Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Remembering Corey Allen

One of the worst things about my recent JURY DUTY is the way it disconnected me from the outside world.
I knew nothing about soccer or news, for example, until leaving the confines of the courtroom.

As an example, I have just now learned about the death of COREY ALLEN at age 75.

As a director, Allen helmed numerous episodes of shows, ranging from "The Streets of San Francisco" to "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

He won an Emmy for directing an episode of "HILL STREET BLUES."

As an actor, he was best known for portraying Buzz Gunderson in Nicholas Ray's "REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE."

Allen passed away several days ago, but like AUSTRALIA having its first female prime minister (click here), so news slipped past me recently because I was confined to judicial matters.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Juror weighs in on ELO on "Great Irony Day"

I'm sitting here listening to the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA this morning and wondering why I have been called to JURY DUTY for the second Monday in succession.
I've quit wondering why ELO are so disrespected in rock circles. I consider that rock snobbery of a particularly hypocritical kind.

You hear rock fans complaining that ELO are pretentious. Are they really any more pretentious than a guitarist who inserts a meandering, self serving solo into an otherwise perfectly good rock song? Are they any more pretentious than a heavy metal band creating a concept album? Are they any more pretentious than a lead singer who automatically thinks he or she can act?

I think most rock fans who slag off ELO without actually spending time listening to the band do so because they have been conditioned to view any form of classical music as the "serious" enemy. The fact is, ELO are not being too serious.

The name of the band is "Electric Light Orchestra," with the emphasis on the "light." In classical parlance, light orchestras are those that perform "pops" style and novelty pieces, rather than the high-brow stuff of the philharmonic and other orchestras. That's what JEFF LYNNE did with ELO -- he had fun with the rock and classical forms. Is that really all that pretentious?

Anyway, back to jury duty. The greatest of today's ironies is that a front-page story in the newspaper -- written by me -- is headlined:

"Have a jury summons? Follow these tips"

With the sub-headline (or as we call it in the biz, "C-deck") reading:

"Don't assume you won't be selected."

Yeah. I'm surprised I was called for the second week of a two-week term? Don't I read my own stuff?

Roll over Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I hurt my wrists slamming my hands on the floor in desperation

Sad, sad ENGLAND.
Forget about the goal that wasn't given.
Goalkeeping... team selection... central defence... striking pairing...

All of the English deficiencies were exposed in GERMANY'S 4-1 mauling of England in the WORLD CUP today.

Wayne Rooney, James Milner, John Terry... too many English players didn't play up to their capabilities.

Another consideration, I think, are the lack of places for young English players in the PREMIER LEAGUE.

Much as I enjoy watching the veritable all-star teams trotted out each week, the Premier League doesn't do enough to foster young English talent. Only 37 percent of the players are homegrown.
Consider these statistics from the Premier League's own website:
"There are currently over 337 foreign players registered and eligible to play in the Barclays Premier League. The total number of countries represented is 66."

Look at DIE NATIONALMANNSCHAFT in comparison. The vast majority play in the BUNDESLIGA.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Funny Pavement video helps lift spirits

LORELEI the cat is sick and the USA lost to GHANA, so I needed a laugh this evening.
"Painted Soldiers" is a non-album track by SCOTT "SPIRAL STAIRS" KANNBERG.
In the video, he fires the remainder of the band members and replaces them with the female-fronted band VERUCA SALT.
It's one of the funniest music videos I have ever seen (although I am biased, I adore Pavement).
Here's how Kannberg fires the band:
Bob Nastanovich -- given a message while watching a horse race.
Scott West -- sent a video tape of Kannberg tearing up his contract. Strangely, West sits in a recliner surrounded by kids who sob when he's fired.
Mark Ibold -- after threatening a woman (Ibold appears to be a greasy pimp character), he notices the news of his firing scrolling across an illuminated sign.
Stephen Malkmus -- is driving in a red sports car when he receives a fax that reads "You're fired." Malkmus then phones an ambulance that pulls up behind his sports car and takes him away.
Kannberg then directs the new members of Pavement (Veruca Salt) with a megaphone.
The video is goofy and provided much needed relief on a rather depressing day. You can see the video yourself by clicking here.
Get well soon, Lorelei.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Boredom Booooooooredom

Welcome to ROUTE 1, you window into the world of BOREDOM.
Hang on, that didn't sound right. Let me try again.

