausted by the time you get there, far enough that it actually feels like you've gone somewhere, and different enough from the Bay Area that it seems like a real vacation. Besides, when is the chance of seeing sea otters in the wild *not* the recipe for a good time?
MIKE M. -- I'd take a cue from John Lennon and Yoko Ono and stage a Nonviolent Bed-In for Peace for Parents of Small Children. No kids allowed, of course.
ERIK H. -- A beach along the Pacific Coast. The sound of the waves would soothe away the stress of the previous work days.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is it a guilty pleasure if you cringe most of the time?

I admit it: When Jill and the girls sit down to watch "AMERICAN IDOL" on TV, I am there, too.
I watch it enthralled, like how some people watch enthralled as injured people attempt to extricate themselves from wrecked cars.
My eyes light up at the NARCISSISTIC CONTESTANTS who have never had their TUNELESSNESS EXPOSED, until now.
"Why didn't anybody tell these people they cannot sing?" I ask.
I love the failed applicants who are SHOCKED -- SHOCKED I TELL YOU -- to be told they weren't good enough.
I admit it: I have been drawn like a moth to the flame of "American Idol."
Oh yeah, and don't even get me started on JOANNA PACITTI -- she was on Broadway and she signed several record contracts! She doesn't belong in HOLLYWOOD!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I feel real loose, like a long-necked goose!

One of my current occupational hazards is the risk of having "CHANTILLY LACE" stuck in my head.
I am writing a story about the 50th anniversary of "THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED," the 1959 plane crash that claimed the lives of pilot Roger Peterson and music stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. RICHARDSON, a.k.a. "THE BIG BOPPER."
Most of the people I have interviewed lament the passing and speculate on the musical legacies of Holly and Valens.
Fair enough, I suppose, but spare a thought for The Big Bopper.
"Chantilly Lace" is obviously a novelty, but Richardson showed the markings of a writer of a clutch of catchy songs -- notably "WHITE LIGHTNING" by George Jones.
I don't imagine Richardson would have sustained a lengthy singing career had he stayed on the frozen tour bus instead of the ill-fated plane. However, at the age of only 29, I think he had the potential to write songs that surpass odes to pony-tailed girls on the other end of the telephone line.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Listen closely to The Spinners. It's worth it!

I listened to THE SPINNERS while driving around today.
There is so much about the soul band to appreciate. I admire THOM BELL and his layered production, abetted by the musical backing of MFSB.
Today, I attempted to divorce the stellar vocals of PHILIPPE WYNNE from the musical underneath.
Bell and MFSB created music of surprising complexity for pop songs. Strings and horns and guitars and percussion seem to perfectly mesh.
Horns and piano herald the beginning of "MIGHTY LOVE," the 1974 R&B chart-topping single that featured Wynne alternating lead vocals with BOBBIE SMITH.
Later, strings continue to sweep the song along.
It's a memorable slice of perfect pop soul.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Another good radio station is gone

The message played on the radio must have come as a sad shock to people tuned in to 103.1:
This is an important message for the Indie 103.1 Radio Audience - Indie 103.1 will cease broadcasting over this frequency effective immediately."
Entravision announced this past week that it was removing INDIE 103.1 from Southern California airwaves, replacing the alternative music station with a regional Mexican format branded as "EL GATO 103.1."
Although Indie's staff promised to continue the station on the Internet, I think the change marks a sad day for radio.
On any given day, Indie 103.1 would play something like THE CURE followed by EZRA FURMAN & THE HARPOONS.
You just couldn't find that type of mix on terrestrial radio.
The station also boasted a number of celebrity presenters, notably Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols ("JONESY'S JUKEBOX") and Henry Rollins ("HARMONY IN MY HEAD").
Whenever I listened to Indie 103.1, I was reminded of the spirit of the great alternative station of my youth, THE QUAKE in San Francisco.
It went off the air, too.
Find Indie 103.1 online by clicking here, I hope.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cardinals fan for a day. OK, make that two days

The SUNS were the only major-league team in town when I lived in PHOENIX, ARIZ.
Most of the NFL fans in the Valley of the Sun followed the Cowboys, something that often irked a lifelong SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS fan like me.
I cheered for the ARIZONA CARDINALS today, though, when the team beat the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, 32-25, to win their first NFC title and advance to the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
I am overjoyed for the team, the city and the state of Arizona.
David Kadlubowski's above photo in the ARIZONA REPUBLIC shows the determination of receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who caught three touchdowns passes in the first half.
Quarterback Kurt Warner and the Cardinals' defense have helped make history, too, playing remarkably well during the playoffs.
The STEELERS are up next for the Cards. I'll cheer for the Arizonans in the big game, Feb. 1.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It still sounds different

