Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bring on the Hüsker Dü!

Cold and dark on June 30? Today calls for some HÜSKER DÜ.
I am reading about the pioneering post-hardcore band in "OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE: SCENES FROM THE AMERICAN INDIE UNDERGROUND 1981-1991," by MICHAEL AZERRAD and listening to Hüsker's 1984 classic "ZEN ARCADE."
By the time of this double concept album, Hüsker Dü were moving away from the fast-fast-fast musical confines of the hardcore scene.
Azerrad theorizes that change was inevitable for many of the bands that emerged out of hardcore punk:
"Bands were getting older and were getting better at playing their instruments and writing songs," Azerrad wrote.
"Zen Arcade" is a wonderfully varied record, veering from simple acoustic folk-like numbers to dissonant guitar squalls.
Writing in MOJO, Keith Cameron described "Zen Arcade" as creating "an exhilarating new vocabulary -- sheet metal guitars undercut by the prettiest melodies."
It was an approach that would provide a lasting template for alternative rock.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Here I go, enabling the San Francisco Giants' emotional terrorism... again

Somebody once said "baseball is a funny game," and they were right. Baseball fans can be a fairly funny lot, too... but not funny "ha-ha," more along the lines of funny "why on earth do I always put myself through this crap?" That kind of funny.
I had all but sworn off my LIFELONG ALLEGIANCE to the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS last night, after a bitter loss in which the team failed to hold leads of 4-0 and 6-4 to the MILWAUKEE BREWERS, eventually losing, 7-6.
Worse than the score or the manner of losing, was the reality that I would be surrounded by about 43,390 GLOATING BREWERS FANS at today's game with the Giants -- a game I attended with my father-in-law, the Brewers-loving MARK.
Well, thanks to a kid pitcher called up from the minors (RYAN SADOWSKI), a guy from Reno hitting in the unfamiliar cleanup spot (NATE SCHIERHOLTZ) and a steady but rather unremarkable second baseman slugging his first big-league homer (MATT DOWNS), I not only avoided any Brewer-related gloating, but I actually witnessed a Giants' 7-0 victory (a rare occurrence indeed for me) and -- AND -- had my love affair restored with my chronically underachieving and/or flattering to device favorite baseball team.
Yep. Baseball is a funny game.
Here are some details:
ME: Sec. 119, Row 5, Seat 7 (just up from home plate, ooh la la!). I also kept score, so only my forearms are sunburned.
SADOWSKI: 6 IP 4 0 R 0 ER 3 BB 2 SO. He was the winning pitcher and he collected his first big-league hit -- a two-out single in the fourth inning.
SCHIERHOLTZ: Tied his career high with four hits, including a solo home run in the ninth.
DOWNS (pictured): Slugged his first big-league homer, a solo shot leading off the sixth.
I don't have much more to report -- I am rather tired from driving -- except to say that I LOVE THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS!!!!!
Even though it goes against my better judgment.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Missing "Swells," enjoying my "punk rock for yuppies"

STEVEN WELLS, the brilliant, iconoclastic British music and sports journalist, died this week after a cancer battle. He was 49 and I already miss him terribly.
"Swells," as he was known, could consistently make me laugh with his writings.
Check out his celebration of the death of the indie mags (click here) to see what I mean.
I didn't always agree with his opinions, however. Case in point: The PIXIES.
Wells dismissed the Pixies as "PUNK ROCK FOR YUPPIES."
"This is not just a matter of 'taste,'" Wells wrote. "Here’s the proof. Hum me a f***ing Pixies tune. Go on. You f***ing can’t, can you? That’s because The Pixies were actually incapable of writing songs (per se). So instead they churned out entire albums of vaguely song-sounding cred-muzak. Music so white it was practically transparent."
Sorry Swells, but I am actually humming "WAVE OF MUTILATION" as I type.
I have been listening to the Pixies all week -- a rarity, given my short musical attention span -- because I am reading "DOOLITTLE," the 120-page treatise on the Pixies' album of the same name by BEN SISARIO.
Sisario shares my opinion of the band:
"The archetypal college band, they were a not-quite-next-big-thing who played sold-out gigs everywhere they went and were festooned with critical praise, but were aborted while still young and still far from the top of the charts. Then a weird thing happened. Throughout the 1990s, their posthumous legend grew and grew, and they emerged as one of the most admired and name-checked bands of the decade of alternative rock."
Back to Swells, who thought otherwise:
"There is a disease out there that afflicts most humans eventually. It is called nostalgia. It has destroyed more cultures than war, the Black Death and alien invasion combined. EVERY generation ALWAYS bangs on about how fantastic things were back in the day. Now that’s OK. If by “back in the day” you mean the wide-eyed anything-is-possibilist flower pop of the 60s. Or the metal/dub/disco/punk pop of the 70’s. Or you were listening to great SAW-style proper pop music in the 1980’s. Or extreme death metal or mentalist rap or nutto-gabba or Metallica or Nirvana or 2 Unlimited in the 1990’s. But otherwise, f*** off, sucko! If you seriously think the world was a nicer/warmer/safer/friendlier/sexier/more musically vibrant place 10/20/30 years ago then you are a fool afloat on an ocean of pathetic self-delusion. Now is where it’s at. Now and the history it took to get us here. And if you disagree then that’s cool. And I’ll leave you with your rickets, your internal parasites, your comfort blanket and your lovely old Pixies CDs . You’re slowing us down, man."
No one could ever slow down Steven Wells and his acerbic style and bedrock opinions, which is why I will miss him. And, like my "lovely old Pixies CDs," I expect I will one day become nostalgic about Swells. Even if I am slowing us all down. Man.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Route 1 readers keep cool

