16 November 2009

Just learned Edward Woodward has passed on today. He was fairly up in years, but still.

His classic...rule three-oh-three.

04 November 2009

So I've been annoying my lovely wife lately with some inordinately long term plans for a vacation. Over a year in advance I turned in a form to HR requesting vacation time for October 2010. Yes, another roadtrip is in the works. This time we will be accompanied by someone small and less patient, so we are planning shorter legs of each journey than last time, but all should go well we think.

Here's the route as planned:

Leaving from Kansas City, we'll make our first stop in Liberal, Kansas. A short visit to the Liberal Air Museum, and then on the next day to Tucumcari, New Mexico. A long day of driving follows landing us on the south rim of the Grand Canyon for an evening, and then straight on to Los Angeles the next day. A few days with family, and of course, the requisite Disneyland stopover, and then on up the coast, a Danish breakfast in Solvang, and then a couple nights on the coast in San Simeon. Then we start trudging back, first making a short trip across central California and stopping in less-than-aesthetically-exemplary Barstow, California. Then, on to some cabins in Zion National Park where we'll enjoy a scenic couple of days. We travel then across Utah, and stop in Glenwood Springs at a hotel on the banks of the Colorado River, on the western side of the Rockies. The next day we cut our return journey in half by stopping in Hays, Kansas after crossing the Rockies and the vast plains of eastern Colorado, and finally make it home after a short drive from Hays.

Yep, this should keep me going for another year. Perhaps vacation savings would be better in a Roth IRA or with some other Irish nationalist faction or group, but we do like our road trip vacations.

26 October 2009

As a commenter in the previous thread deftly points out:


14 October 2009

From Paul Hudson, a "climate correspondent" for the far-from-right-wing BBC News, an unusually frank admittance of fairly uncontested facts:
What Happened To Global Warming?

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

Mark Steyn writing along these lines, a bit earlier in July:
If you’re 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you’re graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade. There has been no global warming this century. None. Admittedly the 21st century is only one century out of the many centuries of planetary existence, but it happens to be the one you’re stuck living in.

25 September 2009

A couple Douglas Adams quotes today, both from Mostly Harmless. First, a rather endearing passage that sums up how certain personalities (to great extent my own) can find joy in doing the simplest of tasks to a level of excellence. There is a touch of utopian ideal to the thought of being Sandwich Maker on Lamuella; but for the intrusion of the usual suspects (Ford, Trillian, Random, and of course The Guide) one could envision Arthur Dent spending the rest of his days there in unaccustomed contentment.

There is an art to the business of making sandwiches which it is given to few ever to find the time to explore in depth. It is a simple task, but the opportunities for satisfaction are many and profound: choosing the right bread for instance. The Sandwich Maker had spent many months in daily consultation and experiment with Grarp the baker and eventually they had between them created a loaf of exactly the consistency that was dense enough to slice thinly and neatly, while still being light, moist and having that fine nutty flavour which best enhanced the savour of roast Perfectly Normal Beast flesh.

There was also the geometry of the slice to be refined: the precise relationships between the width and height of the slice and also its thickness which would give the proper sense of bulk and weight to the finished sandwich: here again, lightness was a virtue, but so too were firmness, generosity and that promise of succulence and savour that is the hallmark of a truly intense sandwich experience.

The proper tools, of course, were crucial, and many were the days that the Sandwich Maker, when not engaged with the Baker at his oven, would spend with Strinder the Tool Maker, weighing and balancing knives, taking them to the forge and back again. Suppleness, strength, keenness of edge, length and balance were all enthusiastically debated, theories put forward, tested, refined, and many was the evening when the Sandwich Maker and the Tool Maker could be seen silhouetted against the light of the setting sun and the Tool Maker's forge making slow sweeping movements through the air trying one knife after another, comparing the weight of this one with the balance of another, the suppleness of a third and the handle binding of a fourth.

Three knives altogether were required. First there was the knife for the slicing of the bread: a firm, authoritative blade which imposed a clear and defining will on a loaf. Then there was the butter-spreading knife, which was a whippy little number but still with a firm backbone to it. Early versions had been a little too whippy, but now the combination of flexibility with a core of strength was exactly right to achieve the maximum smoothness and grace of spread.

