Wednesday


5
Oct 22

Review: ‘Old on the inside’

We had a physical therapy appointment for The Yankee this morning. I drove her over, since, just four-days post-op and in a sling for the next several weeks, she doesn’t have her driving privileges.

We walked into the therapy center and it was like when Norm entered the bar at Cheers. They all called her name. Everyone came over to say hello. Everyone wanted to know what this latest thing was.

She gets good service at the ortho clinic. If they open a new wing it might be named after her.

I got in some quality work time today. Everything there feels back to normal. Monday was a lot of telling people what had happened and how we were progressing. Yesterday was spent buried in a computer and compiling my sophisticated note system — presently it is two calendars, a few notepads and index cards. Today, was just kind of a day. Looking for this, preparing for that, tracking down some person or another.

I also started preparing for four video productions I have to produce and direct next week. Whoever booked four shoots in three days should receive a stern talking to.

(That was me, of course. To be fair to myself, my concentration was divided last week.)

On my second, yes, second trip to the grocery store of the day I saw this.

I assume that dog had gotten the last of the hair care products I was looking for.

Meaning there’s another trip to the grocery store in the very near future. Fortunately I pass the store twice every day. And, today I learned the only thing more frustrating than a long series of cars in a perfect rhythm of ongoing traffic that prevents the left turn for several minutes is that the grocery store has somehow managed to rope off the primary entrance and exit to the shopping center for subtle parking lot maintenance purposes.

There was a guy there tending to the rope and traffic barrels as I was leaving. They were down, but they should be up. He said words to my windshield, but who knows what that was about. He spoke with authority when I rolled down the window.

I could not, he said, go straight ahead because this was closed.

Could I turn this way? Maybe.

Could I turn that way? Perhaps, but I don’t really know.

Seems like the guy tending the traffic modification system should have a firm grasp on the modified flow of traffic. But that might be a big expectation for 6 p.m. on a Wednesday. He was game to help, though, and so I drove one of the two ways he wasn’t sure about.

This took me through the movie theater’s parking lot. I used to love movie theaters, and then somewhere in the oughts the crowds became more of a burden. After that everyone’s TVs got better and, well, you know the rest.

But the movie posters! Everyone likes movie posters! And this theater has that row of poster frames on the exterior wall, just in case you aren’t sure what is showing, or what you are planning to see.

Half of the frames were empty. It had the tired look of a retired gas station, but the few posters that were on display were for current films, both successes and box office flops. The last movie I saw in a theater before the pandemic was inside this joint, it was a 40th anniversary screening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I had never seen on a big screen. (Too young the first time.) How’s this place faring? These are the last six months of reviews on Google.

Not really impressed by walk in theaters anymore. You really take a beating at the snacks and drinks bar.

A very quiet place to watch a movie and very affordable prices.

Old on the inside.

I really enjoy going to this theater.

You can tell that it’s an old and worn out theatre. But it’s generally clean and just a stone’s throw from College Mall. Not much to complain about.

Nice clean place to come watch a movie for an affordable price.

Scary theater, not from the movie either LOL. Dirty seats and crammed. Old and run down. 0/10 don’t recommend. ALSO for all of you youngsters out there, if you’re going to see and R-rated movie both participants have to have their ID. Not just one like other AMCs around the area.

It is difficult to say how old this theater is, but the web tells me it goes back at least to the mid 1990s. The interior suggests that if it is any older it hasn’t been redone since the early-90s.

It doesn’t really matter if it is true, but the place has a reputation for bed bugs. Whether that’s there or not, that’s always going to influence your decision about which theater you’ll visit.

And my choice is to watch stuff at the house. I, too, am old on the inside.


28
Sep 22

This is a recovery week – Wednesday

A bit better than yesterday, I think. We’re six days into a weeks-long recovery process. And hopefully it’ll stay progressive throughout. Slow and steady wins the race and avoids unnecessary setbacks.

There’s not much else going on right now, other than careful resting and healing.

