Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cold enough for Kraftwerk

No, that's not the amount of money in my wallet -- I actually have five bucks for a change.
Minus-10 is the air temperature forecast for tonight, as we hit our coldest COLD SPELL of the year.
I'm not going to try and fight the cold by listening to organ jazz or reggae in the car today.
Nope. I'm going with the ARCTIC FLOW by enjoying "RADIO-AKTIVITÄT," the 1975 album by German synth pioneers KRAFTWERK.
I like how "Radio-Aktivität" ("Radio-Activity" in it's American release) is a bit of a lost gem in the Kraftwerk catalog, appearing as it did between groundbreaking "Autobahn" and the iconic "Trans-Europe Express." As such, it sounds fresher to me because its songs didn't receive the same level of airplay on the alternative rock radio stations I heard growing up. 
I'm just hoping the electronic sounds can help me forget the plunging temperatures -- at least until I can get home to my cocoon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bereft of freedom? You get this land

Imagine the Oceania of GEORGE ORWELL'S "NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR" combined with the endemic corruption and violence of MARIO PUZO'S "THE GODFATHER," and you have the land DAVID REMNICK describes in the book I'm reading -- "LENIN'S TOMB: THE LAST DAYS OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE."
The scenario Remnick describes demonstrates the conditions that arise in a society bereft of basic freedoms.
My grandmother, MARGE SMITH, once taught me a most valuable lesson:
"You don't have to agree with anything anybody says, you just need to keep fighting for their right to say it."
Thank God for that sentiment, or more of us would be living in the dystopia on Earth that Remnick describes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Close kept his cool so admirably

Legendary PHOENIX, ARIZ., news anchor BILL CLOSE has died, age 91.
I'll never forget watching live on television the 1982 on-air hostage situation involving Close and an obviously mentally ill subject named Joe Gwin on KOOL-TV.
Close kept his cool so admirably, everybody was safe. It left an indelible image in my mind.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Maybe I'm just a sucker for slide guitars and pianos

You know how sometimes you hear a song and become so swept up in its majesty that you find yourself singing along at the top of your lungs?
Well, that's what happened to me the other day, when I heard BADFINGER'S "DAY AFTER DAY."
As a kid, I always thought the 1971 single was a song by THE BEATLES -- which makes sense, since Badfinger were essentially Fab Four protégés, with Paul McCartney penning their first hit single, "COME AND GET IT."
 "Day After Day," though, proves that Badfinger's ace songwriter PETE HAM could compose his own classic tunes.
Tunes so classic they made me loudly sing along!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A giant-killing and some glory for Luton

Fans of the sport tune in to see matches like today's FA CUP meeting between Premier League NORWICH CITY and non-league LUTON TOWN.
Scott Rendell's 80th-minute goal gave visiting Luton a famous, 1-0 win at Carrow Road.
The Hatters became the first non-league team to beat top-flight opponents in the FA Cup since Sutton United beat Coventry City in 1989.
The game was a classic cup giant-killing, with Luton playing well enough to stay in the match until late, with Norwich missing chances they normally would easily convert.

The substitute Rendell's goal sent the visiting crowd into ecstasy, and the "minnows" held on for dear life until the final whistle sounded.
But enough of the clichés. This match was a fascinating one for me to see.
Luton were themselves one of the "big clubs" when I was a kid, and were among the top division from 1982-92.
Hard times arrived late last decade, when financial difficulties saw the Hatters dropping down the divisions and ultimately out of the league in 2009 -- the end of an 89-year spell.
That's why today's match was so fun for the neutral. We got to see -- however briefly -- a club's return to glory.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Knowing your history can set you free

Introduce a people to their true history and tyranny is sure to crumble.
That's one of the themes of "LENIN'S TOMB: THE LAST DAYS OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE," the book by DAVID REMNICK I began reading today.
Remnick arrived in MOSCOW in 1988, a correspondent for the WASHINGTON POST at a time when a growing faction of Communist Party officials began to reevaluate the SOVIET UNION'S history -- which had been officially revised and redacted so many times that few people knew the truth.
Shedding light on that truth was one of the hallmarks of perestroika, Remnick writes, and also helped sound the death knell for a regime propped by decades of rewritten history.
Remnick's book is fascinating, and I have to thank my sister INGER for lending it to me!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tangled up in a song

The song playing in my head when the alarm wakes me this morning:

The first song I hear on BBC RADIO 2 this morning:
I think someone is trying to tell me something!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thinking spring -- yeah, I know -- with Genesis

