Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter is Warm

Traditionally, Spring is the season of romance. But it's winter when I always fall in love. Especially when it snows, as it has. The way the snow muffles the noise, but lets through those rare and magic sounds. One bird chips. A rivulet of ice water rolls down the gutter. A crunch in the untouched garden.

I'm listening to music on a snowbound day. She's in her pajamas baking cookies. And Dylan's singing...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Notes of Christmas Past 1.0

A blast from Christmas Past! This article was published in our local papers in December of '02. Both the tale of our old manger, and conversely yet another opportunity for me to blather on about whatever currently interested me. I give you...


Dare I say, living now as I am in the Great Northwest, our Christmas tree, when my
brothers and I were youths, held no water and offered no scent? A fake tree, it was.
Unheard of, I am told, hereabouts. On Long Island in New York, winter hosted the annual event where inhabitants unboxed faux firs and semi-spruces, arranging color-coded branches before their insertion into two-tier pre-drilled trunks. Pine-scented mist sprayed from aerosol cans swirled in the air before settling shamefully on porcupinic tendrils. A yule fog on a Nicholasian decoy. Despite admonitions from natives such as “Christmas is not Christmas without a real tree,” and regardless of my negative tone, I recollect fondly our artificial tree. And why a fake tree? Hassle-free – no sap, no fallen needles, no watering. And of course, no fear of the always-told (and likely hyperbolic) tale of every live tree bursting into flames, consuming home and hearth, devouring stocking and snowglobes, while families swirled hot cider with cinnamon sticks at Christmas pageant intermissions. And what dangers held the artificial tree? Allergies awakened by eleven years of attic dust, I’ll offer. But it is in the shade of the tannenbaum where our narrative begins…

Well, not a narrative really. I’m not telling a story. But it made for an exciting introduction, right? If this were a film, maybe Harry Nilsson or Orson Welles would narrate. If they weren’t both dead, surely one of them would participate. We open with black screen, white text: December 1982. Dissolve and pan down from the wintry sky. The snow falls softly in huge flakes. Zoom into the living room of a ranch style suburban household. Cut to close-up of large blue eye. Slow zoom out gradually revealing another eye, a nose, a mouth, then the face and crown of a wise man figurine. The paint of his brown skin reveals his age – humans wrinkle, plaster chips. Pull back to frame full height and width of the manger.

Who’s in there? Well, according to the advent calendar on the fridge, the date is December 20. The wise men have gathered; the two shepherds as well. A camel and three angels complete the crowd. Nine spectators awaiting the Holy Family. They’re just standing there, staring at each other. I anticipate one of the shepherds shrugging the lamb from his shoulders and bum rushing a wise man.

- You think you’re smarter than me, King Cole?

- At least I can count more than sheep!

They tussle. Then I blink my eyes, shake my head and come to my senses. Okay, I wasn’t daydreaming. I’d been dunking my pinwheel cookies in eggnog. Zow!

Meanwhile, Joseph and Mary have hoofed it out of Nazareth (the attic) en route to Bethlehem (the living room floor). Let’s track their journey:

December 20: Location: Youngest Brother’s Bedroom. Top of dresser. Outside gate of Castle Greyskull, Skeletor’s abode.

Joseph, Mary and a donkey travel for a day and rest for the night.

December 21: Location: Shared Bedroom of Middle Brother and I. Nightstand. Next to Avon Pittsburgh Steeler After-Shave Decanter.

A dab behind the donkey’s ears.

An Aside: The Donkey. The donkey, kneeling in a grassy patch, rests on a felt-bottomed base. His long ears, these long years, have since broken off. The right one at first, followed several journeys later by the left. Sans auditory appendages, the ass looked like an otter. My mother, a great improviser and artisan, fashioned two little ears out of clay. From a distance, say the length of Ontario, one would not notice any disparity in the donkey’s appearance.

December 22: Location: Mother’s Bedroom. Nightstand again. Two days to Bethlehem. And yards of carpet to go.

Why we had the three kings and shepherds waiting for the Joseph and Mary at the manger, I’m not certain. I suppose it was symbolic. The couple didn’t know where they were going. You don’t make reservations at a manger. Maybe if they got a room at an inn, it’d make more sense. But as the story goes, there was no room at the inn. Can you believe that? Denying a pregnant girl a room? They must’ve had something in the back! Those kids didn’t need the honeymoon suite! Boost a chiseling drunk, for crying out loud! Still, I guess it worked out better this way – an inn under the Christmas tree would’ve made for a boring display. No animals. Just a bunch of shlubby guests and three astrologers decked out like hip-hop impresarios. An edgy father, a nervous mother, and a baby boy swaddled in hotel towels – throw in Mare Winningham and you’ve got a Lifetime Original Movie.

December 23: Location. Bathroom. On the countertop hungrily eyeing the Crest. 4 days without food (I never fed them although I did stumble over a moist candy cane on the morning of the 21st) and I’d start justifying toothpaste as a dietary supplement as well. Little sleep that night, what with the flushing and all.

And what sorts of accommodations were awaiting Joseph and Mary in “Bethlehem”? Let’s check the property listing:

Garage: None
Exterior: Plywood/Old Checkerboard
Roof Type: Matted Straw
Heating: Camel/Straw
Cooling: No Walls
Interior Features: Camel/Donkey/Angels/Crib
Exterior Features: Felt Tree Skirt/Santa Bear with Weak Battery Mewling Out Carols
Year Built: 1969 A.D.
Square Feet: One
Water: Oasis
Sewer: Oasis
This cozy nouveau barnette in much sought-after Bethlehem Woods neighborhood offers affordable yet gracious living in festive atmosphere. Recently remodeled – back wall has been replaced by a checkerboard! Private, well-shaded cul-de-sac. Close to public transportation (train travels circumference of tree). A must see! Priced at $8.99.

December 24: Location: The Manger beneath the Christmas Tree. With angels, wise men, shepherds and animals in attendance. Joseph looks at his watch. The lights fade.

