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Sunday, April 18, 2010

3:55PM - The Semester That Killed Me

I'm taking two classes this semester. One is Wednesday from 7-10 pm, the other is Thursday from 7-10 pm. Both are taught by the same woman. In both classes, she just talks and talks and talks, sometimes to the topic, but usually not. We ALWAYS stay late as she tries to 'inspire' us with yet another (or the same) rousing speech about how "we are the future," which is much less true of me at age 46 than it is for most of my 23-year-old, all-female class. I'm more of 'the present.'

I'm getting an arts administration degree, my thinking being that since i've done it professionally for 12 years, why not get a degree for it so I can get more money at the next job? But it also creates this odd situation - I can't fail or even get a B, right? And yet, with my full-time job and a huge host of day-job-that-I'm-paid-for side projects, I have fallen woefully behind in class. I have a 30-page paper that was due three weeks ago that I still haven't started (should be doing it now, but...). I have missed several classes, though always for a professional reason, which makes them excused absences.

And my teacher is just...hard to deal with. For instance, one of my interns is also in the class, and she handed in her 30-page paper on time. She was told to re-submit the paper. Why? Well, on the cover sheet, the professor said that she needed to be more succinct in her answers. Yet inside the paper, the margin notes she wrote on seven different occasions told her to "expand her answer." So she needs to be more succinct, yet more expansive. Good luck with that.

My saving grace is that she loves me. She really likes my program at FSU and she is totally behind me, as long as I get my work in "before the end of the semester." So, in addition to being the only man, the only person with gray hair and a beard, and the only person over 40 in either of my classes, I am now also the teacher's pet.

If I can somehow pull two A's out of this, it will be my all-time scholastic miracle.

Friday, December 11, 2009

8:28AM - my dyslexia of perversion

An email from Amazon caught my eye:


But of course what it really said was:


Made me sad...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

11:12AM - Celebrity Love

Had a bizarre conversation with a co-worker. She's a pleasant woman, probably about 55, and she mentioned how she was still suffering from Michael Jackson's death. I asked, "Suffering...how?" She said she suffered inside, and that whenever her friends died, she had to take to the bed sometimes and just cry for hours. So I asked, "Michael Jackson was your friend?" And she said, yes, of course. He was a close friend. She then elaborated: she had never met him, of course, but she felt a kinship to him.

Okay. I asked her if there were other celebrities she felt this close to. The answer was a resounding, and lengthy, yes. When John Ritter died, she said, she was in bed for a week. And Farrah...how tragic was that? I asked her if her Farrah fixation was based on Charlie's Angels, and she said, "Well, that's when i first got to know her, but we've been friends ever since." There were many, many more examples, nearly all of them that B-level celebrity, and just talking about them made her cry a little bit.

Since we were talking on John Lennon Death Day (dec 8), I asked her if she this reaction to John Lennon. "Oh no," she said. "He never did anything for me. But I do love Paul."

So she answered a question I didn't even ask her: who buys into this celebrity culture and watches Entertainment Tonight and gives a good goddam about these 'famous' people they don't even know? The answer: co-workers, people on the street, lots of people. I didn't quite get the 'why' answered, though.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

8:43AM - Books v Movies and "Endless Love"

I read a truly phenomenal book just recently and I'm surprised to say that it's Scott Spencer's "Endless Love," the very same "Endless Love" that inspired one of the worst movies and one of the worst songs of all time. I'd read another Spencer book, "Ship Made of Paper," that was pretty good but, having seen "Endless Love" in high school, I just didn't see how it was possible for the source material to be worthwhile. At all. I was wrong. The book is an amazing thing, a harrowing chronicle of a love that never dies and how much that sucks. It's perfectly structured, beautifully told story with a 30-page love scene that is like nothing I have ever read. Brave, crazy...wow.

