Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Listening to the legendary wolf

"Shake for Me," "The Red Rooster," "Going Down Slow," "Back Door Man" and all the others...
I'm listening to HOWLIN' WOLF today, astounded at how much of his sound and how many of his songs provided a template for so much ROCK to come.
Today it's the Chess Records classics "HOWLIN' WOLF (THE 'ROCKING CHAIR ALBUM')" and "MOANIN' IN THE MOONLIGHT" that provide the soundtrack for driving to and from work, as well as walking music.
"The British blues scholars who were captivated by the brash, electric Chicago blues style saw Howlin' Wolf as nothing less than a living legend," wrote David Dicaire in "Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century."
Listening to Howlin' Wolf today, it's easy to hear that the legend lives on.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hot for the blues

I'm sad that my sister INGER had to return to her home in SAN FRANCISCO today, but that's not the only reason I've been listening to the BLUES this evening. It's too HOT to listen to anything else!*
When the weather turns overly warm and sticky, I reach for the blues, be it Delta, West Coast, Chicago or anything in between.
I just finished listening to the B.B. KING classic "LIVE AT THE REGAL."
I particularly love this album because it's difficult to decide who has more fun -- King or his spirited audience.
I have a feeling I'll be hearing more blues this week, both because of a family member heading home, and because of the heat.

* There is one thing that I want to hear when it gets hotter than today -- ELLA FITZGERALD.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Posh are living high today

For a club called "THE POSH," PETERBOROUGH UNITED have certainly spent years struggling as English football's poor relations.
I read about the club's history this morning, while watching on television as Tommy Rowe, Craig Mackail-Smith and Grant McCann scored the goals that lifted the Posh over HUDDERSFIELD TOWN, 3-0, in the FOOTBALL LEAGUE ONE PLAY-OFF FINAL.
Peterborough entered the league in 1960, and eight years later were docked 19 points for financial irregularities. That punishment condemned the club to six seasons in the league basement.
After a brief improvement, the Posh were relegated to the fourth division again in 1979, and spent the next dozen seasons in the bottom tier.
More bad news came in 1988, when the Football League appointed administrators with the club heavily in debt and oblivion a real possibility.
Peterborough seem to keep bouncing back, however, and today marked another high point.
Next season, the Posh will aim to equal or better their highest-ever finish -- 10th in English football's second tier. The club reached that milestone back in 1992-93.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Still buzzing from a magical moment

We are preparing to leave for MILWAUKEE, and the GIANTS' second game of the series against the BREWERS, still buzzing about last night.
My sister INGER arrived from the Bay Area yesterday -- I think of it as the "away leg" companion to our recent trip west -- and in the evening we ate dinner and listened on the radio to the first game of this weekend's series.
Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum was out-dueling Tim Lincecum, and the Brewers seemed to be easing past a Giants team (and fan base) still traumatized to the likely season-ending injury to star catcher Buster Posey.
Milwaukee led, 3-1, in the top of the seventh inning, when Aubrey Huff doubled, Nate Shierholtz singled and Miguel Tejada walked.
The bases were loaded for BRANDON CRAWFORD, a 24-year-old rookie shortstop making only his third plate appearance in his first Major League game.
In a scene reminiscent of last season's moments of Giants magic, Crawford drove the ball to right field, over the wall, for a grand slam -- his first big-league hit.
A play at the plate by Eli Whiteside -- the catcher charged with filling Posey's shoes -- helped preserve the game for the Giants. San Francisco held on to win the game, 5-4.
We'll see the next step in the Giants' recovery today.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Live from Route 1, it's the Friday Question!