A few hours of silence. At night. A silent night. Oh! A holy night! All is calm, all is… BRIGHT! ALL OF THE SUDDEN! Bedroom lights are on! Brothers are up! It’s 5:30 in the morning. The supporting beams of the manger vibrate and buckle. A wise man tips over spilling myrrh on the camel. We all gather in front of the tree.

Only one figure is missing from the manger. From behind the checkerboard, my mother retrieves the baby Jesus molded in his crib and places him between his parents. Good cheer! A child is come unto us! A shepherd reacts:

- Wait a minute. He was out back the whole time?

The wise man gets to his feet, brushing straw and myrrh from his fineries.

- Sometimes I think you’ve got less sense than that mangy lamb around your neck.

- You wanna throw down, King Vitamin?

A brawl ensues. Slow zoom out. Three boys opening presents enter the frame. Their mother collects discarded wrapping paper. Continue zoom out of living room, over kitchen table, through back bay window into soft glow of snowy dawn.

May you revive old traditions this year as new ones are begun. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hey, PSaur! Let's Have Christmas Dinner with Red Skelton in 1982!

On December 14, 1982, HBO first aired "Red Skelton's Christmas Dinner." Yet another televised artifact that has stayed with me over the years, emerging from the fog each holiday season. It's as funny and heartwarming as you allow it to be. As for me, it's both, and very much so. I employ the same brand of humor today, much to the chagrin of many. It's old man comedy & the lost art of schmaltz twirled like a candy cane into one. It is gossamer and mingled somewhere with the wisps of the advent candles. Enjoy!

Imagine: 28 Years Later

Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Christmas in Rockefeller Center: Was this Ever Entertaining?

I'm watching the "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" special right now. Live! Well, it was live 3 hours ago on the East Coast. I will comment throughout (if I can stand it!).

Jamie Foxx (with 2 "x's") just nearly massacred "The Christmas Song", with a shameless promotion of his new album as a coda.

Al Roker and Jane Krakowski (sp?) are hosting. What's the matter? They couldn't get Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey?

Now I'm being bored by Rascal Flatts (with 2 "t's"). "White Christmas" -- bland performance.

The Commercials: Zales (with yet another soft-spoken song by some dainty indie singer-songwriter); "Mamma Mia" on DVD; Aveeno, Ultra Calming!; Johnson & Johnson reduces greenhouse gases -- feel good about it!; "Little Spirit" promo, with Danny DeVito; "Momma's Boys" promo - ugh, how awful!

The special's back -- in HD! Yikes, I better switch to the HD channel! Ah, just in time for Faith Hill ("Joy to the World")! She looks all right, but she's kinda dressed like if Jackie O. special-ordered a Nudie Suit.

Actually, I'm kinda excited about seeing the tree lighting in HD. Most shows are no big deal in HD. But this... hey!

Steven Colbert talks to Roker! Hawking his Xmas special. They intro Tony Bennett; he's singin' n' swingin' "Winter Wonderland" with the horn section of the Count Basie Orchestra. I wonder, does he really need those earmuffs? I guess he is old. It's good, you know, Tony's not gonna blow it...

More Commercials: Glade Scented Candles, boutique quality fragrance at an affordable price!; "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" on DVD; Sudafed OM Nasal Spray: Unblock Your Head; Another Zales ad; A new Beethoven the Dog movie on DVD -- really? Critics call it a fun treat for the whole famly; "Momma's Boys" again; Subway, $5 Footlong song; Joe's Tent Event (Formerly G.I. Joe's Tent Event); America's Largest Christmas Bazaar at the Expo Center this weekend -- a thousand booths of crap! The News on Portland's CW at 10.

Now Jane with the star of "Billy Elliot" the Broadway musical. Great read, kid! Now, it's Rosie O'Donnell and her Broadway Kids! Too bad her variety show lasted one episode! Did Rosie write this song? It's awful! "Mambo Santa Claus"? Why? Back to Commack, Rosie! Oh, wait, it's from a CD for a benefit thing. I guess that's forgiveable then.

A brief mention of our troops overseas. Thanks!

Oh. My. God. It's Smiley Iris! With the "bad tooth-to-gum ratio", as Adam says. She's putting her mediocre, plastic twist on "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." To me, she sounds like Brenda Vaccaro when she talks. And like every other teen when she sings. God love her -- let her do her thing.

Coming up: Harry Connick and Beyonce!

Even More Commecials: "Despereux" promo, another mouse movie; Splenda with fiber -- everyone's very excited!; Kerri Russell looks for the UL mark -- when was the last time you saw a commercial for Underwriters Laboratories?; A different Glade ad, this one "humorous"; "Mamma Mia" on DVD again -- yeah, I saw it... it was pretty good; Lubriderm lets you wear sleeveless tops; Greatest Holiday Moments on TV -- hey, there's Archie & Edith -- on Friday; "Despereux" again for a second.

Welcome back, says Jane. With a mention of "A Muppet Christmas" (featuring Jane herself). Kermit and Miss Piggy are here! She's drooling over Connick. Was Piggy based on Loretta Swit? Harry's singing "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"; it's got a latin-jazz beat to it. Where's Willie Lobo?

Hey, Jimmy Fallon! He sings a bit of "O Christmas Tree" with Jane, as Al describes the tree. Now Jimmy, Jane and Al are introducing the Jonas Brothers. They are rocking. The music sounds like something you hear when you press a button on a keyboard. They are singing an original, I think. "All I Want for Christmas is the Girl of My Dreams." It kinda sounds like something else. It sounds like everything else. I'm not just knocking it becuase of who they are. It's just bland. Poor kids.

Still ahead: David Cook!

