Monday, October 20, 2014


Happy birthday Calvin Broadus, Jr., aka Snoop Doggy Dogg aka Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion.

(I'm sorry, but "my mind on my money and my money on my mind" is a stupid line.)


Let's say goodbye to Tim Hauser, founder of the Manhattan Transfer.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Taking The Black

Even with a new TV season upon us, I've been binge-watching old shows. For instance, just caught up with the first two seasons of Orphan Black. For a while I've been hearing critics say it's an outrage that star Tatiana Maslany has not been nominated for best lead actress in a drama, and now I understand.  No matter what else you think of the show, it's a real tour de force for her.

Orphan Black starts with protagonist Sarah Manning seeing a woman who looks just like her at a train station--and then having the woman jump in front of a train.  Sarah steals her purse and the mystery begins. She discovers her doppelganger is a detectivbe, and hopes to make some much-needed money by taking her place, but soon finds herself involved in a world where she has numerous clones.  The more she discovers, the more the conspiracy grows, and the more dangerous it becomes.

The show, then, is a mystery-thriller, with a sci-fi bent and some farce thrown in built around all those clones. Maslany plays numerous characters, including troubled Sarah Manning, button-down suburban housewife Alison, scientist Cosima and crazed killer Helena.  Sometimes these characters even impersonate one another, yet Maslany makes each character a separate creation.  For that matter, they often interact, and Maslany is believable on both ends.

There are other characters, or course, such as Felix, Sarah's foster brother (they're both British and the show is from BBC America, so it took a while for me to understand it takes place in America (and is shot in Canada)), Art, the partner of the one who killed herself, Paul, an ex-mercenary who lived with Beth, Delphine, Cosima's co-worker and many others.

The show is fun, though I liked the first season better than the second.  Discovering what's going on was fun, but in the second season, though plenty is still not known, things are more out in the open, and the characters have a better understanding of what's happening.  Thus the show turned from a fascinating mystery to a more by-the-books thriller.  Also, I find Helena one of the more tiresome characters, but she won't seem to go away.

Anyway, the third season is starting next year, and I'll be watching.

Double Day

Today is the 70th birthday of Peter Tosh and the 80th birthday of Dave Guard, founding member of the Kingston Trio. Neither are around to celebrate--both died young, in fact--but we are, so let's enjoy it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Believe It Or Not, I Am Still Talking About Fight Club

Joshua Rothman has an essay in The New Yorker about the real meaning of Gone Girl.  It's not much of a piece so I wouldn't worry about it. But there was one bit that got my attention. He compares Gone Girl to another David Fincher film, Fight Club.  Then he starts a paragraph with this:

There’s a reason, of course, why the first rule of Fight Club is not to talk about Fight Club.

This got me excited.  The way he puts it, I figured it's not just a "a" reason, but "the" reason.  Here it is:

It’s that the lurid core of our imaginative lives is best kept secret.

Oh.  This is the kind of aesthetic/psychological cliché that makes his piece weak to begin with. Sure, if you want to write a term paper on the movie, and force symbolism and deeper meaning on everything in it, you can conclude this and a thousand other things.

But if you want to know the real reason you do not talk about Fight Club, I'll tell you. It's because Fight Club is extremely illegal, and if word gets around, you and the others participating will be thrown in jail.

For A Song

I recently watched a rerun of an old comedy which featured a World War I veteran.  With World War II so far in the past, we hardly ever talk about WWI.  This year was the 100th anniversary, and I don't remember too much discussion (while anniversaries of D-Day are still a big deal).

So let's stop a bit and think about The Great War, which as much as anything created the world we live in.

Friday, October 17, 2014

It's Le Mans World

I just got back from seeing the Steve McQueen 1971 film Le Mans in a local cinema.  It was a flop and I can see why.   There's about fifteen minutes of plot and the rest is just cars driving around--I can see that on the freeway.  I can also see why McQueen took the role--he got to spend a month driving fast cars and only had to learn six lines of dialogue.

But what surprised me was how his character Michael Delaney did in the film.  In the previous year Delaney was in a crash at Le Mans so he's back to prove he can do it right.  And in this new race, he gets in another crash--his own fault, in fact.  Didn't expect that. But we see the film isn't quite over, so he gets another chance to race (in a plot development I didn't understand) and...finishes second!