There's a different vibe to a live recording. The crowd noise often acts as an additional instrument, and musical artists often rework their songs in a concert setting, providing a fresh take on old favorites.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers share their selections by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your favorite live album or live version of a song?"
RICK T. -- Mel Tillis Live in Birmingham AL. He recorded it around 1970 and had his early Honky Tonk hits on it, plus a few Mel stories.
ANNIKA H. -- "Never Say Never!"
KERI M. -- "America" by Josh Groban.
STEVE M. -- The Who "Live at Leeds."
JIM S. -- Showing my age, "Frampton Comes Alive!" is a classic. I also recently bought an LP (yes, an LP) "Fleetwood Mac: Live" which is very good. It was recorded between 1977-1980. I saw the group perform in Madison around that time. Stevie Nicks was mesmerizing as she floated around the stage.
KERSTIN H. -- "Live at Sin-é" by Jeff Buckley.
JOHN S. -- Nirvana on "MTV Unplugged."
-- The bonus disc accompanying the remastered version of Queen's "A Day at the Races" includes a live version of "Somebody to Love." Recorded at the Milton Keynes Bowl in June 1982, this song is transformed in the concert setting, as Freddie Mercury and the lads give it an almost-strictly soulful gospel reading. I have many favorite live albums, but this version of "Somebody to Love" is my current favorite live version of a song.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Silverchair have earned their break

Daniel Johns, Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies want to do something different for the foreseeable future, and who can blame them?
For nearly two decades the trio have formed one of the most successful contemporary AUSTRALIAN rock bands, SILVERCHAIR.
News emerged this week that guitarist/vocalist Johns, bassist Joannou and drummer Gillies are calling an indefinite halt to band activities, to pursue individual activities.
I listened to my two Silverchair CDs -- "FROGSTOMP" and "FREAK SHOW" while driving around today.
Formed in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1992, Silverchair released "Frogstomp" in 1995, when the threesome were still high school students.
A slice of pure grunge, it topped the Aussie charts -- as did the band's next four albums, including "Freak Show."
The band's sound shed some of its influences by "Freak Show," and really came into its own on subsequent albums.
I have always loved their song "Anthem for the Year 2000," from the album "Neon Ballroom."
I'll have to get that one some day.
Silverchair have received a record 21 ARIAs -- the Aussie equivalent of a Grammy -- so they have probably earned their break.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Laughing with Dylan on his birthday

I just took a daily walk up and down to the end of the street, laughing to myself while some of the funniest songs by BOB DYLAN played on my iPod.
I am listening to "THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 6, BOB DYLAN LIVE 1964: CONCERT AT PHILHARMONIC HALL" on the occasion of the legendary singer/songwriter's 70th birthday.
It's hard not to laugh during "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" -- even the Philharmonic Hall crowd can't help roaring with laughter -- and Dylan himself chuckles at various points of the landmark concert.
He had said in various interviews that he was never intended to be taken too seriously -- as seriously as some people have taken him -- and at this gig, Dylan shows and shares his humorous side.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good dumb craic

The cursing is atrocious, but it's all good craic.
I've lately become wildly enamored of RTÉ Television's RUBBERBANDITS, and their December 2010 single "HORSE OUTSIDE."
The video, found here on YouTube, features a rather simple plot.
The two ne'er do wells of the Rubberbandits (a LIMERICK comedy duo) offer equine transportation to a pretty bridesmaid (portrayed by the gorgeous Irish model MADELINE MULQUEEN) in need of a "roid" from the church to the hotel for the reception.
She could take a Honda Civic, Subaru or Mitsubishi, but why? The Rubberbandits have a horse outside.
It's all really stupid, but it makes me laugh.
You should check out the Rubberbandits' guide to Limerick on YouTube as well. It is equally stupid and funny.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A remarkable day at the bottom

Two of five clubs entered today threatened with relegation from the PREMIER LEAGUE.
We tuned in live on television to WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS hosting BLACKBURN -- a match of twists and turns that matched the look of the standings as this extraordinary day.
Blackburn looked like they were in another league in the first half, taking a 3-0 lead that seemed to condemn Wolves to the dreaded drop.
Instead, Roman Pavlyuchenko scored twice as TOTTENHAM beat BIRMINGHAM, 2-1, and Wolves clawed back to score a pair of second-half goal, losing 3-2 but having the crucial tallies that relegated the League Cup-winning Blues on goal difference.
Elsewhere, the champions MANCHESTER UNITED beat BLACKPOOL, 4-2, to send the Tangerines down to the Championship as well.
Hugo Rodallega scored a late goal to lift visiting WIGAN past STOKE, 1-0, and out of the relegation zone.
It was a remarkable final day of the season, and now, mostly, I feel sad it has come to an end.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two remarkable recoveries

