I'm not squirming, I'm dancing
Not every place can look forward to a SUNNY DAY with temperatures in the 70s.
NORTHERN IRELAND is struggling with a spring blizzard that has cut power to nearly 50,000 homes and businesses.
Crews rescued more than 300 people stranded in snow-bound vehicles near DERRY, including students stuck in a school bus.
I am welcoming our spring weather by listening to an album that always makes me smile -- the eponymous debut by Derry's own THE UNDERTONES.
It's the type of album that makes me glad I wear a seat belt -- I always start dancing in my seat whenever it blares out of my car stereo speakers.
I know, because I just started squirming to the music while driving ANNIKA to orchestra class this morning.
If you see me pass this morning and it looks like I'm having a seizure in the driver's seat, have no fear. It's just the music.
Following Rule 32 of "Zombieland"
Rule No. 32 in Ruben Fleischer's "ZOMBIELAND" is "Enjoy the Little Things."
It's an easy rule to follow in this 2009 comedy that I finally saw yesterday, ages after I borrowed the DVD from a friend. There are numerous little details that make this a memorable film.
A plague that turned most of humanity into flesh-eating zombies spared at least four people. One of those survivors, a college kid known by his hometown, "COLUMBUS," guides viewers through the undead holocaust with voice overs peppered with his rules of survival. (The college kid is played by Jesse Eisenberg, of "The Squid and The Whale" fame.)
Rule No. 2, for example, is "Beware of Bathrooms." It's easy for the zombies to reach you in there.
Rule No. 17 is "Don't be a Hero" and Rule No. 5 is "No Attachments," but these two rules might not be as imperative, as we learn towards the film's end.
There's plenty of gore and plenty of laughs, too. I found the cameo by BILL MURRAY to be an absolute scream.
Ulster's unifying sounds
Hard times and strife don't necessarily foster a good music scene, but those ingredients did seem to create a memorable scene in NORTHERN IRELAND in the late 1970s.
I am enjoying a day off work listening to "GOOD VIBRATIONS: THE PUNK SINGLES COLLECTION" on iTunes.
The compilation chronicles the pioneering BELFAST independent record label that introduced the world to acts such as THE UNDERTONES, RUDI and PROTEX.
Label founder TERRI HOOLEY summed up the unifying force of the Ulster scene:
"It didn't matter what colour your hair was, or whether you were a Protestant or a Catholic, it just mattered that you were a punk -- that was a uniting force. People have said to me since that if they hadn't got involved in punk music, they would have become paramilitaries. It changed a lot of people's lives."
Great music and a few fewer paramilitary members sounds like a good combination to me.
Cruachan provides the CELTIC CRUNCH
I have been tinkering with an Irish music playlist -- named LÁ 'LE PÁDRAIG in honor of St. Patrick's Day -- for a week or so now.
I am up to 87 songs (and 5.6 hours) with more variety than I could have imagined when I set out to make an Irish playlist.
The mix of music from Éire and Ulster encompasses everything from punk (STIFF LITTLE FINGERS) to pop (WESTLIFE), traditional (THE CHIEFTAINS) to new wave (IN TUA NUA). It includes the classics (VAN MORRISON) and the latest sounds (BELL X1).
It gets as soft as SINÉAD LOHAN and as hard as the band I have been enjoying this morning -- the CELTIC METAL stylists CRUACHAN.
Keith Fay was playing Tolkien-inspired black metal (aren't they all?) when he began incorporating elements of traditional Irish folk music into the sound.
By 1999, Shane McGowan of the Pogues was producing the album "Folk-Lore" and the single "Ride On" even entered the Irish charts.
In addition to providing some necessary "crunch" to my Irish playlist, Cruachan serve as yet another example of the impressive breadth of Irish music styles.
It's safer upstairs, away from the purses
There were missed opportunities, drama, surprises, bitter disappointment for some visitors and elation at the end for the hosts.
I suppose that all could have occurred downstairs this morning, as JILL hosted a combined PURSE-BUYING AND CANDLE-PURCHASING PARTY.
I blissfully have no idea of the outcome: I was safely ensconced upstairs, watching soccer on television.
BIRMINGHAM hosted ARSENAL in a game of missed opportunities, drama, surprises, bitter disappointment for some visitors and elation at the end for the hosts.