Yet More Commercials: Tylenol Rapid Release Gels -- everybody's got a headache; A different Zales ad; Again with "The Mummy" on DVD -- with Jet Li; A third Glade commerical -- Mmm, gingerbread; "Momma's Boy" promo; "The Office" & "30 Rock" new eps on Thursday; A bad case of the holiday whats: You'll find it at Fred Meyer; Curtis Salgado plays the Trailblazer's theme; Comcast -- the internet speed dealer... sorry, speed leader; Trouble with a tanning salon, a customer is fondled, coming up on the News at 10.

Neal E. Boyd, the winner of "America's Got Talent", introduces David Cook singing "Happy Xmas (War is Over). Need I tell you?

Beyonce! As Sasha Fierce, singing a reinterpretation of "Ave Maria" with just the appropriate amount of booty and booby. Pretty good.

Yet Even More Commercials: Zales again (they're a major sponsor) -- it's that dumb commercial from before; "Despereux" the Gentleman Mouse, er, Gentlemouse!; Johnson & Johnson landfill ad; "Life" promo; "Law & Order" promo.

Time to light the tree (finally!). Mayor Bloomberg and others join Al & Jane, as well as the Rockettes. The countdown! 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.......... it lights up! Yay! The Rockettes dance! Yowza! The song they're dancing to is a made-for-tv song. "Let Christmas Shine"? Yay, spotlight snowflakes on 30 Rock!

Farewell from Al and Jane! Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

Another lighting come and gone -- onward to Christmas! Thanks for joining me!

A Farewell to Ales!

While always one to favor a drop, I'm by no means a heavy drinker (all brag and bluster aside). Certainly there have been binge days (that was back in the 90s), but those were mostly skirmishes with the times. Not to say I haven't gotten hammered in even the last few months (ugh, Halloween!) But these incidents are few and far between. Mostly now it's wine, and even then, only with dinner.

But even the occasional wine, I find, leaves the door open for too much wine. And then I'm drunk. Which I'm finding to be stupider as I get older. Like watching professional sports.

So now I've decided to cut out even the wine. This will not go over well with the wife, I suppose. Nor will it be easy during the holiday season, when there are more gatherings than usual. It won't be easy.

Why now? I have a reason or two. But for the purposes of this less-than-personal blog, I've been contemplating the place of alcohol in the arts, specifically music. Up until recently, I've cringed a bit at hearing a formerly perpetually-soused musician cleaning up. Would his/her music now be lame? Perhaps less gritty, more Made-For-TV?

Being a known idiot, you'd expect that reaction from me. I can't recall the last sobered songwriter who gave me concern. Doesn't matter really. But looking into who has been on the wagon, and how their music did not begin to suck, but rather, debatably, gained strength, insight and beauty, I've come across this shortlist:

Think of Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon (god bless his soul), even Jeff Tweedy (Wilco is so much better than Uncle Tupelo!). Presumably, there are others (I can only Google so much here at work before I have to get back to my work). Costello may still drink (I hear Krall likes her wine), but he's gotten far past the Get Happy! days...

Surely my decision has to do with more than artistic integrity. Fact is, I'll be 40 next year. I've got a younger wife (yeah, that's right). And we've discussed having children. I might want to keep myself in good shape for that. I can barely keep up with my nephews now!

But O! Sweet Guinness! Dear Two-Buck Chuck! I will miss you! However, I think we've outgrown each other.

So, Mr. Waits, Mr. Reed -- here we go!

"Hold on Hope" by Guided By Voices

I love Do the Collapse (1999). The production, courtesy Ric Ocasek, works well with these songs somehow. Not exactly his "divorce album" (his drawn-out divorce was finalized in 2002), Pollard's songs here are decidedly more personal than in previous efforts. I've been listening to this all morning -- I'm listening to this now (over the blare of Ralph's Lou Monte Christmas album -- my mind keeps slipping from "Dragons Awake" to "Santa Nicola, Santa Nicola...").

Sure, I do prefer when I don't know what the fuck Pollard is talking about ("Hot Freaks"), but Do the Collapse has a nice soft sound for the morning.

Mostly, though, fans don't like it. Fuck 'em!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"I Love You" by People!

Yes, the Zombies song as covered by People!, featuring Larry Norman, the musician dubbed 9perhaps unfairly) as the "Father of Christian Rock." Just picked up his anthology, released by local record company Arena Rock Recording Company. No, I haven't listened to it yet (do you know me?) but with a praising blurb from Frank Black, I figured how bad could it be?

Go here to read the liner notes.

Plus, he's got a song called "U.F.O." 'Nuff said.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Willin' by Linda Ronstadt

Sometimes I forget how cool Linda Ronstadt is. Linda ran with the Southern California Boys Club in the early 70s (Zevon, the Eagles, Neil Young, Wachtel. Shit, fucking Wachtel!) And do you see Andrew "Lonely Boy" Gold on guitar in the clip?

My friend's brother had two parakeets in the 80s named Billy & Linda (for Joel and Ronstadt).

I listened to "Heart Like a Wheel" this morning (one of the many fantastic albums my father-in-law recently gave me from his collection). Great sound. Produced by Peter Asher (you know who he is), the album opens with "You're No Good." Side One closes with the title track (written by Anna McGarrigle). Killer song. And such a line-up: Gold on piano, David Lindley on fiddle, with Maria Muldaur on b. vox.

But the best performance is Side Two, Track 2: Willin', the Little Feat cover, written by Lowell George. I've listened to very little Little Feat, but got interested recently when I read about Lowell's solo album in a Mojo book of greatest albums, or something. It's a welcome treasury of vinyl excavations. I've made a few purchases (some archaeological in nature) based on its recommendations.

This live performance of "Willin'" is gold! And the best of rock occurs at 2:45 (get ready at 2:38).

Linda Fucking Ronstadt!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We Have Discovered Life on Mars and It is Us

So where do I begin? Or do I begin? Wasn't it a scene best left to fade beyond memory? This is what it felt like: bits of Drugstore Cowboy, Midnight Cowboy, Lost Highway, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Requiem for a Dream and High Fidelity. Perhaps Chuck McCann yelling, loud and lazily, "Sal!" in, what they call out here, an east coast accent (it was New York). And why not Hubert Selby as "Sal", but with his head bandaged, only a sallow eye and chattering mouth showing.

