Monday, May 31, 2010

Not the Next Big Thing

Way back in the early eighties, Rolling Stone proclaimed that Marshall Crenshaw was going to be the next big thing, based on their review of his debut album. It was a great record, but the general public didn't exactly embrace the somewhat nerdy looking Crenshaw the way that critics did. Anyway, here's one of the songs off that lp-- I know I like it:

What I Did Saturday

Saturday was a beautiful day in Western New York, sunny and warm and so you just wanted to be outdoors. So I went with the Rosieks and Caufields to visit a sheep farm.

My sisters Sally and Theresa are spinners and one of the members of the local weavers guild invited the group to an open house on their farm where they raise Shetland sheep. I gather that at one time Shetlands produced a superior grade of wool, but over the years they've declined (or been surpassed). The owners of this place are trying to restore it to its previous prominence by maintaining strict quality control over their own flock.

Since the sheep farm was near an Amish community, we stopped at a old-time country store where we enjoyed some homemade ice cream and possibly the greatest soft pretzel I've ever tasted. We were all in the mood to continue the pleasant afternoon so headed up to Lake Ontario to check out the lighthouse at Thirty Mile Point (thirty miles from where the Niagara River flows into the lake).

We arrived in time to take the guided tour of the place, and found out that a British ship sunk just off the point (almost a hundred years before the lighthouse was built), and went down with $15,000 worth of gold (that was its value in 1780). Looking down from the tower, Tom became convinced that we could find the treasure if we were willing to apply ourselves, but there was a decided lack of enthusiasm for the endeavor amongst the group. Even without getting instantly rich, this was a great day!

Quote of the Day

Here's a nice line from the great scientist and writer Rachel Carson (1907-1964) that I can certainly go along with:

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is
supposed to preside over the christening of all
children, I should ask that her gift to each child
in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible
that it would last throughout life.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Prime Beatles

I'm putting the finishing touches on the brackets for next year's Battle of the Bands on my radio show, Dr. John's Record Shelf. It's inevitable that the Beatles will be a top seed, and likely the band to beat. This is not one of their better known songs, but it's definitely one of my favorites by the Beatles, and my pop up in our competition. It appears that this clip is from the Anthology series from several years back, but the "video" goes back to about 1967. Enjoy:

What I Did Friday

My first evening back in Buffalo, I went with Sally and Ben to see a really cool show at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, celebrating the Canadian school of artists known as the Automatistes. The group included writers, poets, dancers and filmmamkers, but the primary focus of the exhibition of paintings, and some were quite impressive (the above is one example by Jean Paul Riopelle; below is an image by Paul Emile Borduas)

These reproductions don't really do justice to the amazing physicality of the paintings by these artists-- the swathes of color appear almost as waves on the canvas creating a tangible sense of motion. As you can see, they are clearly in the same ballpark as the abstract expressionists (Pollock, DeKooning, etc.) who emerged more or less at the same time-- mid to late forties-- south of the border in the US. The Automatistes were diligent in promoting their goals, which were geared towards expanding the way people see and think about the world, drawing on the subconscious and building on the surrealism of the previous generation. I was lucky to catch the show on one of its last days, which I hope also means there will be something new mounted there in the next couple of weeks. If the show should come to a gallery near you, I'd recommend checking it out.

Sunday's Quote

It's sad, but the following statement by Henry Adams (1838-1918) is as true today as it was when he first said it about a hundred years ago; and sadder still that the few exceptions seem to have even less of the public's attention than back then:

"The press is the hired agent of a monied system,
and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies
where their interests are involved. One can
trust nobody and nothing."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Mary Catherine!

Let me send countless good wishes to my little sister Catie on this her... well, I'm guessing eighth or ninth birthday based on the above photo. But that can't be right-- I think her son Joseph is at least ten. It really doesn't matter how many there have already been, just as long as this one and all those down the line are great days with lots of fun and celebration and relaxation. Hugs and kisses Catherine-- I hope to see you before the end of the summer.

