Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Smalltown Boy" seems like a message from a darker era

The BRONSKI BEAT smash hit "SMALLTOWN BOY" is playing on the CHRIS EVANS BREAKFAST SHOW on BBC RADIO 2 as I type this sentence.
I remember it for the striking video, featuring vocalist JIMMY SOMERVILLE trying to connect with men at a swimming pool, only to be attacked later by an anti-homosexual gang.

The music video's subject matter was fresh at the time -- these tales weren't told often on American television in the early 1980s.

Now, television programs routinely feature homosexual characters. I know homophobic attacks persist in our society, but there are stronger laws against them now, and a raised awareness of the problem.

"Smalltown Boy," although a beautiful song, seems like a reminder of a darker era.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Alouettes take the title again

I slept through last year's GREY CUP heartbreak for the SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS, dozing in front of the television while LES ALOUETTES DE MONTRÉAL rallied to win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Sasketchewan was then called for having two many men on the field, negating what would have been the game-winning field goal.
That was last year.
I was wide awake during this year's 98th edition of the Cup, once again won by Montréal.

Quarterback Anthony Calvillo passed for 336 yards last night to lead Montréal to a 21-18 win over my favorite team, the Roughriders.

After the game, Calvillo announced he has been playing this season with a lesion on his thyroid that needs to be removed.

The Riders' offence never got going in last night's CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE decider, and quarterback Darian Durant threw a last-minute interception to derail a potential fourth-quarter rally.

I'm glad I remained awake, however, so I could enjoy the spectacle of the northern version of the Super Bowl.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sparks fly from this record

MELVIN SPARKS illuminates every record I hear with him featured, if you'll pardon the pun.
I've liked the jazz guitarist since hearing him on a pair of LONNIE SMITH classic albums, "Think!" and "Turning Point."

Now, I'm listening to him on LOU DONALDSON'S 1970 album "EVERYTHING I PLAY IS FUNKY" (which coincidentally also includes organist Smith).

Sparks was 11 when he began playing guitar and the Houston native was 13 when he sat in with B.B. King. After backing numerous R&B acts, Sparks became an in-demand player on the soul-jazz scene of the late 1960s.

Moments of brilliance leap out of the records that featured Sparks. His solo on the Donaldson tune "Donkey Walk" is particularly enjoyable, and seems to provide a template for funk guitarists to follow later in the decade.
I enjoy hearing him whenever I get the chance.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Builders of Dams, meet the Wings of Steel

Darron Thomas passed for three touchdowns and ran for another last night as MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS rallied to defeat Arizona, 48-29, in college football action.
I'm telling you this result because college football fans are (rightly) consumed by last night's amazing upset of Boise State by the NEVADA WOLF PACK, and probably didn't bother to check the Ducks' score.

It now appears just one game stands in the way of an Oregon trip to the National Championship Game (believe me, it's just as bizarre typing that sentence as it is to read it). That one remaining game happens to be the 114th CIVIL WAR against the DANGED OL' BEAVERS.

I've told friends for months that I never expected Oregon to remain undefeated throughout this football season, and my TERMINAL SPORTS PESSIMISM (still intact, although badly damaged by the Giants' World Series victory) produces the haunting vision of the aforementioned D.O.B. shattering the Ducks' title chasing dreams down in beautiful OFF-BRAND POTATO SALAD MANUFACTURER'S STADIUM®, located somewhere southwest of Albany, Ore.

The dreaded D.O.B. just might provide a nightmare ending for Oregon, but the Builders of Dams will have to get past the WINGS OF STEEL first.

By "Wings of Steel" I am referring to the Oregon Duck mascot, who traditionally performs as many push-ups as Oregon has points after each U.O. score.

Last night, the Duck passed a milestone by completing his 2,500th push-up of the season.
He's now completed 2,636 push-ups during top-ranked Oregon's football games.

So yeah, the D.O.B. might spring a Civil War surprise next weekend, but they'll have to get past a steely armed, winged creature first.


Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but I actually rather like the Beavers, and cheer for them whenever they aren't playing Oregon.

However, I have a fun FACEBOOK shtick going in which I assume the mantle of arch Oregon State antagonist. I play it for my OSU alumni friends.

It serves an important role: What's a rivalry without a little spice?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Route 1 readers thankful for...

ROUTE 1 didn't overeat yesterday and even got to bed at a decent hour.
We knew we had a busy "BLACK FRIDAY," beginning with recording the answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What do you have to be thankful for this year?"

MIKE D. -- All of the fun times that my family has shared this year: Among them were a fishing vacation in Wisconsin, seeing a (rare) 15-3 Cubs victory at Wrigley field, my son's team's Independent League championship and my boys and I greeting my wife as she finished the last leg of RAGBRAI. (And all of the aforementioned happened within a three-week period.)

ANNIKA H. -- My family.

ELLEN B. -- Health, family and great friends.

BEKAH P. -- That last year at this time, I had the opportunity to spend unlimited time with my grandfather before he passed away in December. Previously, my job(s) kept me from spending all hours with my family. But I entered my self-imposed sabbatical at exactly the right time last year, and I was able to create some fantastic memories with my beloved g-pa before he passed. Thankful doesn't even begin to cover how I feel...

BRIAN C. -- The arrival of a new granddaughter, marriage of our younger daughter (unrelated to the first item, by the way), and our younger son securing a better job (and moving closer to home).

KERI M. -- My family, my love and our new house.

RICK T. -- Having a great life. My wife, family and friends. And playing good old country music.

ERIK H. -- I am thankful for my family and that I was able to see the Giants win the World Series during their San Francisco era -- something my late grandmother (who taught me to be a Giants' fan) never had an opportunity to do.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Best-written ROUTE 1 post of all time

Happy THANKSGIVING everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Three cheers for tedium!

It can drift past like a cloud and edge forward like the shade of a tree -- its meandering tempo broken only occasionally by violent action akin to a thunderstorm's squall.
CRICKET boasts a rhythm perfectly matched to summer.

For the uninitiated, this rhythm might be mistaken for tedium. Most traditional cricket enthusiasts defend their sport's lack of pace.

The late cricket journalist RON ROBERTS, wrote in an essay published in 1966:

"The game would cease to be cricket, with its natural ebb and flow, if sustained at a concert pitch of excitement."

I laughed when I first read that line. I thought: Three cheers for tedium!
Later, Roberts' assertion began to make sense. You wouldn't want summer to slip past in a blur, would you? Then why would you want the quintessential summer sport to speed away?

I think of baseball as occupying spring, summer and (especially this season -- GO GIANTS!) fall.

Cricket belongs solely to the lazy days of summer.

My second summer starts tonight (our time) in Brisbane, with the launch of this year's ASHES SERIES -- the ancient cricket rivalry between ENGLAND and AUSTRALIA.

Although I have followed cricket since a 1980 trip to Europe, I have never been as excited for the beginning of an Ashes series, for two principal reasons:

1. I have actually seen the Ashes -- the tiny urn representative of the rivalry. The urn is encased in glass at LORD'S CRICKET GROUND, which my sister Inger and I toured.

2. For the first time, I have visited both of the nations involved in the rivalry, following my August trip to SYDNEY.

I'll listen to the cricket on the online radio and check the scores every evening. The temperatures will drop below freezing here, but the game will provide a slice of summer for me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Watching Lorraine

I once again turned to the escapism offered by the movies after struggling through a rough day at work yesterday.
I watched the MARTIN SCORSESE film, "GOODFELLAS," which I hadn't seen in what seemed like ages.

If you watch a film enough times, you can indulge yourself in appreciating the film's details without fear of losing touch with the plot.

Last night, I paid closer attention to
LORRAINE BRACCO as she portrayed Karen Hill.
Her importance to the film becomes evident: Scorsese utilizes her voiceover narration for certain scenes -- instead of the Henry Hill character.