The chief amongst the knives, of course, was the carving knife. This was the knife that would not merely impose its will on the medium through which it moved, as did the bread knife; it must work with it, be guided by the grain of the meat, to achieve slices of the most exquisite consistency and translucency, that would slide away in filmy folds from the main hunk of meat. The Sandwich Maker would then flip each sheet with a smooth flick of the wrist on to the beautifully proportioned lower bread slice, trim it with four deft strokes and then at last perform the magic that the children of the village so longed to gather round and watch with rapt attention and wonder. With just four more dexterous flips of the knife he would assemble the trimmings into a perfectly fitting jigsaw of pieces on top of the primary slice. For every sandwich the size and shape of the trimmings were different, but the Sandwich Maker would always effortlessly and without hesitation assemble them into a pattern which fitted perfectly. A second layer of meat and a second layer of trimmings, and the main act of creation would be accomplished.

The Sandwich Maker would pass what he had made to his assistant who would then add a few slices of newcumber and fladish and a touch of splagberry sauce, and then apply the topmost layer of bread and cut the sandwich with a fourth and altogether plainer knife. It was not that these were not also skilful operations, but they were lesser skills to be performed by a dedicated apprentice who would one day, when the Sandwich Maker finally laid down his tools, take over from him. It was an exalted position and that apprentice, Drimple, was the envy of his fellows. There were those in the village who were happy chopping wood, those who were content carrying water, but to be the Sandwich Maker was very heaven.

And so the Sandwich Maker sang as he worked.

Another somewhat less profound and more comic bit of dialogue, made funnier by this being the culmination of these two characters' mutual exasperation and annoyance in their relationship.

"You don't understand how important this is,' [Ford] said.

"What? You mean my daughter out there all alone in the Galaxy? You think I don't...'

"Can we feel sorry for the Galaxy later?" said Ford. "This is very, very serious indeed. The Guide has been taken over. It's been bought out.'

Arthur leapt up. "Oh very serious," he shouted. "Please fill me in straight away on some corporate publishing politics! I can't tell you how much it's been on my mind of late!'

"You don't understand! There's a whole new Guide!'

"Oh!" shouted Arthur again. "Oh! Oh! Oh! I'm incoherent with excitement! I can hardly wait for it to come out to find out which are the most exciting spaceports to get bored hanging about in in some globular cluster I've never heard of. Please, can we rush to a store that's got it right this very instant?'

Ford narrowed his eyes.

"This is that thing you call sarcasm, isn't it?'

"Do you know," bellowed Arthur, "I think it is? I really think it might just be a crazy little thing called sarcasm seeping in at the edges of my manner of speech! Ford, I have had a f[ed. use your imagination]ing bad night! Will you please try and take that into account while you consider what fascinating bits of badger-sputumly inconsequential trivia to assail me with next?"

04 September 2009

Much Belated Concert Review - Yes/Asia at The Uptown Theater

So on the evening of July 14th, as we basked in the afterglow of our good fortune for not having to pay for parking as we expected we might, we shuffled into the Uptown Theater for the Yes and Asia concert. We had decent but not exceptional seats near the back of the venue on the first floor, and as we entered we noted that it being extremely dark, decorated in a gaudy faux-historical sort of way, and somewhat dank and humid, the place took us straight back to Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland. No, not the movie.

Anyway, I'm not a particularly big fan of Asia, other than loving the Eric Cartman adaptation of "Heat of the Moment." But I actually quite enjoyed their set. The lineup was the original, with Steve Howe (of Yes) on guitar, John Wetton (of King Crimson) on bass and lead vocals, Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake, and hisself) on drums, and Geoff Downes (former Buggle and Yesman) on keys. They have a fairly accessible sound that blends 80s pop-rock with progressive elements. They kicked it off with "Wildest Dreams", and then "Only Time Will Tell". Then a recently written tune with terribly cheesy lyrics, "An Extraordinary Life" which was mainly memorable for Howe's delicate slide acoustic guitar work.