"I was like, what the hell is this? I was intrigued completely by the sound of it. It just sounded so different from other things around it."
-- Vernon Reid of Living Colour, discussing the first time he heard "REMAIN IN LIGHT" by TALKING HEADS.
I have listened to a lot of Talking Heads the past two days, and I can safely say the band still sounds freshly different, despite a proliferation of bands that have been obviously influenced by the originators.
The band with RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN roots seemed to have no fear, mixing African rhythms and electronics, funk and rock. The music is challenging, but also mostly catchy and memorable.
Isn't that a hallmark of all great music?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ouch! Ow! Ooof! Ohhhhh...

Several ROUTE 1 readers have spent time in the sick bay recently (those who haven't will get frostbitten today, but that's another story).
Here is a sampling of their past misery, as related by their answers to the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is the worst injury you have ever suffered?"
BRIAN M. -- When I was 12, I got the bright idea of catching for my friend while he tried pitches -- without a mask. Well, it was the height of July and the ground was as hard as concrete, and one got away from him, bounced off the firmament and into my right eye. I thought it was GONE. But after X-rays showed no structural damage, and after weeks of the biggest black eye I've ever had, I could see again.
MIKE D. -- As a softball manager, I put myself in right field as a late-inning defensive replacement in a close championship game. With two outs and a couple of opponents on base, the batter hit a sinking line drive to me. I ran forward, and as I dove for the ball, the fingers of my glove stuck into the ground. I somersaulted and raised my arm to show that I made the catch. However, I broke my two middle fingers, which healed funny and are now about a quarter-inch shorter. That has made playing bass guitar more difficult. The good news: My teammates rallied and we came back to win the game!
JIM S. -- A shed door fell on me when I was 4. My mom said she heard me screaming off in the distance and went to look for me. I apparently yelled, "I'm under here." She lifted the heavy door and flung it upward, finding me on my stomach with my left leg bent up against my back so that my foot was near my head. I was in traction in the hospital for eight weeks. My mom said she later tried to flip up the door, but could barely even lift it. I have no lasting pains from the injury.
BEKAH P. -- It might not seem like much, but a broken collar bone hurts like a mofo.
MARY N.-P. -- OK, I've been lucky in my nearly 60 years on the planet. I think my worst injury was just a broken big toe, BUT the circumstances made it bad. My husband and I were leading a group of his German students on a tour of Germany and staying with some friends when I fell down their stairs at night. Next day, my toe was ugly -- blue and swollen. We had to keep moving because we had an exact schedule to follow, so I couldn't go to a doctor. So for days, I just wore a sock, hobbled and got pushed in a wheelchair whenever we found one. It hurt! When I got back, my doctor X-rayed it, found it was broken and put on a walking bracey thing.
LISA Y. -- A broken heart.
INGER H. -- The bout of sciatica I had in 2006 was probably the worst injury I've ever had. I waited way too long to go to the doctor, resulting in spectacularly debilitating pain and a week off of work, spent lying on my side watching a marathon of America's Next Top Model. It was truly hell.
KERI M. -- Pulling our A-shape slide onto my face when I was 4. I had a cut by my eye and a big black eye when I went to preschool.
RICK T. -- Jumped off a stage and broke my ankle in three places. Not good!
MIKE M. -- When I was 14, I walked into a sliding glass door which shattered and cut open my back. The emergency room doctor said he could have removed my appendix if the cut had been in front.
ERIK H. -- 12-year-old me + my speeding bike + Lafayette reservoir park x (steep downhill slope) ÷ no control - any kind of stability = a long scab down the length of my body.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"I am not a number, I am a free man!"

