Taking another sick day, this time for me, I partook in our blog’s namesake and wiled away the last few hours playing with a sweet little app I found that lets one browse and stream the Soundcloud library to Chromecast. While much of the surface level noise on Soundcloud veers a little too techno centric for my personal enjoyment, RAC was a winner of a find. The most recent album, ‘Strangers,’ is full of songs I know I’ve heard before. And aside from the sixth track, which after seeing it was a collaboration with Tokyo Police Club, I’ll definitely give another shot, the whole album is stellar, and largely available via Soundcloud. Mac. Thoughts?
The bands below popped up on my radar this morning, and rather than create a google doc or something to remind myself to pick up their albums once available, I figured I’d surface on this venue for a brief moment in time. Mac, let me know what you think.
Allthosewastedhours has become such a sporadic enterprise for me–Jon has become Blogger emeritus, ret.–that I sometimes think I should dub it Allthosewastedweeksandmonths. But the idea of its existence in the blogcosmos reminds me that I have to do more than put metaphoric pen to metaphoric paper periodically or my head will bust wide open. So for the sake of my bald pate, here goes.
I have always envied those people who note every book they read. Our family friend, Gertrude Shorrock (who lived to be almost 102), kept track of everything, including all the books she had read. I’ve made half-hearted attempts at lists, but I run out of gas, forget for too long, or become too embarrassed at the quality of books I’m reading–too heavy on mediocre mysteries and rock and roll memoirs–and I walk away. This year I determined to change that in my 64th year. My books called out to me “Will you still read me, will you still need me…” So I have kept a list this year. My goal was to reach 100, and by early fall I had revised that down to 75, and as the Times Square ball was descending to to 2015, I settled for my age 64.
I have listed the books read below listed by genre. If I loved the book I gave it three ***. No * means you should probably avoid it, although you won’t die if you don’t. You will notice that my list is bottom heavy with mystery/thrillers. Interestingly, the last time I kept track of my reading was the year Carol and I spent in Snowmass Village, Colorado; she had a fellowship at Anderson Ranch Art Center and I had a year off from responsibility (I did substitute in the Aspen school and worked for Westec Security, and oh the stories I accumulated). I became hooked on mysteries, specifically the works of Elmore Leonard. My goal was a book a week and at least ten of those books were Leonard’s. Since then I have become hooked on the genre, although if the formula is transparent and/or the characters too card-boardy I will walk away (or feel guilty for having finished).
For every mystery indulgence, I tried to work my way through a novel, and for the most part I was successful. I would recommend every novel I read this year, although with caveats. Some start bleak and finisher bleaker (Joe and The Free, for sure). Other than that, dive in.
It was also a memorable year for young adult fiction. In my young adult days, there were few great novels on the shelves. It seems as if I made the leap from Charlotte’s Web to A Clockwork Orange or W.A. Swanberg’s Citizen Hearst or Irving Stone’s Clarence Darrow for the Defense. There seemed to be no in between. Today, there is. Young teens have wonderful array of great authors from which to choose. Try any of the books I read this year, well there a couple of duds, and I think you may be surprised.
Here are some of the highlights from my year in bookland. Continue reading
It is hard to enjoy the sunshine when forest fires ravage the east slope of the Cascades; hard to dream of dream trips when planes are shot out of the skies by nutballs; hard to imagine civil discourse returning to the political landscape; hard to think of a long soak in the tub when it seems Mother Nature has pulled the plug on Lake Mead.
That was the fevered state of my brain last week when the New Yorker, which has seemed to reinvent itself on the web (you should all befriend them on Facebook poste haste), opened up its archives for the summer. The first article I read was profile of sleight-of-hand artist, Ricky Jay.
Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters and Ricky Jay
I am a sucker for magic. From the teenage boy who walked up to our family in an Applebees in Gilette, Wyoming and in a comical monotone, asked, “Do you want to see some magic (we did), to the epic, glitzy illusions of David Copperfield to the Ricky Jay’s no-frills sleight-of-hand card tricks, especially that. It is a great read and led me to a couple of documentaries on Jay. In the documentary, playwright David Mamet mentions Michael Moschen’s juggling one crystal ball. Of course, I had to watch that again. After finishing the article, I began to think of miraculous moments that fill me with joy, awe and even hope.
Michael Moschen juggling one crystal ball
Monica Bill Barnes
Carol and I were introduced to this dance troupe when we watched a special This American Life episode at the Alderwood 7 Theater. Ballet of the everyday: comical and intimate. The next day I sent them $25. They will be performing at the Paramount April 11, 2015, and you can bet Carol and I will be there.
Sound Opinions has been a favorite podcast for several years. Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis are the musical equivalent to Siskel and Ebert, but despite their differing musical tastes, I think they like each other. I had a backlog of episodes, and last week, as I slogged (uncomfortably slow jogging) through the maze of sub-divisions that make up the western end of Monroe, I listened to an interview with Richard Thompson, a true guitar hero. What separates Thompson from the other guitar gods of the era (Clapton, Page, Beck, et al) is his genius sensibility and sense of humor. He is unique in the pantheon of pickers, pluckers and shredders.