Welcome to ROUTE 1, offering you a taste of extreme BOREDOM.

No, no, no, no, no...

What we mean to say is:

Readers share their descents into BOREDOM by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What is the most boring thing you have done?"

BEKAH P. -- In honor of your recent jury duty stint, I will recall the time that I had to sit and listen to an expert witness explain for FOUR HOURS how she collected DNA off a hammer. You'd think it'd be fascinating, since that hammer actually killed a little girl, but it was the most un-riveting, coma-inducing testimony ever!!!

JIM S. -- I would sit in my back yard and meticulously pull creeping Charlie for as long as an hour. A CD would be on the player (no iPods yet) and, on a cool evening, it would be very relaxing. It also was therapeutic because it helped take my mind off some serious family challenges at the time. But most people would consider it very boring.

ANNIKA H. -- Sit.

SANDYE V. -- That would be the summer I worked on a factory assembly line in 90 degree heat, putting brass pins into wooden blocks to make data entry cards. The brass pins were in a huge pile in front of me. I felt like the Miller's daughter who had to spin straw into gold. I did that eight hours a day for half a summer. Then was switched to an air conditioned room where we filed the fuzzy ends of rubber grommets off with emery boards dipped in acetone (hence the air conditioner).

RICK T. -- Drive across Nebraska in the daytime.

KERSTIN H. -- Waiting in a waiting room.

MIKE D. -- While my college economics and philosophy of religion classes were hard to beat for boredom, the Bob the Builder stage show that my family attended last year literally put me to sleep.

ERIK H. -- I recently sat in a jury room with my fellow jurors (but with nothing to read and no iPod) while the prosecution and the defendants in a trial hammered out the details of a plea agreement.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In praise of the lowly jug

Somebody in the band had a guitar or perhaps a banjo or a fiddle. Another guy might have had a harmonica or a kazoo.
The rest of the ad hoc JUG BAND orchestra included such common household items as washboards, tubs and of course, jugs.
I have been listening to some jug-band blues music from the 1920s while driving around today.
"A great deal of the jug bands was due to the homemade, almost improvised nature of the instruments," wrote critic Richie Unterberger. "There were kazoos, washboards, washtubs, spoons and all manner of percussion produced by items more commonly associated with work tools or playthings, like jugs, but also pipes, pans and more. Even the relatively conventional instruments, like the fiddles and guitars, were sometimes made from scap materials, like cigar boxes."
Songs such as "New Minglewood Blues," "On the Road Again," "Walk Right In" and "Stealin' Stealin'" became standards and much-covered tunes, particularly by the back-to-the-basics proto roots bands of the 1960s, such as The Grateful Dead.
"The jug bands were a tribute to the ingenuity shown by impoverished rural blacks in expressing themselves musically on whatever they found at hand" wrote Francis Davis in "The History of the Blues."
I love these songs because they are so catchy, and their old-time sound seems so unique to my modern music sensibilities.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Girlschool and the morning's spectacular storm

Now I remember why I always associate SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS with HEAVY METAL.
A storm wielding 70 mph wind gusts, torrential rain (an inch in 30 minutes) and a dazzling lightning display shook the tri-state area awake at approximately 4:20 a.m. today, and all I could think about was wailing guitar and head-thumping drums.

I am listening to GIRLSCHOOL now, a few hours after the rude and raucous awakening.

I remember Enid Williams, Kim McAuliffe, Denise Dufort and the late great Kelly Johnson terrifying me as a youngster, thumbing through imported issues of KERRANG magazine.

Girlschool proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that girls could rock just as well -- if not better -- than the boys.