Arsenal substitute Samri Nasri scored in the 81st minute to give the visitors a lead, only for Birmingham substitute Kevin Phillips to score a dramatic, stoppage-time equaliser for a 1-1 draw.
The draw probably dents Arsenal's title hopes, particularly with Chelsea hammering Aston Villa, 7-1.
I just nipped down the stairs for some food and saw the purses and candles still arrayed in the dining room and living room. I think I'll stay up here and watch Bolton v. Manchester United for a while.
Sing Along With Route 1
"Ahem -- Fa la la la la la laaaaaa!"
ROUTE 1 is just loosening up the vocal cords. We expect a fair amount of pleasantly singing along to songs today -- the Friday before a THREE-DAY WEEKEND.
Aren't three-day weekends great?
Readers sing along to songs, too, as we learn from the answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What song(s) always makes you sing along?"
RICK T. -- Charlie Pride's "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore". Goes back to when my buddy and I was driving truck together from Florida to Iowa and back. People have friends and they have that one real friend that you can call and talk to. When I hear that song I think of my friend and living back down in Florida.
JOHN S. -- "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi.
KERSTIN H. -- "The Tide is High" by Blondie. I could sing along to it on any day.
KERI M. -- "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas.
SANDYE V. -- Songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and "The Music Man." Sixties songs.
BEKAH P. -- First and foremost --- "Under Pressure"" by Queen. All time favorite! Then, ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down, Bruce." I like to listen to the Queen song when I'm on deadline, and ELO when somebody makes me cranky. And voila! That's my instant recipe for a successful life.
MIKE M. -- My small children and I derive perverse pleasure from belting out the chorus to "The Ballad of Ira Hayes." "Call him drunken Ira Hayes; He won't answer anymore; Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian; Nor the Marine that went to war."
JIM S. -- First off, I usually whistle to songs (which invariably irritates Kris and/or the boys) Singing would be worse, so I do that only alone in the car. And, it's usually more screaming that singing, as exemplified by my favorites: "Shattered," by the Rolling Stones; "867-5309 Jenny, Jenny," by Tommy Tutone; "Should I Stay or Should I Go," by the Clash; "Roll Over DJ," by Jet and "I Don't Care Anymore," by Phil Collins.
SASKIA M. -- My daughters and I ALWAYS chime in when we hear "Roses" or "Hey Ya" by Outkast. It's kind of become a family tradition already.
ERIK H. -- There are many, but one that *always* makes me sing along is "What's My Scene" by Hoodoo Gurus. "What's my, what's my, what's my what's my scee-eee-eeeene!"
Jim Marshall, R.I.P.
Jimi Hendrix raising his fist in triumph? Yeah, he did that one.
Janis Joplin reclining on a couch with a bottle of Southern Comfort? Yep. That's his.
The Beatles walking across the Candlestick Park field on Aug. 29, 1966? You got it. It's his.
JIM MARSHALL, the legendary rock photographer from SAN FRANCISCO, has died age 74.
My favorite Marshall image is the one of JOHNNY CASH flippin' the bird. Even though Cash was ostensibly "country," this iconic photo just screams "rock 'n' roll."
Take a moment today to pay tribute to Marshall and his work: He did more than most to imprint images on our culture.
High-pressure shower, Mike Scott... What's the connection?
Today's theme is WATER.
First, the new shower in our (currently being remodeled) bathroom is so strong, the water poked me in the eye this morning. OW!
Second, we're listening to ABSOLUTE RADIO online and they just played "THE WHOLE OF THE MOON" by THE WATERBOYS, probably one of my Top-10 favorite songs.
If only we had a chance of rain, my watery themed day would be complete (I'll have to settle for cloudy).
Suitably inspired, I'll probably listen to MIKE SCOTT and his Waterboys while driving around today.
Why not? It's Water Day!
From Essex and extraordinary
In the extraordinary British sitcom I love called "GAVIN & STACEY," an ordinary English boy falls for an ordinary Welsh girl.
The show's creators decided that ordinary boy Gavin should come from an ordinary place, so they chose BILLERICAY, ESSEX.
Just south of Billericay is another ordinary town, BASILDON, but the town's most famous sons are anything but ordinary.
DEPECHE MODE provided the soundtrack to my busy day yesterday. The Basildon foursome played on my iPod as I drove around town, stopped at our house to see progress being made on our renovated bathroom and welcomed our new couch.