Cool Song

The band has a rather clunky name-- Soundtrack of Our Lives-- but a smooth rockin' sound, which is ultimately much more important. Here's a song off the album Behind the Music, which introduced me to this group several years back:

Soup Diary 100529

On my drive east I only once stopped at a place that had soup on the menu, the Liberty Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Luckily for me, the soup was really good, in a hearty, rib-sticking sort of way. The choice was Beef Noodle, which turned out to be very rich in a slightly tomato-y broth spiced with what I think was nutmeg. That gave the soup a little extra kick which was quite complementary to the chunks of beef and big egg noodles. Sometimes just a little added touch like that turns the ordinary into something fairly memorable. I expect to hit Fables on Tuesday (it would be Monday if not for the holiday-- curses!).

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Time to check in with the inimitable Mr. Magoo. This is some really good stuff-- I love the mile Dragnet parody, and the expressions our hero elicits from those around him:

Quote of the Day

Today's selection comes from the great German humanitarian Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965):

"Everything deep is also simple and can be
reproduced simply as long as its reference
to the whole truth is maintained. But what
matters is not what is witty but what is true."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Great Song

Here's my nominee for the greatest rock songwriter to emerge in the 1980s: Paul Westerberg. I know some critics who saw this particular song as a sign he was drifting away from rock and roll, but all the great ones knew their way around a ballad as well as the more raucous stuff, and Westerberg has proven himself over and over again as brilliant on both. Check it out:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

I haven't done one of these "whose eyes are these" type quizzes in quite awhile, so let's go ahead and change that right now. The question is, in case you missed it, whose eyes are these? I'm hoping the shades make this a little more challenging than usual. Please put your answers in the comments sections.

Last week, I stumped the readers with a simple query of who was standing in the foreground of a cropped photo of Liz, Marenka and Gerik. I received a number of guesses, but none who correctly identified Thomas Banning as the guy whose face ended up on the cutting room floor. Better luck this week!

The Mighty Mississippi

I love visiting old river towns, the ones that were around long before highways, let alone air travel, made them less commercially vital. But for all the years I've been criss-crossing the country, I somehow never went through any of the Quad Cities on the Iowa/Illinois border at the Mississippi (I guess mainly because the interstate loops around them). This trip I made a point of stopping, and above you see a view of the riverfront from the edge of Davenport, Iowa. They've done a nice job of improving the waterfront, but in this case it no doubt meant removing much of the old commercial district, at least that was my impression. The main business district is now a few blocks north of the river, and while there is a nice park there, it's also somewhat blighted by a giant casino complex. I like what places like Omaha did better-- the old warehouses and factories have been converted to shops and restaurants. But I guess that isn't always a viable alternative. Davenport seemed nice enough, but it didn't strike me as retaining much of the heritage from its heyday (though maybe I just missed it that neighborhood).

More Friday Family Blogging

This picture of Nik was taken, I believe, when he was younger than Emma is now (though it might be close). I think this might be the last time his hair was so short, and definitely the last time it was that thin-- which makes me jealous, since I think I started losing my hair around the time I was that old myself.

Friday Family Blogging

Here's a picture of my Gramma Linsey. She wasn't actually my grandmother, but she took in my Dad when he first came to this country, taught him English and helped him assimilate, leading him to refer to her as his "American mother." I never met my actual paternal grandmother, but as a young kid always had a great time when we went to visit Gramma Linsey. I wonder how many of my siblings remember those visits? [That's a prompt for comments and reminisces, by the way, in case I was too subtle.]

Friday Philosophy

Let's go all the way back to one of the originators of Western philosophy, the Greek Socrates (469-399 BC) for this little nugget of wisdom:

"If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap
whence everyone must take an equal portion, most
people would be contented to take their own and depart."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the Road Again

The blog will be quiet for a couple days as I head back east for a visit. I should be in front of a computer again in time to post some family stuff on Friday.

Cool Song

I think the Detroit Cobras are one of the few bands around today that effectively combine classic r&b with a modern garage sensibility. Here's a good example of what I mean:

European Trip 50

Here's the last set of photos from our trip to Berlin and Prague (though I'll probably slip others in from time to time). Here are some more cool statues-- though I have no recollection of what the building they adorn houses.