"Video Killed the Radio Star", Geoff Downes' famous little tune from his Buggle days, was next and actually was grooved pretty hard, the song being what it was. Nothing could beat the ridiculous stage antics of Carl Palmer on this song, throwing his sticks up in the air and putting four-to-the-floor. The man seemed to channel Rainn Wilson in "The Rocker". Perhaps it was the other way round? "In The Court of the Crimson King" was the homage to Wetton's King Crimson past, and while a bit repetitive, the thunderous Mellotron on the chorus section was awesome. They followed with a couple acoustic pieces "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" and "Don't Cry", which, nigh on a month later, are completely forgotten and thus were forgettable.

"Fanfare for the Common Man" came next, of Palmer's ELP catalog, and I must give credit to Geoff Downes. A Buggle...a pop-song guy...doing Keith Emerson organ parts. He tore it up! But of course, as expected, Carl Palmer took the occasion to do a fantastic drum solo...perhaps not one as finessed as other drummers might do, but in the realm of loud, showy rock drummers, Palmer is no slouch. The set started cranking up again with "Sole Survivor" which does tend to get stuck in your head, and then, as expected...

It was the heat........of...the moment...

Yes, it was of course time for their signature tune, which they were going to milk to death, naturally! The phrase "milk to death" conjures up a very painful sort of image for a dairy cow one might imagine, but I digress from the main point. Midway through the song, Wetton called for everyone to stand up and sing along. Embarrassingly only about 20-40 folks near the front (house left) stood up. You might think this would be disheartening. But you would be wrong. Asia is a clever, tricksy band. What did they do?

They did a false ending. Yes, a false ending...they seemed to end the song...and with the dying strains of Heat of the Moment in our ears, the crowd obligingly stood to their feet to applaud as one might expect.

Ha-ha! They had fooled us! Back into the song!!!! And everyone standing up now! See, they would get us standing up for Heat of the Moment one way or another. Geoff Downes thought this was a perfect time to whip out the keytar. Seriously, a keytar, dude? Complete with poses leaning up back to back with the other guitar or bass playing members. At least when Donald Fagen did it it was ironic/amusing.

So Asia having fooled us into appreciation was content to then get off stage. The wait began for the next act, which was the reason most of us were there.

The lineup had a few "fill ins" this time. Squire, White, and Howe were there, but filling in (quite admirably I must say) for his father was Oliver Wakeman, and Benoit David was filling in for Jon Anderson, who is unable to tour due to a respiratory condition. Benoit David is a younger French-Canadian with a voice that sounds a lot more like Jon Anderson did in the 70s than Anderson does now, and he did an excellent job, even if not exactly the genuine article.

I should point out at this point there was a young lady sitting next to my wife. This lady was, you might say, of uncommonly high spirits, emphasis on spirits. Perhaps I am guilty of understatement; it was my initial belief that I was witnessing a live-action "this is your brain on drugs" public service announcement. It does stand to reason, of course, in that it has always been my assumption that the only explanation for a female under the age of 25 liking Yes would be just shy of all the opium in Central Asia. However, it turns out she was with her parents, and was partaking with them in oft-repeated trips to the refreshment stand for mixed drinks of some sort. "Drunk off her posterior" is, I believe, the sanitized version of the state of her mental condition. The dancing was particularly hazardous, and as one might imagine Yes and Asia are not particularly dance-oriented, so accidents were bound to occur, occasionally involving my wife not having inched far enough away from the action. She also at one point, right before Yes came on, grabbed my wife, stuck her face an inch away from hers, and screamed "aren't you excited? WOOOOOOOOOO!"

The classic prerecorded "Firebird Suite" intro brought the band members out, and "Siberian Khatru", a very common first song for Yes, got us started from the B-side of Close to the Edge. "I've Seen All Good People" came next, and Drunk Crazy Girl got particularly animated in the "All Good People" section which has an old rocknroll groove to it. Then, as suspected, the band started inching towards less common material, particularly in the absence of Anderson. "Tempus Fugit" from Drama was well done, and I was almost sorry to see that Geoff Downes wasn't asked to join the band for the Drama numbers, in that he was Yes' keyboard man for that album. To this day I have a hard time not playing that bass riff when I pick up a bright sounding bass like a Rickenbacker.