I left for work today, and NORTHAMPTON were firmly in control of the HEINEKEN CUP FINAL against LEINSTER, leading 22-6 at halftime.
I reached the office and discovered the Saints were in for a nasty surprise in the second half.
Leinster scored 27 unanswered points in a 26-minute spell, rallying to improbably overcome the deficit and win the Cup, 33-22, at Cardiff.
It's only the first of two remarkable comebacks today.
The other occurred in Manchester, where fan-owned AFC WIMBLEDON defeated LUTON TOWN, 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw, to win promotion to the Football League.
Wimbledon sprang to life in 2002, after the Football Association allowed the original Wimbledon Football Club to relocate to Milton Keynes -- 56 miles north.
Fans wouldn't let Wimbledon die, and began their own club.
It's steady rise up the levels of competitive football reached a wonderful peak today, with a promotion that puts League football back in southwest London.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tales with tails

We all have our favorite tales -- fictional or real -- about Canis lupus familiaris, the first animal to be domesticated.
This week, ROUTE ONE readers share their favorite dog stories by answering the FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What's your favorite tale about man's best friend?"
ROSEANNE H. -- Our Flanigan is wearing a protective cone over his head so he wont lick the incision on his leg. We take it off so he can eat and drink and then he comes right over to have us put it back on. He is so smart we think he understands why he has to wear it.
KERI M. -- Old Yellar. And the book Inside of a Dog. Or something like that.
ANNIKA H. -- Once upon a time there was a crazy dog named Rory n we bought her THE END.
JIM S. -- When I was just 4 or 5, we had a little tiny dog named Joe. Why, I don't know. But my dad - who was only 26 and somewhat of a jokester - liked letting Joe drink some of his Pabst or Hamm's beer. One day, Joe got a little tipsy, tottered out to our front stoop and fell off the side. Fortunately, it was a short fall and Joe bounced right back up.
ERIK H. -- We acquired our dog Rory at such a young age, you could almost say she was raised by our cats. She lounges in patches of sunlight on the floor like the cats, she sits on the top of the couch like the cats, she comes running when I open something with the can opener like the cats (who are ever hopeful I'm opening a can of tuna) and she even waits in line with the cats when I dole out the catnip.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No end to my Scaggs appreciation these days

If the world really ends Saturday, I'm going to spend the next couple of days listening to BOZ SCAGGS.
The SAN FRANCISCO singer/songwriter is one of the principal examples of artists I largely ignored during my ALTERNATIVE ROCK youth, to my detriment.
With hindsight, I can now appreciate the style, talent and variety of Scaggs' work.
We now own his first four albums, as well as "HITS," "SILK DEGREES" and "OTHER ROADS."
I have to make up for lost time when it comes to exploring the Boz Scaggs sound.
Oh, and I don't think the world ends Saturday.
There remains too much unfinished business here on Earth -- too many good people remain willing to do good work, to better the lives of others. Too many people remain committed to the real work of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Among the animal revolutionaries

Having enjoyed "COMING UP FOR AIR" earlier this spring, I decided now is a good time to reacquaint myself with the other masterpieces of GEORGE ORWELL.
I began re-reading "ANIMAL FARM" today, the first time I have picked up the book in years.
Early on, Orwell's powerful writing surfaces, in the opening speech by the revolutionary boar, OLD MAJOR.
Speaking before the assembled animals of the Manor Farm, Old Major identifies Man as their common enemy -- the reason the animals live under the brutal oppression of the barnyard.
Old Major notes the inequality of their lives under the yoke of Man:
"Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself. Our labour tills the soil, our dung fertilises it, and yet there is not one of us that owns more than his bare skin."
The cows' milk is sold, the hens' eggs are sold and even the mare's foals are commoditized before the end of their first year.
"Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race!"
I look forward to revisiting the writings of Orwell in this fabulous book, a novel with the well-earned "classic" tag.
I'll be keeping a wary eye on our pets, though, because you never know where the next Napoleon might be lurking.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Enjoying the other Queen