The ROUTE 1 World H.Q. has been SWELTERING all week!
Well, not really. We have been running the air conditioning.
The ROUTE 1 World H.Q. could have been SWELTERING all week.
Had we actually been baking, we could have used the tips provided by readers who answered this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your best method of cooling off?"
BEKAH P. -- I crank up the AC as far as it can go. And then I sit in front of it. Not
real original, but effective. Oh, so effective!
KERSTIN H. -- Going inside and wearing as little as possible.
RICK T. -- Cranking the Air Conditioner up and laying on the couch!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
LISA Y. -- Today we hit the library and the river museum for some air conditioning!
MIKE M. -- Deep in the bowels of the 100-year-old institutions where I serve my time, each summer is freezing cold and every winter is boiling hot. I suspect administrative assistants are nearly always responsible for this bizarre yet immutable law of nature, though pleading and sobbing arouses little sympathy with them.
JOHN S. -- Air Conditioning and popsicles.
JEFF T. -- Simple. Mentally transport myself to Jan. 20, 1954 -- Rogers Pass, Mont., -- where the temp is minus-70 F! ...or mow when the sprinklers are running.
ERIK H. -- If it gets really hot, I like to take a cold bath. Sometimes, the water seems as cold as a polar plunge. The effects (possibly including mild hypothermia) certainly take the edge off the heat.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sobriety: The missing ingredient in "Withnail and I"

I laughed until I had tears in my eyes while watching Bruce Robinson's 1986 British film "WITHNAIL AND I" last night on DVD.
The film follows the exploits of two struggling, unemployed actors, the alcoholic Withnail (RICHARD E. GRANT) and his anxiety prone flatmate (PAUL McGANN), the nameless narrator who serves as the "I" in the film's title.
The pair eke out a rather starved existence in an absolutely squalid flat in London in 1969.
"How can it be so cold in here? It's like Greenland in here," Withnail says. "We've got to get some booze. It's the only solution to this intense cold. Something's got to be done. We can't go on like this. I'm a trained actor reduced to the status of a bum. I mean look at us! Nothing that reasonable members of society demand as their rights! No fridges, no televisions, no phones. Much more of this and I'm going to apply for meals on wheels."
Deciding a holiday would do them both some good, the pair borrow the key to a country cottage belonging to Withnail's flamboyantly homosexual Uncle Monty (RICHARD GRIFFITHS -- you might recognize him as Uncle Vernon Dursley from the "Harry Potter" films).
The actors' introduction to rural life does not go exactly as planned, leading to many hilarious situations -- including growing fear over a local, possibly mad poacher.
"This place has become impossible," Withnail says. "Nothing to eat, freezing cold and now a madman on the prowl outside with eels."
The film is fun on many levels. It has also become a sport among some liver-punishing film buffs to keep up with the amount of alcohol consumed by Withnail. I would find it impossible:
Withnail is shown drinking roughly 9-1/2 glasses of red wine, half a pint of cider, one shot of lighter fluid (the film crew secretly substituted vinegar -- pictured above), 2-1/2 shots of gin, six glasses of sherry, 13 glasses of whiskey and half a pint of ale.
I simply sipped a glass of red wine while watching the film and laughing last night.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Beloved Ducks and their multiple uniforms

Don’t call it "silver."
The new pants color on the football uniforms of MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS is actually "STEEL."
NIKE and the football team recently unveiled the fifth uniform redesign for Oregon.
The team finished ninth on the field last season but probably first in number of UNIFORM COMBINATIONS.
This season, the Ducks will have 80 uniform combinations they can wear for a game.
The new lineup includes four jerseys (green, yellow, black and white); four pants (green, black, white and steel) and four helmets (green, black, white and carbon). Thank goodness those YELLOW HELMETS are gone!
How many uniform combinations does your team boast?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Remembering Ed McMahon

I am listening to KNX 1070 online, where the top news is the death at age 86 of ED McMAHON.
Johnny Carson's announcer on "The Tonight Show" from 1962 to 1992, McMahon also served as the host of the talent show, "Star Search," from 1983 to 1995.
I remember "Star Search" as a template for today's reality talent shows, such as "American Idol."
A partial list of "Star Search" participants includes Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera, Sawyer Brown, Drew Carey, Martin Lawrence, Dennis Miller, Rosie O'Donnell, LeAnn Rimes, Adam Sandler, Sinbad, Tiffany, Justin Timberlake and Usher.
McMahon later appeared on countless commercials as the presenter of American Family Publishers sweepstakes.
Today's news seems like the end of a television era.