"Astral Traveller", my favorite from Time and a Word, came next, and it was sad to note that the only member who had played on that song or album was Squire. Howe was to come one album later, and there were three more albums with Bill Bruford (Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge) before Alan White came on board. Still, they did it well and B. David's voice was appropriately fed through a rotary speaker effect. "And You and I" was a highlight in its execution, although marred only slightly by the failure to have the steel guitar working...whether that is the fault of the sound guys, Steve Howe, or the failure of his old vintage gear, I don't know. But they got it working.

Steve did a few numbers solo on acoustic, and the crowd-pleasing "Clap" reminds me as always that there is in fact such a thing as "God-given talent". Probably the most challenging acoustic guitar piece I've ever heard! Follow that with the even more crowd-pleasing standby, "Owner of a Lonely Heart". Oliver Wakeman appeared to work a bit harder than his father would at that...Rick Wakeman was hardly faithful to his own recordings when playing live, much less some git named Tony Kaye or Patrick whats-his-name. Howe didn't exactly sound as fluidly natural with the part as Trevor Rabin but he did sound much, much better than he has in live performances of it years ago.

"Machine Messiah", the second from Drama, came next, and it was nice hearing it live. I've never cared for the Pink Floyd imitation section but the whole song went well. Then ramping out, "Roundabout" built up steam, and as they started "Heart of the Sunrise" we headed for the exit to avoid the drunk driving in the parking lot. I've heard Squire do that song at least twice live before, I know it backwards and forwards. I found out later that was not their closer as I suspected, they encore'd with "Starship Trooper", which would have been good, but again, these are standbys that I sacrificed hearing to allow me to get out of the parking lot alive.

Oh, one last thing...we had noticed Squire (who is as big a ham as ever tromped across stage) had his golden locks blowing back like he had a fan on him. Very shampoo-commercial sort of thing. It became more amusing during one song, I forget which, where they started the fog machines. The fog billowed out across the stage, and as it got to Squire it shot the fog straight up into his face in a column of smoke. Oh that was funny.

All in all, great show.

02 August 2009

In my continuing quest to put off the Asia/Yes concert review blog post that I fully intend to do, I thought I'd post a pic of our dinner tonight.

Tonight I cooked what might be classed as sort of Norwegian food. Sirloin steak seasoned with juniper, fennel, salt and pepper, seared and grilled over charcoal to medium rare, then topped with a unique sauce of beef stock, flour, juniper berries, salt, pepper, sour cream, akvavit, and last but not least, Norwegian gjetost cheese. This is a delightful cheese made by boiling the milk until it caramelizes, for a sort of sweet brown goat cheese.

Plated up, we've got the steak with gjetost sauce, boiled potatoes with fresh dill and butter, lingonberries, and a few slices of extra gjetost. Accompanying, the only aquavit I could find locally at this time, a pretty straight-ahead caraway-to-the-forefront akvavit from Aalborg in Denmark. Delicious, regardless.

31 July 2009

My blog has never been averse to shameless plugs (and no, I am not referring to a vice-presidential form of cosmetic surgery) so I will gladly hawk our first gig. The Steve Phillips Quartet, for which nigh unto a thousand more colourful names have been suggested and none yet agreed upon, will be playing next Thursday, the 6th of August, at Jardine's in Kansas City.

The band is Steve Phillips (tenor/soprano sax), Arturo LaCruz (piano/keys), myself (fretless bass), and David Hoffman (drums). We've only managed to have one full band practice yet, with another couple next week hopefully, so it should be especially entertaining to come watch me fall flat on my face on probably not a few tunes. It'll be a blend of contemporary jazz, some more modern stuff, some older stuff, and as much funk as I can pack in there (alas, no Bootsy at this first gig), and there is no cover. We're playing 5:30 to 7:30, the early set.

Come out after work if you like, have a snooty mixed drink or an appetizer, and enjoy!

(PS. I will continue investigating the feasibility of the yazz flute mixed drink blowtorch effect..."I'm not even prepared...")