But the weather is lovely. Enjoy this photo of a maple leaf floating through the back yard. Got lucky catching it in mid-flight, right?

So the light week continues, but we’ll have something here tomorrow, I’m sure.

And don’t forget: Catober begins this weekend.


21
Sep 22

‘And the magic music makes your morning mood’

A sticky bike ride this morning, a day in the office, an evening in the studio. There’s not a lot to show for all of that, but my legs are tired, at least, and some meetings took place and shows got produced. The usual, as they say, if there’s anyone else having a day like that.

So let’s do another music post, where we catch up on the re-listening project. I am working through all of my old CDs in the car. It’s easy content! And there’s some good music here and there — featuring two records today. These aren’t reviews, usually. Mostly they’re just memories, or marking the time.

This is strictly chronological, which is to say the order in which I bought all of these things. My discs cross genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no large theme. It is, a whimsy as music should be.

First up is a record, and a band, that I’ve pretty much outgrown in every way. In 1993, when Counting Crows’ debut album, “August and Everything After” came out it was the perfect timing of emo and rock. (Ahhh, high school.) Think of it. The top albums up to that point in 1993 were Whitney Houston, Eric Clapton, Depeche Mode, Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, Barbra Streisand, U2, Cypress Hill, the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack, Billy Joel and Garth Brooks. Nirvana’s final album came out that same week, but even still it felt like a mid-sea change, musically. And at just that moment T Bone Burnett produced August. Four singles were released off the record, Mr. Jones hitting number two on the charts. The album made it to number four that year. It went platinum in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, seven-times platinum in both Canada and the United States.

I have a lot of their music, and it fits a certain … mood … let’s say. But I’ve just outgrown most of Adam Duritz’s oeuvre. (I bet he has, too.) So I skip a lot of this one when it’s on now, though they held my rapt attention — this record and the later works — for many years.

I still play “Rain King” because it’s a great live tune, and I still like to think of it that way.

There’s still enough musicianship and jazz in “Ghost Train” to make me listen closely now almost 30 years later.

“A Murder of One” is a lot of fun, until you think about is transpiring there, and then, catchy tune or not, it can bum you out. Which one of those things is the real point?

And yet, it’s still a catchy tune.

From 90s alt rock, let’s shift up to 70s and 80s progressive rock. In case you’ve never looked it up, prog rock is used broadly because all the creativity was going into the music and not the labels. So you have a few decades of bands evolving from psychedelia and further away from standard pop. Record labels started giving a little more leeway to their musicians, meaning more intricate instrumentation and compositional techniques, more poetic lyrics and new sounds and, a wide fusion of styles. It turned into art.

Which is to say that’s what Rush was, but by the time they released “Exit … Stage Left” they were starting to reign it in. This was the Canadian group’s second live album, and it features music from their previous two tours, each of which supported studio records that saw the band headed in a more radio-friendly direction.

So think of it as a transitional moment in a Hall of Fame band? The album went to number six in the U.K., hit seven in Canada and 10 in the United States in 1981. I bought this on cassette in high school, because a guy I worked with turned me on to one particular song. We had a big discussion about the best guitar riff of all time. He played me the acoustic version of “La Villa Strangiato.”

That probably won the conversation. I think I decided ‘What if the best guitarist isn’t Alex Lifeson, but some guy in a village somewhere and we’ve just never heard him?’

The guys I worked with had their minds sufficiently blown. It was probably the last time I’ve asked a question that impressed anyone.

So I went out at some point and got “Exit.” It features the much more familiar electric version of “La Villa Strangiato” but a great deal of other important songs, too. (And also Tom Sawyer, but we’re skipping it.)

This is a song about a car; this is called “Red Barcheta.”