Monday, June 22, 2009

That's when I reach for my reference books

To help prepare for learning the detailed history of this band I enjoy and respect, I read the Mission of Burma entries in another of my (dog-eared) books, "PUNK DIARY: THE ULTIMATE TRAINSPOTTER'S GUIDE TO UNDERGROUND ROCK 1970-1982," by GEORGE GIMARC.
Here are the references Gimarc makes to the Boston band:
JUNE 14, 1980 --
MISSION OF BURMA are on their way to becoming a Boston legend with their single "Academy Fight Song" and "Max Ernst." The 45 is on the local Ace of Hearts label. It all started in 1977, when CLINT CONLEY and ROGER MILLER were in a band called Moving Parts. Miller had a fondness for more cerebral music like Syd Barrett and John Coltrane, but also wanted something to move him physically. Conley and Miller quit Moving Parts in '79 and started a new band. They brought in PETER PRESCOTT (ex-Molls), on drums to complete the line up. Damage magazine reviews the 45, saying that, "In my opinion they are the best Boston-area band. They opt for a heavy bass and drum attack beneath a layer of shimmering guitar work, but their songs are more up tempo and have a greater sense of urgency. Their live set is both powerful and extraordinarily varied, but even though, this 45 only provides a small hint of MOB’s talent."
JULY 11, 1981 --
MISSION OF BURMA are thrilled to announce the release of their first mini-LP "SIGNALS, CALLS AND MARCHES." It would quickly become a favorite local album in Boston and eventually sell over 10,000 copies. Tracks include "This is Not a Photograph," "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," "Outlaw," "Fame and Fortune," "Red" and the instrumental, "All World Cowboy Romance." The band is Clint Conley on bass and vocals, Roger Miller on guitar and vocals, Peter Prescott on drums and MARTIN SWOPE on tape.
JULY 25, 1982 --
MISSION OF BURMA have out a new single of "Trem Two" flipped with "Okay/No Way." The topside is from their next LP while the flip is unique.
SEPT. 16, 1982 -- MISSION OF BURMA are making it into record racks with their album, "VS." Tracks include their current single "Trem Two," plus an all-new set of "Secrets," "Train," "New Nails," "Dead Pool," "Learn How," "Mica," "Weatherbox," "Einstein's Day," "Fun World," "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" and "The Ballad of Johnny Burma."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers and others: Never leave your verses at home

I think I finally know what FATHER'S DAY means.
I am sitting here, sipping coffee and listening to "ANOTHER MUSIC IN A DIFFERENT KITCHEN," the classic debut by MANCHESTER punk pioneers BUZZCOCKS.
The coffee is essential, because I really didn't sleep much at all last night.
Everyone was off camping except for me and 10-year-old ANNIKA, who was sick as the proverbial dog.

I spent the night attempting to nurse her back to health. At one point in the night, that endeavor even included holding her hands while she placed a wet cloth on her head and we both wondered why the children's Tylenol wasn't doing its fever-reducing job. Her longest spell of continuous sleep (and consequently mine) was from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
She is back sleeping now, as I hear the Buzzcocks' song "Fast Cars."
That song reminds me of a great story!
Singer/guitarist PETE SHELLEY wrote most of the early Buzzcocks' songs (following the departure of co-founder HOWARD DEVOTO).
Guitarist STEVE DIGGLE was supposed to have his first sole songwriting credit with "Fast Cars," but, as he told UK music journalist Roy Wilkinson, a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to rehearsal:
"I'd written the music and the chorus, when I got to rehearsal I'd found I'd left the words for the verses at home. Pete had found some words that he and Howard had written. We didn't want to hang around, so we stuck those on for a couple of verses. That also happened with (1978's UK No. 20 hit) 'Promises.' It was actually going to be a political song, about promises from the government, but I'd left the words again, so Pete wrote some and it became a love song. The moral is, never leave your verses at home!"
That story, the music and the coffee are nice, but the thing that really makes me smile this morning is the sight of Annika sleeping soundly, and thinking I played some part in helping her feel better.
That's what Father's Day means to me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What was that bit about "overzealous teen fans?"

