Thursday, June 30, 2011

The steps to cool off

It's going to be HOT around here, with heat indices above 100 during the next two days, according to the latest forecast.
I'm going to try to keep cool with some BOBBY "BLUE" BLAND.
The Blues legend's 1961 album "TWO STEPS FROM THE BLUES" almost serves as a "greatest hits" package, boasting classics such as "Cry, Cry, Cry," "I Pity the Fool" and "Little Boy Blue."
Bland merged blues with R&B and gospel to create a primordial soul -- one of the perfect kinds of music for days when the heat rises so high it slows everything else down.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anatomy of a summer meal

1. Watermelon
2. Jalapeño cheddarwurst
3. Macaroni salad
4. Baked beans
5. Beer (not pictured)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rewarded by Agee

I tried to read a passage from "LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN" at lunch yesterday.
Epic fail.
The words passed by in a brisk parade or a stampede. I couldn't find any meaning in the writing of JAMES AGEE.
Reviewers say this epic book, with its radical construction and Agee's poetic prose, often requires extra effort from the reader. Reading "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" takes effort, they say, but the intellectual exercise is worth it.
Buoyed by those reviews, I tried the passage again when we returned home last night.
Agee suddenly made perfect sense: He was explaining what it means to be human.
"Here then he is, or here is she: here is this tender and helpless human life: subjected to its immediacy and to all the enlarged dread of its future: out of a line, weight and burthen of sorrow and poison of fatigue whereof its blood is stained and beneath which it lifts up its little trembling body into standing, wearing upon its shoulders the weight of all the spreaded generations of its dead: surrounded already, with further pressures, impingements: the sorrow, weariness, and nescience of its parents in their closures above and round it."
I have struggled with this book at times, but my pursuit -- often dogged -- has been rewarded time and again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How Dubuque appeared on Aussie radio today

Here is the story of how my voice appeared on the radio in AUSTRALIA today.
It begins yesterday, as I took a break from reading to check TWITTER.
I saw a tweet from TRIPLE M SYDNEY 104.9:
"Tonight its the game of the season - Dragons v Manly on Triple M. Who'll be listening from overseas?"
I responded, telling the radio station that, as I do every Monday morning, I would wake up early so I can listen to their coverage of the match online, even though I live thousands of miles away, in DUBUQUE, IOWA.
About five minutes later, I received a Twitter direct message. Could the radio station call me? They would love to record me for a spot to be broadcast on the pregame show.
I grabbed a beer, grabbed my "HISTORY OF RUGBY LEAGUE CLUBS" for inspiration, and sat outside.
About 10 minutes later, the radio station called me on my cellphone.
We chatted for a short while.
I explained how I regularly watched Aussie rugby league when we lived in Oregon, about 15 years ago, and how my trip to SYDNEY last year confirmed my love of the sport.
Then I was prompted to say something like this:
"This is Erik and I'm listening to Monday Night Football from all the way in Dubuque, Iowa, USA on Triple M Sydney 104.9."
The DJ I spoke with thought it was brilliant.
I set my alarm earlier than usual, and woke up this morning to click on the radio station's live stream.
Sure enough, at 3:33 a.m. (CDT), I heard my voice speaking at me from our computer's speakers.
I just laughed. It seems quite surreal.
Well, the MANLY SEA EAGLES have just scored to open the second half, but the visitors still trail ST. GEORGE-ILLAWARRA, 12-6.
I like to think hundreds of Aussies spent halftime looking up "Dubuque, Iowa" in their atlases.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Like Rod fronting Led Zep

The animals had me up early today -- again -- so I decided to add some JEFF BECK GROUP songs to my mammoth ROD STEWART playlist.
Stewart and RON WOOD played with Beck before leaving to form the FACES.
Rather than sounding like that latter band, though, these songs suggest what Stewart might have sounded like had he fronted LED ZEPPELIN.
Beck and JIMMY PAGE were teenage friends, early collaborators and kindred musical spirits, and the Jeff Beck Group albums "TRUTH" and "BECK-OLA" were contemporaries to the initial Led Zep offerings.
Heck, both bands even released similar versions of Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me."
I think the Rod-fronted songs "Rock My Plimsoul," "Blues Deluxe," "I Ain't Superstitious," "The Hangman's Knee" and others could have easily slotted into the running orders of Led Zeppelin's first two albums.
If I have to wake up early with the animals, at least I can listen to some superb music.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Six Thousand Mile Parade of Words