Bracco earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and we see her character progress from pride and elation of her lifestyle to outrage over her husband's infidelity, before entering a drug-fueled madness toward the film's conclusion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"If the people don't get on the floor, you're fired"

I put together a playlist of my LOU DONALDSON songs. I'm hoping his music can help propel me through what figures to be a busy work week.
Donaldson was an altoist in the Charlie Parker tradition whose style broadened in the late 1950s to become more blues-based and soulful.

His tracks became popular on jukeboxes, and he never lost sight of what he felt was his true calling.

Mark Anthony Neal's book, "WHAT THE MUSIC SAID: BLACK POPULAR MUSIC AND BLACK PUBLIC CULTURE" includes a statement by Donaldson in which the musician acknowledges the power of syncopated rhythms:

"That's the way jazz is supposed to be played. People got the wrong concept about what jazz is. Jazz is not running through a lot of notes and stuff. That's not jazz. What they call funk, that's not funk, that's jazz music. See, when I was a kid, all the jazz bands played for dancing. That's all they played for. When we play that style of music, it's to make people dance. Put a beat in there to make people get on the floor. Because, you get in these clubs and the cats say, well man, if the people don't get on the floor, you're fired."

I'm hopeful the Donaldson beat helps me race toward the finish line of my busy week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A hoops highlight from the Dons

I came home from work last night and watched one of the most exciting COLLEGE BASKETBALL games I have seen in years.
In a scene reminiscent of the 1993 NCAA Men's College Basketball Final between North Carolina and Michigan, COLORADO player Cory Higgins attempted to call timeout after Rashad Green of SAN FRANCISCO scored to tie the game, 81-81, with 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime.

The visiting Buffaloes did not have a timeout to call, however, and officials assessed a technical foul on the play.

The Dons' Michael Williams sank both free throws, and San Francisco had defeated Colorado, 83-81.
The teams had traded leads throughout the game, and USF led by six with 1:43 remaining in overtime before Colorado stormed back to take a brief lead.

I've liked University of San Francisco basketball since childhood -- my cousin Steve was a high-school classmate of future Dons and Bulls star Bill Cartwright at Elk Grove, Calif.

The Dons' legacy also includes a pair of national titles in the 1950s, when the school boasted hoops legends Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.

The current crop of Dons is among the youngest in contemporary college basketball. San Francisco has nine true freshmen on the roster. But the Dons have a good coach in former Kansas star Rex Walters, and their youthful exuberance makes them a joy to watch on the basketball court.

I plan on watching more Dons' games this season. After last night, I know you never know what you might see.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Spurs write another chapter

Rafael van der Vaart swung a free kick into the box, Younes Kaboul flicked the ball into the corner of the goal with his head, and suddenly TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR had written another chapter in the storied NORTH LONDON DERBY by coming from two goals behind to win, 3-2, at ARSENAL.
I watched today's game on TV, hours before I head to work. If I have to work on a Saturday, at least I could watch an intriguing football match, too.

The Gunners opened the scoring with Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh getting first-half goals.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp made some half-time adjustments, including bringing on Jermain Defoe for Aaron Lennon, and Tottenham genuinely seemed like a changed team in the second half.

Gareth Bale and van der Vaart (with a penalty) scored the goals to get Spurs back in the game and set the stage for Kaboul's late heroics.

It was the type of spectacle that keeps me coming back to this wonderful sport.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Movies: More fun than dreams (in some cases)

Here at ROUTE 1, our two most recent dreams involved:
1. MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS losing a football game while playing in a parking garage.

2. Me trying to hide in my own house while my daughters hosted a slumber party.

Actually, I think No. 2 might have happened in real life.

Regardless, we think it's time to turn our attention from the subconscious to the cinematic.
Readers help by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:

"Seen any good movies lately?"

DAVE B. -- "Two Mules for Sister Sara."