NEW YORK (AP) -- British actor Robert Pattinson, one of Hollywood's current young heartthrobs, was clipped by a taxi Thursday in New York while filming a new movie. The 23-year-old star had been shooting a scene at a Manhattan bookstore when he attempted to cross the street and was grazed by a taxicab. According to media reports, Pattinson had been attempting to escape a clutch of overzealous teen fans.
It was difficult to tell, but the LOUDEST SCREAM of the day probably came with the news that ROBERT PATTINSON has been named
The most sustained screaming in our house, however, concerned the news reports that a TAXICAB grazed THE WORLD'S MOST HANDSOME MAN.
He wasn't though.
He's fine.
No, really, he is OK.
Look, did you hear us? He's fine. Even his hair is OK

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grooving. not sleeping, with the Friday Question

ROUTE 1 can't sleep.
Fortunately, it's technically FRIDAY, so without further delay (and while everyone else snoozes), here is this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What music are you currently grooving to?"
RICK T. -- Good ole Country Music. (The Real stuff!)
KERI M. -- Josh Groban, "Summer" music, The Trews.
MIKE D. -- Within about a week, I heard "Spooky" by the Atlanta Rhythm Section on the car radio no less than four times, which is, in itself, spooky. But I came to realize what a well-produced song it is. When I’m NOT listening to the car radio, I’ve been playing my ZZ Top's Greatest Hits CD and rocking to "Tush," "Tube Snake Boogie" and "Under Pressure."
BEKAH P. -- I am still listening to the Beatles. I can't help it. They're my favorite!
SASKIA M. -- Thanks to Summer, Sun and the latest Kia Soul Commercials I have been listening to Marz (ft. Pack and Mummiez): "Do What You Do," Calvin Harris: "Colours" and Potbelleez: "Junkyard."
STEVE M. -- When I set my Pandora.com radio station to "Jimmie Dale Gilmore" it gives me Jimmie, Joe Ely, Slaid Cleaves, and other Texas music. Pandora can be a bit repetitive, but Texas music currently has my ear.
LISA Y. -- Jason Mraz is floating my boat most recently.
STACEY B. -- I've steered away from my usual classic rock to a whole lot of OneRepublic lately. Got to change things up once in a while.
MIKE M. -- I've been listening to Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five & Hot Seven on cassette tape in my car.
JEFF T. -- Actually had a Tom Jones greatest hits CD in the car and popped it in the other day during a weak radio moment. It's still there... So this will be day 3 of Tom, unless I get the other CDs out of my wife's car!
ERIK H. -- I can't believe it, but I am only just this week discovering the classic album "Space Ritual" by Hawkwind. I was always afraid it would be too "hippy dippy" for me. Then it dawned on me: Lemmy of Motörhead is the bassist. He would never let it become "hippy dippy!" Instead, so many of the songs just flat-out rock. "Orgone Accumulator" is my favorite. I have no idea what it's about, but it's cool.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Relaxing with the band that is "good for you"

KERSTIN and ANNIKA returned home from their RENO vacation yesterday. JILL and I drove to CHICAGO and MIDWAY AIRPORT to retrieve them, we ate dinner in the suburbs, then returned home. The travel meant we were all tired. I relaxed before bed by beginning the chapter devoted to the MINUTEMEN in "OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE: SCENES FROM THE AMERICAN INDIE UNDERGROUND 1981-1991" by MICHAEL AZERRAD and listening to the band's classic album "DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME." I've always loved the Minutemen for the band's ability to merge punk, jazz and funk into short but memorable tunes. Azerrad writes about the bravery of the trio from gritty San Pedro, Calif.: "If you're working class, you don't start a band to just scrape by; you start a band to get rich. So art bands, with their inherently limited commercial prospects, were mainly the province of the affluent. Which makes the Minutemen all the braver -- they had no hope of commercial success, and yet they soldiered on through 12 records in five years, an amazing 75 songs in 1984 alone." The Minutemen were like a punk band playing jazz or a jazz band playing punk, and I recommend "Double Nickels on the Dime" as highly as I recommend any album. Azerrad writes about the band introducing a cerebral element to Southern California's punk scene: "They were the band that was good for you, like dietary fiber. The only thing was most people wanted a cheeseburger instead." I certainly felt better last night, having listened to the Minutemen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sri Lanka too good for the Black Caps

