Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year from Route 1

HAPPY NEW YEAR to the readers of ROUTE 1!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Warming up with "Live at Massey Hall 1971"

Oh dear.
It's only 0 degrees Fahrenheit this morning and I must venture out in an hour or so to go to work.
It's too C-C-COLD to do much more than listen to NEIL YOUNG.
We exchanged gifts with some family friends yesterday and I received some CDs, including Young's "LIVE AT MASSEY HALL 1971," part of the Canadian singer-songwriter's Archives Performance Series.
Young plays solo, accompanying himself with acoustic guitar and piano, on songs such as "Old Man," "Helpless," "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "The Needle and the Damage Done" -- in short, a classic collection of tunes.
The album also records a homecoming for Young and his fans -- the audience cheers, for example, whenever he sings about CANADA.
The album is keeping me warm this morning, at least in spirit.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The Great McGinty" helps fuel my Sturges love affair

I'm quickly falling in love... with the films of PRESTON STURGES.
Halfway through watching "SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS" accompanied by the audio commentary (which included insights by current director and film-critic progeny Noah Baumbach), the UPS man arrived at my door with yet another Christmas present -- a seven-disc collection of Sturges films.
"Sullivan's Travels" ended and I quickly began watching Sturges' directorial debut, the 1940 political satire "THE GREAT McGINTY."
I loved it.
BRIAN DONLEVY portrays the title character, a bum who becomes an enforcer for a corrupt political boss (classic screen villain AKIM TAMIROFF). Eventually, McGinty's role becomes elevated until he serves as the ultimate front man for the mob -- as the state's governor.
The film is surprisingly complex for such a relatively simple story.
That's one of the attributes of Sturges' filmography that I most admire.
"The Great McGinty" blends comedy with political intrigue, mixed with a gangster film. As with "Sullivan's Travels," "The Great McGinty" is a film that blends genres until you can't remember exactly what the film had been labeled.
I had only seen one Sturges film before this month. Now, I want to see them all.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Admiring Dassin's intelligent shot composition

I've long admired the work of JULES DASSIN.
Last night, I watched the film many critics consider the exiled American director's masterpiece.
"NIGHT AND THE CITY" is a 1950 FILM NOIR shot on location in London. RICHARD WIDMARK plays an ambitious but unlucky American hustler who aims too high -- attempting to seize control of London's wrestling racket from a powerful gangster, played by (the always wonderful) HERBERT LOM.
The plot is entertaining, the location shooting is gritty and Dassin's shot composition is astounding.
I knew from "RIFIFI" that Dassin knew how to utilize close-up shots to maximum effect. In "Night and the City," he arranges characters within close-ups to show connections between people.
If you like the film noir genre, you will love "Night and the City" -- there's enough double-crossing for everyone.
If you love a beautifully and intelligently shot film, you'll love the movie, too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gerry Anderson remembered

I watched "THUNDERBIRDS" tonight in remembrance of the television visionary GERRY ANDERSON, who has died age 83.
I would be remiss if I let the day pass without writing about the British puppeteer and television producer, director and writer who did so much to further SCIENCE FICTION.
I wasn't allowed to watch "Thunderbirds" as a kid, but as my adolescence progressed I became an avid viewer of two of Anderson's live-action series, "UFO" and "SPACE: 1999."
The shows left a lasting impression on me, entertaining me while furthering the boundaries of my own imagination.
I know I'm not alone, too.
My TWITTER feed was filled today with reminiscing fans of Anderson's work.
I can watch "Thunderbirds" whenever I wish in this age of DVDs and me being an adult.
I don't blame my mom for delaying my introduction to "Thunderbirds" -- it just made the viewings these days that much sweeter.
Thanks, Gerry Anderson.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fire up the XMAS playlist!


Almost, Noddy, almost...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Preston Sturges and the power of laughter

"There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan."
-- John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) in "Sullivan's Travels" by Preston Sturges

We exchanged one set of CHRISTMAS gifts last night.
I woke up early today so I could watch one of my gifts on DVD before heading to work.
"SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS" by PRESTON STURGES stars JOEL McCREA as a film director who has convinced himself he must make a "serious" motion picture to gain credibility.
To ensure he has sufficient background for the film, he sets out to live the life of a hobo.
The pitfalls of the streets prove to be more of a challenge than he expected, and he makes several significant discoveries -- both about himself and human nature in general -- during his adventures.
Sturges is a hero of mine. He was a screenwriter who became a film director, and truly did "author" the films he made.
I recommend seeing any Sturges film. His way with wit is one of life's true pleasures, and he knew the power of laughter.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Everything but a goal