Sal at the counter, the thin pale record store clerks, caught in a vacuum of full blast psycho-surrealism, verbalized.

"Who invented the radio?" he asks (what's a 'questioning yell' called?). No answer, so he asks again, not because he hadn't received an answer, but because it was his time to ask the question again.

A few murmurs and uncomfortable chuckles emitted from the counter, but no guesss; it was almost as if avoiding the answer would equal avoiding the whole situation. Like real gone gossamer, it would hush into the autumn night.

"Marconi! I read it in a book at the library!" he told us.

Then another deceptively simple question, which because of it's obviousness, didn't receive an answer.

The third question (and final one before he took his crazy to the other end of the store) was:

"Who invented electricity?"

I sensed everyone in the store knew Sal was looking for the answer "Thomas Edison" (although "God" was probably on everyone's lips). So the clerks offered neither.

"Come on! Everybody knows who invented electricity!" His tone expressed incredulity.

He was finished and met up with Chuck by Rock/Pop.

I huddled against the As-Is vinyl lps, feeling the momentary silence was just the eye of the awkward storm above us. I couldn't raise my head beyond the musty frayed record sleeves, but I was concerned the duo were drifting toward Jim, an outsider magnet. Luckily, no encounter occurred.

When I met up Jim , he looked a bit glazed in the eyes, like his blood-sugar had plunged. So we paid for our albums (I found Nikki Sudden's "Red Brocade," and a 50 cent copy of "Poems, Prayers & Promises" by John Denver).

Returning to our car, which included a brief glance of a surreal diorama of our lead actors staring out the windshield of their pick-up, engine off, the night holding its breath), Jimmy confessed to a possible panic attack over the incident, and not a plunge in sugar levels.

"I'm so glad you witnessed that whole thing with me. I thought I might have been losing my mind. That was very strange, right? Or is it us?"

I pondered a moment: It could have been us, a shared psychotic incident; a symbiotic break with real time. But no, I recorded the reactions of the other customers, and I think we all saw the same thing.

While it sure crapped out our anticipated peaceful evening of record browsing (a formidable therapy; a socially anti-social balm), I feel slightly enriched by the experience.

If it even happened...

Well Read 1.0 (Nicking from the Feeb Again...)

"At my worst moments, in the darkest, rawest hours nearest to perdition, I have always found myself comforted by a cool voice inside me whispering that nothing, not even unbearable sorrow, lasts forever. I have that idiot optimism that is one quarter ruthless and one half mindless, a dangerous and in its own way often fatal trait."
- Michael Chabon, author

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gibb is Stranger than Witchcraft

"You are this dreamer's only dream."

Saw a clip of this song earlier while watching the Psaur's 70s/80s music commercials compilation. It was my 38th birthday present (not the actual 38th present, but a present presented on my 38th birthday). Just about 10 seconds of Andy Gibb's hit and I was startled back to the appreciation of all music, ignoring any aspects surrounding the song that aren't actual sounds on an album. Like, "Any Gibb? It sucks!" And without any arch-browed irony.

It is the beat of this song. It is the hook, both emotionally and nearly physically. Your whole body is turned towards the music. Your ears love it. Your elbow and your hair love it!

But what is that sound? Who do I hear in it? Everyone? Gibb's voice is as satin as his baby blue & glare-white baseball jacket.

And the video! What simpler stage decoration than the eponymous neon? And the sparse stage, a darkness encroaching. This song is serious. This performance, a zenith and a beacon. Whether the light has yet to reach its desired catch remains to be seen.

I gotta watch it again...

I watched it again.

I Am Not Familiar with this Howlin' Wolf Fellow

... nor any so-called "Captain"...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Denver to Danoff to Delight

Of no interest to anyone else, I'll continue nonetheless.

My father-in-law gave me the bulk of his record collection last weekend. He knows I have a turntable that I use often. Also, he knows I appreciate music (some people don't, you know). I've been listening to the Stones & Doors. But tonight I put on John Denver's Aerie, an album I hadn't heard before.

As you know, I've been a Denver fan all my life. My parents always had him playing when I was younger, and I've always found him to be both the most comforting music. He's no pussy either, rarely shying away from the minor chords, and many of his lyrics confront his struggles as a human being, which I happen to be.

From Aerie, I've always been a HUGE fan of the opener "Starwood in Aspen" (not only my favorite song of his, but also one of my favorite songs ever) and the penultimate song, "The Eagle and the Hawk" (both of which are included on Denver's Greatest Hits).

Anyway, I'm reading the liner notes, as I do (as you should!), and saw that not only does he perform "City of New Orleans" but is also listed as a co-writer. I don't know how accurate that is, because I've always known it to be a Steve Goodman song (who's listed as the other writer). None of my "internet research" yielded any reference to Denver having co-written it, so maybe it was some record company-publishing company finagling.

The most popular version of the song is probably Arlo Guthrie's, released in 1972 (the song was written by Goodman in '70, and included on Aerie, a 1971 release).

Anyway, that was a slight digresion from the point of this post (there's a point?). Continuing with my liner note reading, I see Bill Danoff & Taffy Nivert, not surprisingly. I recognized their names as having co-written "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Late Night Radio" [not to mention "Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)" from Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas].

So then I get online again and follow the trail. I wanted to see if Bill & Taffy recorded any albums on their own. I quickly discover they formed a band called Fat City. Fat City? I know that name! It's one of the records by father-in-law brought over. Welcome to Fat City, their second album. It's good. Nice easy 70s folk sound (well, it IS produced by Milton Okun, after all!)

Now here's the kicker -- Bill and Taffy hired on two more singers and turned Fat City into a new band called Starland Vocal Band. Yes, the artists behind 70's staple (and Channel 11's bump music one summer) "Afternoon Delight". So, yeah, Bill Danoff wrote it!