I didn't always understand what was going on, but I always enjoyed watching "THE PRISONER" on TV as a kid.
Emmy-winning actor PATRICK McGOOHAN, best known for starring in the cult 1960s drama, recently died age 80.
"I'm not sure which side runs this village," McGoohan's No. 6 once said, and I agreed. The philosophical elements and various layer of allegory of "The Prisoner" often escaped my grasp. However, I always shrank from the screen when the Rover -- that big, white balloon thing, rose out of the water to chase down Village residents.
"Who is No. 1?"
"You are, No. 6."
McGoohan will be missed, that much I know for certain.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Valley of the Sun reminders in the snow and ice

Days like today in DUBUQUE -- 3.9 inches of fresh snow on the ground, a temperature of 2 degrees Fahrenheit plunging to about minus-20 overnight -- remind me that I spent my high school years in PHOENIX, ARIZ.
I just listened to the compilation "ECCENTRIC SOUL: MIGHTY MIKE LENABURG," featuring examples of the fledgling soul scene producer/record store owner/band manager Lenaburg created in the late 1960s/early 1970s in the VALLEY OF THE SUN.
Listening to the songs didn't warm me up much, but they made me smile.
Some days, that's the thing we need most from good music!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It feels like Antarctica to this weather wimp

I readily admit I am a winter weather wimp.
I grew up in NORTHERN CALIFORNIA and went to high school in PHOENIX, ARIZ., so is it any surprise I have trouble coming to terms with winter?
Today, I walked back to the office from a nearby assignment, and the COLD WEATHER actually began to sting my face.
I warmed up on the treadmill tonight, losing myself in the funky sounds of one of my favorite albums, "WHO KNOWS WHAT TOMORROW'S GONNA BRING" by BROTHER JACK MCDUFF.
It must be one of favorite albums -- I have written about it three times on ROUTE 1.
I love how the album even makes a tuba sound funky. Indeed, I hear something new and remarkable every time I listen.
How many times have I written about hating cold weather? That calculation might take a little longer to compute.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Add another D.W.E.F.B.T.K.T.B.L.V. to the list!

I was just listening to "(EVERY TIME I TURN AROUND) BACK IN LOVE AGAIN" by L.T.D. while walking on the treadmill, and I was reminded of a rather select subset of crooners -- DRUMMERS WHO EMERGED FROM BEHIND THE KIT TO BECOME LEADING VOCALISTS, or D.W.E.F.B.T.K.T.B.L.V.
Famous examples include Phil Collins of Genesis, Don Henley of The Eagles and Teddy Pendergrass of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.
After listening to L.T.D., I decided you can surely add JEFFREY OSBORNE to that list.
Osborne was a remarkable vocalist who emerged from behind the kit to send L.T.D. to the top of the R&B charts in the late 1970s.
Osborne's vocals "swing from blistering funk inflections to bluesy call outs and on to sweet R&B breaks without missing a beat," wrote reviewer Amy Hanson.
I can't really speak to Osborne's proficiency with drum sticks -- L.T.D.'s backing music is most notable for such excellent horn players as Carle Vickers, Toby Wynn, Lorenzo Carnegie and Abraham Miller.
Osborne's singing is superb, however, and there could have been no doubt he would succeed as a solo vocalist.
D.W.E.F.B.T.K.T.B.L.V. is a bit unwieldy... maybe the subset should be called "PERCUSSIONISTS WITH PIPES."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

High flyin' testifyin'

In between watching MANCHESTER UNITED defeat CHELSEA, 3-0, in a televised PREMIER LEAGUE match, I twice listened to a gem of a compilation from reissue kings the NUMERO GROUP.
"GOOD GOD! A GOSPEL FUNK HYMNAL" features 18 examples of that rare creature, gospel funk. The compilers dug through record crates, seeking out forgotten B sides or toss-away album cuts that all shared a trait: The songs combined gospel testifying with dance floor-filling funk.
"I Thank The Lord" by Mighty Voices of Wonder is a prime example. The song's funky beat helped propel me along on the treadmill after the soccer match. The words, though, came right out of Sunday School.
The song provided the type of comfort I sorely needed after a STRESSFUL WEEK in which I paired single-parent duties with my normal activities.
Oh, and in the soccer match, last year's champions United looked like they were a class above Chelsea. United looked like they were operating on a higher plane.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Getting to know the Young Disciples

My latest CHRISTMAS PRESENT arrived in the mail the other day -- the NUMERO GROUP compilation CD, "ECCENTRIC SOUL: THE YOUNG DISCIPLES."
I have been listening to it steadily for days.
It shares the music created when a man named ALLAN MERRY decided to add music to the curriculum at the SOUTH END NEIGHBORHOOD OPPORTUNITY CENTER in embattled EAST ST. LOUIS, ILL., during the latter 1960s and early 1970s.
Merry offered music as an alternative to drugs and gangs, and the
result was called the YOUNG DISCIPLES, a funk-soul-jazz collective that gave its first concert in October 1967, then began to issue a clutch of now-forgotten -- but mostly fabulous -- R&B singles.
Released on the YoDi, Gateway, and Merry labels, the songs sometimes sound like do-it-yourself Motown. Other songs, such as "Country Loving Country Style" by Young Disciple Bobby McNutt, are down-and-dirty funk numbers that make me want to hit the "repeat" button on the CD player.
By 1972, the Young Disciple collective had run out of steam. During their brief existence, however, they showed that East St. Louis could shine when given the chance.