P.J. Spraggins was a drummer. He invented extra drums he could play in the marching band. One night at a game I happened to be at a transformer blew and the stadium went half-dark. The game was paused. The band played. The other school’s band played. And then P.J. played for the better part of 45 minutes or so. Just making stuff up, brilliant guy that he is. Spraggins is still a drummer. He became a professional musician. He’s played with everyone. He’s released three jazz records. And he’s still doing it. I remember one sunny day we sat in my card because I wanted him to hear the drum solo in YYZ.

I wish we had cameras in our phones — or phones in our pockets — at that point. It would be great to make a reaction video with him. I, a listener who can keep rhythm, listen to the beat. My friend, the musician, was visualizing the mechanics of it all. Until he couldn’t anymore. It was a great time.

Prog rock isn’t snooty, just FYI. “Closer to the Heart” is a singalong.

And just as soon as I say that, I’ll close this little list with a song that has maple trees unionizing so that they can get some more sunlight in the forrest.

Prog rock, man.

These days, I almost never listen to either one of these bands. They’re there if needed, though, I still, as Neil Peart wrote, made a choice.


14
Sep 22

A musical catchup

I am woefully overdue on an update to the re-listening project. I am working through all of my old CDs in the car, repeating a project I did a few years ago. I didn’t write about it then, but using it as a bit of content now. And you’re along for the ride. What you’ll read today aren’t reviews, but maybe a few highlights or memories.

And the re-listening project is strictly chronological, which is to say the order in which I bought all of these things. My discs crosses genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no large theme. It is, a whimsy as so much of music should be.

If you watched any MTV in the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996, you saw Seven Mary Three. That is, most assuredly, how I discovered the guys from Florida. Their label debut, “American Standard” was rapidly surging toward platinum status and Jason Ross was screaming in everyone’s ear. And if that strikes a familiar cord, then you remember “Cumbersome” and “Waters Edge” and some of those last dying blooms of Gen X angst. (Or were these the first roars from the millenials? Hard to know.)

Anyway, this was the place where grunge and the pure rock of that era intersected. It was right-place, right-talent, right-A&R-staff, right time. And we’re going to hear more from 7M3 in due time. So as not to overburden you, dear friend, here are just three songs. All of these diverge from the over-the-top intensity of their singles, but also hinted at where they were going.

They evolved in interesting ways, releasing seven studio albums and one live record. I have at least four of them.

The math doesn’t make a lot of sense in this song. So I’ve decided it is hyperbole, which lets me just get back to enjoying the song. Which is good, because it’s a great little rock tune.

I’m pretty sure I bought this CD because of my roommate. He loved this song. I can still see us riding around in his pickup pumping this through the old worn speakers in the dashboard.

I don’t know if it is a false memory, but I can just seem him banging out the drums on his steering wheel, with that big perfect smile on his face. He was a good guy, and I always think about him a lot when I hear this record.

And to really shake things up, the next disc in my first CD book was “A Kind of Magic.” This was Queen’s 12th studio record, a quasi-soundtrack to the first Highlander movie. If you think there are a lot of things going on in that sentence, you are correct. Any number of them might be quirky on their own, but in this combination, they make for something totally weird.

It was an immediate and huge hit in the UK. Stayed on the charts there for more than a year, spawned four hit singles. This record peaked at 46 in the United States, but was a top 10 in Argentinia, Austria, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and West Germany. And, yes, we’re going with quasi-soundtrack. No official soundtrack was produced for Highlander. Six out of nine songs on the album appeared in the film, although all of them in different forms.

If you remember that movie, though, (and how could you not!?!?!?) this song also became the love theme.

That was a hit single, and one of the better ones. This was not released as a single, but is integral to the movie. And also, shows off Queen’s serious musicianship, punctuated by weird movie interjections.

I am pretty sure I picked up this CD at one of the radio stations I worked at. And I’m pretty sure two songs are the reasons why. “Princes of the Universe” became the movie theme and later, a modified version was the theme of the TV spinoff. Also, Brian May is really bending some strings here.