So here now is my list of the five worst film adaptations I have ever seen:
1. "Endless Love" - in the book, Jade (the Brooke Shields character) does not have a present-tense scene until 2/3 of the way through. If only the movie had followed suit.
2. "Scarlet Letter," the Demi Moore version - the one with Robert Duvall's meat-hat, an Indian invasion and a happy ending, all of which seemed cool with Demi, who said that nobody ever read the book anyway.
3. "The Fugitive" - A John Ford version of Graham Greene's great The Power & the Glory, starring Henry Fonda as Greene's Whiskey Priest. Except this priest doesn't drink whiskey. Or philander. Or have doubts and fears. Or anything that made Greene's character so great. In the movie, he's just Jesus redux. I'll admit my prejudice: I think John Ford is catastrophically overrated, but this is still a terribly missed opportunity.
4. "The Great Gatsby" - It makes sense that you could never make a movie that was anywhere near as good as the novel, but did it have to be this bad? Miscast, poorly written, dreadfully photographed, way too long..it missed the point, over and over.
5. "Day of the Locust" - pretty much the exact same criticism as Gatsby. Great book - tough, short, nasty - made into an overlong movie with inexplicably gauzy photography. Damn shame.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

11:23AM - 1963: Not a Bad Year for Movies

I had never investigated the state of film the year I was born (1963) but I gotta say, it's pretty good. There are a lot of different threads going on. Great films from the foreign arthouse guys (Fellini's 8 1/2, Visconti's The Leopard, Godard's Contempt, Kurosawa's High & Low, Bergman with the deeply depressing two-fer of The Silence and Winter Light). Lots of really good British movies like This Sporting Life, Billy Liar, Lord of the Flies, Tom Jones. Loads and loads of horror-cheese (X, King Kong vs Godzilla, the incomparable Blood Feast, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who...., The Raven, etc.) and sex-cheese (Promises! Promises!, Nude on the Moon). Crazy violent stuff (Johnny Cool, Girl Hunters). Plus James Bond, the first Frankie/Annette movie, some really cool indie stuff (Shock Corridor, Leather Boys). And some Hollywood movies, both great (Hud, The Birds, Nutty Professor) and, well, nice try (How the West Was Won, The Victors).

And of course it was the year my namesake became a household word (two months AFTER my birth) in The Great Escape.

Here's my list of some notable 1963 movies:
8 ½
Beach Party
Billy Liar
The Birds
Blood Feast
Dementia 13
From Russia with Love
Fun in Acapulco
The Girl Hunters
The Great Escape
High and Low
How the West Was Won
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living & Became Mixed-Up Zombies
Johnny Cool
King Kong vs. Godzilla
The Leather Boys
The Leopard
Lord of the Flies
The Nutty Professor
Point of Order
Promises! Promises!
The Raven
Shock Corridor
The Silence
They Saved Hitler’s Brain
This Sporting Life
Tom Jones
The Trial
The Victors
Winter Light
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Monday, May 11, 2009


Alright, I'll go ahead and be 'the guy who didn't like the Star Trek movie,' because, well, I didn't. To be fair, I have a total tin ear when it comes to summer blockbusters and the format may well be wasted on me. But this just seems like another in an ENDLESS line of super-slick CGI entertainments with cookie-cutter stories, generic pretty faces, an utter improbability of storyline and occurrence that is just flabbergasting, enough orchestra hits that the whole movie sounds like a stampeding elephant (DUN...DUN-DUN-DUN...DUN!), an outright denial/refutation of the 'science' part of science fiction, etc. I was amazed that Spielberg didn't executive produce this thing because it REEKS of him in every way.

The things that I liked about the original TV Star Trek were its bizarre visual sense and production values, the unhinged performances of nearly every actor (especially Kirk), the inherent contradiction between their mission and their methods, and the hamfisted attempts at dealing with big issues (but at least they attempted). None of that is in this new movie. The look is bland. The performances are dull shadows. The story dealt with nothing except the history of Star Trek itself.

It certainly wasn't the worst of its kind -- I think Independence Day is still tops in that category -- but it was of its type.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

10:37AM - Goodbye, CDs

I've made the decision. I am going completely digital, getting rid of all my CDs (except for the very best of the boxes, like that Charley Patton thing and the Jerry Lee Lewis complete Sun, and the Stax-Volt, etc.) and storing my music on computers and ipods. And why not? I have NEVER had an affection for the CD format; in fact, I felt utterly blackmailed into CDs back in the early '90s and only made the switch because records started sounding like shit. I still think they scratch too easy and the chunky plastic and small graphics are downright UGLY. So...why not?

I'll be keeping my vinyl, finally bringing it out into the light, so that we can get properly acquainted again. I feel that vinyl and I are like Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, and that our time apart has only made us realize how much we need each other. Remind me not to take my vinyl sailing with Christoper Walken...

Anyway, I am in the process of downloading and, granted, I am only up to the C's after a week (though this includes doing all the boxes, and I had a lot of boxes, thanks to that newspaper job in the '90s). Also, I learned that your computer needs to be online for itunes to be able to grab track information. I learned this after a day and a half of painstakingly re-entering every song title, album name, artist and genre. Yes, I am an idiot.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

9:39AM - What I've Been Up To...