Leaving work yesterday, I had wanted to sit outside in the fresh and simply not think -- I had endured enough thinking this week, I decided.
Sadly, the persistent, biting GNATS in our backyard had other ideas, so I left the great outdoors, returned inside our house, and picked up a book.
I still didn't want to think too much, so I am not sure what possessed me to pick up "LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN," open it to the preamble by author JAMES AGEE, and glance at the following passage:
"...the whole memory of the South in its six-thousand-mile parade and flowering outlay of the façades of cities, and of the eyes in the streets of towns, and of hotels, and of the trembling heat, and of the wide wild opening of the tragic land, wearing the trapped frail flowers of its garden of faces; the fleet flush and flower and fainting of the human crop it raises; the virulent, insolent, deceitful, pitying, infinitesimal and frenzied running and searching, on this colossal peasant map, of two angry, futile and bottomless, botched and overcomplicated youthful intelligences in the service of an anger and of a love and of an undiscernible truth, and in the frightening vanity of their would-be purity; the sustaining, even now, and forward moving, lifted on the lifting of this day as ships on a wave, above whom, in a few hours, night once more will stand up in his stars, and they decline through lamplight and be dreaming statues, of those, each, whose lives we knew and whom we love and intend well toward, and of whose living we know little in some while now, save that quite steadily, in not much possible change for better or much worse, mute, innocent, helpless and incorporate among that small-moted and inestimable swarm and pollen stream and fleet of single, irreparable, unrepeatable existences, they are led, gently, quite steadily, quite without mercy, each a little farther toward the washing and the wailing, the sunday suit and the prettiest dress, the pine box, and the closed clay room whose frailly decorated roof, until rain has taken it flat into oblivion, wears the shape of a ritual scar and of an inverted boat: curious, obscene, terrifying, beyond all search of dream unanswerable, those problems which stand thickly forth like light from all matter, triviality, chance, intention, and record in the body, of being, of truth, of conscience, of hope, of hatred, of beauty, of indignation, of guilt, of betrayal, of innocence, of forgiveness, of vengeance, of guardianship, of an indenominable fate, predicament, destination, and God."
At first, I feared I was reading some foreign language, or, worse, that I had been struck with a sudden, irreversible illiteracy.
What did this passage mean? Couldn't they afford periods during the Dust Bowl? Why does it feel like WILLIAM FAULKNER is haunting me from my college days?
I must have read Agee's passage seven times in total. Each time a little more meaning would seep into my blurry consciousness -- I think.
I decided it might be best to simply push on into the book and come back to the "six thousand mile parade" later.
That's when I reached this passage:
"Get a radio or a phonograph capable of the most extreme loudness possible, and sit down to listen to a performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony or of Schubert's C-Major Symphony. But I don't mean just sit down and listen. I mean this: Turn it on as loud as you can get it. Then get down on the floor and jam your ear as close into the loudspeaker as you can get it and stay there, breathing as lightly as possible, and not moving, and neither eating nor smoking nor drinking. Concentrate everything you can into your hearing and into your body. You won't hear it nicely. If it hurts you, be glad of it. As near as you will ever get, you are inside the music; not only inside it, you are it; your body is no longer your shape and substance, it is the shape and substance of the music."
Now *that* is something I can understand!
Agee and I might get along OK after all.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cartoon characters we'd like to be