They also provide an appropriate musical backing for a memorable storm.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A little Wodehouse for the weary juror

I wanted a little fun after completing my JURY DUTY obligations yesterday, I settled down last night with the short story "THE LOVE THAT PURIFIES," a 1929 JEEVES & WOOSTER tale by P.G. WODEHOUSE.
It's a complicated but funny tale that finds Bertie Wooster in the midst of a competition between two young fiends attempting to be good.

When he learns his Aunt Dahlia has invited his troublesome cousin Thomas into her country home, Wooster says:

"Do you realize what you've taken on? Have you an inkling of the sort of scourge you've introduced into your home? In the society of young Thomas, strong man quail. He is England's premier fiend in human shape. There is no devilry beyond his scope."

I love reading Wodehouse. His way with words is masterful and inspiring to a humble writer such as myself.

I wish I would have brought that book along to jury duty!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Freshies leader, Frank Sidebottom creator passes away

Not only did I miss watching the WORLD CUP matches because of today's JURY DUTY, but I also missed hearing about the passing of one of my musical heroes.
CHRIS SIEVEY, 54, died at home, recovering from cancer surgery. He is known to millions of Britons as the creator of FRANK SIDEBOTTOM, a bulbous-headed "pop star" who made numerous television, radio and live appearances.

I first heard Sievey in his previous incarnation, as the leader of Manchester band THE FRESHIES and their brilliant single, "I'm in Love With a Girl on a Certain Manchester Megastore Check-Out Desk" (it was originally titled "I'm in Love With the Girl on the Manchester Virgin Megastore Check-Out Desk").

Combining a sly dig at record labels turning down his band with one of the catchiest tunes I had ever heard, the song has been stuck in my head for decades. It's that good.

Click on the FOOTBALL AND MUSIC link on the right to read Webbie's tributes to Frank Sidebottom's football-related tunes.

It's a sad day for people who love music and love to laugh.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A famous Father's Day result

The only thing missing from this FATHER'S DAY is the proof of my fatherhood -- the girls are both gone today and the remainder of this week.
I've been listening to BLUES (including some great MEMPHIS JUG BAND tunes from the 1920s) and watching the WORLD CUP.
NEW ZEALAND just famously held ITALY to a 1-1 draw.
I remember 1982, when the All Whites were beaten by Scotland (5-2), the Soviet Union (3-0) and Brazil (4-0).
Now, 28 years later, New Zealand have held the defending World Champions. New Zealand has no professional league and the only professional club plays in the Australian league. Andy Barron, New Zealand's final substitute, works in a bank and had to get time off work just to accompany his teammates to South Africa.
It was a memorable match and made me smile on a childless Father's Day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jukebox king helps me smile today

I am stuck working on the only BEAUTIFUL DAY of the weekend (forecasters have called for heavy rain tomorrow) and the WORLD CUP results have left me feeling a bit frustrated, so I decided to brighten my day by listening to the bandleader so popular they called him "THE KING OF THE JUKEBOX."
LOUIS JORDAN scored at least four million-selling hits during the peak of his career in the late 1940s and early 1950s and after listening today, I find his pioneering music defies easy categorization.
Although Jordan is included in my "Rough Guide to the Blues" book, his music sounds much more refined than blues. It's a little too streamlined for jazz, too.
Instead, Jordan's hits such as "Caldonia" and "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" serve as a template for early rhythm and blues while planting some of the first seeds of rock 'n' roll.
I hear Jordan songs such as "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" and "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate" and I can't help but smile.
Even though I am stuck inside the office on a beautiful day and ENGLAND are playing crap football.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rainy days and Friday Questions always make me _____.

DUBUQUE, the home of ROUTE 1 H.Q., has received at least a trace of rain on 13 of the past 16 days, so we know a thing or two about precipitation (like, how we're getting tired of it).
Here, readers reveal some of what they know about rain by answering the following fill-in-the-blank FRIDAY QUESTION:

"I ______ rain because it __________________."

SANDYE V. -- I like the rain (within limits) because it makes my garden grow and it smells lovely.