Haven't posted since the band's debut performance, so...here goes.

I'm in grad school, taking 6 hours' worth while also doing the full-time gig and the family. I'm getting a master's degree in arts administration. I have been administering the arts on a professional level for 11 years now, so I figured I might be able to manage, despite my history as a terrible student. I have two classes. Each class has one other male, and 21 females, all of them between the ages of 22 and 24. I wrote my first college paper in 20-plus years last week and it was HARD. Professor wanted in that horrible, dry higher-ed style, so I wrote my paper, then had to go back and erase anything resembling 'a voice.' Anyway, going fine.

I ran my first festival here, finally earning my pay. My hall (well, the hall I use; not MY hall) is shut down for two years for a renovation (which is going on outside my office window, every single fucking day...bang bang saw saw clang clang; it's KILLING me) so we had to do it in other rooms around town. But there are none! We managed. Me and my 'staff' -- two part-time grad assistants -- did 13 shows in 15 days in 11 different venues. Whoo-hoo. Highlights were the most amazing dance troupe I've ever seen (Noche Flamenca...don't pass up any chance to see them, ever), a crazy mix of Webern and Schumann from a young jazz pianist playing in an old Southern mansion in the middle of nowhere, and a jazz show by Dianne Reeves and Marcus Roberts, who had never played together before and just set the place on fire. The worst? Well, Junot Diaz can kiss my ass for all eternity, and that Dr. John / Neville Brothers thing was just a fiasco.

Seriously, if you could hear the noise going on outside my window right now...

Watched two Miyazaki movies with the kids -- Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. I'm a little late to this party but...holy shit! That guy's great! Both movies were amazing. The story NEVER goes where you think it might, and after a while you just give up guessing and go with it. I can't wait to watch the rest of them.

Bad band news -- the bassist is moving. In some bands, that means get another bassist. But our bassist writes 97% of the material, sings it, does the whole 'frontman' thing onstage, and has all kinds of great ideas. Essentially, it's the end of Bag We Bag. A record, a show....and out. We might do another gig as a farewell, but even if we don't (and god knows it is murder trying to get these four people together), I can say without reservation that it's the best band I've ever been a part of.

My wife's novel is nearing completion. I'm looking forward to reading it over the summer.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

3:36PM - Bagged!

The Bag We Bag show last night was just transcendent. At least from my vantage point. We had more than 200 people there, sold out all the CDs, had a genuine vibe of excitement running through the place...and then we played a killer show, right up there near 'the best we can do.' A couple fluffed cues here and there, but it's bound to happen in a set of 25 originals. The sound onstage was the best I've ever had, by far, and the pocket the four of us found was beautiful. Dozens in the crowd were dancing after a few tunes, and nearly all the crowd hung in for the whole two-hour show. Just...wow. One of the great musical nights of my life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Bag We Bag plays its first-ever show tomorrow night (Friday)!

The CDs are done and in their cases. My friend Dave -- who is also the bassist, chief songwriter and singer in the band -- did amazing hand-drawn covers for more than 150 of these CDs. That is part of the Bag We Bag charm offensive: everyone gets a unique CD cover.

All the big-production ideas fell through. Every bagpiper and tapdancer and set-designer on earth can kiss my ass. But the music is in tip-top shape and I think it's going to be a fine, fine show.

The new disc goes up on itunes tomorrow, though you don't get a unique cover that way. You only get one of those by coming to the American Legion Hall on Lake Ella on Friday, January 16 at 9 p.m.

Bag We Bag!!!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

11:36PM - a tip...

The new Oxford American music issue is the best one yet. Two CDs, some great essays and photos...$10. Can't beat it, even if it does reveal what an annoying singer Lucinda Williams has become.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

3:56PM - Ladybird Questions

So how did I come this far in life, spending years as a music-obsessive, without ever having heard of The Ladybirds. How had this TOPLESS '60s rock band escaped my attention? Why isn't written up in any of those 'incredibly strange adventures in music'? Why are there no records by The Ladybirds? Why had I never heard of this bizarre-sounding Jayne Mansfield movie "The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield," which seems to have the only existing footage of The Ladybirds? I only stumbled across them because I was looking at Danelectro guitars and a shot of the Ladybirds came up, saying "The Ladybirds play guitars by Danelectro and Coral!" Though I find it hard they were actually sponsoring the Ladybirds back in 1966.