And while this was a quasi-soundtrack for Highlander, I learned about this song from the Iron Eagle movie, which was released the year before. And, somehow, it got tacked on to both movies. This is an open-road, windows down song, and it still evokes that feeling all these many (many) years later.

It has big allusions to Martin Luther King, Jr., and I did not know until just now that it was a Roger Taylor song.

{{{Fried chicken!}}}

(That part always ruined it for me, though.)

And so we move from the UK to Arizona, for another band I discovered because of moderate rotation on MTV.

People that didn’t take the time to get into The Refreshments probably thought this was a novelty act, or a splash in the pan. But let me tell you, Roger Clyne has chops. And some soul. The Refreshments put out one more record together, got disgusted with the big labels, split up and did some other things. Clyne and P.H. Naffah have another Arizona-based band these days, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, and they have 13 albums out and a huge party-band following. But, for now, a little bit more about “Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy.”

I must have picked this up late in the spring of 1996. I stayed at college. Everyone I knew at the time went off to work or home or wherever they went. But to my freshman way of thinking, if you’re paying rent, you may as well be there. If you’re there you may as well be taking classes. So I took classes. (Made the dean’s list that summer.)

And I listened to this record A LOT.

I don’t know what made the narrative structure work so well on me, but it surely did. Straightforward themes, you could see yourself in some of these dusty roles. And you can belt out the choruses with abandon if no one is around all summer.

What’s great about this record, to me, is that I feel exactly the same today about each of these songs as I did 26 years ago. They all still sit just as they should in my ears.

Maybe it was because I really took the time with this record in one hot, slow summer, and they were writing about the hot, slow world in Arizona and Mexico and added just enough wanderlust.

Also, there’s weird doses of humor mixed in everywhere. And if I had to describe the first half of college in one phrase, I could do far worse than saying “It was weird doses of humor.”

Anyway, The Refreshments were great. Another one of those bands I never had the chance to see live, but one day The Peacemakers will be nearby, and I’ll be there. It will be a glass-raising party.

I had one more musical addition. Some label sent me a maxi single of a band they were pushing. It was a hit in southern California, I guess. But they never caught on elsewhere. And the tracks just weren’t good. I made the mistake of googling the band. They managed to put out two records. And at least one of the former members is still in music. His website told me he composes stuff for games and a few movies and slot machines these days. He looked happy. He referred to his band in a nice way. Took the wind out of my sails about being critical of his old work. (I mean, how would I feel? And you certainly could.) So we’ll end the musical exploration here for now.

I’m about to wrap up Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization. I will, that is, if I stop nodding off. (This is a function of going to bed too late, not being interested in what I’m reading. I need to start turning pages earlier in the evening once again, especially for good stuff. And this is a nice book. We’re getting close to it, and while these last sections have defied excerpting, this part is telling. After the fall of Rome, when surviving was the most important thing a person could do in Europe, not “reading” or “writing.”

I suppose the most impressive thing we’ve learned here is how quickly that could happen, over the span of time. Just a few generations of collapsing societies and economies and oncoming hordes and it was almost all gone. Makes you wonder a bit about what it will be the next time.

And, even worse, I must now start to wonder, even as I finish this book, what I’ll read next. (So many good options. Only so many I can read all at once.)


7
Sep 22

What do you know?

I was right.

Much like yesterday, this is also where we spent this afternoon.

I spent the morning at a bank, because somehow a simple task required the full morning. This is fun, though: the woman on the other side of the desk, is my step-cousin-twice-removed-in-law.

Yes, that’s a thing. I’ve just typed it into existence because there’s a chart and I have verified the information.

It reminds me of something a professor once said about hometowns and mobility. His general premise was that if you stay in that place, and your family is from there and you marry there, you’ll likely find yourself with someone in your own clan. Well, I’ve never lived here, but all of my people are from here and they married people. All it took, in this case, was finding out her husband’s name. That man’s grandfather was the brother of my step-grandfather’s grandfather. We’ve never met at reunions, the banker and her husband, but we know about the summer stews.

Small bank, smaller world.