Friday, January 09, 2009

2009: A Friday Question look ahead

Some of us are still writing "2008" on our checks, only to cross that out and write "2009."
Others have a clearer vision of the new year.
ROUTE 1 readers examine the upcoming 12 months by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What do you hope to accomplish in the new year?"
RICK T. -- Hang out with friends!
KERI M. -- Get out of debt.
JIM S. -- I hope to market a book I've almost finished. Not sure if anyone near or far will pay to publish it, so I may self-publish a handful for friends and relatives. I'd also like to blog some time this year.
MIKE M. -- I'm attempting to write a daily handwritten journal for my two kids. As of Jan. 6, it's turning out to be more like an every-other-day journal.
BRIAN M. -- A year ago, I never would have made this answer, but the most obvious answer for this year is "stay employed."
ERIK H. -- I want to live a healthier lifestyle. I know I can eat better, and I know I feel better fitting into a smaller pants size.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bob Wilkins, R.I.P.

I say: "BOB WILKINS, R.I.P.," but as a loyal viewer of "CREATURE FEATURES" on KTVU during my childhood, I really wish the recently departed host of the horror film show would return to haunt the Channel 2 studios.
That would be more in keeping with Wilkin's style.
I remember living for the weekend and the nights when I could stay up and watch the assorted B movies and monster films shown by Wilkins on Channel 2.
When we visited my grandparents' house outside the Bay Area television market, I always searched in vain for movies about zombies and aliens and the other subjects of the films shown by Wilkins.
I also loved when he dressed in a cape and portrayed CAPTAIN COSMIC every afternoon at 4:30 -- that Wilkins vehicle debuted in 1977, when I was 11 years old. I ate it up.
Wilkins died yesterday, age 76, after battling Alzheimer's disease. "Creature Features" ran from 1971-84, but for Bay Area-raised fans of scary movies, the show and Wilkins will live on.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

God help me: I have a teen and a tween

On the eve of ANNIKA'S 10th birthday, she and fellow ROUTE 1 apprentice, 13-year-old KERSTIN, are filling the house with:
1. The songs of the "TWILIGHT" soundtrack
2. Assorted squeals.
I am attempting to read a SOCCER MAGAZINE in an adjoining room. Yeah, good luck with that.
As much as it pains me to admit, there are a few good songs on the soundtrack. MUSE is a cool band, and "SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE" is a good song.
IRON & WINE are obviously cool, and I am frankly surprised to find them on this soundtrack album.
Still, I have a distinct feeling that once I have heard these songs 300 times, I am going to fairly sick to death of them.
Oh, and don't bother -- everyone else has already told me:
"Just you wait, your challenging times with those girls are JUST beginning."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The song that helped wipe away a weary day

A workday of stress and meetings left me feeling rather FRAZZLED when I returned home tonight. The girls' music was too loud, the dog was jumping on my leg too much and don't even get me started on the cats.
Thank goodness, then, for the TREADMILL and musical legends from VALLEJO, CALIF.
Years before it gave us CC Sabathia, Vallejo gave us CON FUNK SHUN.
The day's stress melted away as I walked on the treadmill and listened to a clutch of Con Funk Shun songs.
"FFUN" was one of those songs. Released in 1977, it spent two weeks at No. 1 on the R&B singles charts in January 1978.
Fueled by an insistent rhythm and buoyed by a catchy melody, the song also crossed over to the pop charts, peaking at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
I can testify that it wiped away a weary day, too.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Resisting entrenched power