Impossible today.  A modern Hollywood film has a protagonist who's has superhero powers and keeps winning despite greater and greater obstacles, until the end when he has to work against impossible odds and through some miracle comes through.

Of course in those days the cinema loved beautiful losers.  In Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid they get shot in the end.  In Easy Rider they get shot in the end.  Back then filmgoers were probably surprised McQueen escaped with his life.


Happy birthday, Cozy Cole. Let's keep those jazz beats going.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Paul Alone

It's said when Alexander the Great, as a young man (he never got to be an old man), saw the breadth of his empire he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.  Paul McCartney must have felt the same way in late 1969, at 27 years old.  The Beatles had conquered the world half a decade before and had only solidified their grip since, and Paul, from humble beginnings, had lived more during those years than most do in a lifetime.

But the band was breaking apart and Paul didn't know what to do.  Could he start all over again?  Daunting, to say the least.  He was almost catatonic. He retreated to an unfinished home in Scotland, his confidence shattered, and wondered what to do next. If his wife Linda hadn't been by him, puffing him up, he may have become a recluse.

That's just the start of Tom Doyle's book Man On The Run: Paul McCartney In The 1970s.  When I picked it up, I wondered why?  There are tons of books about the Beatles and about Paul, so why one that concentrates on this decade.  While Doyle never fully answers the question, it is true that Paul's first decade after the Beatles is his most interesting, and most artistically satisfying.

Paul had suggested, as a last measure, that the Beatles go out on the road anonymously and play small venues. John thought he was daft.  By late 1969, the band was a going concern only as a money-making venture--they weren't making any more music together.  And the big fight was who would represent them.  John, George and Ringo went with Allen Klein, an alleged tough guy who would fight to get as much money for them as possible.  But Paul was wary, and went with his father-in-law Lee Eastman.  The Beatles were already fighting, but this was the final straw, and Paul was now the official bad guy.  Later Klein would go to jail for various questionable activities, so Paul was probably right, but for now the three Beatles were suing the Cute One.

While it was clear they were breaking up, Paul became the first to officially acknowledge it 1970 in a self-interview he included in his first solo album, McCartney.  It was a small, simple homemade album with some beautiful tunes and some oddities.  It included "Maybe I'm Amazed," which has gone on to achieve classic status.  One thing about Paul--even on his weakest work, there was always something special.  And another thing (starting with "Another Day")--beginning in 1971, no matter how spotty his musical record was, he always managed to release at least one top ten single a year throughout the decade, often a #1.

Next came Ram, another mixed effort.  While John was releasing raw, powerful work, and George was finally free to put out whole albums of his songs, many of which he'd stored up, Paul still seemed to be messing around.  Nevertheless, he had a #1 hit with "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" as well as a vague shot at Lennon with "Too Many People." It wasn't long before Lennon responded, scathingly, in both interviews and songs.

Paul decided to start a new band, Wings.  The truth is, it was always Paul and whoever backed him--which included the not especially musical Linda.  As it was, the Wings changed the roster several times through the decade.  Paul was just Paul, and Linda was more wife than Wing.  The only true Wing who stayed in the lineup (through the 70s anyway) was ever-faithful Denny Laine, an old friend who sang for the Moody Blues back in the day.

Wings' 1971 debut, Wild Life, was probably the weakest effort of Paul's that decade. But Macca was just starting to come back to life.  He and the band traveled in a van through England, following his old plan for the Beatles.  They'd come to a town, locate the local college and tell them they'd put on a show (even if the band barely had enough material).  Word started to spread and the crowds showed up, but the important thing was Paul was getting what he'd wanted for years.

In 1972, no album, but three singles.  First the apolitical Beatle put out "Give Ireland Back To The Irish."  Next there was their version of "Mary Had A Little Lamb."  He finally returned to form with "Hi, Hi, Hi."

Meanwhile, Wings got a double decker bus and toured Europe (along with the McCartney kids, who must have had quite a childhood, as mom and dad generally took them everywhere).  This was still not a grand tour, but the venues were bigger.  Paul was also busted for pot--the first time, but it was the beginning of a series of such busts, ultimately leading at the end of the decade to being held in jail in Japan and sent back before he could tour there.  Apparently life without pot was unimaginable to him. (While this may not be the greatest thing, it was the harder stuff throughout the decade that really damaged the band.)