"'Paper late!' cried a voice in the crowd. 'Old man dies!' The note he left was signed 'Old  Father Thames' -- it seems he's drowned; selling England by the pound."
Perhaps it's our EXTREME COLD WEATHER -- currently minus-4 Fahrenheit as I write these words -- but I am definitely in the mood for SPRING.
I know the season of blooms and greenery remains a long way off, so I am consoling myself by listening to an album that always makes me think of spring -- "SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND" by GENESIS.
This Genesis sang strange poetry set to complicated music, thus being a far cry from the pop heavyweights of the singing Phil Collins years.
Maybe I always associate this album with spring because there's a song about a lawnmower.
Maybe the complex arrangements and lyrics that tell tales have me focusing on the songs, and not on the wind-chill readings.
Whatever the case, Genesis has taken my mind off the numbing conditions, at least for now.
"We'll tease the bull ringing round and loud, loud and round. Follow on! With a twist of the world we go. Follow on! Till the gold is cold. Dancing out with the moonlit knight, Knights of the Green Shield stamp and shout."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Contemplating a Harbowl

The NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE playoffs played out just as I wanted yesterday.
My SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS rallied from 17 points down to defeat the ATLANTA FALCONS, 28-24.
My second-favorite team, the BALTIMORE RAVENS, shut out the favored NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS in the second half en route to a 28-13 upset.
The results set up one of the most intriguing match-ups in recent SUPER BOWL history, with head coaching brothers -- John Harbaugh (Ravens) and Jim Harbaugh (49ers) -- facing each other across the field.
Pundits and fans have dubbed the showdown "HARBOWL," and it's a repeat of Thanksgiving 2011, when the Harbaughs became the first brothers to coach against each other in NFL history.
As a Niners fan, I just hope there is a different result in this new Harbowl -- the Ravens won the first encounter, 16-6.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Shhhhhhhh please respect the kicker"

Gordon D'Arcy, Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip scored tries as visiting LEINSTER beat EXETER, 29-20, in a HEINEKEN CUP match we watched on television today.
Leinster's win maintained a faint hope to make the final eight of Europe's RUGBY UNION championship, but the Irish side must now await tomorrow's results before banking their advancement.
The girls and I enjoyed seeing the Exeter video board that requested fans to pipe down whenever a kicker attempted a conversion or penalty. It was quite the opposite scene of, say, an opposition player attempting a free throw in an American basketball game -- when the fans try every conceivable method to distract the player.
Is this another example of rugby being the true "gentleman's game?"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Readers inhabiting the screen

Movies and television shows often fuel our imaginations.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers put their imaginations to work by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"You can be a character in a movie or TV show. Which would it be and why?"
JOHN S. -- Superman. Duh!
JIM S. -- I would like to be Barney Rubble, from the Flintstones. It would be neat living in the prehistoric times portrayed in that cartoon. I could raise Bam Bam into a star athlete, and Betty would be a hot wife!
MIKE D. -- John McClane (Bruce Willis) in "Die Hard" because he kicks a$$. 
KERSTIN H. -- I would want to be in Gilmore Girls because I hear they have great coffee and Luke's butt is pretty cute!
RICK T. -- A extra in any of the Elvis movies. WHY? He got all the good lookin' girls!
ERIK H. -- One of the samurai in Akira Kurosawa's "Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai)." I could finally put my ninja skills to good use.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chaplin's Tramp cheers up a sad Duck

I needed some cheering up last night after head coach CHIP KELLY left MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS for the pro ranks.
I watched "THE TRAMP," a landmark short film by CHARLIE CHAPLIN.
"The Tramp" was Chaplin's sixth film for the Essanay Studios and the first to set what would become his trademark -- a blend of slapstick and sorrow.
Chaplin plays a tramp who falls for a farmer's daughter. The tramp "helps" with farm chores -- nobody should have given him a pitchfork, though -- and eventually helps defend the farm from thieves.
The tramp's romantic dreams are dashed, however, when the daughter's boyfriend returns to the farm and the tramp exits the scene, shuffling down the road.
Despite the film's graininess, it was difficult to believe it was 98 years old. There's a timeless quality of Chaplin's work that plays as well in 2013 as it did in 1915.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

With this much "Freewheelin'" I'm afraid I'm a freak

"Rambling, Gambling Willie," "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues," "Let Me Die in My Footsteps" ...
I knew I was a BOB DYLAN fan. It never occurred to me I could become a DYLAN FREAK until last night.
Wanting to explore more fully the origins of Dylan's career, last night I crafted a 24-song playlist combining tracks from his second album, "THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN," with outtakes from those recording sessions -- with the track list following the order of recording at the sessions.
"Talkin' Hava Negeilah Blues," "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues," "Baby, I'm in the Mood for You" ...
I love this early Dylan, which ranges from American anthems such as "Blowin' in the Wind" to complicated relationship songs such as "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."
According to "THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BOB DYLAN," the outtakes from "Freewheelin'" were strong Dylan songs that simply became left behind, shoved to the side by classics such as "Masters of War" and "Girl From the North Country."
Dylan was simply developing too quickly for all of his songs to fit on one album -- and he hadn't invented the double album yet!
My playlist demonstrates that theory -- and it's fun to hear, too.
Even if it makes me a freak.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Loving Bowie's song about Berlin and aging