I enjoyed a rare Monday off work by watching one of my favorite films -- "JOI-UCHI: HAIRYO TSUMA SHIMATSU (SAMURAI REBELLION)" by MASAKI KOBAYASHI.
Starring TOSHIRO MIFUNE, YOKO TSUKASA and TATSUYA NAKADAI, Kobayashi's 1967 film presents a family caught in a dilemma: The clan lord that once forced a vassal to marry his out-of-favor mistress now wants her returned. The problem, is that the vassal and his reluctant bride have since fallen in love.
The dilemma sets up the groom and his father against the clan -- an individual's rights against, as film historian Donald Richie described it, "a well-oiled and highly calibrated system of oppression."
Kobayashi himself said "all my pictures are concerned with resisting entrenched power. I suppose I have always challenged authority."
Authority, in this case, is vividly personified by Steward Takahashi -- one of Japan's great screen villains, portrayed by SHIGERU KOYAMA.
Watching an individual struggle against monolithic tyranny is not everyone's choice of entertainment, but in the directorial hands of Kobayashi, this film truly is a joy.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Remembering The Offs

I am feeling a bit melancholic and nostalgic today, bidding my wife JILL goodbye for a week and then sitting here listening to America's first ska punk band and remembering the "good old days."
Jill is off to NEW ORLEANS for business.
Everyone else in the house remains asleep (even the three pets), so I am listening to THE OFFS.
Based in SAN FRANCISCO, the Offs released their debut single "EVERYONE'S A BIGOT" in 1978. I remember hearing it on Bay Area alternative radio stations in subsequent years.
According to the UNDERNEATHICA blog (find it here), the Offs' vocalist Don Vinil (great punk name!) was one of the first openly gay men on the West Coast punk scene. He reportedly died in 1983.
I didn't know much about Vinil in the old days. I just knew the Offs were a great band from my hometown Bay Area.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Founders falter in the FA Cup

PRESTON NORTH END were the main founding members of the Football League and the first English champions, but that all occurred in the 19th Century.
Today, I watched live on FOX SOCCER CHANNEL as Preston attempted to revisit their glory days, hosting Premier League leaders LIVERPOOL in the third round of the FA CUP.
Albert Riera opened the scoring for Liverpool with a wonderful left-footed strike in the 25th minute, but Championship side Preston threatened the visitors regularly during the match.
An injury time tap-in goal by substitute Fernando Torres on his return from injury sealed Liverpool's 2-0 victory.
Earlier, I watched on TV as visiting DERBY won at non-league FOREST GREEN ROVERS, 4-3. The Gloucestershire club's home ground, The New Lawn, looked so tiny compared to the massive, modern stadia of the Premiership.
With gloomy skies here and the threat of freezing rain to come, today proved to be an excellent day to stay in and watch soccer.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Turn on the TV and pass the _______!

Whether it is football or a year-end retrospective, the New Year period is one of the great television-watching times of the year.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers offer their tips for more enjoyable viewing by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What do you like to snack on while watching TV?"
MARK B. -- Braunschweiger, cheese and crackers.
MIKE M. -- Extra Hot RO*TEL® dip, "truly the Zest of the Southwest!"
RICK T. -- A cheese and sausage tray!
ROBERT H. -- My favorite is air-popped, Colorado grown (at 7,000 feet), Corn of Plenty popcorn, drizzled with a combination of melted butter and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salted with sea salt from Cuyutlan, Mexico, sprinkled with home-grown Serrano red pepper flakes and topped with freshly grated Parmgiano Reggiano cheese. I wash it down with a Celebrator Bavarian Double Bock Beer (thanks to Inger) for the perfect snack while watching the bowl games. How about the PAC-10? Five for five!

MIKE D. -- I generally don't eat while watching TV, but some warm chocolate chip cookies sound good about now.
ERIK H. -- If I could pick anything, I would choose jalapeño poppers, those breaded jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese. Mmm...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

The official FIRST SONG I HEARD FOR 2009 was one of those gems that could become lost if not for compilations such as Arhoolie's "PACHUCO BOOGIE: HISTORIC MEXICAN-AMERICAN MUSIC-VOL. 10."
"FRIJOLE BOOGIE" is a 1949 instrumental by virtuoso jazz guitarist JORGE CÓRDOBA.
Known as "El Guitarista de las Americas," Córdoba was born in Stockton, Calif., but raised in (my birthplace) OAKLAND.
Córdoba played with his hero, DJANGO REINHARDT, in France and recorded for Dot Records.
He died in obscurity in Oakland, however, and his music might we have been lost without Arhoolie's efforts.
For more information on Arhoolie and its catalog of vintage blues, country, Cajun and R&B music, visit the Web site, here.
Happy New Year from ROUTE 1!