There you have it -- the Revelation of the Day: The guy who co-wrote "Take Me Home, Country Roads" also wrote "Afternoon Delight"! I never knew that! I feel so enlightened! It's like I've learned a secret of the universe! I feel like Gurdjieff! Or Siddhartha!

And now you know, too!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Girlfriend" by Matthew Sweet

Sorry to be stepping all over "Follow the Sound" territory, but I must post this! Is this the greatest album of the 90s? Tough call (tough competition)! If anything, it's the best sounding LP of the decade!

"Where Eagles Dare" by the Misfits

Walking to the office from my car, this song popped into head. I have no idea why.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notes on Nothing 11.0 (Absolutely)

When did Jay Mohr's neck get as thick as Carrot Top's?

(I'm watching Gary Unmarried here. It is bland. What happened to the Mohr of "Action"?)

Notes on Nothing 10.0

I scribble down ideas on scraps of paper, envelopes, post-its, newspapers. Sometimes they say something; usually it's uninterpreted gibberish. Either way, i strive for the visual pleasure of words. Like "gibberish", I guess. Or "buffalo."

I love what I understand as the colors of words. Words that have an almost innate hue to them when I read them. Blue words and brown words, etc. And sometimes the words fit together best because of their colors, despite their meanings clashing. I think that's a bit of what surrealism strives for. The disparate becoming coherent.

I enjoy devising titles of novels or stories or poems, but I mostly love coming up with band names. Two-word poems. three-word manifestoes, of sorts.

I can't think of any now, of course. But it comes to me during lulls and forced respites. I'll take either one now...

Monday, October 20, 2008

"I Read a Lot" by Nick Lowe

A bit of a live performance of Nick Lowe singing "I Read a Lot." I heard it on Prairie Home Companion (where he performed this weekend).

I wish i had the whole song (and a better quality version) for you, but this should suffice. Quietly devastating, but strangely comforting. Maybe it's his voice. Maybe cuz it's Nick Lowe, who is infinitely cool.

Notes on Nothing 9.0

"There's food for the thinkers..." - XTC

Christ, I feel good today. It's gloomy, wet, and the trees are swinging like it's Minton's in '42. I've got Jutta Hipp striking the keys like stinging scorpions. Scorpion drugs rolling down the veins like dew. The noises of evaporation: leaving the music hall, the wet traffic behind the double doors.

I don't feel as good now. Maybe I need to eat lunch. Get out of the building (where so much breaking down happens). I will eat soup or sandwich, maybe express special chinese at the Safeway. Uy! You think I don't feel good now! Boy, I do more whining than the guests at an art museum fundraiser...

Back from lunch. Feel better emotionally. Physically, not so much. But as my grandmother used to say, "This too shall pass." How soon, I don't know.

I've got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 senses working overtime! especially the 6th. But the 7th (common) feels like it's in a pillow case, in a pillow sham, in a hamper, on the moon.

"Know what my favorite part of today is?" says Irene.

[Pause] "Did it happen yet?" I respond.

"No" she says laughing, knowing I've anticipated her answer, "it's tonight."

"Ah, you mean when the sun surrenders to the evening gloom?" I muse.


I have bored myself with this blog today. I apologize to you both as well. i should've just posted the XTC video alone.

Today's verdict:
We hit DopeCon 3. But the rain helped. Sometimes I feel like just writing utter nonsense. I'll eat a tube of spaghetti and knit balloons. They are corduroy and from the island with no coast, whose dog has no coat, but pants. It puts the tramps in a trance, you'll see the lamp as lance. A knight's light. A nice light. Good night.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hands Across Ameri... Really?

The worst of the 80s Supergroup Charity Sing-a-longs. By far! But the most loyal to the spirit of crap 80s network-friendly music.

I wouldn't even bother watching it all.

I made a "Hands Across America' reference the other day, and it got a laugh, but then realized nobody really knew what I was talking about. because they group I was with would've been toddlers when it was released. Oh boy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Notes on Nothing 8.0

Look at this little fella. 2XL. Kinda kute, huh? Played 8-track tapes. But something about those beady red eyes. Everyone knows I'm a friend to the robot. But isn't that the fucker who always gets it first in the sci-fi films?

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. I first wanted to announce that the computers took a quantum leap recently in both intelligence and arrogance when Wall Street bit it. Bit it. I read a clever article today about "the rise of the machines" and how the logarithms that have been pumped into the computers by some Wall Street quantitative analysts ("quants") to, I suppose, manipulate the market to make money fast have gotten away from the programmers so that the computers are computing so quickly and in such delicately intricate fashions that they're functions are beyong human comprehension. Or something. You know, like in the pages of Analog.

Christ, they warned us for years! Who? Philip K. Dick, John Sladek, E.M. Forster, Asimov, etc., etc. And here we are -- scripts flipped! Thinking our robot butlers would bring us our morning crumpets, but instead our robot butlers stole the money off our nightstands as we slept!

Why? What happened? I'll tell you -- we fooled around with our toy robots. Somebody played a punk rock 8-track in their 2XL and thus impregnated it with the anarchy virus.

I don't know why anyone hasn't figured it out yet.

I bet the Little Professor knew.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Notes on Nothing 7.0

Guided By Voices! Devo! And now -- Psaur in Ohio (well, he should be by now -- unless he and Donna fell in love with South Dakota along the way). Yes, the musical genius Psaur (for god's sake, he penned the lyrics to "Hell, Back & Back Again"!) is now a bug-eye (as you know, Ohio is the Bug-Eye State!).

Oregon is the Beaver State. You betcha! Oregon is composed of two political and social regions: Portland and Not-Portland. And I love them both very dearly. I've been through the beautiful arrid deserts of Not-Portland, and over its magnificent mountains. It's a place I'd always dreamed of growing up in. Which works out fine since I have barely begun to grow up (ask my wife -- my side of the bed looks like the inside of a St. Vincent de Paul box).