15 July 2009

02 July 2009

Thought I'd do a little review of last Friday's concert at Starlight.

We arrived there a bit early, and queued with the rest of the crowd in the summer heat, and I hesitate to admit I was one of the approximately 2,000 people who thought themselves insanely witty upon remarking that he might play songs from his album "Hotter Than July". My wife is a tolerant woman.

So we get in and find our seats, and with 10 minutes before show time we sit down and await the arrival of Stevie and company. Eventually the cast of characters in our particular section of terrace 3 assembles: most notably, the two loud-mouthed but affable hooligans directly behind us, and the hopelessly drunk big dude a few seats to my left. Hooligan A directly behind me was the Chief of Hooliganery, and he enjoyed himself immensely belting out toneless (but surprisingly accurate, lyrically) renditions of the varied Police and Bob Marley tunes playing over the PA before the main act got started. He deftly defused any potential avenues for us to complain about this (or any other behavior of his) by indignantly exclaiming to no one in particular, "I paid my money, I'm gon' enjoy myself!" Other interesting topics of discussion were the fact that they could only procure two beers per journey to and from the many varied alcohol vendors at the back of the theatre. This was apparently a tremendous handicap to their stated intent of having a good time, but put your hearts at ease; I can assure you that they did indeed have a good time.

Hopelessly Drunk Big Dude was the other character of note, and he and his lady friend were, as you might suspect, full to the backteeth of the right stuff. He had a wonderfully amusing habit of screaming, at inappropriately soft/tender/introspective moments in the concert, either "woooooooooooo!" or "yyyyeaaaaahhhrrgghhh!" or "herrrre we goooooo!", throwing his arms up in the air in elation, and then planting a drunken mouth gesture (one hesitates to call it a kiss, as such) on his lady friend. I think it could be said that he, too, was having a good time.

So we're waiting (YEARRGGHH!) for the concert to begin (HERE WE GO!). And waiting...and I catch myself seconds before actually mentioning CP time. Anyway, the concert finally gets under way at 8:55, almost an hour behind schedule, but at least by this point the sun has started to fade and it is cooling off. Mr. Wonder himself is led out on stage by his daughter (Aisha Morris, who performs as a backup singer with him). Stevie addresses the crowd, and is notably upset regarding the previous day's events. He gathers some steam and starts all but preaching a sermon against the news media and others that criticise and snipe at Michael Jackson. The crowd laps it in, and I think this may be where Hooligan B started his (also wonderfully amusing) habit of screaming at strangely inappropriate times, at the top of his lungs, a woeful "MICHAEL!!!!!". Time to get down to business though...Stevie sets down and starts up a soft, piano based version of "Love's in Need of Love Today". Hooligans A and B had been making guesses on what the opener song would be, and in my mind I had forecasted this very song, but had sadly not voiced this guess to the Hooligans and so I had to content myself with private celebration of this substantial victory. Stevie then segues into a rendition of "Kansas City", with the band I think taken by surprise but professional in their ability to catch back up. Then into a Latin-tinged "Bird of Beauty". The band really took off with the less well known but thoroughly smoking "As If You Read My Mind", which stuck in my head as a possible cover tune for future musical projects. However, all these songs were not exceptionally well known to the crowd, and so when the thumping bass line of "Master Blaster (Jammin')" kicked out next, the crowd erupted and rose to their feet. After that, Stevie mused a bit on his fallen comrade-in-funk (Hooligan B: "MICHAELLLL!"), and invited the crowd to sing the vocals on an instrumental version of "Billie Jean". A joyfully groovy rendition of "Did I Hear You Say You Love Me" jolted the crowd (and I suspect the band leader himself) out of the melancholy mood, and "All I Do" got the crowd excited and into it. Also, the last three songs (outside of the MJ reference) had been indeed from "Hotter Than July", which of course made the aforementioned 2,000 people think themselves now both witty AND clairvoyant.