I also listened to Depeche Mode working out at the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY Y.
Depeche Mode have had 48 songs in the UK singles chart and I have the first 41 of those on an iPod playlist.
Oddly, for all their popularity, Depeche Mode have never topped the British charts. "People are People," "Barrel of a Gun" and "Precious" have all reached No. 4.
I capped my night by watching another "Gavin & Stacey" episode on DVD last night and thinking about the extraordinary creations of an ordinary place.
Finally getting what all the "Hot Fuss" is about
When THE KILLERS released their debut album, "HOT FUSS," in 2004, I thought:
"What's the big deal?"
Sure, the singles "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me" were instantly catchy. But they also sounded like the work of a DURAN DURAN tribute band.
Then, the album took off into the stratosphere of popularity, selling more than 3 million copies in the United States and claiming five Grammy Awards, and that was enough for me. This album was too *popular* for my tastes.
I continued to plow my more esoteric musical furrow, deciding to ignore this album by a LAS VEGAS band.
Well, six years later, "Hot Fuss" is finally growing on me.
I listened to it a couple times on my iPod yesterday, as we prepared for:
1. Workmen to begin renovating our BATHROOM today.
2. Today's receipt of a larger, brand-new COUCH.
"Hot Fuss" sounded great as I hauled trash out to the back of the house and cleaned up around the litter box upstairs.
In his "Essential Rock Discography," author Martin Charles Strong suggests the Killers have outdone their New Romantic forebears with "Hot Fuss."
"Even Duran Duran themselves -- inspired to recreate their classic sound on their 'Astronaut' set) couldn't nail that heady 'Rio' echo as well as (Killers vocalist Brandon) Flowers and Co.," Strong writes.
Perhaps it's not bad to reflect the invigorating sounds of a forgotten era.
Maybe that's why "Hot Fuss" is growing on me -- I am that much farther removed from the original source material.
Learning about the Kilmichael Ambush
I have just read about the 1920 KILMICHAEL AMBUSH (LUIOCHÁN CHILL MHICHIL) in "THE WAR FOR IRELAND: 1913-1923," edited by Peter Cottrell.
Carried out by the IRISH REPUBLICAN ARMY, the ambush killed 17 members of the ROYAL IRISH CONSTABULARY (RIC) AUXILIARY DIVISION. The ambush played a significant role in the Irish War of Independence.
I have really enjoyed reading this book, for two reasons:
1. It has taken my mind off my abysmal NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET (I am in dead last in the Telegraph Herald pool -- out of more than 160 participants).
2. More importantly, it has shed light on a historical period barely touched upon (if at all) in American school texts.
Tom Barry commanded the IRA's 3rd West Cork Brigade Flying Column and led the ambush at Kilmichael. Did you know he learned his soldiering in the British Army? While serving in Iraq, of all places?
Those are the types of things I have been learning from this book.
The ambush marked a turning point in the IRA's guerrilla campaign.
British reprisals increased in frequency and ferocity following the ambush, which caused more Irish residents to flock to the Republican side. Britain's hold over Ireland was nearing its end.
Read any good books lately? Yes? Yes!
ROUTE 1 readers don't just read blogs y'know. They also crack open the occasional box of cereal and study the writing on the back.
Oh, and apparently a few even read something called a "book," judging from the answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Read any good books lately?"
BRIAN C. -- "The Gambler King of Clark Street," by Richard Lindberg, a biography of Michael McDonald, who, though never elected to anything, was arguably the most influential man in 19th century Chicago.
KERSTIN H. -- Yeah omg... There's "The Sledding Hill" by Chris Crutcher.
LISA Y. -- Excellent book: "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. From Amazon: A novel "set during the civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver." Also: "The Weight of Silence" by Heather Gudenkauf (a local author). Great story!
BEKAH P. -- Um, YES! First and foremost, I took a dive into my classic section and emerged with Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." I wasn't expecting much from it, and in fact planned on just plowing through to check off yet another literary "must-read." Instead, I have enjoyed each and every single word. The whole thing is just beautiful. Other than that, I got caught up in a really beautiful Civil War Book called "The Widow of the South." It's based on the true story of Carrie McGovern, who provided her house to the South as a hospital during one of the more major battles. Then, years later, when a local businessman decided to plow over the field with all the buried boys, she and her husband and a loyal slave dug up all of the nearly 10,000 bodies and reburied them on her property, where she lovingly kept the cemetery in good care. Simply stunning!