BRIAN C. -- We hardly see ANY movies. However, we did rent "Leap Year," a light film along the lines of "You've Got Mail" and "When Harry Met Sally" and those where the principals are not a couple and initially don't get along -- and then things change. Set in Ireland, so interesting scenes.
BEKAH P. -- I don't know if this would classify as "good" by any means, but I did recently watch "Red," the action flick with all the older actors who were retired hit men and women. It was pretty funny. But, of course, I am saving up all my movie-going-energy for the big one this week! (The newest first half of the final Harry Potter installment, for any of you living under a rock.)
KERSTIN H. -- "Dear John." It was alright.

JIM S. -- Of course (and bad ones, too). I strongly recommend "Waiting for Superman." It's a documentary about today's troubled schools and the teacher's union. Powerful and Academy Award-worthy.

STEVE M. -- "A Few Good Men." ...again.

KERI M. -- "Social Network" was pretty good.

ANNIKA H. -- No, 'cause you won't take me to the movies.

JOHN S. -- "Megamind" is very funny!

ERIK H. -- I was left feeling angry, frustrated, saddened and horrified after watching Davis Guggenheim's "Waiting for Superman," a documentary about the failures of American public education. It was a good movie. What kept it from attaining "great" status? I left the cinema wanting more specifics. Most public schools are lacking, we learned, and certain specific charter and magnet schools are doing well. Why? What are these more exclusive schools doing that sets them so far apart. Is it only their exclusivity? Then we can't all follow their example now, can we? There are many mediocre teachers, we learn, and only a handful of "great" teachers who can lead our children out of this educational mess we're in. So, what do these teachers specifically do that makes them great? You won't necessarily find out by watching "Waiting for Superman."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Canada's Sam & Dave" keep it warm in the cold

My feet are cold this morning, but I can't even imagine what "CANADA'S SAM & DAVE" thought when they first arrived in Toronto.
I've been listening to the fine compilation, "JAMAICA TO TORONTO: SOUL, FUNK & REGGAE, 1967-1974," which includes the track "I Believe in Music" by BOB AND WISDOM.

Jimmy Wisdom and Bob Williams were raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica, but were among the thousands of West Indians who migrated north to Canada in the 1960s.
Arriving in Ontario in 1968, the pair hit the Great White North's soul scene and earned the nickname "Canada's Sam & Dave."
They released their cover version of Mac Davis' "I Believe in Music" in 1972.
Hopefully by then, the pair had grown accustomed to the COLD WEATHER of their new home.
I know from listening that at least the music keeps you warm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Entertaining and enlightening

"ALMOST FAMOUS" is a rock movie, but it's also a film about journalism.
I watched the 2000 film by CAMERON CROWE last night on DVD.

Patrick Fugit plays William Miller, a Crowe-esque teenager who gains access to a band's tour so he can chronicle their exploits for Rolling Stone magazine.

On the surface, it appears the groupies, drugs and general rock debauchery are the biggest risks Miller faces. In fact, it's his growing friendship with lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) that poses the biggest threat.

"You cannot make friends with the rock stars," the mentoring rock critic Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) tells Miller at the beginning of the youngster's quest to become a journalist. "They are not your friends. These are people who want you to write sanctimonious stories about the genius of the rock stars, and they will ruin rock and roll and strangle everything we love about it."

As the band (the fictitious Stillwater) slowly finds itself immersed in the grip of corporate rock (adding a high-profile manager and a jet instead of a tour bus), so Miller finds himself becoming haunted by what he wants to do (strengthen his friendship with the band) and what he must do (record what is happening free of bias).

It was entertaining and enlightening watching "Almost Famous." I just can't believe the film is a decade old already.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The beauty of 'Sonatine'

Think about beautiful gangster films, and the first two "Godfather movies spring to mind. Add "SONATINE" to that list.
TAKESHI KITANO wrote, directed and stars in the yakuza film. I watched it yesterday.
Kitano portrays Aniki Murakawa, a Tokyo gang leader sent south to Okinawa by his crime syndicate bosses.
Murakawa and his hoods are being set up, so they retreat to a beach house after they survive a failed ambush attempt.
The film is gorgeous, with cinematographer Katsumi Yanagijima given free rein to use the sets like a canvas. Several of the scenes are more reminiscent of paintings than films.