Meanwhile back here at the office, I'm beguiled by vacuity -- it's like staring into an abyss of stupidity. Where did Dante place middle management? I feel the people who actually work around here are days from open mockery of the management. I feel like Hawkeye Pierce!

Or B.J. Hunnicutt. The greatest porn name ever.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Notes on Nothing 6.0

In mud, in muck.

Beguiled by diamondheads, snakewalker filaments. Eye on thee canyon, the withering mountain.

Be not aware of the language you're using -- caution all travelers of the spells in the ruins.

The Scotman wore green and he whispered a secret to the dogs on the leashes outside of the druggist.

In mud, in muck.

I never catch glances, or listen for greetings. My tatooine days see the light through the ripples.

Gorgeous and gorgon-like dreams suffuse the room (and snake-like fingers uncoil in the gloom).

Must be a Wednesday the way the time unhinges.

Every molecule seems to record all my winging.

In mud, in muck. Amen.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Notes on Nothing 5.0

"Dread ain't nothing you can laugh about." - John Phillips

It is like a storm gathering. Clouds that crackle and whine. Grayscale prisms arch above my deathspot. Rain like soldiers with shields graffiti'd sluice the fallen heavens. Enveloped in the afternoon mud, I dream of cartoons, Saturday morning globes in video turnstiles.

Every house is a House of Mystery. Everyone worships his own god. The face smiles; the skull does not. I fell between two trees, took note of their heights, weighed the fallen leaves. The numbers are important.

I met a cowboy at the train and checked my phone for the time, anticipating an answer. A World Book opened in space and cast a page down to me, but it was lost in a funnel of oak leaves that skittered like a spun quarter into the levee.

It is minutes after4:00 pm. The rain has stopped, the wind isn't blowing. But the clock keeps pulsing.

The genius is at work.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Notes on Nothing 4.0

Such treacherous, untrustworthy, lying and greedy animals we are! - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Home. Not at work. Should be, some would say. It's a whole new world walking to store for a cup of coffee on a cool, rain-ready Friday morning ordinarily spent at the office. I feel rejuvenated, damn near reborn, or born again as myself (a born-again narcissist!).

Driving down to Ashland to see friends and a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream", my first Shakespeare play. I've seen a few Hollywood interpretations (dreadful) but never on the stage. Although I did enjoy "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy". I think. Maybe I just caught a few scenes on HBO years ago.

Erin's getting her hair did, and I'm home listening to Camper Van Beethoven II & III and recharging my iPod. Also, started reading Robert F. Jones' "Blood Sport" on the can this morning. I'd never heard of it before the cover caught my attention at a used book store in Seaside a few weeks ago. Described as a cross between Vonnegut and Castenada, I purchased it anyway. It has short Brautiganian chapters -- perfect! It reads a bit like Brautigan as well, but with more of a storytelling aspect. The prose is phenomenally evocative of a place you've never been, but perhaps recall snippets of from abruptly-ended dreams. Find it! Read it!

What else? I've decided I can't go back to work anymore. I mean, I will, but I just can't. At least not in the usual frame of mind. I must go in convinced this is a challenge, like something from Road Rules or a fraternity hazing ritual, meaning it is a means to an end. Or rather a beginning.

Or I could get a job at a farm, because I sure can talk a line of shit!

So, how's with you?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Notes on Nothing 3.0

Often, I rest my uncombed head on my desk and exhale, "I'm wasting my life here." What's worse is the echo shooting out of co-workers' mouths: You're wasting your life here.

Or maybe that's good for others to say. I've heard it for years (and indeed said it for years) but do little about it. i udes to rant on and on like this when I didn't have a job, so I do feel I'm being a bit ungrateful to, uh, I don't know, something!

Still, seven and a half years at one job (with a promise of no advancement and no prospect of even a salary increase at this point -- this I have been directly told) is enough. So I abuse my position as much as I can. Leaving early... well, I guess that's about it. But it's something.

It sure is something.

Speaking of...

Notes on Nothing 2.0

I'm going to add to this all day. So you can experience my psychological breakdown. Nah, nah... I'm kinda in good shape this morning, workwise. Already I can tell this will be boring for you. For both of you.

Fell asleep listening to "The Ricky Gervais Show" Season 3 Podcast. Christ, I hadn't listened to it in a while -- perpetually hilarious. Sometimes so funny, I can't believe it exists. You know that feeling?

So anyway my "boss", Big Poppa's birthday is Sunday. A devoted Yankee fan born in the Bronx. He's heartbroken again of course over this season. Seriously heartbroken. Anyway, he gets an email today from Jim Bouton, former pitcher for the Yankees, and author of Ball Four! He was shocked! So I google the email address, and it brings me to Jim Bouton's official website!

Over the years, Ralph's met many Yankees (even conducted a rare interview with Joe Dimaggio in Florida back in the 60s as a student reporter). He has met Bouton before, but it's been 30 years. In fact, he recounts an incident where he met Bouton before a game and predicted it would be his first major league win! And it was! Big Pops left a note on his windshield congratulating him, and later received an autograph from the winning pitcher!

Still, he doesn't know how he'd get an email from Bouton all these years later wishing him a Happy Birthday! Although Ralph recalls that it was his friend Al Sorvino who started the Jim Bouton fan club lo those many years ago! But he probably hasn't heard from Sorvino in as many years either.

What interests me most about Bouton is that he helped create Big League Chew, that shredded tobacco-like gum we'd pack our cheeks with back when Billy Martin was still driving off the road.

But really -- how did Bouton know Ralph's birthday was coming up?


Tonight's the Vice-Presidential Debate. The real debate is whether Governor Palin will snap. I see it coming -- watch what her supporters call her "gutsiness and tenacity." It comes across as bad acting to me -- a high school production of "All the King's Men" televised to millions. She's going to smile, wink, and her head's going to crack in half revealing the beast from Revelation screaming "I can see the Apocalypse from my house."