We listened to online Irish radio coverage of QUEEN ELIZABETH II's visit to IRELAND this morning.
As a small recognition of the occasion, I decided to listen to the other QUEEN while driving around today.
I picked "SHEER HEART ATTACK," the band's third album, from 1974, and as I listened to "Brighton Rock," "Killer Queen," "Stone Cold Crazy" and the other tracks, I was struck at how *different* Queen sounded to their contemporaries.
Mud, Alvin Stardust, Paper Lace and the Rubettes were among the British hit-making acts that year, and Queen sound nothing like them.
Much of the credit surely goes to FREDDIE MERCURY and the multi-tracked vocals that became Queen's trademark. Mercury's remarkable vocal range and creativity give many of the songs on "Sheer Heart Attack" their distinctive, timeless quality.
It's a joy to hear.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Swans flying high after spectacular match

Last week, visiting SWANSEA CITY held NOTTINGHAM FOREST to a goalless draw in the first leg of their CHAMPIONSHIP Play-off semifinal, despite the Jacks being reduced to 10 men early in the second half.
That drama merely set the stage for today's second leg at Swansea, which I was lucky enough to watch live on television, because I have the day off.
Leon Britton and Stephen Dobbie scored fantastic first-half goals -- admittedly assisted by some rather questionable Forest defending, to put the home sick 2-0 up at half-time.
Forest wouldn't lie down, though, and fought back for much of the second 45 minutes.
Ex-Cardiff man Robert Earnshaw put the visitors right back into the tie with a superbly taken goal in the 80th minute.
Forest came close to scoring again -- the team struck the woodwork three times, including Earnshaw in the 90th minute -- but the final say belonged to Swansea.
Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp had come up for a visitors' corner deep into stoppage time. Swansea cleared the ball, however, and it fell to Swans substitute Darren Pratley. Pratley launched the ball from the halfway line to the unguarded Forest goal. The ball bounced in, Pratley took off his shirt to celebrate, the Welsh crowd went crazy, and Swansea won, 3-1.
The Swans or the Jacks -- the club have two nicknames -- face either READING or Welsh rivals CARDIFF in the play-off final, with the winner of that match playing in the Premier League next season.
I can't imagine tomorrow's Cardiff-Reading clash can match today's game for thrills, but stranger things have happened -- like 50-yard scoring strikes into unguarded goals.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

43 different ways to say Azerbaijan

ELDAR GASIMOV & NIGAR JAMAL finished their celebratory final performance of "Running Scared" -- the winning entry in last night's 56th annual EUROVISION SONG CONTEST -- and KERSTIN turned to me and said:
"We've got to find that song."
erstin was bitten by the bug: She's another music fan hooked on Eurovision.
We originally tuned in (it was live streamed on the Eurovision website) to see JEDWARD, those Irish twins with the gravity defying hair and "gosh-let's-put-on-a-show-in-the-school-gym" level of enthusiasm and performance ability.
We continued watching because of the variety of the acts from the 25 finalist nations and the novelty of a continent dropping everything to bask in often-overwrought pop music.
Famous past winners of the continental song competition have included France Gall, Sandie Shaw, Lulu, Katrina and the Waves and ABBA -- who were launched as a global pop sensation after "Waterloo" won the 1974 edition.
Although many of last night's acts sang in English -- the lingua franca of pop -- some struck out in their native tongues. As opposed to X-Factor or American Idol, there seemed to be a greater variety of singer and song at Eurovision.
Two of my favorite entries were Serbia's NINA RADOJIČIĆ -- she performed the song "Čaroban" in a retro-60s girl-group pop-art style and Moldova's ZDOB ŞI ZDUB, who seemed to take a Pogues-like punk approach to Transylvanian folk music and who performed "So Lucky" while wearing towering cones on their heads.
It was a memorable night of music, and Kerstin and I both watched transfixed as the 43 participating nations reported in with the results of their voting (by judging panel and viewers' votes -- with the restriction that nations couldn't vote for their own entries).
We decided "Ell and Nikki," as Gasimov and Jamal were dubbed for the show, were deserved winners. As the votes poured in, Kerstin noted how each nation had not only its unique interpretation of pop music, but also it's own way of pronouncing "Asch-scher-BYE-zhawn."
We're both probably hooked on the Eurovision experience now, and yes -- I did find "Running Scared" online. I'm listening to it now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hey pets! Look what Manchester has done!