"THE ROUGH GUIDE TO GANGSTER MOVIES" included "Sonatine" in its list of the 50 best films of the genre. That's pretty good company to keep, and "Sonatine" is an easy film to recommend.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Almost as fanciful as a theme park for penguins

I just woke up from a fanciful dream: I was employed by DISNEY and I was helping to develop a theme park in ANTARCTICA.
The job required a site visit, so I recall being in a dilapidated church in some remote community on the bottom of the world. Just before I awoke, I was back at Disney H.Q., in sun-drenched Southern California.
Here's something almost as fanciful:
Yesterday afternoon, I watched my first CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE game of the season on TV, and it was remarkable.

Jason Clermont caught a 24-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime series as the SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS beat the B.C. LIONS, 41-38, to advance to the Western Final against Calgary.

The playoff game was one of those seesaw affairs, with the visiting Lions holding an early lead, only for the hometown Riders to rally for two second-half touchdowns.

British Columbia had the ball but little hope as time expired in regulation.

Trailing by a touchdown, Lions' quarterback Travis Lulay heaved a Hail Mary pass into the end zone, where Emmanuel Arceneaux snared it with no time left on the clock. The conversion that followed sent the game into O.T.

The teams traded touchdowns in the first O.T. series (played similar to college overtime in the States), but the Riders held the Lions to a field goal in the second overtime series -- paving the way for the winning score.

The victory would have seemed like a dream to Clermont, a Regina, Sask., native who had been signed by his hometown Riders after being cut by the Lions in 2008.

I doubt there were any penguins for Clermont, however, which is how his dream differed from mine.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reevaluating Toto

I always gave TOTO a wide berth back in the day -- the band was a little too mainstream for my alternative tastes.
Now, I find myself listening to a few of the band's classic songs, such as "99," "Hold the Line" and "Rosanna" -- not really through any softening toward their MOR approach, but rather through a growing appreciation of Toto's principal songwriter, DAVID PAICH.

I have been listening to many songs co-written by Paich (the son of jazz performer and arranger Marty Paich) while enjoying my BOZ SCAGGS records.

Paich's contributions to Scaggs' canon include "What Can I Say," "Miss Sun," "It's Over," "Lowdown" and the majestic "Lido Shuffle," among others.

After being impressed by Paich's work with Scaggs, I decided to give some of the Toto songs another chance.

With pianist Paich, guitarist Steve Lukather and brothers drummer Jeff Porcaro and keyboardist Steve Porcaro, Toto was packed with great musicians who had made their names on numerous sessions around Los Angeles.
Allying these fine musicians with well-written songs was always going to be a winning combination, as it proved for Toto.

Lukather ("I Won't Hold You Back" and "I'll Be Over You") was also a composer of catchy tunes -- albeit of a softer rock variety.

I still prefer Scaggs to Toto -- there's more blues and soul there -- but I am finally willing to give the latter band their due, years later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The caffeinated, drunken world of 'Yaju No Seishun'

"YAJU NO SEISHUN (YOUTH OF THE BEAST)" is like an action film on caffeinated alcoholic beverages: It's a lightning-quick succession of guns, thugs and women, and it sometimes spins so far out of control you feel like blacking out.
I watched the 1963 SEIJUN SUZUKI film last night on DVD -- it's one of my absolute favorites.

Japanese film historian Chris Desjardins calls "Yaju No Seishun" "one of Suzuki's absolutely wildest" cinematic works.

In OUTLAW MASTERS OF JAPANESE FILM, Desjardins describes the film as:

"The tall tale of a maniacal tough guy (Jo Shishido) swaggering through squalid streets, surreal nightclubs and apartments, beating the hell out of anyone giving him lip. He infiltrates two gangs, playing one bunch off against the other, until midway through it's discovered he's an undercover cop, and thugs start tying him upside down to chandeliers and sticking sharp things under his fingernails."