Things went down a few notches on the intensity scale, and with the band grooving mildly, Stevie started using what appeared to be a talkbox (different from the vocoder which is more common among keyboardists). Not only did he give Peter Frampton a run for his money with his ability to clearly enunciate with the talkbox, he actually launched back into his sermon about Michael's eternal destiny, and the overall naughtiness of folks that criticise him and such like. Frampton just wanted to know if we felt like he did, but Stevie was delivering a full-blown philisophical treatise via talkbox!

Collectively the crowd felt embarrassed as Stevie mentioned a song he wrote for Michael Jackson ("I Can't Help It") that meant a lot to him, and when he asked the crowd to sing the vocals we all just sat around mumbling, without any real clue as to the lyrics. There was a mild fear he was going to get pissed and berate us for our lack of faithfulness to the lyrics of the King of Pop, but thankfully he was gracious in that regard to our ignorance. Then into "Never Can Say Goodbye" by the Jackson 5, which of course elicited not a small amount of mournful exclamations from Hooligan B.

"Higher Ground" brought the funky momentum back to the show, which was followed by Chick Corea's "Spain", which is their usual band showcase tune, including fantastic solos from each member of the band; the excellence of the band cannot be understated, this is every bit as professional a groove outfit as Steely Dan. "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" followed, and I'm reasonably sure the band played the whole song but I couldn't say that with certainty, in that Hooligans A and B had found their favorite song and were singing (or, something akin to singing) with eardrum-busting intensity. At one point, I believe Hooligan A drunk-dialed his mom of all people to say "Hi Mom! I'm at Stevie Wonder! They're playing our song!" The song finished...and of course, a seemingly random "MICHAEL!!!!" punctuated the silence that followed. Which was actually fitting in that Stevie sitting at the piano started writing an improvised song of sorts, along the same theme of people criticising people, how that's bad, and how someone is with the Father now, et cetera. The mood remained soft for a beautiful performance of "You and I" from Talking Book. Hopeless Drunk Big Dude thought the soft piano ballad was a great time to fling his arms violently in the air and bellow "HEERRRE WE GOOO! WOOOOO!". Then, another one of those well-known-to-the-crowd songs got everyone else on their feet with "Living for the City", followed with his old Motown standard "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". Here Hooligan B tried a variant of his previous formula, shouting (I swear by Almighty God!) "OBAMA!" instead of his usual vocal tic.

At this point Stevie announced he needed a break for some tea, so they played a pop R&B song over the PA. What I found so interesting was Stevie didn't exit the stage for his break. He sat happily at the front of the stage. I suppose since he couldn't see the crowd, it isn't as if he especially needed to be off stage to take a break. After the break Aisha Morris sang a soft jazz sort of song ("I'm Going to Laugh You Out of My Life") with her father, and the band ratcheted things up for the final sprint to the end of the set, first with "Sir Duke", and then with the song I took to be the final song of the set, "Superstition". Halfway through the song, looking around at the absolutely marinated, sodden, drunk-beyond-belief state of our fellow concert-goers, we decided to be fair weather fans and make a break for the exit. As we exited the gates we heard them finish the song and go into "As", a fantastic song, but getting out of the parking lot alive and on time was more than worth missing that tune.

All in all a fantastic show, if it was a bit of a memorial service. I may seem a bit harsh in my discussion of that aspect of it, but I don't really mean it with regard to Stevie Wonder, at least. There is a difference between his grief, having lost a personal friend who (as they both were child prodigies from the Motown label) must have seemed a bit like a kid brother to him, and the celebrity-adoring grief of the average fan, or the crocodile tears of other celebrities that rush their publicists out to make statements of how distraught they are (that they have to take time away from filming their movie which will be out in September! Previews available online!).

I did mention that this would be a "little" review, my apologies for the false advertising.


20 June 2009

As of yesterday, we are pet-less...the inimitable Mrs. Reagan has gone on to Valhalla, after a couple years of living with diabetes and then a final expensive (!!!) week of treatment for something or other (heart disease or cancer) that ended when she passed away under a shot of anaesthesia. Still, she had a good run. We took pictures because we thought we might have to put her down yesterday, it turns out she did the job for us! Great cat, possibly part Maine Coon (she was pushing 18 lbs and had a friendly dog-like disposition).