Wings' next album, Red Rose Speedway, was another weak outing, though it sold decently on the strength of the dreary #1 hit "My Love." But Paul was about to get on a streak of solid albums that showed the world he hadn't lost it. In fact, he was, chart-wise, one of the most successful acts of the 70s.

First, and most important, was Band On The Run, recorded by Paul, Linda and Denny (the rest of the band quit) in dangerous Lagos.  Paul thought it would be fun, and EMI had a studio there.  It's probably his best album and certainly his best-selling.  He followed it up with three original albums that showed off his revitalized songwriting: Venus And Mars, Wings At The Speed Of Sound and London Town. In-between he did a huge, highly successful tour of America--turned into the successful live album Wings Over America.  (Paul also did "Mull Of Kintyre" around this time, the biggest-selling single ever in Britain and a ridiculous misfire in America.)

During this period, he made up with John. John was going through a tough time, living a wild life in Los Angeles, separated from Yoko. Paul came out west and actually gave John a message from his wife about how she'd take him back if he proved himself.  John did as told and the couple reunited.  A bit later, the couples--Paul and Linda and John and Yoko--hung out in the Dakota.  They actually watched the famous SNL bit in the mid-70s where producer Lorne Michaels promised to pay the Beatles $3000 if they'd come together.  This was being taped only a mile or so away, and the duo joked about showing up, but nothing came of it.

John became a bit more reclusive soon and start bad-mouthing Paul once again. It's not entirely clear why. John was always the moody type, and it's also possible he was envious of Paul's new prominence.

Paul had nothing left to prove, but he always had a strong work ethic (and need to perform) and put out some solo albums as Wings petered out and died by the early 80s.  His next two albums, Back To The Egg and McCartney II, didn't compare to his recent run (luckily he'd signed a major contract just before Egg), but they have their moments. And, good or bad, Paul was always trying out new sounds, as demonstrated by "Goodnight Tonight," "Wonderful Christmastime" and "Coming Up."

Then John was murdered in late 1980 and Paul was devastated.  The killing closed out the 70s as surely as the Beatles breaking up had closed out the 60s.  At least Paul got to find out in that in John's final days he had been saying nice things about his erstwhile partner. The Beatles, after their tempers cooled down, had actually played with each other in almost every combination throughout the 70s--there'd always been rumors all four would finally get back together, but now the dream was over.

Paul continued to be a successful performer, but I'm not sure if he ever mattered again. He still goes out on major tours, but he's now a nostalgia act. Back in the 70s, the audience wanted to hear his recent hits (though they also loved Beatles numbers); now if he plays anything from the last twenty years, it's time for a bathroom break.  But Paul is probably the greatest living songwriter, and that can't be bad.

The Middle Letter

Happy birthday, Fred Turner.  He's a bass player, singer and songwriter, best known as the Turner of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, or B.T.O.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Do you mean in ready cash?

Life Is Strange

Happy birthday, MacHouston Baker, a blues guitarist better known as the male half of Mickey & Sylvia.  He was doing a lot of session work when he teamed up with his guitar student Sylvia Robinson and the rest is R&B history.


Happy birthday, Little Willie John.  He didn't spend too much time being big, dying at age 30, but he laid down some tracks before he left.

Joe G

Happy birthday, Joe Genaro, aka Joe Jack Talcum, aka Jasper Thread, aka Butterfly Fairweather, aka Jonk Provuc, guitarist, songwriter and occasional vocalist for the Dead Milkmen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The answer is 'yes'

Coherent or incoherent?

So I've received two interesting offers obviously based on some deep data somewhere.

The first, which I'm quite interested in, is the Dyson hand held vacuum. If it had been the stick version, they'd have sold me on the spot.

The second has a subject line, "Leave 20 somethings in the dust."

I have to admit, that has its attractions too. Though I'm not sure for which reason, spite or glory.

Leftover Vanity Plates Of The Month

On a Pontiac: REYNALA.  So either she's the Queen of the city or Yiddish.

TRST GUT.  The car was pretty old, so maybe this is a mistake.

DIOS ABE.  Two heroes?

DOTCOM 8. In the future we'll all be Dotcoms.

HEY EMS.  Hey what?  Express mail service?

ITZTYM4.  For what?


Happy birthday to R&B man Robert Parker.

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