SANDYE V. -- "The Help" is my favorite book (a novel) so far this year. It's controversial, because a white woman wrote from the point of view of two African American maids in the early 1960s. Her third main character is a young white woman who decides to write a book about their experiences. It's a real page turner and the kind of story you're desperate to finish and sorry when it's over.
JOHN S. -- I just finished "Devil in the White City." It was very good.
MIKE M. -- Not so good as gripping, "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" by journalist Barbara Demick describes how North Koreans are literally dying in the streets because of famine, and how most are unaware of the existence of the Internet.
ERIK H. -- "The War for Ireland: 1913-1923," edited by Peter Cottrell, is a comprehensive history of the Irish independence movement. It finishes with the Irish Civil War, which was one of the world's bitterest internecine feuds, yet I never learned about it in school.
Alex Chilton died? Aw man, that sucks
Yeah, this sucks.
ALEX CHILTON, the singer/songwriter and leader of the BOX TOPS and BIG STAR has died, age 59 in New Orleans.
I am listening to the Big Star album, "RADIO CITY," and thinking about how many great songs the band produced.
Chilton initially collaborated with Chris Bell in Big Star, and the band's songs -- while never hits -- represent the pinnacle of what is known as "power pop."
"September Gurls," "I'm in Love With a Girl," "Feel," "When My Baby's Beside Me," Mod Lang," "In the Street" (later, a Cheap Trick cover served as the theme for "That '70s Show") and more.
I have to thank my sister INGER for introducing me to Big Star.
I'll think of her, too, as I listen to Big Star and mourn the passing of Chilton.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
We're listening to RTÉ 2fm radio live online as they celebrate LÁ 'LE PÁDRAIG (St. Patrick's Day, pronounced "law leh paw-rig").
The DJs are playing various listeners' favorite Irish songs. The current selection is a live version of "STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU" by THIN LIZZY. It is astounding.
A few moments ago, some visiting actress had them play her favorite song, the more recent "FAKE" by THE FRAMES.
It is also really good, and reminded me of the class of music that comes from the Emerald Isle (it's not all U2, you know).
"Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh" means "St. Patrick's Day blessing upon you" and is pronounced "Ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv."
Try it on your friends, and listen to Irish music today!
Sun, smiles and some musical gems
That spring in my step? It's because the temperature has finally risen above 60 degrees and the SUN has once more broken through the late-winter gloom.
That smile on my lips? It's because I have been listening to the classic REGGAE on the TROJAN ORIGINALS BOX SET the past couple days.
Eric Donaldson's "Cherry Oh Baby," Tony Tribe's "Red Red Wine," Al Brown's "Here I am Baby (Come and Take Me)" are included, as are some tunes UB40 didn't cover.
There are some real gems on these three CDs, including Ken Parker's "Groovin' Out on Life," Eddie Lovette's "Too Experienced" and Boy Friday's "Version Girl."
Growing up with the covers of these tunes in the late 70s, early 80s, my introduction to the originals has been a musical revelation.
They're the kind of tunes you want to hear when spring has arrived, too. Just take a look at my happy gait.
Mapping London's loyalties
I was 15 when I received "THE SOCCER TRIBE," a book by social anthropologist DESMOND MORRIS.
I have read the book several times since my teenage years.
The book weds Morris' theories about the tribal aspects of ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL with more than 580 photographs and illustrations.
One of my favorite illustrations was a scarf mapping the approximate territories of London's four most popular clubs, ARSENAL, CHELSEA, TOTTENHAM and WEST HAM.
The map indicates, for example, how Hackney is Spurs territory while neighboring Tower Hamlets is solidly Hammers. Harrow's loyalties are split between Arsenal and Chelsea, according to the map, while Spurs and Gunners fans share Enfield.
Looking at the map the other day, I wondered if London's soccer borders have changed in the years since 1981.
While we sat in a Kensington pub this past December, Inger and I were surrounded by Arsenal supporters. Has support for the Gunners grown in the capital since Arsene Wenger's arrival (and the publicity surrounding Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch")?