Rarely does one city place itself so firmly into the center of the footballing universe as MANCHESTER did today.
In BLACKBURN, MANCHESTER UNITED snatched the 1-1 draw that clinched the club's record 19th league title -- 12th under manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Hours later, in LONDON, MANCHESTER CITY defeated STOKE CITY, 1-0, to win the F.A. CUP -- the club's first trophy in 35 years.
We watched the latter contest live on TV, although by "we" I mean me, and whichever of the four pets happened to be awake at the time.
I tried to explain the significance of today's events to REBEL, my father-in-law's dog who is visiting, but he was too interested in having me scratch his chest and belly.
KERSTIN, the Manchester United supporter one would have expected to have taken a keen interest in today's action, instead slept in until noon.
Ah well.
The half-awake animals and I were suitably impressed by Manchester's historical day of football.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sweet! It's Friday

It's inappropriate to trumpet the arrival of FRIDAY when you're only on your second day back to work after an 11-day vacation, so I won't dwell on it.
Too much.
I did decide that today would be a good day to listen to THE SWEET, the British glam band of the 1970s.
They were an elementary school favorite of mine -- "Fox on the Run" was a huge hit back then.
Today, I am listening to a clutch of earlier singles -- songs they recorded before the now-ubiquitous tunes like "Little Willy" and "Ballroom Blitz."
I love the three hits they released in 1971. "Funny Funny" was their first single to chart in Britain, reaching No. 13. "Co-Co" was the first big hit, landing at No. 2, and "Alexander Graham Bell" is ridiculously catchy. It reached No. 33.
The Sweet might be one of the reasons I am such a music fan today. Their catchy tunes captivated me at a young, impressionable age.
Two of the founders are sadly deceased -- vocalist Brian Connolly and drummer Mick Tucker.
Guitarist Andy Scott and bassist Steve Priest continue to make music. Unfortunately, they front competing versions of The Sweet.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The book that makes me crave lentils

The story of how the Mughals from central Asia helped create BIRYANI is in there.
So is the story linking Portuguese exploration of the New World -- and the discovery there of chilies -- eventually led to the development of fiery VINDALOO.
It provides a history of INDIAN CUISINE by tracing the various influences that have contributed to the creation of dishes such as MULLIGATAWNY and GREEN CORIANDER CHUTNEY.
It's a fascinating book -- with numerous recipes included -- and I recommend it with one caveat: You might want to have some lentils available before you begin.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"That's the Ninja chewing gum bullet!"

Any movie featuring black-tight clad go-go dancers wielding razor-sharp 45 rpm records as weapons and the line, "Chewing gum bullets? A Ninja trick? I've never heard of that one!" has got to be good.
No surprise, then, that the YASUHARU HASEBE 1966 Pop Art cult classic, "ORE NI SAWARU TO ABUNAIZE (DON'T TOUCH ME, I'M DANGEROUS a.k.a. BLACK TIGHT KILLERS)" is an absolute, without-doubt, stone-cold classic.
I watched the film for the first time today -- the final day of my 11-day VACATION.
I had read about "Black Tight Killers" for years, but it wasn't until our trip to SAN FRANCISCO that I finally found a DVD copy of the film.
Although it is currently out of print, I found a $20 used copy at GREEN APPLE BOOKS, our favorite bookstore.
Hasebe was a protégé of the iconoclastic director Seijun Suzuki, and "Black Tight Killers" shows Hasabe shared the wacky humor of his mentor, as well as a fetish for outrageous, unrealistically colorful sets.
I haven't enjoyed such a spectacle of a film in ages.
There is a value beyond the look and action of the film. It is well made.
Japanese cinema historian CHRIS DESJARDINS describes "Black Tight Killers" as "one of those amazing action movies that perfectly synthesizes a number of elements, seemingly without effort, and blends them into a cohesive whole." "There's a versatile score by Naozumi Yamamoto integrating several styles of Japanese pop, a magnificent, lushly colored production design, a terrific ensemble cast headed by Akira Kobayashi and, of course, Hasebe's guidance," Desjardins writes.
I absolutely agree. "Black Tight Killers" is a joy to watch, a film worth raving about.