My Brightest Diamond
So much music, so little time. My list of must-listen tos has grown exponentially. I have been wading through a lot of music lately, and I will devote a post to the creme de la creme. I am especially taken by My Brightest Diamond, which is really Sharon Worden, and she exists in that rarafied air populated by Joanna Newsome, Inara George and VanDyke Parks, but she adds the element of performance art and I am entranced.
One of my favorite blogs is Brain Pickings created by Maria Popova, who describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large.” Of the blog she says, “Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.”
She writes about art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more. Often times she reads the hard stuff so we don’t have to, but even more often writes about a book I just have lay my hands on.
Boyhood, a movie by Richard Linklater
Finally, Carol I saw Richard Linklater’s movie Boyhood Friday. It is a movie, almost without precedent (unless you count Michael Apted’s documentary 7 Up). Every year for 12 years Linklater filmed portions of the movie, using the same actors throughout. We meet Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, as a 2nd grader and follow him and his family as they live their lives for the next 12 years. There is no real dramatic arc; it is simply a family stumbling along, and yet it is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. I am still thinking about it. Initially you find yourself wondering how the actors will change from scene to seen, but after a while you you just hope each character will find his/her way, whatever that may be. It is playing at the Harvard Exit and the Lincoln Square Cinema in Bellevue. You may have to hurry, because on on the opening day, there were maybe 30 people in the theater, but your best best is Bellevue.
It is those small miracles that I stumble upon from time to time that sustain me when the world seems so freakin’ bleak. I would be curious to know what little miracles you have discovered lately.
Tonight, I am going to watch the NetFlix documentary on the Portland Mavericks, the odd-ball minor league team that for six years in the mid-seventies seemed to jump from the pages of a W.P. Kinsella short story: The Battered Bastards of Baseball.
As covers go, The Ramones first album was no Sargent Pepper, just four surly dudes in black leather jackets, ripped jeans and too-small t-shirts, slouched against an alley wall, screw-you looks on their faces and page-boy haircuts (Wha-what?). As I placed the needle on the record—God, I miss that scratchless moment when needle hits virgin vinyl—knowing that I wasn’t going to hear self-conscious art-rock ala King Crimson, or sad introspective singer-songwriter balladeering, or arena-theatrical crocodile rocking, or god-forbid shake-shake-shake your booty-disco dreck. No, The Ramones were the antidote to all that, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would sound like. And then:
Hey Ho, Let’s Go! Hey Ho, let’s go!
They’re forming in straight line
They’re going through a tight wind
The Blitzkrieg Bop
The kids are losing their minds
And followed by
Beat on the Brat
Beat on the Brat
Beat on the Brat with a Baseball bat
What the hell, what the hell, what the hell! Fourteen songs, each about two-minutes-long delivered slam-bam in your face. God, I just laughed at the audacity and I probably shook my head and wanted to pound something.
I was 26, a young teacher in Snohomish, but I knew I was already too old for punk, and yet I was probably the only person listening to the Ramones. When I tried to play the Ramones for my middle-school students they screamed at me to “turn it off, play Peter Frampton, Bates!” They were the ones who should be growing Mohawks, throwing themselves into the crowds of rowdy, spitting, screaming teenagers, but it was their teacher who longed to dye his hair and spit in the face of authority.
Joey Ramone on the Morton Downey, Jr. show in the mid-’80s
And thus was born Punk (although I would point to The Sonics, early Who, Kinks and Stooges—heck even Blue Cheer—for its true origins). And I loved the Clash, Patti Smith, Television, Talking Heads, The Modern Lovers, X, angry young Brits, Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, and in the ‘80s, The Minutemen, Meat Puppets and Husker Du. Passion and power chords trumped slick glitz and pompous self-importance in my book.
For a number of years it seemed that the Ramones were the Peter Pans of Punk, never growing up, still doing more in a few minutes, armed with a few chords and a daft sensibility, than most rockers could in entire careers. 22 years, over 2,000 shows, alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, even ideological disputes made for a tumultuous run and the group paid for it. By 2004 all but one of the original Ramones was dead, and last week Tommy Ramone went gaba-gaba goodbye.
With the exception of Joey, that 6-8 beanpole who really rocked that pageboy, I would have been hard-pressed to identify Marky, Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy or any other adopted Ramone boys. There were no studly solos, no pyrotechnics, just scorching, stripped-down two-minute masterpieces that exalted the joys of taking the music to “11,” and yes, sometimes about sniffing glue. R.I.P. Ramones.
A Live Show in London
Against Me seems to be a logical extension of the Ramones
And a nod to the granddads of Punk, The Sonics, here playing in Toronto in 2009
This past week has been tough on music makers: famed conductor, Lorin Maazel; jazz bassist Charlie Haden (he will get his own post later), and then this morning, Johnny Winter.