I would love to see a more current version of this map.
We won the TELEGRAPH HERALD EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT CHILI COOK OFF this afternoon.
It's the second time in a decade we have taken top honors.
Years ago, we won with a Cincinnati-style chili. This year, I tried my hand at a more traditional TEXAS-STYLE CHILI. I took a recipe I found online and added a few personal twists (I love sweet peppers).
You can try this recipe at home. If you like a good, hearty and sweet-and-spicy chili, this one might be for you. I doubled the original recipe, so I hope you're hungry.
4 lbs.. stewing beef, cubed
2 cups red onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
2 (12 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 cans beef broth
1 can/bottle dark beer (preferably Murphy's Stout)
4 canned jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 small jar diced pimentos
1 16-oz jar Mezzetta Marinated Sweet Yellow & Red Roasted Peppers
3 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
Method: Brown beef in oil. Add onions, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté until onions soften. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 hours or until meat is tender.
Super Spectacular Five-Year Anniversary Route 1 Extravaganza
Can you believe it?
ROUTE 1 burst on the scene FIVE YEARS AGO today. Perhaps "burst" isn't the appropriate term. More like "snuck" or "meekly entered."
It certainly felt like a burst to me. Looking back on a half-decade of blog posts, it appears I had a lot of music, sports, film and other trivial knowledge stored inside me, ready to pour on out.
To mark today's FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the blog you're currently reading, here are FIVE WAYS MY LIFE IS DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS FIVE YEARS AGO.
Five years ago...
5. I was patiently waiting for my favorite sports teams to win meaningful titles (apart from the occasional college conference championship later marred by the arrest of the star quarterback). Now, still waiting for my favorite sports teams to win meaningful... Oh... This one hasn't really changed. Sigh...
4. "I've got to let the dog out" was only a euphemism. Now, I really do need to let the dog out or she'll poop by the door.
3. I could oversleep on a Friday with few consequences. Now, a legion of FRIDAY QUESTION readers awaits! What's that? You guys don't wake up at 6 a.m. to read the freshly minted FRIDAY QUESTION answers?
2. I believed "Edward" and "Jacob" were simply random boys' names. Now, those names represent the epic battle between a teen heartthrob sparkly vampire and a teen heartthrob werewolf who doesn't just change with a full moon.
1. I would e-mail people lengthy missives about music, movies, sports and my life's other passions. Now, I e-mail them to remind them to read about those passions on ROUTE 1. Thanks for reading everybody.
An bhfuil Gaeilge agat? Cá bhfuil an leithreas, le do thoil?
CÉAD MÍLE FÁILTE!
(Cayd mee-luh fawl-cha) -- "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes"
How's she cuttin'?
Here at ROUTE 1, we're brushing up on our (exceptionally) rudimentary IRISH in anticipation of wearin' o' the green on ST. PATRICK'S DAY.
(Slawn-cha) -- "Cheers"
Readers get into the spirit by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What's the best way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day?"
DAVE B. -- Starting out the day with listening to The Pogues, taking the kids to the SAPADAPASO St Patrick's Day parade and enjoying a couple Irish Pilsners.
BEKAH P. -- Is it too cliche to say drinking? Yes? OK. Well, second option: Eat at an Irish Pub.
BOB H. -- I always look forward, with great anticipation, for St. Patty's Day, because I have an excuse to eat lots of corned beef and cabbage. This year I am starting from scratch and corning a five pound brisket. Yummy, yummy (how do you say that in Irish, or is it Gaelic?), I hope!
MARY N.-P. -- OMG - How can you even ask this? It's by eating greasy, salty corned beef and boiled cabbage of course. I love the stuff, but for some reason, never seem to eat it on any other day!
RICK T. -- Eating corned beef & cabbage.
MIKE D. -- Clean the green mold off the stuff in the back of my refrigerator.
KERI M. -- Wear green and have fun with friends!
SANDYE V. -- Eating corned beef and cabbage, with carrots and boiled potatoes. Mmmm. Green Jell-o goes well with it. And a glass of Guinness. Skol!
ERIK H. -- After eating (the apparently obligatory) corned beef and cabbage, I'll sip a pint of Murphy's Stout. Saol fada chugat!
Ducks in hot water
If THE DANGED OL' BEAVERS were smart, they'd show up to next year's CIVIL WAR FOOTBALL GAME dressed in police uniforms.