JEFF T. -- I enjoy rain because it hardly ever happens in Nevada!

SASKIA M. -- I like rain because it brings relief when it's hot outside and because it sounds so calming when I lay down to go to sleep.

RICK T. -- I love rain because it washes my car.

KERSTIN H. -- I like rain because it smells good and I like to read when it rains.

KERI M. -- I love rain because it cleanses and it smells so fresh.

JOHN S. -- I love rain because it cleans everything.

CLINT A. -- I hate the rain because it will not stop!

ANNIKA H. -- I love rain because it makes me happy and sells good.

STEVE M. -- I love rain because it makes me want to hole up inside with a good book or movie.

ERIK H. -- I generally like rain because it washes the world. I'm not too crazy about it if I have left my umbrella at home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I think I could manage Argentina

I've decided it doesn't matter if Diego Maradona doesn't really know how to manage ARGENTINA at the WORLD CUP.
Based on the team's 4-1 victory over SOUTH KOREA, I think *I* could manage the team.
Here is how:
"Messi, pass the ball to Higuain."
Argentina made it look that easy against the Koreans, who are a rather good team.
Almost every time "la Selección" moved forward, they looked more than capable of scoring.
That was a refreshing change from what seems to have become standard at this World Cup -- teams giving just enough to win by the merest necessary margin. Argentina loses a bit of focus in defence (e.g., Martin Demichelis gifting the Koreans a goal), but if they continue trying to outscore the opposition, they'll be a joy to watch the rest of the competition.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dream says: Listen to Sparks

I don't take much stock in messages from DREAMS, but when I dreamt about listening to SPARKS overnight, I thought it couldn't hurt to put the band's classic 1974 album "KIMONO MY HOUSE" into the car stereo en route to work.
The album's first two tracks -- "THIS TOWN AIN'T BIG ENOUGH FOR BOTH OF US" and "AMATEUR HOUR" -- were also the two singles released by Island.
Listening to these two gems always brings a smile to my face.
Add those songs to today's BRIGHT BLUE SKIES that finally put an end to a string of rainy, dreary days, and I had plenty of reason to smile.
Sometimes, it's a good idea to follow the advice of your dreams.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Hup Holland Hup" -- It's more common than you think

Growing up in Concord, Calif., I'm pretty sure I was the only kid with a FEYENOORD replica jersey, and in college I know I was the only person with a bright orange hat featuring the Dutch soccer chant "AANVALLUH!"
Thanks to family and friends in HOLLAND, mementos of DUTCH SOCCER have never been far away. These constant reminders mean I have always had a soft spot for the ORANJE -- the Dutch national soccer team.
It also didn't hurt that I visited the nation right after finishing middle school.
I watched Holland defeat Denmark, 2-0, in a televised WORLD CUP match yesterday.
Besides seeing old favorites such as Robin Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt, it was fun to see some of the country's younger generation of players -- Ibrahim Afellay and Eljero Elia.
Holland have always served as my "second team" during the major competitions.
This year, they'll be relegated to my third team, as I lend greater support to England at the U.S.
Something tells me I'll be cheering longer for the Dutch than the other two teams this time around.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Time for some Maiden

It wouldn't stop RAINING and the girls wouldn't stop FIGHTING, so after I dropped them off at their grandfather's house this morning, I cranked up the IRON MAIDEN for the drive home.
I was in the mood for some histrionic vocals and searing guitars, so I popped "THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST" into the car CD player.
I like the one-two punch of "The Prisoner" and "22 Acacia Avenue."
A little head-banging went a long way toward dissipating any aggression that came from parenting a pair of snarling girls.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The sound of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bees

Can you imagine if fans blew VUVUZELAS at tennis matches or golf tournaments?
Or during book discussions at local libraries? Or during political debates?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tell that "joke" to an oil-soaked pelican