Monday, May 09, 2011

It's so tough to leave my roots behind

I always -- always -- hate to leave at the end of a vacation to what I consider home -- the American West Coast in general and the SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA in particular.
Oh, I love going back to DUBUQUE to be with family and friends. I just think it would be better if they all came here.
Really, you'll love it: The weather is almost always good, the people are friendly, the food is fabulous and the scenery is outstanding.
This part of NORTHERN CALIFORNIA isn't just my favorite place on Earth. It also represents my roots. You never forget your roots, right?
Well, I know I can never forget mine.
I'm afraid I've reached the portion of my vacation where MELANCHOLIA enters the frame.
The melancholia feels particularly bitter now, because this trip has been so fantastic.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Goodbye curse, at least for one night

Well, that was fun.
I don't have the best track record when it comes to watching the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS play winning baseball live, in person. In short, if I am in the ballpark, the team usually loses.
That's why it's for the best that I was unable to attend any of the WORLD SERIES games last fall. Without my apparently defeatist vibes, San Francisco finally claimed baseball's biggest prize.
Last night, I thought THE CURSE OF ERIK HOGSTROM would once again rob the Giants of a victory.
I attended the game against the COLORADO ROCKIES, sitting in Club-level section 226, Row A, Seat 3, accompanied by JILL, my sister INGER and our friend LEAH.
My presence did the Giants absolutely no favors during the first seven innings. The division-leading Rockies led, 3-1, and the outlook seemed bleak for an offensively challenged Giants squad.
Then came the eighth inning, when the curse began to lift.
Nate Schierholtz doubled down the third-base line with two outs in the eighth, scoring Buster Posey and pinch-runner Darren Ford to tie the game.
Bearded sensation Brian Wilson shut the Rockies down in the top of the ninth inning. Come the bottom of the ninth, and the curse completely left the yard.
Freddy Sanchez hit a walk-off RBI single off Colorado reliever Felipe Paulino with one in the inning, scoring pinch-hitter Cody Ross and sending the 41,000 plus crowd out into the San Francisco streets buzzing with excitement.
The Giants had won, 4-3. The curse is over! At least for one night.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Sushi satisfaction

Have you ever felt satisfaction sweep over you like a soft wave?
Have you ever experienced that sensation after consuming mouth-watering SUSHI?
If not, you'll have no idea what I am writing back.
JILL joined my sister INGER and I in SAN FRANCISCO today. Tonight, we ate dinner at the SUSHI BISTRO located at 24th and York streets.
Here are the items we ate:
"WATERMELON MAN" -- A roll of spicy tuna, mango, black sesame seed and macadamia nuts, topped with avocado.
"BUTTERFISH BLASTERS" -- Snow crab meat and avocado wrapped in butterfish and torched with a garlic soy sauce (pictured).
"MONT BLANC" -- Shrimp tempura, avocado and cucumber topped with butterfish and ginger soy sauce.
"ROCK 'N' ROLL" -- Baked shrimp scallop on top of a California roll.
It was amazing, with the butterfish in particular living up to its name: It literally melted in our mouths.
The meal capped a delightful day, the highlight of which was meeting up with my high school friend JASON REYNOLDS, formerly of PHOENIX and now a resident of the S.F. neighborhood known as DIAMOND HEIGHTS.
It was all so memorable. It was the kind of day you live for.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Just a brief jaunt back to the basics

