Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thinning of the Herd

Remember when, in order to teach Bart a lesson, Homer decided to jump the canyon with a skateboard to show how stupid it was to pursue a career as a daredevil? Then it looked he was gonna actually clear the canyon for a moment, and what followed was the nascent beginnings of the Homer Simpson we've come to know and love over the past seventeen years?

Well, take a look at this, everyone, and thank yourself for not following your basest impulse:

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays

This week is gonna go by so fast. As usual, I just wished for pine needles under the tree. I'm a simple person.

As I type this, the Godfather of Soul is probably causing a ruckus inside the Pearly Gates. You could spin any of the usual tunes in his honor, but I recommend this underappreciated gem. "Soul on Top" was recorded in 1969. It was an unlikely pairing: James Brown and the Louis Bellson Orchestra. But Brown's style incorporated a lot of jazz swing. You can't have bands as tight as the Famous Flames and the J.B.'s without that swing. At the time, few orchestras were as renowned as Louis Bellson's. Turned out it was an inspired pairing. You can download "Soul on Top" at iTunes, which was where I found it. Brown's covers of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Every Day I Have the Blues" are powerhouse numbers.

Then there's this:

And this:

And, of course, this:

Godspeed, "Soul Brother #1."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Compliments of the Season 2K6

Been a while since I visited these parts, but I've been busy getting a head start on one of my 2K7 resolutions. It's a combination of necessity and will-to that I've been approaching this resolution with. Let's just say that sometimes you need a kick in the ass to figure out what you want out of life.

Before I go any further, I need to give a plug the neighborhood pub quiz hosted by the B News guys tomorrow. Smussy, this would be your opportunity to learn about the neighborhood from men who actually grew up - and stayed - in Bridgeport.

Someone handed me a copy of Arthur magazine last week, and I'm glad he did. One of the featured articles is an amazingly detailed essay on the history of pornography and its contributions to progressive civilizations, written by none other than the great Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen). The argument of the piece: pornography gave us every great advance of civilization, while organized religion gave us the Middle Ages and Holocaust, and instilled us with prudishness. Moore also breathes new life to the legacy of Aubrey Beardsley, he of the perverse imagery and confidant of Oscar Wilde. I love his line work on Lysistrata.

Meanwhile, the new Oxford American is out, and its theme is crime noir. Also in the pages is an essay on Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" by Sven Birkerts. I've gone through at least four copies of "Car Wheels". One was lost when a public storage facility auctioned off my possessions, the other three were mishandled beyond repair with a scratch kit. Anyway, Birkerts lifts the veil on the meaning of the lyrics to "Right in Time".

"I take off my watch and my earrings
my bracelets and everything
lie on my back and moan at the ceiling
oh, baby.
I think about you and that long ride
I bite my nails, I get weak inside
reach over and turn off the light
oh, baby"

It took eight years and Sven Birkerts to make me realize that Lucinda was singing about doing the two-fingered tango in that verse. But then, knowing that she inherited a gift for wordplay from her father, I shouldn't be surprised she cast a subject as masturbation in such subtle imagery. Not to cast a negative spin on her subsequent work, but "Car Wheels" was definitely her high water mark. Sonically, it still sounds relevant today; it jumps out of the speakers and attacks you, while still maintaining a sense of dynamics (that's the influence of the "Twangtrust": Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy. Give a spin to every Earle recording from "El Corazon" to "The Revolution Starts Now" and you'll hear the same sonic blueprint). I can't say the same about "Essence" or "World Without Tears." They sound more spartan and prettier, respectively.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I loved "Young Frankenstein." RIP, Peter Boyle.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The 80's Weren't All Bad

Thanks to the wonders of You Tube, I've been on a Pat Benatar kick lately. As someone who sat in front of the idiot box a lot watching MTV, I can't for the life of me remember this video:

It's a beautiful song, which makes me wonder what Chrysalis Records was thinking in not releasing it as a single back then.

Maybe that's why Chrysalis is out of business.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Laura Oppenheimer at Chicagoist celbrates her birthday today. Feliz Cumpleanos, Oppenploppen.

She also shares a birthday with this man, who turns fifty-seven today:

It's good company, Laura.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose

I just finished weather stripping the front door and kitchen, the two places in this apartment that let in cold air like it's summer in Miami, and I'm air conditioning a bungalow. With the way things have been the past couple months at work, the winter will be challenging, at best, as far as bills are concerned. The last thing I need is an enormous heating bill.

I've lately been both looking at classifieds and asking for advice on freelance writing inquiries from people I know. Gotten good advice on the latter, advice that may pay off soon. On the first front, I need to develop some good habits, like sending out resumes, form letters, and clips. At the same time, I haven't lost the urge to tend bar or manage one. If anything, the past few months at work have rekindled my desire to move on and learn more. I've been remiss in not taking advantage of the opportunities that have come. It's not that I want a new job; spend seven years at one place and it starts to feel like home. You don't want to give up that familiarity, sometimes at the expense of your future. I need to decide whether I want to stay at "home", or move on. Sometimes, it's "family" that often hurts you the most.

On a happier note, an impromptu and belated birthday party was thrown for my friend Chris the other night. Most everyone was under the impression that he was turning fifty, but Chris played a good hand poker face and kept mum. He'll turn fifty next year, and that should be a hell of a party. Chris is the nexus, the one responsible for all of us knowing each other, really. He and his then-wife used to live at Belmont and Clark in a loft apartment located in an alley, across from the Alley. And Chris took full advantage of it, throwing some of the best parties I've ever been witness to. Parties with jazz combos, rock bands, poets, visual art, short movies, elaborate decorations, and copious amounts of "treats." I truly feel as though he never took advantage of turning all that energy into a career, but it was probably for the best. If he ever decided to be a party or event planner, some host might have beaten the fun and excitement out of him. So I look back on those parties and feel that we got him at his most inspired, crafting these soirees out of love and the pure fun of it all, with no strings or catches other than the opportunity to be your friend. More often than not, it worked.

Saturday night was one of those rare moments where I was able to be together with all of my old friends at one time, in one place. Normally, if I'm out that late on a Saturday night, I'm getting paid. Seeing as how I'd just talked to most of them at Peg and Brian's wedding two weeks prior, it felt doubly good to see them all again, and so soon. Usually, it's months between sightings. Another reason I'm dusting off resumes and planning my next moves. I really like to see them all more often.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Signs That Your Mother - And By Extension YOU - Are Getting Old

Mom: Are you eating right now?

Me: Yes, ma'am.

Mom: What are you eating?

Me: Biscuits and gravy.

Mom: Biscuits and gravy?

Me: Yes, ma'am.

Mom: Is it just regular gravy, or did you use sausage?

Me: It's sausage gravy, Mom.

Mom: You like that stuff?

Me: It's your recipe, Mom.

Mom: My recipe?

Me: Yes, ma'am.


Mom: You know, Charles. There's a reason I had all those heart attacks.

Happy Birthday, Mom.