A friend once gave me a unique gift – a used copy of “THE FINEST YEARS: TWENTY YEARS OF NEW ZEALAND CRICKET” by Dick Brittenden.
Of course, I read the book as if I were attempting to commit it to memory. As a result, I have since had a soft spot in my heart for the BLACK CAPS (the nickname of New Zealand's cricket team).
That’s why today’s ICC World Twenty20 Super Eight result caused me such pain.
Twenty20 is a shortened form of cricket in which teams are limited to 20 overs (an over is a spell of six balls bowled – we’d call it “pitched” – in succession). It would be like a baseball game abbreviated based on a limited number of pitches thrown.
SRI LANKA (158-5 in 20 overs) beat NEW ZEALAND (110 all out in 17 overs) by 48 runs to claim the remaining World Twenty20 semi-final place.
The Sri Lankans reportedly outclassed the Kiwis.
Tillakeratne Dilshan scored 48 runs from 37 balls and Mahela Jayawardene struck six fours and a six for 41 runs from 29 balls. (Jayawardene is pictured above, escaping an attempted run out.)
The New Zealand batsmen gave a good accounting of themselves early – reaching 30 not out by the third over.
Then one of Sri Lanka ’s brilliant bowlers, the spinner Ajantha Mendis, took two wickets in an over to nip the Kiwi comeback in the proverbial bud.
A good spin bowler in cricket is like a tough curve-ball pitcher in baseball, and Mendis was tough on New Zealand . He finished with three wickets taken for only nine runs allowed. The poor Kiwis lost their final six wickets for just 17 runs in four overs.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This album not appreciated by pets

Apart from begging for cheese slices, nothing unites our pets quite like their distaste for “LOCUST ABORTION TECHNICIAN,” the 1984 extreme punk album by BUTTHOLE SURFERS.
I know, because I listened to the album this weekend, with the girls away in Nevada and Jill in Wisconsin.
Listening to this album, it was easy to gauge the displeasure of LORELIE, MIKA and RORY -- particularly on the song “Hay.” The album’s fifth track, the sound effects on “Hay” infamously include the haunting bellows of animals at a slaughterhouse.
“Everything about this record is wrong,” wrote music critic John Doran. “In the 1980s -- among the post-hardcore and punk community in the United States -- there seemed to be a headlong rush to produce the most sonically extreme record possible. No one came close to rivaling this effort.”
The song “Human Cannonball” roars along like a punk anthem should.
Most of the other tracks are far less conventional.
The closing track, “22 Going on 23” features the voice of a radio talk-show caller describing her sexual assault.
The overall result, as writer Gabe Soria described it, is “a feeling of elated illness.”
The album is not for everyone, and even I can only handle it on certain occasions.
Make sure you keep it away from the pets, however. Based on my experiences, they just won’t like it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy birthday to "an old friend from college"

One day after marking my MOM’S BIRTHDAY, today I mark the 30th BIRTHDAY of what you could call “an old friend from college.”
“UNKNOWN PLEASURES,” the debut album of JOY DIVISION, was recorded April 1-17, 1979 at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, England and released on June 14, 1979 on Manchester‘s Factory Records.
It was “love at first listen” when I first heard it, several years later, and this powerful album later accompanied me to the depths -- literally.
I have owned an imported, Italian cassette tape of “Unknown Pleasures“ since my freshmen year at MOUNT MERCY COLLEGE, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA.
My work-study assignment during my freshman and sophomore years was to sweep the subterranean passageways connecting campus buildings.
I would pop “Unknown Pleasures“ into my Walkman and happily sweep away -- powered in part by the amazing music filling my ears.
Two years ago, the British music weekly NME reappraised the landmark, post-punk album, in a review that garnered “Unknown Pleasures” a rare, 10-out-of-10 review:
“The band’s debut is simply one of the best records ever made, and is still powerful enough to floor you. With an almost dub-like, spacey atmosphere sculpted by studio genius Martin Hannett, the band’s sound -- Peter Hook’s rumbling bass lines, Barney Sumner’s eerie guitar shrieks and Steven Morris’ machine-like drumming -- was almost the polar opposite of the punk music which had brought them together after a Sex Pistols show in 1976.”
I am always afraid the legacy of late vocalist IAN CURTIS will overshadow the music his band produced. I needn’t worry. Listening today, “Unknown Pleasures” remains utterly remarkable -- with or without a broom in my hand.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Solo with "The Soloist"

Thanks to book-lending ROUTE 1 reader and hot-air balloon addict BEKAH P., we've all been given the opportunity to discover "THE SOLOIST" by STEVE LOPEZ.
Music-nut KERSTIN (currently vacationing in RENO, NEV.) read the book by the LOS ANGELES TIMES columnist and immediately bookmarked SoCal classical station KUSC (find it here) -- because it is the favorite station of the book's focus, street-living musician NATHANIEL AYERS.
I started reading the book, and I immediately began taking notes (must be a journalist thing).
"Music is a meditation, a reverie, a respite from madness," Lopez writes upon observing its effect on Ayers. "It is his way of being alone without fear."
I love that description of music. It fits everyone's life to some degree.
Who hasn't relied on music to tether us to the familiar when we're in unfamiliar surroundings? Who hasn't filled the house with musical sounds when there's no one around to speak with?
The girls are in Nevada and Jill is camping with some girlfriends. That gives me a great opportunity to sit and read.
And you know, Kerstin was right: KUSC is a pretty darn good radio station, too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fill in the blanks for summer fun