The most heinous "joke" I have seen in the British media in the aftermath of goalkeeper ROBERT GREEN'S goalkeeping mistake in ENGLAND'S 1-1 draw with the USA appeared on the website of the DAILY MIRROR.
"That's one British spill the Americans won't be complaining about."
Actually, England could have overcome Green's flub if they had played up to their potential. Consider these unanswered questions from today:
Where was Frank Lampard for lengthy stretches of the match?
Why were James Milner and Ledley King starting if neither was fully match fit, as appeared to be the case following their early withdrawals?
Couldn't the midfielders have played higher up the pitch, perhaps providing super striker Wayne Rooney with more ammunition?
Clearly, Green is not the only one to blame for England's performance.
Indeed, give some credit where credit is due: The USA has improved immensely on the international stage.
At the time of the draw, I remember a pundit predicting that England v. USA would present itself as a tightly fought Premier League encounter. That's exactly what transpired.
In several phases of the game, the USA proved themselves more than capable of keeping up with England.
So keep your oil spill jokes to yourselves, tabloids, and look for answers to help solve England's problems.
They go beyond a goalkeeper letting a shot slip through his fingers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Now *THAT* would be a smart phone!"

That was the sound of ROUTE1's SMARTPHONE waking us up 20 minutes ago. It's a nice little feature called "WAKE US UP 20 MINUTES BEFORE FRIDAY QUESTION TIME."

What are some features our readers would add if they could add any feature to a smartphone? Hmmm...

BEKAH P. -- One that did my actual job for me, therefore allowing me to stay home and watch M*A*S*H reruns.

ANNIKA H. -- Nothing.

SANDYE V. -- An automatic shut-off valve for people who annoy others with their loud and invariably long cell phone conversations in public places. Now that would be a smart phone.

LAURA C. -- I haven't got a smartphone, but Pete has an iPhone, and he would like to add the ability to make and receive calls.

INGER H. -- One feature I would love to see added to my beloved iPhone would be data beaming... how awesome would it be to be able to just send a picture or a note from one device to another wirelessly, there would be a lot of games you could create using that as well... oddly, there are some devices out there that do that, but none of the biggies. Maybe the implementations are still too kludgey or buggy, maybe its a concern about security, not sure.

KERI M. -- Walkie Talkie.

KERSTIN H. -- Where's Robert Pattinson right now.

MIKE M. -- Telephony doesn't excite me, but I'd be thrilled if the iPod Touch had a camera.

CLINT A. -- Autopilot, to drive me home when I am too tired to drive.

ERIK H. -- Whenever the girls called during one of their epic fights about who has to wash the dishes, I would tap an icon and hear nothing but delightful birdsong -- the delightful chirping of happy birds.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Mistaken Time Zone Blues

Take a top-notch, swingin' big band and substitute the soloist horn player with a laid-back, guitar-lick-inventing blues singer.
That's probably the best way to describe the 1940s and early 1950s sound of the magnificent T-BONE WALKER.
I have been listening to Walker's classic "WEST COAST BLUES" sound while driving around on a fantastically beautiful day.
I love this type of music. I hear it and my mind conjures images of warm nights and swanky nightclubs in Los Angeles, circa 1948.
One song jarred my blues reverie this afternoon, probably because I have been listening a little too closely.
"Well, the clock is strikin' 12, somebody's got to go," Walker sings on the song "MIDNIGHT BLUES (a.k.a MIDNIGHT IN MEMPHIS)."
Walker sings:
"When it's 12 o'clock in Memphis, it's one o'clock in San Antone. When it's midnight in California, I'll be so all alone."
Walker might be right when it comes to being along when it's midnight in California, but he's mistaken about Memphis and San Antonio -- they are both in the Central Time Zone!
"Midnight is an awful hour, why does it come so soon," Walker sings. "It never brings me happ'ness, it always leave me filled with gloom."
I'm sorry, T-Bone, but when I heard the mix-up on non-existent time difference between Memphis and San Antonio, I was filled with anything but gloom.
I LOL'd.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Strasburg lives up to first-game hype