ROUTE 1 readers take time off from their more intellectual pursuits by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"If you could be a cartoon character, which would you like to be?"
BEKAH S. -- Easy. Miss Piggy. Now there's a female who knows how to get what she wants.
LAURA C. -- I wouldn't mind being Jessica Rabbit for a while.
JIM S. -- It would have to be Johnny Quest. He went on some hair-raising expeditions with his dad Dr. Benton, Race, Hadji and Bandit. And, being a lead cartoon character, I wouldn't have to worry about getting hurt or killed!
KERSTIN H. -- Pooh... even tho he is no longer on TV because apparently no one cares if the younger generation has corrupt morals or not, Pooh still had a pretty good life and a lot of friends who cared for him.
BRIAN M. -- Jiminy Cricket, the conscience of "Pinocchio." "You buttered your bread. Now sleep in it!"
ANNIKA H. -- SpongeBob!
MIKE D. -- Being Richie Rich would certainly give me a comfortable life, but there's something to be said for the excitement of being Shaggy and solving mysteries with Scooby Doo and friends. And the lad never seems to go hungry either.
ERIK H. -- Bugs Bunny is sharp-witted and funny, irreverent but only ever mean-spirited to the villains who seem to deserve it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Soccer taken most seriously

No one takes soccer as seriously as SOUTH AMERICANS.
Last night's final of the COPA LIBERTADORES provided the proof -- from the flares filling the air with smoke hours before the match to the full-scale brawl at the end.
Brazil's SANTOS beat Uruguay's PEÑAROL, 2-1, to capture the title for the first time since PELE starred for the club in the 1960s.
A new generation of stars led this version of the club called Peixe (fish).
Playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso (age 21) set up the first goal for the prodigiously talented Neymar (19) in the 47th minute. Both players will be transfer targets of European clubs this summer.
Danilo scored Santos' second in the 69th minute. Peñarol pulled one back in the 80th minute thanks to an own goal by Santos' Durval.
Pele celebrated in the stands and I watched on television. It's difficult not to be caught up in the passion of South American soccer. Just avoid the brawls.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The night Juan Marichal pitched in Dubuque

It was a Monday night in June, 53 years ago.
The visiting MICHIGAN CITY WHITECAPS were attempting to hold off the DUBUQUE PACKERS at the latter's Fourth Street Park. In doing so, the White Caps (a Giants affiliate in the MIDWEST LEAGUE) would snap a 15-game winning streak for the Packers (a White Sox farm team).
The TELEGRAPH HERALD sports editor of the time, Mitch Milavetz, described the White Caps' pitching in his game story in the following days' newspaper:
"The first Michigan City pitcher, Ken Bracey, treated the Packers without respect. He struck out three out of four men in the first inning. A pain in his elbow forced him out of the game after allowing a single to Frank Szymanski in the second. Jim Smiske came in and worked 2-1/3 innings when manager Buddy Kerr decided the game was too important to trust in unsteady hands, and reached into his bullpen for Juan Marcihal (sic), rated the tops of the White Cap staff and perhaps the best hurler in the league."
That was the debut of future Hall of Fame pitcher JUAN MARICHAL in Dubuque. He worked 5-2/3 innings of relief, giving up four hits, one run, striking out three and having his name misspelled in the newspaper the next day.
After finishing a story of my own at work yesterday, I delved into the archives to learn how Marichal fared in 1958, when he was a 20-year-old playing in a league that once included team from here.
Marichal won Midwest League Rookie of the Year honors for the 1958 season, leading the league in wins with a 21-8 record. His White Caps won the first-half pennant but lost to the Waterloo Hawks in the 1958 Midwest League Championship Series.
Against Dubuque, Marichal went 2-2, with an ERA of 2.14 (his overall league ERA was 1.87), striking out 40 batters in 42 innings.
He only pitched twice in Dubuque, however, and both times were in relief.
The Dominican with the high leg kick, who won more Major League games in the 1960s than any other pitcher had left his mark on Dubuque, despite the limited appearances in town.
By the end of the season, the Telegraph Herald sportswriters not only knew how to spell his name, they had learned to add the appendage "the great" to the front of it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Great way to spend a Father's Day

I spent a fun FATHER'S DAY with my father-in-law yesterday.
JILL'S dad MARK BECKMAN came over to our house and we grilled chicken, listened to BASEBALL on the radio and gazed at old BASEBALL BOOKS.
I have a book of TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS. We thumbed through it, and Mark shared some anecdotes of many of the players he had seen in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was a great way to spend a day.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An old favorite: Truffaut's film has everything