ROUTE 1 can feel it: The joys of SUMMER are upon us!
This week, readers concoct a guide to summer by filling in the blanks to the following FRIDAY QUESTION sentence:
"In the summer, I never leave home without __________ because ________."
JIM S. -- Sun tan lotion and a baseball cap ... I burn easily, especially on the top of my head!
INGER H. -- sunscreen ... the sun, it burns! It burns!
ELLEN B. -- In the summer, I never leave home without Sunglasses because squinting is NO fun!
RICK T. -- In the summer, I never leave home without water because it's HOT outside!
KERI M. -- My cell phone because I will be working __ jobs this summer.
MIKE D. -- I'd like to say "fishing pole," but that's wishful thinking. In reality, it
would be my camera, because I like to be prepared when I see something
photo-worthy, and it usually involves my kids.
BEKAH P. -- A book, because I hate being caught in construction waiting lines without
anything to do.
SASKIA M. -- In the summer, I never leave home without money,because I'm addicted to Culver's Lemon Smoothies.
ERIK H. -- In the summer, I never leave home without a reggae or blues CD, because I always associate those types of music with hot weather!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Stubborn, big-'eaded," but I'll miss 'im

"I think he's the most stubborn, big-'eaded, stuck-up player I've ever seen, and I can't wait to see the back of 'im."
-- A Blackburn Rovers supporter during a BBC radio call-in program concerning the probably exit of Cristiano Ronaldo to Spain.
I am listening online this morning to BBC RADIO FIVE LIVE.
British airwaves are filled with news that MANCHESTER UNITED have accepted a world record offer of £80 million from REAL MADRID for star winger CRISTIANO RONALDO.
As opposed to the Blackburn supporter quoted above, I'm rather saddened to see Ronaldo leave the Premier League.
I admit I always cheered against Ronaldo -- he played the part of stylish villain -- but you can't argue his mazy runs and mesmerizing step-overs certainly added spice to the league.
Don't feel too sorry for Manchester United, mind you. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be able to invest the Ronaldo proceeds in the transfer market.
United have been linked with the likes of Lyon forward Karim Benzema, Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery and Wigan's Antonio Valencia.
They will struggle to keep up with Madrid's star power, however. Real signed Brazilian KAKA for a reported £56 million earlier in the week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Let's hear it for the kids!

Our daughters, KERSTIN and ANNIKA, took off on a Southwest Airlines flight for their first unaccompanied trip yesterday -- the pair flew to RENO, NEV., to visit their grandparents.
After their flight departed, JILL and I left CHICAGO'S MIDWAY AIRPORT, driving up CICERO AVENUE and then the EISENHOWER EXPRESSWAY en route to some shopping in SCHAUMBURG and then home.
To honor our kids, I played the compilation album "HOME SCHOOLED: THE ABCs OF KIDS SOUL."
Accomplished at uncovering the finest in rare soul, Chicago-based NUMERO RECORDS searched the record bins for forgotten children-fronted soul acts from the 1970s to create this compilation.
Songs such as "I'm Not Ready For Love" by Promise, "Now That School Is Through" by Cindy & The Playmates, "Can't Let You Break My Heart" by Quantrells and "Sweet Pea" by Altyrone Deno Brown provided a fitting accompaniment as a pair of slightly saddened parents made their way through Chicago.
The girls' flight was "awesome," according to Kerstin. They were even served Oreos on board the plane.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Five notes about BLACULA

While keeping tabs on a storm that blew a tree onto their cousin's (my niece's) house, the girls and I watched a 1972 cult classic on DVD last night.
Without further ado, here are FIVE NOTES from watching "BLACULA."
1. As soon as I heard WILLIAM MARSHALL and his booming deep voice, I recognized him as the KING OF CARTOONS from "PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE."
In last night's film, Marshall stars as Mamuwalde, the African prince cursed by DRACULA to become BLACULA.
2. Blacula's love interest, LUVA/TINA, was played by a familiar face.
San Francisco native VONETTA McGEE also played Marlene in "REPO MAN."
3. The film is entertaining, but dated. A pair of gay antiques dealers unwittingly open the coffin that unleashes Blacula on Los Angeles.
The 1972 depiction of gay people made me wince.
4. Halfway through the film, the girls and I decided the filmmakers only had access to about five interior sets.
The "office" was the same set as the "laboratory" which was the same set as the "police station."
5. The music is fabulous!
Motown arranger GENE PAGE is credited with the soundtrack. The songs are performed by THE HUES CORPORATION, the Santa Monica, Calif., group who would gain fame two years later with "Rock the Boat."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Mum-mum-mum-mah Auto-tune