I can't think of a better way to put MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS off their game than seeing fake cops across the line of scrimmage -- heaven knows they've seen enough of the real thing this off season.
Star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is the latest Oregon football player in serious legal trouble -- authorities charged Masoli with second-degree burglary yesterday, following an incident in which two laptops and a guitar were stolen from a Eugene fraternity house.
Add Masoli's arrest to star running back LaMichael James' domestic-violence charges, and the (at least) three other Ducks facing legal problems, and the Oregon football program finds itself in a deep crisis, appearing to have no control on a group of players known on some sports blogs as "THE OREGON THUGS."
Masoli's brush with the law, if true, saddens me the most.
I cheered particularly loudly for Masoli, a Daly City, Calif., native who played at City College of San Francisco before making the trek up north.
A Multnomah County deputy district attorney told the Oregonian newspaper that a person without a significant prior record would probably face probation if facing Masoli's charges.
That would keep the quarterback out of jail, but it would do nothing to repair Oregon's damaged reputation.
Back to the Old School with Master Don
"GET OFF MY TIP" by THE MASTERDON COMMITTEE was playing on iTunes last night when I realized just how "OLD SCHOOL" I really am.
Fronted by Donnell (MASTER DON) Martin, The Masterdon Committee were one of the pioneering HIP-HOP groups, coming from 147th Street in Harlem.
After a couple trail-blazing hits in NEW YORK CITY, The Masterdon Committee released "Get Off My Tip" on Profile Records in 1985.
The song chronicles a blazing row between a guy and his girl, with him memorably complaining that she made "a meatloaf that tasted like clay."
Female rapper PEBBLY POO then declares her ambitions, compared to his:
"You're a 20-dollar nigga in a 50-dollar world with a 100-dollar habit, I'm a million-dollar girl."
I enjoyed hearing the song back in the day -- it was included on "MR. MAGIC'S RAP ATTACK, VOL. 2," one of my favorite cassette tapes.
Cassette tapes? See, I told you I was old school.
Noisettes' song is brilliantly retro
When I first heard "NEVER FORGET YOU" by NOISETTES, and heard vocalist Shingai Shoniwa begin to sing, I thought I had come across a lost soul classics from the 60s.
The backing music was more 2009 than 1965, though, so I began to investigate.
The British band Noisettes released "Never Forget You" in June 2009 and it peaked at No. 18 in the U.K. charts.
Noisettes formed in 2003, but a trio of students from The BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology in Croydon.
The band has released two albums and nine singles, with the single "Don't Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go)" peaking at No. 2 in Britain.
Click here for the "Never Forget You" video. It's a delicious reminder of a bygone but brilliant period of pop music.
"If it wasn't for my relationship with John Prescott, I'd probably still be in that jail"
Besides a trip to the Y fitness center and now listening to the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS and the LOS ANGELES DODGERS in Spring Training action on the radio, I have spent a rare Monday off enjoying the masterful work of RUTH JONES and JAMES CORDEN.
Jones and Corden (pictured) created and wrote the 2007 British sit-com "GAVIN & STACEY," easily one of my favorite shows of the (still relatively new) millennium.
The title characters, played by Mathew Horne (Gavin) and Joanna Page (Stacey), are lovebirds who forge a long-distance relationship -- he is in Essex, she is in Wales.
Besides writing the show, Jones and Corden play Nessa and Smithy, respective best friends of Stacey and Gavin.
It is such a well-written series.
In one of the audio commentaries on DVD, Corden explained that the pair wanted to create a comedy with the sensibility and production values of a British drama.
There is a real heart at the center of the show -- evidenced both by the chemistry of Horne and Page and the genuine friendship you feel between Gavin and Smithy and Nessa and Stacey.
I would have watched all six of the first-season episodes on my day off today, but these gems should be savored.
Shakin' my rump for 24 years
There were more AUTHENTIC OLD SCHOOL options, even back in 1986, but that doesn't diminish the musical impact it had on me.
"RAP IT UP" was a K-TEL INTERNATIONAL cassette that I played incessantly in college.
Is it all truly "hip hop?" Perhaps not.
The compilation opens with Bay Area legends Timex Social Club and their one-hit wonder, "Rumors." That's more R&B than hip hop.