Here they are:

Monday, December 15, 2008

6:36PM - Bag We Bag update

Well, it was a year and a half ago that I wrote about the longtime band members coming up to where I lived in North Carolina to record a record, which we did. And since then, I've changed jobs and locales, tried desperately the pull the whole thing back together, failed, stewed....and now it's back on. (I think we have jonathangarrett to thank for shaming our drummer into finally falling in line, though why he responded to jg's browbeating and not mine is anyone's guess).

Bag We Bag's CD "Porterhouse" will be debuted on Friday, January 16 at the American Legion Hall on lovely Lake Ella here in Tallahassee, Florida. The Bag We Bag performance on that same night will be our first. If you're in town, $10 gets you admission to the show AND a CD. Doors at 8; show at 9. And it's a SHOW. We've got various guests, a set, some theatrical pieces....oh yeah.

11 songs. 44 minutes.

If you want to hear two songs off the CD, go to www.myspace.com/bagwebag. You can visit the very spartan www.bagwebag.com, as well.

In the meantime, we've got about five new songs, so my goal is to record a single in March. We'll see.

Friday, December 12, 2008

9:28AM - Screamin' about "Screamin'"

It's been a long time since I made a great record purchase, but this is the story of just such a thing.

For a couple of years, I've been keeping my eyes out for a used copy of this mammoth box-set from Revenant called "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues," which contains every record ever made by the super-great Charley Patton, the pre-Robert-Johnson king of the delta blues. It's also got a disc of people in his circle, from Tommy Johnson through Howlin Wolf and Pops Staples, and an interview disc with people who met him (he died in '34). That's 7 discs.

Beyond the music -- which is, to say the very least, unfuckingbelievable -- this is the most attractive, lush, decadent, deluxe package I've ever seen. The whole thing comes in a large fabric-covered cardboard slipcover/box and is designed to look like one of the packages of 78s. There are half-a-dozen essays in the 100-plus pages of notes, all printed on quality, rough-textured paper. There are duplications of every full-page ad that ran for a Patton 78. There are lyrics, music, discography and documentation out the wazoo. It is GORGEOUS.

And it costs at least $150. But on my ebay prowls, I came across what I thought was a typo -- a NEW copy, still in plastic, for $47 with free shipping. Seemed like a scam, but I bought it anyway. Now, my theory is that someone forgot to put a '1' in front of the '47' and this only came to light after I ordered the thing. For more than a month, I got emails every other day saying they were having warehouse difficulties and they knew how important timely delivery was so they'd be happy to refund my money right away. About 11 days ago, I engaged in some email complaining with a customer-service person, and my box arrived yesterday.

The packaging alone is worth $50. It is a beautiful thing to see a still semi-obscure but undeniably great and hugely important American artist actually get his due like this. The sound is as good as it will get (these are 78s recorded in rural outposts in the early '20s, so Steely Dan it ain't). We owe it to the famous guitarist/wack-job John Fahey ("Everyone on earth should have a chance to meet John," Leo Kottke once told me. "Not all of 'em are going to like it, but they should at least have a chance"), who owned Revenant and was a huge Patton scholar/advocate/fan; the set even contains a complete copy of the BOOK he wrote about Patton back in the '60s. He died before this made its way to the shelves, but....good job, Mr. Fahey.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

12:45PM - I Will Now Bore You with BASEBALL

Joe Gordon, who played for the Yankees in the ‘40s, just got elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee. The Baseball Hall of Fame is not like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Baseball runs a tight ship. If you get in, you generally deserve it. It’s a good model. Only rarely does it go wrong. Like now.

Writers keep referring to Joe Gordon’s “MVP season of 1942.” And yet, the fact that Joe Gordon won the MVP in 1942 remains one of baseball’s bigger travesties, the sports version of Kevin Costner beating Martin Scorsese for Best Director in 1991. Ted Williams won the TRIPLE CROWN – best average, homers and RBIs – in 1942. He remains the only player to win the Triple Crown and NOT win the MVP, a feat he actually accomplished twice! (It's been more than 40 years since someone won the Triple Crown, by the way).

Why? For some reason, baseball writers – most of them based in NYC – hated Ted Williams and loved Joe DiMaggio. Time has proved them wrong – Williams was a plainspoken war hero with an actual code of conduct and ethics, while DiMaggio was a nasty, self-centered, mob-owned dullard. The writers ALWAYS favored the Yankees, even to these absurd heights.