It's a brilliantly garish film -- like a nightmare pressed in celluloid -- and watching it again made for a memorable film experience last night.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Get offa my lawn, danged kids

Kids today, I tell ya, with their long hair and tie-dyed shirts and their marijua-- whoops! Sorry about that! I picked up the 1967 notes by mistake.
Now then, ROUTE 1 readers show their "get-off-my-lawn" style by answering this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What current youth trend drives you CRAZY?"

JIM S. -- Ahhh, these damn kids with their Justin Beaver hair and pants hanging down to their knees, sex-texting each other all the time on their blueberries or whatever they call them damn things ... don't get me started.

BEKAH P. -- This is not so much a trend, but it drives me CRAZY that I am no longer "in" with the youth trends. Seriously, it was only about 2 years ago that I knew all the lingo. Now, the fact that I use words like "lingo" only goes to prove how out of touch I have become. When did this happen? Am I turning into my mother? *Sob*

MARY N.-P. -- Always looking down to text and not engaging the rest of the world face-to-face. It is changing the entire dynamics of human communication - just look around (God, I sound like a crabby old codger!!!)
DAVE B. -- When you correct your kid and all you hear back is "WOW Dad."

KERSTIN H. -- Sneakers and skinny jeans.

KERI M. -- Ages 11 to 15.

SANDYE V. -- Texting.

MIKE D. -- It would have to be either the obsession with cell phones and the like (especially while driving), or the drooping pants on the plumber-wannabes.

ERIK H. -- Their music that is increasingly avoids real human voices for auto-tuning and other computerized synthesis of voices. Singers are beginning to sound like robots. So, so not very G6.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What winter? It's almost time for cricket!

The weather is turning colder, so why I am starting to think about CRICKET again?
It's because we're only weeks away from the launch of this year's ASHES TESTS -- the matches between eternal rivers AUSTRALIA and ENGLAND.

This upcoming series is notable for me for two reasons:

1. INGER and I saw the Ashes Urn -- the symbol of supremacy between the two cricketing nations -- when we toured LORD'S CRICKET GROUND during our London visit.

2. This series marks the first Ashes in which I have visited both of the competing nations, having visited Sydney in August.

My growing interest (obsession?) means I'm frequently checking my Ashes history book and thumbing through my "CRICKETER'S BEDSIDE BOOK," re-reading its classic essays on the sport.

Let it snow, let the wind blow below freezing, let the winter sweep on through. I'll be in a warmer place -- at least in my mind. I'll be following the cricket.

Here are the beginning dates and venues for this year's Ashes series:

25 Nov. 2010 -- BRISBANE

3 Dec. 2010 -- ADELAIDE
16 Dec. 2010 -- PERTH
26 Dec. 2010 -- MELBOURNE
3 Jan. 2011 -- SYDNEY

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembering Q

QUINTIN DAILEY has died age 49, leaving a legacy of great BASKETBALL skills but also the demise of a great college basketball program.
I was in junior high school when Dailey starred for three seasons (1979-82) with the UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO DONS.
I've always loved the Dons -- one of their greatest centers, BILL CARTWRIGHT, went to high school with one of my cousins.

Dailey carried on in the tradition of great USF Dons' legends. He averaged 25.2 points per game in 1981-82 and was twice named West Coast Conference Player of the Year.

A star on the court, Dailey caused trouble off it.

He pleaded guilty to attempted assault of a USF nursing student in 1982 -- Dailey was originally accused of raping her -- and during the investigation into the crime, authorities discovered Dailey had received thousands of dollars during his collegiate playing career.

The scandal prompted the school's president to eliminate the basketball program -- a program that won two NCAA Championships and produced players the caliber of BILL RUSSELL and K.C. JONES.