I fell asleep last night listening to DAVID BOWIE'S haunting new single.
"WHERE ARE WE NOW" chronicles what sounds like a sad and nostalgic trip through BERLIN, with hints of an older man reflect on aging.
The great chameleon is now 66 years old, and "Where Are We Now" serves as a birthday gifts of sorts. It's a memorable song and the single has reached No. 6 in the U.K. -- Bowie's first top-10 single in 20 years (the highest placing since "ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS" reached No. 2).
I've been listening to a lot of BOB DYLAN lately and learning, through "Time Out of Mind" and "Love and Theft," how a rock artist can ruminate on the aging process.
"Where are We Now" seems to serve the same purpose for Bowie.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The outlier among Sturges' masterpieces

I've become engrossed with the films of PRESTON STURGES early in 2013, having received a clutch of the writer-director's classic films on DVD for Christmas.
"UNFAITHFULLY YOURS" is what you would call the "outlier" of the bunch.
Fantasy scenes and nastiness punctuate this 1948 film, unlike the screwball comedies Sturges made earlier in the decade.
REX HARRISON is wonderful as a famous conductor who suspects his loving wife has been cheating on him with his personal assistant.
While conducting, Harrison imagines a variety of scenes in which he humiliates her, stuns her with grief, or kills her.
Audiences apparently balked at this side of Sturges, and "Unfaithfully Yours" languished enough to effectively curtail his American career.
Sturges was dead of a heart attack 11 years later.
Now, critics laud "Unfaithfully Yours" as a misunderstood masterpiece.
I like it, too. Harrison is especially good as a highly valued artist whose artistry and fame enables him to get away with public behavior for which the rest of us would be penalized.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Give blood, play rugby

I had forgotten the routine brutality of RUGBY UNION until we watched LEINSTER v. SCARLETS in a HEINEKEN CUP match on television this afternoon.
Cian Healey, Shane Jennings, Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney and Ian Madigan scored tries as Leinster beat their Welsh visitors, 33-14, in Dublin.
In addition to the scoring, we saw a tackled player attempting to hold his injured sternum in place, a player blissfully unaware that blood was dripping out of his ears and a player hit so hard by a defender that his head snapped back and the commentator likened the collision to running at full speed into a telephone pole.
"Give blood, play rugby."
It's not just a slogan. It's reality.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Route 1 readers' best holiday moments

The dust has settled on another HOLIDAY SEASON, and ROUTE 1 finally has its act together to return to our weekly FRIDAY QUESTION feature.
This week, readers share their recent experiences by answering the following:
"What was your favorite moment of the holidays?"
KERI M. -- Everything.
KERSTIN H. -- By far my favorite moment was being able to do all of the reading that I did... I read some pretty amazing things.
RICK T. -- The surprised look on my wife's face while she opened her presents.
ANNIKA H. -- Sleeping . . . And being with family! But mostly sleeping. 
MIKE D. -- Going to (a very crowded) church with my family, and hearing my siblings sing in the choir.
Runner up: Seeing our sons' reactions to the DSs they got from Santa.

ERIK H. -- Watching my daughters' reactions when they opened their gifts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The story of the Hurricane

Scan the lyrics and it reads like a newspaper report.
Set the words to the music of BOB DYLAN, and "HURRICANE" is a marvelous example of the power of rock and roll.
I've listened to it several times during the past two days.
"Meanwhile, far away in another part of town, Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around. Number one contender for the middleweight crown had no idea what kinda sh*t was about to go down. When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road. Just like the time before and the time before that. In Paterson that’s just the way things go. If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street ’less you wanna draw the heat."
The Dylan composition, co-written by JACQUES LEVY, tells the story of RUBIN "HURRICANE" CARTER, a former professional boxer who was twice convicted for triple murders but whose second conviction was overturned amid concerns that he had been wrongly convicted because of racism and acts of police profiling.
The song kicks off Dylan's 1975 album "DESIRE" and was released as a single (despite being eight-and-a-half minutes long).
"All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance. The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance. The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums. To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum."
This song is one of my favorites by Dylan. I love how its reportage style sits so comfortably with the catchy melody. Not many other songwriters could have pulled off "Hurricane."