But on to 1942…

Joe Gordon hit .322. with 18 homers and knocked in 103 runs. Not bad.
Ted Williams hit .356 with 36 homers and 137 RBIs. Phenomenal.
Advantage: Williams, by 34 points, 18 homers and 34 RBI. These are not small margins. They are substantial.

The list goes on. Williams has more hits (+13), walks (+66), doubles (+5), even triples (+1). Williams struck out only 51 times, compared to 95 for Gordon; and Williams’ slugging percentage is an amazing 157 points higher (.648 to .491)! And if you look at on-base percentage, the difference is really stark -- Gordon has a decent-enough .409, while Williams has an amazing .499...that's .100 points higher. That means every time Williams went to the plate, odds were 50-50 that he'd get on base. Crazy.

What I would do, were I the Veterans Committee, would be to retroactively strip Joe Gordon of his MVP award and give it to the guy who deserved it…Ted Williams. I'd do the same thing for Scorsese's 1991 Oscar, too.

The numbers do not lie:

1942 147 538 88 173 29 4 18 103 12 6 79 95 .322 .409 .491
1942 150 522 141 186 34 5 36 137 3 2 145 51 .356 .499 .648

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

4:09PM - Two Old Tunes, Heard With New Ears

I had one of the great music-listening events of my life this past weekend. Through machinations i will not bore you with, I got to listen to digital versions of the 2-inch, 24-track analog final versions of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the 8-track version of Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine" on a 24 track machine, meaning we could isolate parts and mix-and-match tracks and have a grand old time. Both songs were firmly on my love-them-but-never-need-to-hear-them-again list; now they're refreshed.

The "Bohemian Rhapsody" first -- the piano, which is essentially the basis for the whole song, is horribly out of tune, which you hear clearly when you isolate just the piano and voice. The tape is CRAMMED with stuff -- each track is bursting at the seams. If there were a few measures where a certain instrument wasn't playing, then use that space for some vocals or a snare hit or something. Oh, and Freddie Mercury just kicks ass.

"Grapevine" was unreal. First of all, the whole thing is LIVE, done all at once -- instruments, backing vocals, lead vocals, strings and horns. You can hear the bleed-through on each track. Now, if you take away the vocals, the track is nothing special. At all. The electric piano sounds both overdriven and tinny. The bass is muffled with no dynamics. The guitar just chops on the 4. The two women singing backgrounds are great, with a sliding blue note that makes me happy. And the strings and horns, which get their own separate track, are incredible, thanks to this great arrangement that slides in and around the vocal line.

But the vocals...holy shit!!! Thank god I already thought Marvin Gaye was the greatest singer on earth or I'd have to revise my opinion. Hearing him sing that vocal unaccompanied is ASTONISHING. I mean, it's perfect. Every note, nailed; every drop of emotion, drained. From that first 'whoo-oo' the hair on my arms stood up and stayed there through the entire song. By the time it was over, I had tears in my eyes. Anything my body could do to signal approval, it was doing. It was overwhelming to hear a man sing like that. As much as I've always loved the song, I now think the band actually mutes a lot of the excitement. The man is not a singer, he's some kind of voice-ninja.

Monday, December 1, 2008

9:58AM - Just curious....

Has anyone conducted a scientific study to find the link between professional athletes, massive stupidity and firearms?

Monday, October 20, 2008

5:54PM - Boo, Sarah Silverman!


I had a remarkably similar experience when I saw Sarah Silverman here last year. So...very...lame. I didn't know whether to complain more loudly about how short it was or how awful it was. Like that Woody Allen joke in Annie Hal -- First old woman says, "The food is so bad here," and the second woman says, "Yes, and such small portions."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

9:30AM - A musical quandary

Queen or Roxy Music?

I can't decide.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

3:43PM - End of The Wire

I just watched the final episode of the final season of The Wire. Like every episode of every season, it was great. It was such a phenomenal show that it has impacted my ability to watch other cop shows. No longer can I just happen to pass an episode of Law & Order and watch the whole thing. And for a couple of years, I was really into The Shield but when I've tried to watch them recently, all that bombast and violence and cops' access to criminals and beatings and no lawyers....it's so false and phony that it's just flat-out pathetic. The Wire has laid waste to any claim those shows had to realism.

A great show and I'll miss it. Until I start watching the whole thing over from season 1 in a few years. Like a great 50-hour movie.

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