I've heard it said so often it must be a FOOTBALL CLICHÉ by now:
"That game had everything but a goal."
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR and STOKE CITY just played a goalless draw on TV that fits that category.
There were dancing penguins, seven yellow cards, a substitute appearance by my favourite player (SCOTT PARKER) but no goals.
Spurs remained in fifth place in the PREMIER LEAGUE table with the shared points, while the Potters reside in eighth place.
It was an entertaining match and a nice start to the festive campaign, even if there weren't any goals.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Digging out a family affair

Digging out from the year's biggest SNOWSTORM was a family affair.
DUBUQUE received 14.4 inches of snow Wednesday through Thursday, and we needed all hands on deck to clear a path to the cars and clear a path for the cars.
My father-in-law brought in his snow blower and we used all our available equipment to reduce the snow's grip on our sidewalks and steps.
Oh well, at least we are assured of a WHITE CHRISTMAS.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I'd say that's three hours of dreaming to add to my timecard

OK, that was strange.
One of my stories today is supposed to take a look at the "12/21/12 END OF THE WORLD" CRAZE.
Apocalpyse theorists and some Internet rumor mongers say the end of the ancient Mayan calendar's "long-count period" indicates the world will end Friday.
I decided I would wait until today to come up with several humorous reasons why the world won't end.
Then, my subconscious decided to inject a new meaning to the term "sleeping on it."
I literally dreamt up the story.
I dreamt I was scribbling reasons the world won't end on little scraps of paper throughout the day, then collecting all the scrap-listed reasons for my story.
It was working perfectly, until my PHONE rang about an hour before I usually wake up. It was a text alert about a BLIZZARD we're due to experience tonight and tomorrow.
As I awoke, the little scraps of paper vanished back into dreamland, but I managed to remember about seven of the reasons. I'll use those to form the basis of my story.
One of the reasons the world won't end that appeared in my dream:
"Have you seen the proliferation of Carly Rae Jepsen "Call Me Maybe" parody videos on YouTube? We couldn't be so fortunate as to receive the sweet relief that the apocalypse would bring."
Now, I just need to figure out a way to record all that sleeping time on our company's electronic payroll system.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Big storm coming? Where's my snow shovel?

A 40 percent probability of at least 12 inches of SNOW?
I'd like the other 60 percent, please.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The murder ballad that shook me

I contentedly listened to the classic country harmonizing of Bill and Earl Bolick -- the BLUE SKY BOYS -- in the car today when a lyric so disturbed me that my head jerked back.
"I took her by her lily white hand and dragged her down that bank of sand. There I throwed her in to drown. I watched her as she floated down."
The Blue Sky Boys performed for more than 40 years, and the brother act adhered to both traditional sounds (Earl on guitar and Bill on mandolin) and and songs, including the MURDER BALLAD.
Originating in European folk song, murder ballads are narratives providing the often grim details of killings.
In "Cultural Criminology," authors Dr. Jeff Ferrell and Clinton R. Sanders analyzed murder ballads and found three distinct patterns:

"First, in almost every case, the murder occurs between acquaintances and nearly always involves a man killing a woman. Second, the woman's death is nearly always a violent one, with her body cruelly disposed of. Third, the murders depicted in song are characterized by either a lack of explanation for the violent acts or an explanation based on the man's jealousy and desire to possess the woman."
The song that jerked back my head was the traditional murder ballad "THE BANKS OF THE OHIO," which gained later fame with its inclusion on the soundtrack to the 1973 film "PAPER MOON."
The murder ballad once served as a form of escapism entertainment akin to today's televised crime drama. To my contemporary ears, however, the song sounded like the confession that sealed the fate of the perpetrator of a particularly heinous domestic-violence crime.
"Was walking home 'tween 12 and one, thinkin' of what I had done. I killed a girl, my love you see, because she would not marry me."
The stark violence of the song's lyrics wrenched me away from whatever beauty was apparent from the Bolick brothers' pure singing.
This song could never be commercially released now, I thought, before recalling the misogynistic lyrics paired with of so many of today's most popular tunes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Escaping news of Newtown's horros with "Cosmic American Music"

My escape from the horrors of the NEWTOWN, CONN., SCHOOL SHOOTING has been BOB PROEHL'S book-length examination of "THE GILDED PALACE OF SIN," the debut album by country rock pioneers THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS.
When the news of the school tragedy becomes too awful for me to digest, I turn to the book for temporary diversion.
Proehl investigates the musical motivation of Burrito founder GRAM PARSONS, arguing that rather than simply welding together rock and country music, Parsons' real aim was a more complex extrapolation of earlier albums that sought to fold musical genres into each other, such as soul king Ray Charles' album, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western."
Parsons actually hated the term "country rock" and often labeled his own contribution as "Cosmic American Music."
Proehl describes the gist of that sound:
"Cosmic American Music would embrace Southern music by black and white performers and drag it into the multicolored lights of the California psychedelic scene. It would be Buck Owens singing Aretha Franklin songs, on acid and plugged in, barreling toward on a Tennessee two-beat and sprawling out in fuzzbox and wah-wah."
I've been listening to a lot of Newtown coverage during the past few days.
When it gets to be too much, I read Proehl's book and give a listen to Parsons' Cosmic American Music for solace.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sing along with Friday Question