The university began play again in 1986, but the basketball program has never recovered to the level of its previous glory -- supplanted by the likes of conference rivals Gonzaga.
Dailey played 10 seasons in the NBA for the Bulls, Clippers and Supersonics. He struggled with drugs, however, and his professional career never matched the potential evidenced by his college stardom.
News reports of Dailey's passing suggest he had turned his life around -- he was working for a Las Vegas community center when he died -- and one of my other cousins currently watches Dailey's son, also named Quintin Dailey, play for Eastern Michigan University.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Funky sounds for today

I'm listening to the nearly forgotten sounds of EAST ST. LOUIS, ILL., as I drive around today.
ALLAN MERRY and the SOUTH END NEIGHBORHOOD OPPORTUNITY CENTER created a record label to help keep kids off the streets in the late 1960s, and the the funk-soul-jazz collective that sprang up, the YOUNG DISCIPLES, is now immortalized on CD, thanks to the fantastic reissue label, NUMERO GROUP.

I guess my short work week (I am off Friday through Monday) has me feeling funky.
The "Young Disciples" compilation provides great accompaniment for that feeling

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Crystal Ship and smiles

"Oh, tell me where your freedom lies, the streets are fields that never die."
"THE CRYSTAL SHIP" provided the perfect accompaniment to my first sip of coffee this morning.

I'll admit it: I am only listening to THE DOORS today because of the feature on the band's first album in the latest issue of MOJO MAGAZINE.

I'm easily inspired like that. Ah well. "The Crystal Ship" is a fine song, reportedly a love song to Jim Morrison's first love, Mary Werbelow.

I don't know much about that aspect of the song. I do know it brought a smile to my face -- the second smile of the day.

The first time I smiled was when I realized I work four more days this week, followed by four days off.

Ah! I just smiled again!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Neil lighting a spark

I am preparing for a rare Sunday at work while sipping coffee and listening to the great FRED NEIL.
If there was such a thing as wearing out an MP3 (like we used to say about records), then I wearing out Neil's 1965 masterpiece, "BLEECKER & MACDOUGAL."

I am captivated by the songs, including the original version of "THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS LIFE," later covered by artists ranging from Jefferson Airplane to Gram Parsons.

Neil famously dropped out of the music scene in the 1970s to devote his time to ending the exploitation of DOLPHINS.

I admit I don't know enough about that aspect of Neil's life. I just know his songs light a spark inside me.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

I love the film that blurs distinctions

Like Miles Davis' music and the reasons why the sky sometimes glows in red, pink and purple as the sunsets, I enjoy the 2001 film "DONNIE DARKO" without fully understanding it.
Richard Kelly's film is like a puzzle that I never quite piece together.

I realize it's a polarizing film, with the adherents deeply in love and the film's critics resolutely dismissive.

Here are three reasons why I cast myself among the film's devotees:

1. As I mentioned, the film is like a puzzle for me, particularly as I attempt to make sense of the distinctions between present and future, mental health and mental illness, good and evil and life and death. Perhaps the film is saying there are fewer distinctions between these themes than we realize.

2. The cast is excellent. As I watched last night on DVD, I paid particular attention to the fine work by the late PATRICK SWAYZE, who expanded his range in "Donnie Darko" by playing a motivational speaker with haunting secrets behind the veneer of respectability.

3. The music is perfectly place, especially the use of late-80s gems such as "Head Over Heels" by TEARS FOR FEARS and "Stay" by OINGO BOINGO.

It's OK to like what you don't understand. In fact, it's more fun in many ways.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Route 1's week of memorable moments

Frankly, this week has been a bit of a blur here at ROUTE 1 H.Q.
That's why we need the help of readers who answered this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What will you remember most about this week?"

ANNIKA H. -- Dance! Oh Yeah!

MIKE D. -- Hmmm, I missed most of the World Series, so it wouldn't be the Giant's victory. (Sorry Erik.) The election was exciting, with a few surprises and late results that made for a crazy night in the newsroom, but that's become the norm. I guess I would have to say trick-or-treating with my kids. It's always fun and something that I will look back fondly upon as they grow up and move onto less "childish" activities.