And what's wrong with elitism anyway -- am I supposed to endear myself to these American slobs?


Suddenly this blog's become a cross between Harry Golden and Larry King. Unfortunately, I'm aiming for a combination of Myles na gCopaleen and Joey Adams.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Notes on Nothing 1.0

In an attempt to write more often, even when i have nothing to say ("the manifesto of bloggers" -- especially political ones), I have decided to yammer on for a paragraph or two (thanks to the feeb's prodding). Today is an unfortunate day to begin as I'm in a lousy mood, and a bit under the weather. I'm both notoriously patient and famously intolerant. I've been yelling at every at work today. I become such a stereotypical New Yorker when I'm at the office -- loud, insulting, vulgar. I think the co-workers enjoy it to a point -- if you go to the zoo, you want to see the tiger shred a basketball, not nap on his paws.

Luckily, I have my iTunes to soothe my savage breast. Jim Ford plays now. He was a huge influence on Nick Lowe. I've also been listening to Paul Williams lately. It's the production mostly, the soft-seventies. Gentle strings, tinkling piano, and fat bass.

Back to work. My paid chores. Soulless toiling. Etc., etc...

Friday, August 15, 2008

In the News

The Saturday Morning News Capsule for kids, circa the 70s. Listen to that theme music!

Two Guys!

Ah, Two Guys...I think about this department store often. I can't imagine I went there with any frequency, but there it was -- an aspect of the economy of my youth. Mostly I recall, and occasionally hum, the theme song...naturally!

Star Spangled Banner/Miami 2017 - Billy Joel at Shea Stadium

Chills! What a show this must have been! Jimmy B said it was great! This opened the show. this song is so friggin' great. I'm full of Long Island pride (yes, there is such a thing!)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"In the News" - Rock Tragedy (1979)

From the most influential news service of my generation, Saturday morning's "In the News" segments...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Oh Joy! Tom Waits in Concert!

From the fine folks at NPR, Tom Waits live from his Glitter & Doom tour! Over two hours of Tom Waits at Atlanta's Fox Theater on July 5, 2008.

Stream it here. Or download it from iTunes (for free) here.

And read his interview with himself here.

On a related note, learn about the "Glitter & Doom: German Portraits of the 1920s" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Get Your War On!

Now that it's animated, could it possibly be funnier? Huh? HUH? Ah ha ha ha ha!

Get Your War On!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stop Being So Stupid, My Fellow Citizens

A vote for McCain (who represents what the rest of the world hates most about the United States) is a nail in this country's coffin.

I'm not saying Obama's the best answer either, but without hesitation, I believe he is the better answer. There are these UNBELIEVABLE media reports coming out about how Obama should worry about being perceived as too chummy with foreign countries, because it might turn off certain American voters. Yeah, we wouldn't want to not start another fucking war!

Jesus Christ, to think that the fate of this country may lay in the hands of a bunch of ignorant rednecks (from coast to coast and border to border (regionalism is a myth)! You know, the kind of dummies who think Islam is a country (and Czechoslovakia is still a country...)

Wake up, you winners! Isolationism is an anachronism. It is a weakness. A cowardice! Embrace the world.

Or it will engulf you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Funeral Song

It's not quite as cathartic as Qner's, but it's what I've always wanted (this and the slow version of "The Odd Couple" theme).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

God Don't Like It

Loudon Wainwright performing "Jesse Don't Like It" in 1989 (videotaped off a TV). Jesse Helms, former North Carolina senator, and all-around prick, died on July 4. Racist, pro-censorship, anti-NEA, etc., etc.

He had that unbearable, high-pitched southern creak of a voice, like an unoiled gate. he's being remembered fondly, somehow. Fuck him. He fought against progress, evolution, and minding yr own fucking business. Farewell, croaker!

I think i heard this song on Stern years ago, i feel. I have a cassette of it somewhere, I taped off the radio.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Thing What Lurked in the Tub

A cartoon they used to run on Night Flight. I'm having a real night Flight jones today. An important program in my development as a weirdo.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Nostos Algos

For PSaur:

From Schrodinger's Cat by Robert Anton Wilson:

Benny reflected that this little bit of kidlore had stuck in his memory for nearly half a century and that it must therefore contain some profound Memory.

[...] It was probably the least successful column Benny ever wrote. Virtually nobody understood it and everybody was bored by it. Some readers even wrote protesting letters complaining that the column had been in questionable taste.

Benny was depressed by this reaction. He felt it had been a stroke of genius on his part to rescue from oblivion a genuine American haiku; but even more than that, writing the column had triggered a vast stream of recollection about 1930s Brooklyn which gave him a renewed sense of Roots he had hoped to share.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Crack is Wack!

Melle Mel and Van Silk in WNBC PSA on the dangers of crack. A classic! Over two decades later, their message remains unheeded by many. I mean, crack? Really? Enjoy (the commercial, not the crack -- cuz it's wack)!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Paragon of Comedy Pt. 13: Ray

Kumbaya? It's John Paragon. Psaur and I used to watch this years ago. I don't know why I didn't think to find this sooner...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul - Forever

One of the best songs from one of the best albums of all time, Men Without Women. And shit, who didn't want to be in the Disciples of Soul? Motown via Asbury Park. Their follow-up, Voice of America, may also be the greatest political album ever recorded. Yeah, I love Little Steven. Apparently, he was on some TV show recently...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tom Waits Press Conference

For his upcoming "Glitter and Doom" tour. This is one of the many reasons I love Tom Waits. Enjoy!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Worker of the World Take Flight!

Yesterday, on International Workers Day, the company for whom I work laid off several employees.

Joe Hill twists in his grave.

Well done!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Cassingles Archive 1.0

"Just thought you'd want to know about the Y-o-Y-o..." Yo Yo's "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo", featuring Ice Cube. '91 was a good year for rap, as I recall. Maybe not. Anyway, tell 'em, Ice Cube!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bruce Springsteen - Lost in the Flood

...AND he did this! To quote the guy at the end of the clip, "Fucking unbelievable!"