Give Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta some credit.
As LADY GAGA, she has created both a song I love ("POKER FACE" -- "mum-mum-mum-mah poker face") and a song I absolutely loathe ("LOVEGAME" -- "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick").
Lady Gaga can certainly pen a catchy tune -- her career began writing songs for the likes of Pussycat Dolls, Fergie and Britney Spears.
I can't help but wonder, however, if she would still succeed as a singer in a world without AUTO-TUNE TECHNOLOGY.
Created by Antares Audio Technologies, Auto-Tune technology has become the crucial crutch propping up a clutch of current pop songs. The technology uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances.
"Invented to digitally enhance bad vocals, Auto-tune can take a bum note and transpose it to the exact point of where it is supposed to be on the musical scale," Neil McCormick wrote in Britain's DAILY TELEGRAPH.
One result, McCormick writes "is to reduce the human quality of the voice, ensuring it sounds (as indeed it is) digitally enhanced."
McCormick singles out Lady Gaga as an artist whose singles have been "auto-tuned to the hilt."
As I listen to Lady Gaga, I can't help but feel the same way as when I watched BARRY BONDS hit home runs. Is there some performance-enhancing going on here? Doesn't that cheapen the experience?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hats off to Halford indeed

I am for letting people be whatever they want to be, as long as they don't infringe upon the rights of others.
That's a principle taught to me from an early age, and it's one I continue to teach to my kids.
I am thinking about that principle while listening to JUDAS PRIEST this morning.
Take one look at lead singer ROB HALFORD (center). Oh yeah. He's gay. More importantly: Who cares?
It actually filled me with immense happiness when Halford came out as homosexual, and few (including few in the METAL community) batted an eye.
The thought was: As long as this dude rocks, who cares about his sexuality?
"A lot of homophobia still exists in the music world, in all kinds of music," Halford told MTV when he went public with his sexuality. "I wouldn't say it's any more phobic in metal or rap or whatever this music is that I'm doing now, but that¹s just something that I think we all have to address in our own lives. If we have a problem with it, I think we should seek help and find out why we do have a problem with it."
The song "LIVING AFTER MIDNIGHT" is playing right now in my iPod, and I am thinking:
If homophobes actually listened to this song, they would hear that Halford sings about a topic that's fairly universal for a young man on the town.
"I come alive in the neon light. That's when I make my moves right."
The indie band ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE took a tongue-in-cheek look at Halford's sexuality, in the song, "HATS OFF TO HALFORD."
"I think it's safe to say that many more metal guys are homosexual," the song goes. "This may frustrate the gay community. Why would they want the ugly metalheads available?"
Actually, it's rather sad and ironic, I think, that we live in an age when a METALHEAD can come out of the closet but a professional sportsman must keep his real life hidden from his teammates.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Storm stories of the Friday Question kind

While skies ominously darken, ROUTE 1 readers respond by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your most vivid storm memory?"
MIKE D. -- Watching the baseball-sized hailstones crash down from a black sky during the August 1994 storm in Dubuque. Nearly everyone's home and/or vehicle suffered damage.
An honorable mention was watching a thunderhead develop for over an hour as my wife and I drove through central Wisconsin (pictured). Our paths finally collided as we hit the Madison Beltline. The rain came down so hard it was very difficult to see the road, even with the wipers on full blast. A scary drive!
BEKAH P. -- A tornado hit down about a quarter mile from my childhood home. We could see the twister taking out the electrical lines for a mile or so, as each downed power line shot up huge sparks. It was the only time I ever saw a tornado, and I really hope it was my last.
ROSANNE H. -- I remember driving up to a mountain north of Helena, Mont., and having lightning strike right next to the car as we were about to get out. I will never forget how blue it was and how loud it was. I tried to act cool so the four little kids in the car wouldn't be too scared.
MARY N.P. -- Most beautiful anyway -- at night sitting on the front porch of a mountain cabin in Colorado and watching a storm with spectacular lightening many years ago...
RICK T. -- One time when I was around 13 years old, I went to California on a Greyhound Bus. We were around Grand Island, Neb., during a rain storm, and way off in the distance I saw a tornado. It never hit us but there it was way off in the distance. That was the only tornado I ever saw.
JOHN S. -- Heidi and I were at the Cedar Falls Drive-in watching "Twister" when a huge thunderstorm rolled in. It was pretty awesome. Very much 3-D. KERI M. -- Blizzard 2007. (See a video update here, photos about it here.)
JIM S. -- When I was the sports editor for the Fulton (Mo.) Daily Gazette in the early 1980s, the town experienced a small flood and a big tornado - both within a span of three months. I saw the aftermath of both, the worst being the tornado, which downed more than a dozen huge oak trees on the Westminster College campus.
ERIK H. -- It was about 11 a.m., on Monday, Aug. 24, 1998 and we were living in Cascade, Iowa. Jill was at work and I was off with 3-year-old Kerstin at home. Skies became so dark, we had to switch on the living room lights to see. After a period of rain, I glanced out the kitchen window. The wind was blowing the rain horizontally past the window. As I herded Kerstin toward the basement steps, the front window exploded into a shower of glass that carpeted the living-room floor. Finally down in the basement, Kerstin and I didn't get to hear the tree blown down in our front yard.
Straight-line winds of 75 mph was the verdict by the meteorologists. "Bad storm" was Kerstin's verdict.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A good day for The Plugz and "Repo Man"