SANDYE V. -- That Wisconsin lost Russ Feingold, one of the most honest people in the Senate, who stuck to his convictions against the odds. I'm very depressed.
BEKAH P. -- Meeting a Vietnam veteran who had two earrings --- one was an American flag, and the other was an Eagle... hilarious!
KERSTIN H. -- I made Senate! I know, I know. I thank everyone for voting!

JOHN S. -- The end of the political advertising.

INGER H. -- Seeing the Giants win in the techno-booming sports bar in London!

KERI M. -- Going to "Mamma Mia."

MARY N.-P. -- Breaking off a front tooth and having to rush to an orthodontist in a faraway city (sort of) before I could open my mouth in public. Oh, yes, and there was some sort of election thingy too.

RICK T. -- Elections are finally over. No more phone calls!!!

ROSEANNE H. -- Duh! The Giants!

ERIK H. -- Watching a live video stream of the San Francisco Giants' victory parade on my phone, while bleary eyed the day after helping with election night coverage. As I watched the parade, I remembered attending a similar parade for a championship Niners team. It also began to finally sink in that my favorite sports team (baseball or otherwise) had finally won the ultimate prize.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

An evening with Flash

After a few late nights/early mornings caused by the WORLD SERIES and ELECTION NIGHT, I only managed to remain awake until 7 p.m. last night.
I did have enough of an evening to spend some time watching a few chapters of a cinematic monument to pure ESCAPISM -- "FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO MARS."

Buster Crabbe stars as Flash, the leader of a group of adventurers including Dr. Alexis Zarkov (Frank Shannon), Dale Arden (Jean Rogers) and stowaway reporter Happy Hapgood (Donald Kerr).

The adventurers fly to Mars, where arch-enemy Ming the Merciless (Charles B. Middleton) is assisting Queen Azura (Beatrice Roberts) extract the Earth's atmosphere with a powerful ray.

Caught up so easily in the fantastic action, I could see why this 1938 serial would have proved so popular among filmgoers of the GREAT DEPRESSION.

With it's cliff-hanger endings, the serial left viewers anxious for more.

In fact, I plan on spending another evening with Flash Gordon tonight.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The "lucky" hat, finally living up to its name

It's a hat I purchased around 1988, after giving my previous SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS hat to the girl I loved, JILL.
It's a hat I have worn through thick and mostly thin -- I wore it through two losing WORLD SERIES campaigns, 1989 and 2002.

It's also a "LUCKY" hat that has finally lived up to its name.

Often, veteran Giants fans place pins with various significance in their hats.

Here are the pins in mine (from left to right):

1. "Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey" -- The first baseman known as "Stretch" was always my favorite player as a small child. Probably because he was left-handed, like me.

2. "I've Got a Giant Attitude" -- A pin from the era of Will Clark, the first basemen who was my favorite player during my college years.

3. "Giants Humm-Baby" -- A pin boasting the popular saying of Roger Craig, the manager who steered the team to the 1989 National League pennant.

4. "Croix de Candlestick: Veni, Vidi, Vixi" -- Candlestick Park patrons who remained throughout an extra-inning night game at the windswept park received this pin as a sign of their (foolish?) devotion to the cause.

5. "I Was There: Bonds HR" -- During the (now we suspect chemically enhanced) record-homer pursuit by Barry Bonds, fans at San Francisco home games received this pin when they were attendance during a round-tripper by the slugger.

The interlocking "SF" is faded, the inside brim is darkened with age and countless episodes of nervous sweating. It's a hat that signifies a Championship now, however, and that's all that matters to me.

Monday, November 01, 2010

They finally did it. They really did it.

I never really thought I would ever really see this day in my lifetime.
The SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, my first favorite sports team, who reached the WORLD SERIES only twice in my lifetime (1989 and 2002), have finally won the title.
The Giants beat the TEXAS RANGERS, 3-1, tonight to win the Fall Classic, four games to one.
My late grandmother, MARGE "MIMI" SMITH, must be dancing in heaven. She taught me about being a baseball fan, which meant being a Giants fan.
Lord knows, I'm dancing down here.