STEPHEN STRASBURG made his Major-League debut tonight, and the WASHINGTON NATIONALS' pitching phenom did not disappoint.
I listened on 1500 AM WFED (via as the right-hander pitched seven innings, striking out 14 -- including the final seven in a row -- as the Nationals beat the PIRATES, 5-2.
Glancing at the newsroom TVs today, it was difficult to escape seeing the hype generated by Strasburg's debut.
The 21-year-old San Diego native starred at San Diego State and in the Olympics before being drafted first overall by Washington in the 2008 draft.
This year, Strasburg's Triple-A starts made the sports highlight shows, so it was inevitable that his big-league debut would generate a buzz.
Listening to Strasburg make easy work of Pittsburgh, I thought that his performance provided one of those rare instances of the occasion matching the anticipation.
"And a curly W is in the books" is Nats' announcer Charlie Slowes' signature victory call. He made that call tonight, thanks in large part to Strasburg's outstanding pitching performance.

Monday, June 07, 2010

I'm thankful he didn't stick with rock

I just felt like listening to some GEORGE JONES this morning. Early Jones -- stuff like "Cup of Loneliness," "Color of the Blues" and "You're Still on My Mind," but also the funny stuff, such as "White Lightning."
I spent yesterday loading COUNTRY music onto my new iPod, and I guess I felt like taking some of the classics out for a spin.
I have heard some earlier Jones -- rockabilly songs -- and I wondered today what his career would have been like if he had continued in that vein, rather than the pure country that made his name.
Driving around today, I was glad Jones stuck with the country style.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Not too tired to enjoy this moment

We're all tired. No, check that: We're all EXHAUSTED.
I slept four hours overnight and Jill and the girls stayed up until past dawn -- all because of last night's RELAY FOR LIFE fundraising event. Jill served as the chairwoman for the annual AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY event, so we were all busy.

I spent today (when I wasn't sleeping), listening to the live BOB DYLAN album from 1964 (part of the bootleg series reissue series). Chronicling the Halloween concert at New York's Philharmonic Hall, this double-disc set also includes what might be my favorite Dylan moment.

"This is called, 'A Sacrilegious Lullaby in D Minor,'" Dylan announces before launching only the second public performance of "GATES OF EDEN."

The audience, expecting the familiar protest singer Dylan, instead experience Dylan reaching beyond the topical. The audience sits completely silent -- hopefully more in rapt attention than dumbfounded shock.

British singer-songwriter Marc Carroll once called "Gates of Eden" a song "so powerful it's actually unsettling."

I imagine some in the crowd that night in 1964 were unsettled indeed by this new Dylan.

I love that moment.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Plenty of good pet peeves still available

ROUTE1'S current PET PEEVE is people who steal wallets containing London transport cards from fitness center locker rooms.
Don't have your own pet peeve? Fear not:
This week, readers prove there are plenty of good pet peeves still available by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
JEFF T. -- People having other conversations while on the phone with me, or worse, people having a phone conversation while having a live conversation with me!

BEKAH P. -- People using the microwave for 55 of the 60 seconds and then forgetting to push the "Clear" button.

LAURA C. -- There are so, so many! How can I pick just one? Well, here's one of my most frequently experienced: When people stand still in an area that is clearly meant for movement, such as in the doorway of an office building, or at the top of an escalator. Move people! MOVE! I don't want to run roughshod over you, but I will if I have to.

RICK T. -- Having to explain myself, over and over!

BRIAN C. -- Being asked to name pet peeves. Actually, it's people who sit in their parked vehicles in fire lanes outside a supermarket or other store while a companion shops inside.

JIM S. -- Just one! OK. People who talk on their cell phones while driving, don't use their signals, cruise through stop signs and hog two places when they park.

INGER H. -- The way the garbage men leave our street strewn with bits of recycling trash every Monday. Grrr.

SANDYE V. -- My pet peeve is the excruciating, mumbled voicemail message -- especially the call-back number. They ramble on and on, forcing you to listen to it multiple times, trying to make sense of it. I hate that!

MIKE D. -- Just one?! OK, smokers who flick their butts out of their car windows. It's wrong on so many levels.