I returned home from work last night and popped an old favorite into the DVD player.
"TIREZ SUR LE PIANISTE (SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER)" by FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT is more than an "old favorite" -- it is easily one of my top-five films.
CHARLES AZNAVOUR plays Charlie Koller/Edouard Saroyan, a classical pianist driven by personal tragedy to shed his identity and start anew as the anonymous piano player in a rundown nightclub.
The film seems to have a little bit of everything. It's funny, it's sad. There is love and betrayal. There is bawdy nightclub singer and a pair of incompetent but lethal gangsters.
As with other Nouvelle Vague films, I am thrilled to see Truffaut break film's rules -- not just for the sake of breaking them, but to wring more emotional resonance from the scenes.
A classic case point concerns Edouard's audition with a famous musical impresario. The film's viewers hear Edouard's playing but we don't see it. Instead, Truffaut's camera follows the trail of a violinist (pictured) who apparently failed her audition just before Edouard's arrival. How can a filmmaker bring into sharper focus the triumph of Edouard? Truffaut accomplishes this feat by showing us the disappointment of a failure.

It had been ages since I last watched "Tirez Sur Le Pianiste," and as I watched it last night, I chastised myself for taking so long a break from one of my favorite films.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Time for some Hüsker Dü

I work night shift today, and my COLD is in its final, hacking and coughing stages. It seems like the time is right for some HÜSKER DÜ.
I'm listening to "ZEN ARCADE" in the car today, with the speakers turned up just a bit higher than normal.
"On many levels, Hüsker Dü never let anyone catch their breath," wrote MICHAEL AZERRAD in his landmark look at American underground music, "OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE." "The band's songs were unbroken walls of speed and noise; in concert they played number after number without any breaks in between; they recorded new albums just as the previous one was coming out. The band was in a headlong rush toward a lofty peak, and it was hard not to get swept up in the quest."
The lofty peak in question was something different -- something that differed from the simple hard-and-fast aesthetic common to punk rock.
"Widely hailed albums like 'Zen Arcade,' 'New Day Rising' and 'Flip Your wig' injected other rock traditions into hardcore, crucially advancing the music, widening its audience and playing Hüsker Dü at center stage in American indie rock," Azerrad wrote.
I must admit, I have always preferred THE REPLACEMENTS when choosing between Minneapolis' twin pillars of American indie.
However, today just seems like a good day for Hüsker Dü.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Classic Friday Question revisited

June 10, 2005.
It was a Friday, and ROUTE 1 readers answered the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was the last record (CD, mp3, etc.) you purchased?"
The answers provided snapshot views of readers' listening habits, so we have decided to ask the question today, six years later.
Here is how readers responded to the newly posed query...
BEKAH S. -- I purchased a Pandora subscription.
ANNIKA H. -- "The House That Built Me."
MIKE D. -- I hadn't bought any new music in a few years. But a few weeks ago, after reading a Jim Swenson column that mentioned a Supertramp song, I finally went out and bought a CD I've wanted for years: "Breakfast in America." It contains some great tunes, many which take me back to my high school days.
KERSTIN H. -- "Above the Noise" by McFly.... i <3 McFly!
RICK T. -- Johnny Counterfit Live in Nashville.
JIM S. -- Do LPs count? I stopped at Moon Dog a few months ago and, for old times sake, I bought a couple of albums. One was Fleetwood Mac's 1980 "Live," a double-album with many of their hits and a few songs I don't own. The other was Grand Funk's self-titled 1969 album. I never had owned the album, but did have the cassette tape in the early 1970s.
KERI M. -- I pre-ordered Josh Groban's "Illuminations" a couple of months ago.
BRIAN M. -- "Night Attack" by the Angels... or as U.S. audiences know the band, Angel City.
ERIK H. -- My latest album is a collection of dub reggae tunes from the early 1970s. "Dub Specialist: 17 Dub Shots from Studio One." The songs are remixed versions of classic reggae tunes from Studio One, the iconic label known as "The Motown of Jamaica."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sickbed reading