Is it enjoyable? Hell yeah. Joeski Love's brilliant "Pee-Wee's Dance" is on there!
I came as close as I possibly could last night to duplicating the "Rap it Up" compilation in iTunes playlist form.
Here is the original track listing that I followed:
1. Timex Social Club - "Rumors"
2. Run-DMC - "Can You Rock it Like This"
3. Full Force - "Alice, I Want You Just For Me"
4. Kurtis Blow - "If I Ruled the World"
1. Joeski Love - "Pee-Wee's Dance"
2. The Fat Boys - "Sex Machine"
3. The Beastie Boys - "Slow & Low"
*4. Timex Social Club - "Vicious Rumors" * I had all but one of those songs on iTunes. I couldn't find that last track for my playlist, so I added a few other favorite songs from the period instead:
4. Kool Moe Dee - "Wild Wild West"
5. Doug E. Fresh - "The Show"
6. Doug E. Fresh - "La Di Da Di"
7. Slick Rick - "Children's Story"
8. Kid 'N Play - "Gittin' Funky"
As you can see, the compilation (and the additional songs) won't fool anyone into thinking you're a hardcore O.G. Also, trainspotting hip-hop followers will note with disdain that "Wild Wild West" came out in 1988, two years after my compilation.
I didn't put this playlist together as a historical document. These songs will get you shaking your rump -- that's why I put it together. They've been getting me to "get on up" for 24 years!
Sampling the wee hours with Double Dee & Steinski
Sampling is so commonplace in popular music these days, it's actually difficult to remember when it bowled a listener over with a "shock of the new" effect.
We're dog-sitting for my father-in-law this weekend, and when his pacing dog REBEL woke me up for good at 4 a.m., I cursed a bit when I realized I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. Then, I treated myself to the pioneering sampling sounds of DOUBLE DEE & STEINSKI.
Doug "Double Dee" DiFranco and Steve "Steinski" Stein essentially launched the use of samples of other songs in hip hop during the early 1980s, thanks to such underground classics as "LESSON 2: THE JAMES BROWN MIX."
The song is mostly a montage of instrumental breaks from classic James Brown records, with loads of sonic surprises thrown into the mix.
There's some Tweety Bird dialogue in here, bits of "Dance to the Music" by Sly and the Family Stone and the "What does it all mean" snippet of then-New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading the Dick Tracy comic strip on the radio. That particular sample has been used dozens if not hundreds of times since, often paired with some of Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus."
The samples are now so ubiquitous, it's difficult to recall their initial appearance in hip hop.
That's why I listened to Double Dee & Steinski, when I realized I wouldn't be heading back to sleep any time soon.
F is for Friday Question about fitness
ROUTE 1 just completed our least favorite workout -- getting up 45 minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off (on a Friday no less) to let the dog out, only to discover she had peed on one of the kitchen chairs (the one I sat in, coincidentally).
This week, we asked readers the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your favorite workout?"
DAVE B. -- 10-mile easy run.
KERSTIN H. -- Dance is my fav... And it is a sport!!!
RICK T. -- They say sitting and watching girls walk by is a great stress relief for men my age. Works for me!
BEKAH P. -- If I am FORCED to work out, I guess my torture of choice would be a spinning class. Yes, it's intense. Yes, it hurts like you wouldn't believe. But damn it all if I don't sweat up a storm. As an added bonus, the class setting makes the whole experience fly by, and the workout feels shorter than it really is.
JOHN S. -- 40-mile bike ride.
BOB H. -- Walking with Flanigan. I just wish I could get Roseanne to go with us once in a while.
CLINT A. -- Two hours of paddling in a six-man outrigger canoe!
SANDYE V. -- Riding my bike OUTSIDE. I'm so bored with the indoor one.
MARY N.-P. -- Walking the dog at 6:30 a.m. -It's quiet, since we live in the country, I get to see wildlife; and except for the coldest part of the winter, it's fairly pleasant...
BRIAN M. -- When I was in shape, I really liked running on a warm day, when the joints and muscles are loose. These days, I don't mind running on a treadmill, even if the progress (toward speed and endurance) is slow.
JEFF T. -- I love to swim. Have you ever seen a fat porpoise?
INGER H. -- Walking! I walk about an hour a day... I find that I just really like the speed at which life goes by when you're walking. Its easier to notice things than when biking or running. Fewer injuries, too.