Sometimes, we here at ROUTE 1 become so caught up in singing along to a song that we continue even after the car has stopped and the music has ended.
This week, readers share their singing-along experiences by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was the last song that had you singing along?"
RICK T. -- "Christmas In Dixie", by Alabama. I love that song.
JOHN S. -- "50 Ways to Die" by Train.
MICHAEL M. -- This morning I sang along to “Don’t Cry, Baby” by Jimmy Rushing with Count Basie and His Orchestra. My wife Maggie was not amused.
KERI M. -- "Wrap Myself in Paper" by Magnus Carlsson.
ANNIKA H. -- "The Show Must Go On" by Queen.
MIKE D. -- On the way back to work this afternoon, I joined Kevin Cronin on "Roll With the Changes," REO Speedwagon's rockingest song!
ERIK H. -- The 1989 song "Love is a Shield" by the German band Camouflage is on my synth-pop playlist. I found myself singing along quite lustily heading back to the office following an assignment this week.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Early wake up call means cricket from orange city

Something's wrong with my phone.
It ran out of battery power throughout the course of the night and shut itself off shortly after 4 a.m.
The sound of it shutting itself off woke me up just as surely as its alarm usually does, and I couldn't get back to sleep.
Thank goodness there was CRICKET on the radio.
ENGLAND reached 199-5 at the close of play on day one of the fourth Test versus INDIA at NAGPUR -- India's "CITY OF ORANGES."
Kevin Pietersen made 73 runs but it was the 65-run partnership of Matt Prior (34 not out) and Test debutant Joe Root (31 not out) that righted England following a poor start to the five-day match.
Perhaps my phone's malfunction was fortuitous: Had the alarm jolted me awake at my usual time, my eyes would have fluttered open five minutes after the close of play had concluded. I would have missed hearing cricket until nightfall.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What a funny guy

"What do you mean, I'm funny?...You mean the way I talk? What?...Funny how? I mean, what's funny about it?...I'm funny how, I mean, funny like I'm a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I'm here to f*ckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?...No, no, I don't know. You said. How do I know? You said I'm funny. How the f*ck am I funny? What the f*ck is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what's funny..."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chilling with a cold-weather musical concoction

With its chilling beats and icy arrangements, "WHO'S AFRAID OF THE ART OF NOISE" seems like the perfect aural accompaniment to a SNOWY DAY like yesterday.
If you don't remember, ART OF NOISE were the rather faceless electronic music group who, despite their seeming anonymity, were comprised of some of British music's biggest behind-the-scenes names.
J.J. JECZALIK served as synthesiser programmer for the group and was joined by producers GARY LANGAN (ABC, Spandau Ballet) and TREVOR HORN (The Buggles, ABC, Cher, Pet Shop Boys, Genesis, etc.), arranger ANNE DUDLEY (ABC, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Rod Stewart, "The Full Monty") and music journalist PAUL MORLEY.
"Who's Afraid of the Art of Noise" was the group's 1984 debut. I heard such tracks as "Close (to the Edit)," "Moments in Love" and "Beat Box" on one of the Bay Area's pioneering alternative-music radio stations and my respect for what Art of Noise were doing with experimental sounds has grown from those first experiences.
Even back then, Art of Noise sounded best on a cold, grey day.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Celebrating football today

Skies are quickly turning grey above me, setting the stage for a good day to stay in and watch ENGLISH FOOTBALL.
Two Mikel Arteta penalties -- one controversially given -- lifted ARSENAL to a 2-0 victory over WEST BROMWICH ALBION in a PREMIER LEAGUE match I watched on television.
West Brom were my club as a youth, and I still have a scarf given to me in junior high school.
The Baggies were poor today. They were seemingly unable to string together many passes and their lack of possession proved too costly against an Arsenal side still finding their way.
Elsewhere, Kevin Lisbie's two goals gave visiting LEYTON ORIENT a 2-0 win at BURY.
Incredibly, that win marks the O's eighth successive victory in all competitions!
Come on you O's!
The remainder of the day, I'll wear my Leyton Orient shirt with my West Brom scarf. That's how I'll celebrate my favorite sport.