I might have picked the wrong book to read while SICK in bed for three days.
"FRANKENSTEIN," by MARY SHELLEY, must have seemed drenched in horror in the years following its 19th Century publication.
Modern-day readers, accustomed to greater spooks, might find the book more melancholic than sad.
"After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter."
Victor Frankenstein brought life to the lifeless, as in the movies, but his creature was not the unthinking, moronic colossus of cinema. Instead, the creature wrought by Frankenstein's endeavors is a self-aware being immensely troubled by loneliness and the intolerance of mankind.
The real horror in "Frankenstein" are the actions of mankind, not the monster.
Perhaps that's what Shelley intended all along. In my ill state, I have not been able to fully appreciate Shelley's work.
I am slowly emerging from a chest cold that wiped me out for most of the week.
I'm hoping my enjoyment of "Frankenstein" increases as my health improves.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why can't we have good shows like this one?

I enjoyed myself immensely, but there was an undercurrent of anger, too, as I watched the first four episodes of "FREAKS AND GEEKS" on DVD during my day off yesterday.
How is it possible, I thought, that countless crappy shows clog the TV schedule, while an outstanding show like "Freaks and Geeks" can't even last a full season?
The plot of the series, which ran during the 1999-2000 season, concerned groups of varied students in a high school circa 1980, and their interactions with each other. In this respect, the show seems reminiscent of one of my favorite films, "Dazed and Confused."
Both also featured excellent casts.
LINDA CARDELLINI and JOHN FRANCIS DALEY, the Weir children at the heart of the story, are excellent.
So too are supporting cast members who have since emerged as recognizable actors of the small and big screen: JAMES FRANCO, SETH ROGAN and JASON SEGEL, to name but three.
Yes, I admit to a sense of resentment against the injustice of television when I watch "Freaks and Geeks."
If more people had watched the show at the time -- yes, including me -- perhaps that resentment could have saved it from extinction.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Praising 10cc

I can't rave enough about 10CC.
I was listening to the collective consisting of GRAHAM GOULDMAN, ERIC STEWART, (and originally) KEVIN GODLEY and LOL CREME last night, while I struggled with a sore throat that seems like it wants to progress to a spring cold.
As songs such as "Art for Art's Sake," "The Wall Street Shuffle" and "I'm Mandy, Fly Me" followed in succession, I was struck by how astoundingly good 10cc were.
They had the musical ability to pull off anything they attempted.
A song such as "Silly Love," for example, is as hard-rocking and complicated as anything Queen produced.
"Good Morning Judge" is a fine example of bluesy rock, which the band followed with "Dreadlock Holiday," a passable reggae tune that is also quite funny -- humor being another 10cc hallmark.
Like I said, I can't rave enough about 10cc. They were smart, funny and brilliant.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stories that take the sting out of bad baseball

The GIANTS were being badly beaten yesterday, but I didn't want to quit listening to the radio broadcast: Listening to baseball -- even bad baseball -- is a powerful symbol of summer. I can't switch it off: It's too evocative of lazy, youthful days spent with my radio playing outside in CALIFORNIA.
So I kept listening but took my mind off the carnage on the diamond by reaching for some old BASEBALL BOOKS.
Here is my favorite baseball story, a tale about the NEW YORK METS related by the incomparable ROGER ANGELL in his classic, "FIVE SEASONS":
During the early stages of their terrible first summer, in 1962, their center fielder, Richie Ashburn, suffered a series of frightful surprises while going after short fly balls, because he was repeatedly run over by the shortstop, the enthusiastic but modestly talented Elio Chacon.
After several of these encounters, Ashburn took Chacon aside and carefully explained that, by ancient custom, center fielders were allowed full freedom to catch all flies they could get to and signal for.
The collisions and near-collisions and dropped fly balls continued exactly as before, and Ashburn eventually concluded that Chacon, who spoke very little English, simply didn't understand what it meant when he saw his center fielder waving his arms and yelling "Mine! Mine! I got it!" Richie thought this over and then went to Joe Christopher, a bilingual teammate on the Mets, and asked for help. "All you have to do is say it in Spanish," Christopher said. "Yell out 'Yo la tengo!' and Elio will pull up. I'll explain it to him, too -- OK? You won't have any more trouble out there." "Yo la tengo?" Ashburn said. "That's it," Christopher said.
Before the next game, Ashburn saw Chacon in the clubhouse.
"Yo la tengo?" Richie said tentatively.
"Si, si! Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!" Chacon said, smiling and nodding his head. "Yo la tengo!" Ashburn said. They shook hands. In the second or third inning that night, an enemy batter lifted a short fly to center. Ashburn sprinted in for the ball. Chacon thundered out after it. "Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!" Richie shouted. Chacon jammed on the brakes and stopped, happily gesturing for Ashburn to help himself. Richie reached up to make the easy catch -- and was knocked flat by Frank Thomas, the Mets' left fielder.
Stories like that one never fail to make me smile, and they take the sting out of bad baseball.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Replacements: Just dreamy