With our 1 year old, who could probably take a bit of credit for stress on the poor animal's heart:

Here she is getting suited up for her voyage to the Halls of Asgard, driven on by the Valkyries, there to reunite with her forbears again in Valhalla, toasting her fellow slain with great mazers of Mjød, awaiting Ragnarök:

In Memory:
Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother,and my sisters, and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people,
Back to the beginning!
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live

14 June 2009

Nathan Watts has earned another fan. I love the very slight bit of warm, fuzzy grit to his tone...not the hi-fi, ultra-modern tones most R&B bassists nowadays go for. But it's that pulsing, incendiary line he grooves on that propels this tune to the point that a 10min running length doesn't feel quite sufficient:

Stevie Wonder - Do I Do

Should be more palatable to those for whom Bootsy presents massive, catastrophic phunk-overload. Get down wit' yo funky selves.


19 May 2009

So my wife, for a preemptive and utterly awesome Father's Day gift, suggests tickets, in June, to one of the High Council Groovemasters of the Known World, playing at Starlight Theatre. I've since been checking out a bit more of his albums, and from Talking Book, I've had this in my head walking home from work:

Stevie Wonder - Tuesday Heartbreak

I am fully prepared, mind you, to see a huge banner of our sitting President unfurled to the strains of "Isn't He Lovely". One is generally prepared to accommodate such ridiculosity for the sake of such funkilious groovicitude.

01 May 2009

Of the many musical excesses of the Eighties, this one I find particularly wonderful and amusing. Steve Howe, particularly as he goes into his solo at about the three minute mark, is probably one of the greatest and most creative guitarists to do such cheesy claptrap. But he does it so well. When 99% of other guitarists would do power chords, Howe does arpeggios.

Yes and Asia will share a stage this July in KC. Will have to see it...Howe playing guitar for both. To give you a perspective on the contrast...

20 April 2009

A passage from Doogie Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:

Well, he's one of those people who can only think when he's talking. When he has ideas, he has to talk them out to whoever will listen. Or, if the people themselves are not available, which is increasingly the case, their answering machines will do just as well. He just phones them up and talks at them. He has one secretary whose sole job is to collect tapes from people he might have phoned, transcribe them, sort them and give him the edited text the next day in a blue folder.
I swear I work with two or three of these types. It's my own fault for being such a blasted good listener.

09 April 2009

Review - Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band

Yes, strap on your funk goggles my friends, I'm doing an unsolicited quick track by track review of the first Bootsy Collins solo album, released in 1976.

1. Stretchin' Out (In a Rubber Band)
A good intro to Mr. Collins' particularly atypical approach to basslines, this was a live classic. Casper is introduced, and the band keeps a nice locked groove.

2. Psychoticbumpschool
Probably my favorite track of the album, this one starts out with some great guitar rhythm licks from Catfish. The first part of the song has a lot of complex turns, and then (after some cheesy introductions) it settles on a groove with a single note, envelope filtered bass line. Live performances amp up this groove quite a bit, but I somewhat enjoy the simplicity of the groove that sits on top of the bass. The Horny Horns here have a great part that carries through to the end of the song.

3. Another Point of View
Highlight of this song is a razor sharp guitar riff. Crisp, taut, and doubled perfectly by the Space Bass.

4. I'd Rather Be With You
One of his most famous songs, with a slow melodic groove. Note the melodica used for the high background melody.

5. Love Vibes
Cheesy as all get out, Mr. Collins puts a female vocalist doing a decent if uninspired lead on a hippie-love soul song. Skippable.

6. Physical Love
Awful lyrics (but, well, they've been awful up to here anyway...lyrical content is not what brings you to P-Funk family albums), but a pretty solid groove.

7. Vanish in Our Sleep
A perfect ending to the album, a slow groove of simple drums, bass, and an interwoven blend of effected guitar melody and rich Rhodes piano. There are some effects employed on this song that remind me of effects used for transitions on Radiohead's OK Computer album. Nothing new under the sun, eh?

06 April 2009

So I guess I need to post lest this blog go completely stale.