CLINT A. -- People that drive 10-15 miles an hour below the speed limit. This happens frequently near the shores of Lake Superior where there are plenty of turnoff observation points if one would like to stare at the lake for an extended period of time. No, it is much easier to become a traffic hazard and congest the road. I now have to leave an extra 15 minutes to get to work on time now that it is tourist season here. Oh, I am not bitter about this one. . .

KERSTIN H. -- When people start singing and there's no music or anything.

KERI M. -- People who talk during staff meetings.

BRIAN M. -- This one's easy. People who run red lights. Can't SOMEONE respect the natural give-and-take of traffic flow? What makes one person's agenda so much more than other people's that he has to risk himself and others to run a red light?

ERIK H. -- Besides the aforementioned wallet thieving, among my pet peeves is people who don't understand that a blinking red stoplight is equivalent to a stop sign. I've seen drivers pass through the intersection without pausing, like the blinking red light meant "green," and I've seen cars remain rooted to the spot with no other cars in the intersection, as if the blinking red light meant "permanent stop."

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Aussie music again and again and again

Ironically, I was planning to add AUSTRALIAN MUSIC to my iPod *before* I learnt I would be traveling DOWN UNDER in a couple months.
Now that I know, listening to Australian music has become yet another (No. 3,145,984 to be exact) of my obsessions.

Today, I listened to some discs of the box set, "AUSTRALIA'S ULTIMATE SONGS."

Some of these Antipodean classics appeared on American radio, but not all.
I don't remember hearing "Way Out West" by The Dingoes or "Father's Day" by Weddings, Parties, Anything on stateside radios.
It made for fun listening.

By this afternoon, clouds cleared over DUBUQUE and the bright blue skies marked the music I was hearing.

As a side note, interested persons (there have to be at least a couple, right?) can check out my new, Australian-trip related blog, the appropriately titled "FETCH ME MY VEGEMITE."

You'll find it on the links list on the right of the page. I plan on chronicling my preparations for Australia as well as my experiences once I arrive in August.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Errol and the dreamlike moment

It was one of those strange moments in life that seem scripted.
Having loaded blues, jazz and reggae onto my IPOD, I turned to the other "warm weather music" and began loading AUSTRALIAN music yesterday morning.

Having added the great band AUSTRALIAN CRAWL, I was listening to their greatest hits while driving around yesterday. I was heading to home for lunch while "ERROL," the Crawl's tribute to Down Under film icon Errol Flynn, when I pulled up to the house.

JILL was there (unusual for a lunch hour) and she asked to borrow my smartphone so she could video something.

She handed me a letter from my sister INGER... and the rest is really a blur.

I remember staring at the words uncomprehendingly while my hands shook.

The letter informed me my wife, sister and mom were combining resources so I can accompany Inger to Australia in August.
What? Australia? Me?

The news still hasn't hit me, but I do know I'll always associate "Errol" with a dreamlike, rather surreal and definitely surprising moment in my life.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ionicus and the perfect summertime read

Primarily because this 1966 collection of essays focuses solely on the summer sport for the rest of the English-speaking world.

Secondarily because it does what it infers in the title: It always puts me to sleep when I am reading it!

I picked up the book for £1 in a used bookshop in NOTTING HILL GATE on the final day of my New Year's trip to LONDON.

Although I perused the book then, I began reading it in earnest yesterday afternoon -- after listening to ENGLAND'S victory over BANGLADESH earlier in the day. (I might add that reading the book yesterday afternoon immediately triggered a lengthy nap.)

The stories are great, but so too are the illustrations by IONICUS.

Ionicus was the pen name of Joshua Armitage (1913-1998), a renowned English illustrator whose work appeared in more than 400 books, including the covers for a wide range of Penguin editions of P. G. Wodehouse.

These illustrations probably wouldn't appear in a modern book about cricket, but they lend an air of stately tradition to this 44-year-old collection.

On a summer afternoon or evening, it makes for perfect snoozing -- I mean, reading.