I was jolted awake out of a dream the other morning. That otherwise common occurrence was made memorable by the dream -- I was dreaming about THE REPLACEMENTS. The funny thing is, I was never consciously a big "MATS" fan back in the day. I was too much of an anglophile, I guess. Subconsciously it must have been a different story. I think the MINNEAPOLIS band are the only real-life combo I have ever dreamt about. I just sat outside listening to "STINK: 'KIDS DON'T FOLLOW' PLUS SEVEN." Today is cold and cloudy and seems perfect for the Mats. Maybe that's why I dream about them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Eats for the heat

It was HOT, until the nonstop rain began, which prompted ROUTE 1 to ponder the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What's your favorite meal on a hot day?"
ROSEANNE H. -- Anything on the grill along with a nice cold margarita!
SANDYE V. -- Leftovers that only have to be nuked and a huge salad of lettuce from my garden (picked in the morning).
JEFF T. -- I love a cold chicken salad sandwich on rye with enough ice cold, crisp watermelon on the side to keep me spitting seeds until my lips are sore.
RICK T. -- Cheeseburger. Quick and easy.
KERSTIN H. -- Pasta with chicken and pesto.
BEKAH P. -- Well, this doesn't necessarily qualify as an entire meal (or, at least, it probably shouldn't), but... Watermelon!
KERI M. -- BBQ burgers with any side.
MIKE D. -- Cereal with very cold milk or a chocolate chip cookie dough Blizzard.
ANNIKA H. -- Ice cream.
LISA Y. -- Fish tacos from Houlihans with chips and salsa and a margarita.
ERIK H. -- Taco salad and a cold beer.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Mapping Sydney's rivalries

I am amused looking at this cover of THARUNKA magazine, from the UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES.
It purports to show how different SYDNEY residents view the other areas of the city -- for example, Eastern Suburb residents labeling the Western Suburbs as "Someone Has to Live Here" and North Shore residents labeling the Cronulla-Sutherland area as "Bogans," an AUSTRALIAN slang term for someone who is working class and unsophisticated.
The maps signify the neighborhood rivalries in Sydney, but their theme could be appropriated for other large, urban areas.
What would similar maps of London or San Francisco look like? How do people in the Sunset district, for example, view people in Noe Valley?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Pablo hits the right summer notes

As the sound of the melodica trickled out of my car speakers last evening, I had convinced myself: AUGUSTUS PABLO is one of the best musical acts for a scorching day.
I've listened to loads of REGGAE during our current heatwave -- we've had temperatures above 85 for five consecutive days with highs in the 90s the past two days, allied with high humidity levels -- Jamaicans seem to make music with the perfect vibe for summer weather. Must be an island thing.
Pablo (1954-99) was an instrumentalist and producer who was among the vanguard of musicians ushering in DUB, the musical style in which existing songs are manipulated in the studio to emphasize drums and bass and introduce the atmospheric effects of echo, delay and reverb.
Born Horace Swaby, Pablo also brought the melodica to the forefront of Jamaican music. He was a virtuoso on the instrument that is also known as a "key flute." I've got a towering trio of Pablo albums that I routinely play when the temperatures rise -- "KING TUBBY MEETS ROCKERS UPTOWN," "EAST OF THE RIVER NILE" and "ORIGINAL ROCKERS."
I endorse all three of these fantastic albums to music fans. They are masterful in any weather, but they really seem perfectly suited to sweltering days.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Cricket beats the heat