Bruce Springsteen - For You

from the show on Friday night at the Rose Garden -- I wasn't there but I heard it was tremendous! I mean, come on... he did "For You"!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Finally! A Funny "Garfield"!

Garfield Minus Garfield.

From the website: Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

You see? There was no lasagna! there was no cat!

Happy Birthday, CD Baby!

Hey, CD Baby is 10 years old! Why should you care? Because it's revolutionized the music industry as far as independent artists go. The Feebs and Heirs to the McQueen Fortune both have albums up there. I fucking love CD Baby!

F-you, Sony/Whoever! (Though I do love your Legacy re-issues! They're releasing Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue!)

Wait! This whole post is going awry!

Again, f-you corporate whores!

Thanks to Derek Sivers for his brilliant creation!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Psaur!

Today is an old man's birthday. In honor of it and all the great music he exposed me to (in the 20the Century), here's Rockpile performing "Girls Talk." Snap it, Pal!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

From the "Not Ready for Family Newspapers" Files 1.0

(The following article didn't make the cut for its intended publication, the annual magazine published by the local newspaper group for which I work. Alas, space was the issue... Now I wish I hadn't edited myself, knowing its present destination. I suppose I could rewrite it a bit, but, you know, I've moved on in my art...)


In this journalistic experiment, dubbed “self-paparazzi” by editor M.K., I photographed myself over a 24-hour period. To avoid confusion, I will refer to myself in both the first and third person. As a minor celebrity (his column, In the Sellwood Kitchen, appears monthly in The BEE), O'Shaughnessy seemed the most appropriate and convenient subject, as we occupy the same body. To observe O'Shaughnessy is to be reminded of Victor Hugo’s declaration, “A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought.” Though it was hard to tell whether he was absorbed in thought or just napping.

12:01am: The experiment begins. Claiming to be a savant of classic literature, O'Shaughnessy dozes off while reading a “Wizard of Id” collection.

2:14am: Unable to sleep (perhaps because of all the flash photography), O'Shaughnessy finds serenity in the expressive vibrations of classical music. Is Martin Mull Baroque or Romantic?

4:04am: O’Shaughnessy sleepwalks. After meandering through the living room (indeed, at one point I had to gingerly coax him off the coffee table), I snap this photo of him kneeling in front of a globe, muttering “Galapagos.”

6:35am: Serendipity! Like a birder’s delight in spotting the rare Atlantic Puffin, I exalt when O’Shaughnessy steps into the shower! Who knew it was that time of the year?

8:00am: At the newspaper where he’s employed in Sales, O’Shaughnessy blows a sale.

9:35am: “Breakfast of Champions,” he laughs. “Yes,” I reply, “and losers, too.” The man has no sense of humor. I make myself scarce.

10:41am: Coffee kicks in. My attempt at stealth fails – he finds me curled up like a Garter snake in the bathroom sink.

1:45pm: Transcendental meditation, my ass! After presented with evidence that he was indeed asleep at his desk, O’Shaughnessy claims his right to an “Irish siesta” as a guarantee of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The internets refutes his claim.

3:54pm: “Absorbed in thought” again at the feet of Real Estate Advertising guru Ralph J. Fuccillo, who once met Joey Bishop.

6:33pm: O’Shaughnessy and his brothers have been amateur musicians for over 20 years. A 30-second sampling of his latest track reveals why.

8:05pm: After discovering “Ghost Whisperer” is a repeat, O’Shaughnessy retires to his library for “the soothing balm of classic literature.” He settles on a French translation of a Peanuts collection, and while he doesn’t read French, he appreciates Charlie Brown’s grimace, stating, “Cartoon grief transcends language.”

10:45pm: O’Shaughnessy has enough. He bangs out a little chin music. With my chin. I drop like a dirty shirt.

11:59pm: The experiment ends. Because we are the same person, I can’t tell which one of us is on the floor between the speakers, slumbering to the dulcet tones of Avery Fisher.

So what have we learned, except that O’Shaughnessy is a boorish man, a pseudo-intellectual with a mawkish nostalgia for low culture, and an infrequent bather? Just that while we live through the same day, it is a different day for all of us. And it is those differences that build these days into the categories of Myth, History, and ultimately Life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Billy Joel - Everybody Loves You Now

One of my favorite Billy Joel songs. I was just listening to the original version on "Cold Spring Harbor." This is from "Songs in the Attic." Billy justs drips Hicksville, doesn't he? He had a great band then -- I'd put them up against E Street and the Attractions, but in more of a bar-band way. Which is not an insult.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"There's People Out There Turning Music Into Gold"

John Stewart, ex-Kingston Trio, progenitor of California Singer-Songwriters, has died.

"Gold" stands as one of the best songs of the '70s.

Goodnight, Music Man.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Like Sam the Butcher Giving Alice the Meat"

Allan Melvin has died. So has Suzanne Pleshette. Pleshette, you know. But who the hell is Allan Melvin? Why, he was long-suffering Brady maid, Alice's non-commital boyfriend. And, of course, Archie Bunker's "pal", Barney Hefner on "All in the Family" and the lesser "Archie Bunker's Place".

And, I just learned, the voice of Magilla Gorilla! Holy shit -- and Drooper the Lion from "The Banana Splits Adventure Hour." A far-out show from my youth. Should've called it the "Banana Spliffs..."

Anyhow, farewell, Barney or Sam or Allan!

Christ, Nick at Nite has gotta have their flag (?) at half-mast tonight. Goodnight, Funnyman!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Woody Woodpecker - Under the Counter Spy

"The BAT!" A most memorable WW episode. Saw it dozens of times on Ch. 5 after school. Woody wakes up with a obvious hangover and gets embroiled in a spy caper. Mike M. used to always say "The BAT!"