Friday, December 07, 2012

"Say Hello" highlights my playlist devoted to bleeps and blips

GREY SKIES have put me in the mood for SYNTH-POP, so I'm crafting a various artists playlist on my iPod devoted to melodic bleeps and blips.
SOFT CELL has to be included, particularly "SAY HELLO, WAVE GOODBYE," the 1982 single that reached No. 3 on the UK charts.
It's a shame American radio programmers never see beyond "Tainted Love," because "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" demonstrates how Soft Cell had such a wonderful way with the modern torch song.
I don't want my synth-pop playlist to grow too sprawling -- the genre works best in short bursts of electronic beeps, right? -- so I am restricting it to two songs by each artist.
It should be a perfect accompaniment for a grey day.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Enjoying cricket with coffee as companion

Our recent mild weather is about to take a turn back toward normal for early December.
That's why I've been trying to wring as much enjoyment as possible out of the past few sunny days.
It's also why I am following the CRICKET so closely this week. Nothing says "warmth" quite like ENGLAND taking on INDIA on the subcontinent.
Overnight, England's James Anderson took three wickets and Monty Panesar two to restrict India to 273-7 on the first day of the third Test at Kolkata. Gautam Gambhir scored 60 runs for India before Sachin Tendulkar struck for 76.
I've been following the action while sipping coffee and reading a cricket magazine my sister sent me after her recent trip to India.
I'm off work Friday, and I plan on staying up late Thursday to listen to cricket on the radio.
I'll close my eyes and imagine sun and blue skies, since we won't likely see them much around here.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Led Zeppelin receive high American honor

A band whose first United States exposure came low on a concert bill, while supporting Vanilla Fudge and Spirit in Denver, were accorded the nation's highest award for those who influenced American culture through the arts last night.
LED ZEPPELIN were among the recipients of the KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, along with great Chicago bluesman BUDDY GUY, actor Dustin Hoffman, ballerina Natalia Makarova and television talk-show host David Letterman.
It's fitting that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin should receive such an honor.
Early in their career, ROBERT PLANT, JIMMY PAGE and JOHN PAUL JONES realized that true success would only come through expanding beyond Britain and conquering the hearts of American music fans.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Laughing with Nashville's golden age parodists

"I remember when I was a lad What a fine baseball team we had. Folks would come from miles around to see us play. We played the Redsox, beat their sox off, we played the Redlegs, beat their legs off, we played the Astros, ... but it rained that day."
I can't remember laughing so much while making TACOS as I did last night.
That's because I was listening to the wonderful and wacky songs of HOMER & JETHRO.
Think of the duo as Weird Al Yankovic precursors from Nashville's golden age.
"Daddy played first base, Mama played second. Brother and sister were the catcher and the pitcher. Shortstop was a good old Boy Named Sue. Three big,  home run hittin' guys out in the outfield shaggin' flies. Brothers Art and Bart and cousin Far-go, too."
Henry "Homer" Haynes and Kenneth "Jethro" Burns satirized popular songs, skewering everybody from Johnny Horton ("The Battle of Kookamonga," instead of "The Battle of New Orleans") to The Beatles (a version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" with more shin kicking than the original).
The pair were lauded for their efforts -- they won a Grammy and were inducted into the COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME.
Their schtick worked for two reasons: Both were marvelous musicians and Burns -- who penned most of their songs -- was an outstanding humorist.
Their songs had me laughing last night. I've never laughed so hard making tacos.
"Out to the barnyard we would go  learnin' how to hit and run and throw. We had cows and horses all around the place. Once we laughed until we split when my daddy got a hit. He slid into what he thought was second base."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Led Zeppelin's "Celebration" sounds good

I've been marveling at "CELEBRATION DAY" the past several days.
The live album of the December 2007 reunion gig by LED ZEPPELIN shows the band had lost very few of its powers over the course of the decades.
I purchased the November release three days ago, and I admit I have become a bit of a Zeppelin obsessive in my middle age. Our family's music collection includes -- now that we have Celebration Day" in tow -- all of the band's official releases and a pair of bootlegs, too.
"Celebration Day" can rightfully take its place in that canon of music. The band sounds good.

JIMMY PAGE might sport a white mane of hair these days, but he continues to play a mean guitar. Arguably, he sounds better on "Celebration Day" than he did on later Zep releases, when drugs had muted some of his prowess.
One of the individual joys of "Celebration Day" for me is hearing a live version of "FOR YOUR LIFE," the track from "PRESENCE" that had never been performed in concert before the 2007 reunion.
I love "Presence." It was my first Led Zeppelin album -- my dad gave me the 8-track version when I was in junior high school.
Hearing a live version of "For Your Life" is a treat, then, having grown up with the underrated album that spawned it.
I've also become much more familiar with the blues during the past decade or so. With this background, "Celebration Day" sounds as much like a homage to Led Zeppelin's original source material as anything else.
Ultimately, the passage of time seems to have done little to dim Led Zeppelin's love of making music. That's the ultimate lesson, I think, of "Celebration Day."