It's still early, so the HEAT hasn't yet begun to rise.
DUBUQUE is supposed to reach 95 degrees today, and all I want to do is stay home and listen to CRICKET on the radio.
ENGLAND (486 & 187-2) and SRI LANKA (479) are battling in their second Test at LORD'S CRICKET GROUND.
Lord's is the spiritual home of the sport, and I was lucky to tour the famous ground in London.
Returning to the United States, I described Lord's as a cross between Yankee Stadium and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Lord's combines a legacy of staging many of cricket's historic moments with a museum housing many of the game's most treasured possessions, including the ASHES (the urn symbolically claimed by the winners of the England-Australia arch rivalry).
Cricket's pace makes it the perfect sport for an exceedingly hot day, when you seek shade and avoid excessive movement.
Listening to the sport has become symbolic of an idyllic summer for me, since I first heard the game during a trip to HOLLAND in my youth.
I wish I could just stay home and listen today, while allowing this unseasonably hot day to creep past.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Martin Rushent: AnAppreciation

The highest accolade I can pay to music producer MARTIN RUSHENT, who died age 63 this past weekend, is to admit how many of his songs are indelibly lodged in my consciousness.
One minute, I am humming "No More Heroes" by THE STRANGLERS, the next I am bopping my head along to "Mirror Man" by THE HUMAN LEAGUE.
I can sing "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" by the BUZZCOCKS at the drop of a hat and "Head Over Heels" by the GO-GO'S is never far from the rotation of the songs playing in my head.
I've sung "Working Girl" by THE MEMBERS in the shower and "Happy Birthday" by ALTERED IMAGES while rocking a baby to sleep.
In truth, Rushent's songs influenced a whole swath of us music fanatics in the 1980s. "Destination Venus" by the REZILLOS. Now there's a great Rushent song.
What a brilliant producer. What utterly classic songs.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The ferocity of the French taunting took him completely by surprise

KERSTIN and I watched "MONTY PYTHON & THE HOLY GRAIL" last night -- the first time I had seen it in a couple of years.
It's one of those rare films for me: I remember and start laughing about scenes moments before they arrive on the screen (Killer Bunny, anyone?).
Consider the instructions for the Holy Hand Grenade: "And Saint Atila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, 'Oh, Lord, bless this thy hand grenade that with it thou mayest blow thy enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.' And the Lord did grin, and people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large --"
Skip a bit, brother. "And the Lord spake, saying, 'First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thou foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.'"
This scene and others like it have remained with me for years.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Dub-b-b-b-b-b when it swelters

I can think of no better music on a SWELTERING HOT DAY than DUB REGGAE.
The disembodied beats seem the perfect complement to oppressive heat.
Dub reggae is an especially powerful music to hear on a humid night.
Our family participated in the RELAY FOR LIFE fund-raising event for the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY last night. I had hoped to spend the night at the site with them, but someone had to stay home with the dog.
So, shortly before midnight, I drove home.
DUBUQUE baked in unusually (for early June) summer-like temperatures. Even driving home in the middle of the night, I saw crowds of people outside -- their brick homes acting like ovens.
Buh-dum-puh-duh-PISH! Buh-dum-puh-duh-PISH! Buh-dum-puh-duh-PISH!
I drove with the windows open and the absolutely essential reggae compilation "DON LETTS PRESENTS THE MIGHTY TROJAN SOUND" blaring from my car stereo speakers. Buh-dum-puh-duh-PISH! Buh-dum-puh-duh-PISH! Buh-dum-puh-duh-PISH!
The album contains a few dub-reggae tracks, and their sense of suspended musical animation perfectly suited the slow progress of life around me on an extraordinarily hot night.
It's cooler but still humid today -- and my night-owl, cancer-fighting family members remain asleep after pulling all-nighters at Relay For Life.
I'll listen to more dub reggae today. It'll always be a soundtrack to my summer.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Who are the overrated authors?