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Who is this Dylan dude? He must love Wilco

I listened to BOB DYLAN'S EPONYMOUS DEBUT ALBUM yesterday.
While enjoying the songs on that first disc, I also imagined what the reaction might be if BOB DYLAN was a new artist, and he had released the album this year.
Would the reviewers call the sound "" "indie?" or "punk-folk?"
Would critics complain that Dylan had obviously listened to a little too much Billy Bragg?
Would we hear someone say:
"This dude is obviously enthralled by Whiskeytown-era Ryan Adams?"
You can play this game because the album, filled with folk standards and two original songs ("Talkin' New York Blues" and the brilliant "Song to Woody") boasts a timeless quality. It could have come out in 1962 or 2013.
You can also play the speculative game because so many musicians have been influenced by this album and Dylan's other work that the sound has become more than just influential, it has become part of contemporary music's DNA.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

"Naturally, you don't want your ideal to do card tricks"

I work a later shift today, so I spent the morning enjoying PRESTON STURGES' masterpiece romantic comedy, "THE LADY EVE."
BARBARA STANWYCK plays a con artist who falls in love with her intended prey, a shy snake experct played by HENRY FONDA.
When Fonda learns about Stanwyck's shady past, he abruptly ends the relationship and breaks his lover's heart in the process.
Scorned, Stanwyck masquerades as a visiting English noblewoman in order to ensnare, then emotionally terrorise the smitten Fonda.
Sturges gave Stanwyck many of the film's brilliant lines. When an angry Stanwyck decides to target Fonda for humiliation, she declares: 
"I need him like the axe needs the turkey."
It's a romantic screwball comedy, of course, so it ends happily and with much humor.
Sturges at his best, in other words.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Ravens win in the playoffs. Now it's San Francisco's turn

My second-favorite NFL team advanced in the playoffs, now I am preparing to see my lifelong favorites open their account.
The BALTIMORE RAVENS both celebrated their past and faced it down in Sunday's 24-9 victory over the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS.

Ravens linebacker RAY LEWIS played his final home game after 17 seasons, and the game provided a fitting reprise of his stellar career.
Lewis even made 13 tackles to help preserve the win.
The game also enabled Baltimore to successfully overcome wounds from the past. The Colts once resided in "Charm City" -- until the owners shifted the franchise after the 1983 season. Bitterness remains for older Baltimore fans.

That's one of the reasons I was glad Baltimore won yesterday.
Now, I can turn my attention to Saturday night, when my SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS face the GREEN BAY PACKERS.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

State debate provides preview of future leaders

What a weekend.
With JILL in SAN FRANCISCO for work, we had daughter ANNIKA remaining in town for DANCE COMPETITION preparations while I accompanied daughter KERSTIN to the STATE HIGH SCHOOL DEBATE TOURNAMENT.
Kerstin completed the tournament with three wins and two losses, an improvement over her past two trips to the competitive tournament.
It's inspiring to me to see the younger kids entering high school debate. The activity seems like the perfect vehicle for providing high-achieving students tools to succeed.
I see these youngsters and I really do see the leaders of tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

It felt like an entire weekend in a single day

I needed yesterday.
I needed a day of lounging on the couch, watching FOOTBALL on TV and sipping MIMOSAS.
I needed it because I have been operating in high gear at work, where the story requirements to fill a NEWSPAPER have continued in the face of HOLIDAYS and coworkers on vacation. In short, my workload has placed me under great strain.
That's why I needed a day like yesterday, where I could leisurely watch games such as the 99th ROSE BOWL.
STANFORD opened the game seemingly set to gorge itself on scoring, only for WISCONSIN to shove the contest the other direction -- into grind-it-out mode.
Stanford beat Wisconsin, 20-14, largely thanks to Usua Amanam's late interception that snuffed out a Badger drive with 2:30 remaining in the game.
I watched parts of other bowl games, too, on a day when I felt too lazy to even take a nap.
It was a respite I desperately needed -- it felt like an entire weekend in a single day.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Our decision to speak in the royal third person

Our mom's cousin has embarked on genealogical research that has traced the ancestry of our American grandmother to ELIZABETH WOODVILLE (1437-1492), the first commoner to marry a King of England.
Originally married to SIR JOHN GREY OF GROBY, Woodville married KING EDWARD IV following Grey's death in the SECOND BATTLE OF ST. ALBANS.
American Civil War veteran and Oregon newspaper publisher JAMES HARRISON ALDRICH was a direct descendent, and he is our great-great grandfather.
That explains our 2013 decision to exclusively speak in the royal third person!