Once you've flown to SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, every subsequent flight seems as inconsequential as a bus ride.
I decided that today, as I sat in the warm sun of DOLORES PARK, after having flown from CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA to DENVER, then on to SAN FRANCISCO.
Other air passengers fretted about possibly missing connections, agonized over gate changes and seemed completely stymied by a general lack of overhead space for carry-on items.
Me, I just sat there and smiled. In a matter of hours, I had gone from a FREEZE WARNING to that HIGHLY REGARDED CALIFORNIA SUNSHINE that you've heard so much about -- and that this California native had almost forgotten! And yet I had thrived on this very sunshine since birth -- for about half my life, I'd reckon.
The actual act of flying to Sydney was a challenge to the senses of perspective, time and space, not to mention taxing on the butt muscles.
Today's journey, in contrast, seemed like a minimal jaunt back to the basics of my past.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Birthdays are better with soccer

I celebrated my BIRTHDAY today with a day off work -- I leave for SAN FRANCISCO early tomorrow morning -- and some CHAMPIONS LEAGUE soccer on television.
BARCELONA drew, 1-1, with REAL MADRID to advance to the final, 3-1 on aggregate.
The first leg in this semifinal, played in Madrid, was notable for diving, faked injuries, a scuffle at halftime and two Lionel Messi goals for Barcelona.
Today's second leg had a little less of the unsavory aspects of the first leg, but more rain.
The soggy pitch might have slowed both teams a touch.
It was the 54th minute when Barcelona opened the scoring. Andres Iniesta threaded a beautiful pass to Pedro, who scored.
Los Merengues countered with a Marcelo goal in the 64th minute, but it was not enough to overcome the advantage L'equip Blaugrana had amassed in the first leg.
I'll be either traveling or away from a television during tomorrow's other semifinal.
MANCHESTER UNITED seem poised to join Barça in the final. United hold a 2-0 advantage over SCHALKE heading into the second leg at Old Trafford.

Birthdays, I think, are just better with soccer on television.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Vacationing with Django

It's delightfully garish, with it's over-the-top violence and its cringe-inducing grit.
"DJANGO," the 1966 classic "Spaghetti Western" by SERGIO CORBUCCI provided the perfect film to launch my VACATION, which includes an upcoming trip to SAN FRANCISCO.
"Mudfighting whores, a coffin-dragging hero, a violin-playing dwarf bartender, a Ku Klux Klan priest forced to eat his own severed ear: Sergio Corbucci's blood-spattered Pop Art spaghetti Western has all these and more," wrote film critic Paul Simpson.
The film features the great FRANCO NERO as the coffin-dragging hero.
I love it as a vehicle of pure, stupid escapism. Although, studying the film today, on my first day of vacation, I could see the beauty in Corbucci's composition and his staging.
Perhaps I take this film too lightly?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Studying the Bird

I don't watch BIRDS as closely as our CATS study them.
From the other side of the window, the felines mentally catalog every feather, the minutest twitch of the head and the tiniest bite of seed with beak by the diners at the bird feeder.

Sitting outside this afternoon, my bird-watching efforts only progressed to the stage of my eyes following the birds as they glided from telephone line to tree, to ground, to bush and back to clear blue sky.

I studied the "BIRD" on my iPod much more closely.

This afternoon, I listened to the clutch of brilliant records CHARLIE PARKER cut for the Savoy and Dial labels between November 1945 and May 1947 -- almost certainly the peak of his extraordinarily creative powers.

"Now's The Time," "Orinthology," "Lover Man" and "Relaxin' at Camarillo" are only a few of the highlights from this epic period in JAZZ.

I'd watch some birds fly overhead as I sat in the backyard, then close my eye to follow the complicated course of Parker's solos.

I couldn't keep up. Parker remains a towering genius, even 66 years after the release of these records.

His music is as timeless as the flight of the birds over my head.