We all seem to have our noses stuck in books these days, reading every chance we can get.
All this book time got us thinking: We know some authors we consider underrated, who could be placed in the opposite category?
ROUTE 1 readers offer their opinions by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Is there a classic author you consider overrated?"
INGER H. -- Definitely Dickens. His plots are absurdly unrealistic, and the melodrama just rubs me the wrong way. I think the novels of Anthony Trollope are far superior. Subtle, real, and seemingly effortless. All the more remarkable that they were written by a man with a regular, full time job as well.
LAURA C. -- Hemingway. I thought A Farewell to Arms read like a romance novel, and I told my high school English teacher so. He laughed...but agreed with me.
KERI M. -- No.
ANNIKA H. -- You. LOL. Just kidding. Shakespeare.
BEKAH P. -- OK, I know this is going to get me stoned by roaming packs of book club activists, but I am going to say... J.D. Salinger. I always thought his work was interesting, but I never considered it some kind of anthem or mandate on adolescence. I just thought it was an OK book that I wouldn't have read if it weren't for my AP English class.
KERSTIN H. -- Yea! I think that Skakespeare is sooo overrated! We spend to much time reading him and not enough time reading other great classics!
SASKIA M. -- J.D. Salinger, in particular the hype about "The Catcher in the Rye." I have never been able to understand the enthusiasm many people have about this book, it kind of bored me.
SANDYE V. -- Herman Melville. "Moby Dick," a whale of a borrrrrinnnnnnnggg book.
ERIK H. -- Charles Dickens gets my vote. His books seem so needlessly wordy, I can never seem to get very far into them.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

"Rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling"

After a DOUBLEPLUSUNGOOD day at work the other day, I returned home and opened up my copy of "NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR," the GEORGE ORWELL novel I am re-reading for the first time in several years.
As luck or fate would have it, this newspaper reporter had reached the section, early in the novel, in which we glimpse protagonist Winston Smith's employment in the dystopian future: He rewrites past newspaper stories to fit the current needs of the ruling Party of BIG BROTHER.
"On occasion he had even been entrusted with the rectification of The Times leading articles, which were written entirely in Newspeak. He unrolled the message that he had set aside earlier. It ran:
'times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling'
In Oldspeak (or standard English) this might be rendered:
'The reporting of Big Brother's Order for the Day in The Times of December 3rd 1983 is extremely unsatisfactory and makes references to non-existent persons. Rewrite it in full and submit your draft to higher authority before filing.'
Winston read through the offending article. Big Brother's Order for the Day, it seemed, had been chiefly devoted to praising the work of an organization known as FFCC, which supplied cigarettes and other comforts to the sailors in the Floating Fortresses. A certain Comrade Withers, a prominent member of the Inner Party, had been singled out for special mention and awarded a decoration, the Order of Conspicuous Merit, Second Class.
Three months later FFCC had suddenly been dissolved with no reasons given. One could assume that Withers and his associates were now in disgrace, but there had been no report of the matter in the Press or on the telescreen. That was to be expected, since it was unusual for political offenders to be put on trial or even publicly denounced."
It probably wasn't the best thing I could have read given my mood, seeing how the section of the novel concerned totalitarian demands on an underling toiling for the press.
Ah well. I've also read "COMING UP FOR AIR" and "ANIMAL FARM" during my ORWELLIAN SPRING.
Like those novels, "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is so well-written, it is a joy return to its pages, even if the subject matter ultimately leaves me feeling so dispirited.
And even when the subject matter hits a little too close to home for my comfort!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

AC/DC are better than bait

That's the revelation from DOWN UNDER this week, after Sydney's DAILY TELEGRAPH reported today that a South Australian tourism operator attracts great white sharks during cage-diving excursions by playing the music of the Aussie rockers.
The band's music works even better than fish bait, according to tourism operator Matt Waller.
The Tele's article concludes by saying the playing of AC/DC mimics the Pacific Islander practice of banging coconut shells underwater to attract sharks.
I wonder how Angus and Mal would enjoy that particular comparison to their music.