"You like music? Listen to this. I was into these dudes before anyone. Wanted me to be their manager. I called bullshit on that. Managing a pop group is no job for a man."
-- Lite in "Repo Man."
Whenever I drove anywhere yesterday, THE PLUGZ were blaring from my car stereo speakers.
The day just seemed tailored for one of the earliest of the CHICANO PUNK BANDS.
The Plugz also earned some distinction for contributing a trio of songs to the soundtrack for "REPO MAN," so
I watched that classic ALEX COX film again last night (for what seems like the 75th time or so).
The first Plugz' song included is "El Clavo y la Cruz," which is played as Otto unknowingly "rips" his first car as a "favor" to Bud.
They also perform "Reel Ten" and a Spanish-language version of Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man."
One of the (many) things I love about "Repo Man" is that music is never far from the surface -- the Circle Jerks crooning away as a lounge act and scooter-riding Untouchables beating up Otto being only two examples.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Queensland going for four

"¡Uno dos tres quatro!"
PITBULL is rapping/singing his hit "I KNOW YOU WANT ME (CALLE OCHO)" on KIIS-FM online this morning while we are following the conclusion of the first STATE OF ORIGIN match in AUSTRALIA.
The best players from NEW SOUTH WALES battle the best from QUEENSLAND in RUGBY LEAGUE three times annually Down Under.
Today's match in MELBOURNE found the NSW Blues coming close to upsetting the veteran QLD Maroons.
Close but not close enough: Queensland withstood a Blues' rally to win, 28-18.
Billy Slater of the hometown Melbourne Storm (pictured) scored a Queensland try that halted the Blues' momentum.
St. George-Illawarra Dragons' Darius Boyd later put the game on ice in the final seconds with the Maroons' fifth try.
If Queensland win this year's three-game series, it will be the fourth successive series win.
"¡Uno dos tres quatro!"

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

An earthquake is probably the least of their worries

I have seen enough DAIKAIJU EIGA (Japanese monster movies) to know something very bad is about to happen to TAIWAN.
Local fishermen caught a "King of the Herrings" or "King of the Dragons" yesterday -- a 16.5-foot fish that usually spends its time in the deepest waters of the pacific.
"It was the first time I've seen the legendary king of dragons over the past 30 years," one of the fishermen said, before cowering someplace safe with the rest of the frightened townspeople.
Why are they cowering?
The species, Regalecus glesne, is considered an "EARTHQUAKE FISH" in Taiwan because its rare appearances in fishing nets is thought to coincide with seismic disturbances on the ocean floor.
Of course, there could be another explanation for the sudden appearance of the fish.
Locals also call the species
Perhaps the message is:
"Take cover! Prehistoric monster from the ocean floor is on the way!"
Well, I can always dream, right?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Does this album show you how to floss?

Dentists are so misunderstood.
Rather than pain-dealing villains, dentists are actually health-care professionals devoted to maintaining the well being of our teeth.

This morning, as I drove to my neighborhood pain-deal-- er, I mean, dentist, I listened to another of life's great misunderstood denizens, the HEAVY METAL CONCEPT ALBUM.
In today's particular case, it was "THE PLAGUE," a 1983 album by Staffordshire band DEMON.
In his hilarious yet remarkably insightful memoir/guide to heavy metal, "HELL BENT FOR LEATHER," Seb Hunter explains that when a metal band strays from its usual lyrical territory of devils, women and motorcycles, "they will usually end up producing a concept album."
"The concept album is heavy metal's ultimate High Art statement, its holy grail of spiritual and intellectual achievement," Hunter wrote.
Many heavy metal fans and writers viewed "The Plague" as somewhat less than an achievement upon its release.
"TOO MANY KEYBOARDS!" howled British metal bible KERRANG.
Writing on the band's Web site, former bassist Chris Ellis takes a differing view:
"It is in my view, a rock classic that never received the recognition it truly deserved."
I have to admit, I agree with Ellis and SOUNDS reviewer Mark Putterford, who wrote in 1983:
"It's an album which moves from anger to melancholy and from sarcasm to sincerity in it's horrific account of nuclear war and its after effect... it's a package which'll surely expand the Demon appreciation society."
I think "The Plague" is a fantastic album!
You have probably never heard of the record because Putterford was decidedly wrong:
The Plague did not really expand "the Demon appreciation society."
The album reached No. 73 on the British charts while sounding very similar to the output of prog-rock hit-makers MARILLION (23 UK Top-40 singles).
Perhaps that was the problem. "The Plague" was probably too "progressive" for the metalheads while being too "heavy" for the single-buying progressive rock fans. So misunderstood... so much like a dentist!