Talking with my younger brother yesterday, I recalled a guitar of his that ended up getting stolen, a cheap Telecaster copy, in which I had installed a set of pickups designed by Bill Lawrence (the L-280TN and L-290TL, I believe), and I rather liked that guitar. Humfree with tons of chirpy high-end and clarity. Bill Lawrence is a wizard of pickupology.

And also, he's not the worst guitarist in the world, either.

[Sits around, looks at watch, and waits for EZ Wajcman to comment on the thread accusing me of libel...]

Yes, only recovering guitar gear nerds such as I will follow that...

26 February 2009

16 February 2009

Courtesy Steven Raichlen: Saigon Chicken.

I started with a whole chicken and made up a basic marinade using soy sauce, cooking wine (actually a honey mead I have on tap), Chinese five-spice powder, cinnamon, coriander, garlic, and Asian sesame oil. Marinated overnight, and smoke-roasted on the ol' Weber until in the 170+ range. Here it is, crackling crisp skin and all:

I "pulled" the chicken and chopped up the skin, all mixed together. Below are the ingredients, clockwise from the top: chicken, rice noodles, romaine lettuce leaves, cucumber spears, peanut sauce, grilled green onions, and raw ginger spears. The peanut sauce is around 1/3 cup hoisin sauce, 1/3 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup Thai sweet chile sauce, and a dose of Tabasco habanero sauce and ginger soy sauce to thin the mixture.

Now all put together, a refreshingly healthy way to eat barbeque:

11 February 2009

I noticed something today that indicates what a total rip-off the 14th of February is.

Last week at our local Hy-Vee grocery store, one of the specials was a pound of strawberries for $1.88. Not a bad price, I bought a carton of them.

This morning I received the weekly specials email from Hy-Vee, and looking through it, I noticed a page that had Valentine's Day themed items on sale.

The same exact strawberries.

$6.88 a pound.

And people will buy them!!!

02 February 2009

For those that love "Yazz Flute".

Seriously, that bass tone, when he starts kicking in around 1:30, it's all I can do but avoid saving my pennies for a pair of star-shaped sunglasses and a Space Bass.

27 January 2009

I'm reading a couple books on the Emergies right now. First up was a book that I have not the heart to criticise, at least in a public sphere...my wife has had to hear all about its fallacies at length, and I won't belabour the point to you all. "A New Kind of Christian", by Emergie-in-Chief Brian McLaren. Read it if you must. I still have the final bit at the end to get through, but I'm suffering from an overdose of Postmodern-Hyper-Introspection, I had to put it down.

As an antidote, I am now reading the very humorous and insightful Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. I'm only about 60 pages in, but so far they do a good job expressing criticisms that I would have expressed in a much more ham-fisted way, and besides, they are more well read on the Emergie conversation than I.

I also just watched a documentary entitled The Weather Underground. It was a fairly balanced view that gave these domestic terrorists a pretty fair hearing. I find it thoroughly baffling not only that these people are not locked up in jail, but that people like Ayers and Dohrn are actually respected members of the educational establishment, not to mention personal friends of the President and First Lady.

I suppose there is a common thread to this post:

"Hippies! They're everywhere. They wanna save the earth, but all they do is smoke pot and smell bad. I hate hippies! I mean, the way they always talk about "protectin' the earth" and then drive around in cars that get poor gas mileage and wear those stupid bracelets - I hate 'em! I wanna kick 'em in the nuts!" - Eric Cartman

16 January 2009

It's fairly normal for me to go in phases of, well, renaissance, if you will (I sure as spit wouldn't!) as regards music. Right now I'm somewhat back in a Steely Dan phase.

Someone finally uploaded this tune, a song never released because some idiot in the recording studio erased the final version, and the band was either too discouraged or too stoned to attempt it again. It is in low quality, but the playing and writing are great.

Steely Dan - The Second Arrangement

Here's another great one from their most recent album Everything Must Go, a much better album than Two Against Nature. This song was described as a metaphor for addiction...not by me, so don't point those pretense-accusing fingers at me! The weird, distorted keyboard solo at the end is worth price of admission alone.

Steely Dan - Lunch with Gina