KERI M. -- Running on the treadmill and doing my sleeping stretches.
STACEY B. -- Zumba! I have absolutely NO dance moves and look like a complete fool, but I love this Latin fusion dance workout.
ERIK H. -- When the opportunity arises, I love brisk walks through San Francisco or London. When those opportunities are unavailable, I enjoy the challenge of my fitness nemesis -- the Stepmill at the Dubuque Community Y. Stepmill is basically a treadmill with steps instead of tread. I walked a mile on Stepmill for the first time last evening. That equates to walking up 48 floors.
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Matt Black was a computer programmer and Jonathan More was a former art teacher when the pair decided to unleash their music-mixing talents on the world in 1986.
At the beginning of the next year, "SAY KIDS, WHAT TIME IS IT" marked the recording debut of the pair, forever known as COLDCUT.
I battled Stepmill and the stationary bike at the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY Y last night, powered by the music of Coldcut.
I have loved their rampant sampling techniques since 1987, when I first heard their "SEVEN MINUTES OF MADNESS" mix of "PAID IN FULL" by rappers ERIC B. & RAKIM.
Coldcut combine anything you can imagine to make music -- from Israeli singers to cartoon themes, from Led Zeppelin to reggae.
Unfortunately, less-talented samplers have used their pioneering techniques to lesser effect throughout the years. The originals remain the best, I thought, as I urged my tired legs onward last night at the Y.
Three things I learned about "L.A. Confidential"
Nothing brings out the FILM GEEK in me quite like the opportunity to watch one of my favorite movies on DVD accompanied by the AUDIO COMMENTARY.
I love hearing the behind-the-scenes tales of the film, including the casting process, production design challenges and hidden moments you rarely see in the cinema.
Last night, I enjoyed the audio commentary experience with the 1997 Curtis Hanson film "L.A. CONFIDENTIAL."
Here are three things I learned about the film:
1. GUY PEARCE worried filmmakers wouldn't give him the nod to play Ed Exley because of his previous portrayal of a drag queen in the memorable Australian film, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."
2. A woman once teased JAMES CROMWELL (Dudley Smith in the film) because his wonderful Irish accent was such a hodgepodge -- a word from Galway, a phrase from Dublin, an inflection from Cork, etc.
3. RUSSELL CROWE, the then-unknown-to-Americans actor chosen to play Bud White, bonded with director Hanson over mutual love of movies and music.
I stayed up longer than I had intended last night, but watching and learning about "L.A. Confidential" made it all worthwhile.
Looks like Wooster, speaks like House
My mind reeled from an odd juxtaposition last night.
Jill was watching "HOUSE" on television, while I read some of "THE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS" by P.G. WODEHOUSE -- a novel-length tale of empty headed English gentleman Bertie Wooster and his all-knowing valet, Jeeves.
Astute readers can see where I am going, right?
Every time I glanced up at the TV and glimpsed HUGH LAURIE, my mind flashed back to seeing him portray Bertie Wooster on public television in the early 1990s.
Laurie's work in "JEEVES AND WOOSTER" -- in which he starred alongside STEPHEN FRY -- marked the first time many Americans had seen him.
The pair left an indelible impression on me, and I still can't read Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster tales without picturing Laurie and Fry as the main characters.
That's what made last night so puzzling. I would glance up at an older "Wooster" on the screen, but hear him speak in Laurie's uncanny American accent as "House."
Devo vs. Stepmill
I picked the right music for my workout at the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY Y yesterday.
Get past the kitsch, humor and near-mechanical voices (part of the act) and DEVO made some memorably catchy music.
It was perfect when I faced my new fitness nemesis -- STEPMILL.
Created by Stairmaster, Stepmill is just as the name suggests: It is a treadmill with steps instead of tread.
I climbed 20 flights of stairs with Stepmill. By about the 14th floor or so, my legs were just about screaming in time with Devo's music. That's OK. It's good for me.
We actually had some kids in high school who dressed like Devo.
I never joined that crowd -- I was a bit too ANGLOPHILE (my, how times don't change).
Devo made some great music, though, including the often-overlooked "Gates of Steel" from the "Freedom of Choice" album. That's the song I'll forever associate with my first encounter with Stepmill.