These next three are just crowd scenes on the streets of Prague. Taken with a zoom lens, they do kind of collapse the perspective a bit, but I think the effect is kind of neat.

There really were a lot of people on the streets. Again, this was Easter week, so a lot of activity was evident pretty much everywhere we went.

Plus, this was around five o'clock in teh afternoon-- which I guess is rush hour in the Czech Republic too.

This variation on the theme demonstrates how I was also playing around with my camera at times. Other experiments will likely be among those I post later on. By the way, this was done entirely in the camera-- no editing at all.

This is the olast thing I shot in Prague-- the view from our hotel window. Ben and I had to get up at three am to catch a really early flight, built note the buses were even running at that hour. From the hotel , all we had left was a cab ride out tot he airport (which gave us a chance to see a bit more of Prague, especially away from the old city), and then a long, long plane ride home.

What's Up With Facebook?

A few weeks ago I mentioned here that I had finally signed up for a Facebook account. I have to say, I find it kind of overwhelming. The endless requests for "friend" status from people I don't know and the long lists of comments on topics that I can't decipher (probably due to fuddy-duddyism as much as anything) have actually kept me from even checking in on a regular basis. But now, something even more sinister (or seemingly so) has really put me off the service. I've discovered that they edited my profile to eliminate mentions of things for which they have no links. That is, movies, books, and music that I had listed (at their request) as among my favorites have been cut out, leaving only those that have a hot link to someone or something else on Facebook. I'm not too thrilled with that arbitrary shaping of my profile, so my visits will now be even more infrequent. I'll keep the account-- it was nice to receive updates there on my cousin Greg's condition when he first went into the hospital, for example-- but if anyone reading this is looking to communicate with me there, be aware it may be a long wait.

A Quote for Tuesday

As I prepare to hit the road again tomorrow for a little summer traveling, I thought this quote by cultural historian Paul Fussell (b 1924), who got around a bit himself:

“All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth
behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment
of travel: one knows that the first joy can never
be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to
repeat successes but tries new places all the time.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pretty Tune

I don't know if there's anything better than a duet between Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, unless it's when they are joined by Joe Ely. This is just the two of them, which is good enough for me. The song is a Hancock composition, and one of his finest:

Soup Diary 100524

Since I'm heading out of town for a bit in a couple days, I've been cleaning out my fridge, and using up all my fresh vegetables. What better way to accomplish that goal than with some homemade soup? So I threw my remaining peppers, celery, carrots, onions and cilantro in some chicken broth, along with a can of white meat chicken and half a box of orzo that's been sitting on my shelf for longer than I care to remember. Not a radical mix by any means, but it sure turned out good. I really like cilantro as an alternative to parsley, and I also tried something I saw in a recipe in the soup cookbook I got from Nick and Eileen for Christmas: I browned up the chicken a bit in some olive oil after lightly covering the chicken in flour. I'm sure the effect would've been more apt if the chicken were raw to start with, but the flour definitely caused the broth to thicken up some, making this a little more than your typical chicken soup (which is not conveyed by the image above, found on the web). The orzo made it seem like a cross between chicken noodle and chicken rice, which was also kind of nice. In a few days, I'll be able to once again sample the superior varieties at Fables Cafe, but at least I'll be going in with the taste of a pretty darn good homemade soup still fresh in my mind (if not my mouth).

European Trip 49

This is the penultimate posting in this particular series, since 50 seems a good number to end on, and frankly I'm down to the last few hours worth of pictures from our trip way back in March. These are still from the boat trip on our last day in Prague. The prominent building on the right in the above shot is the Opera House, if memory serves.

In this picture, I like how you can see the old city wall snaking up the hill on the left. I didn't get any closer than this, but I wonder if it has been grafitti'd or otherwise modernized; or if it is retained in some pristine state from when it was first constructed.

You get a sense of the Muslim influence on architecture even this far north. There was a time when a big chunk of Eastern Europe was under assault, if not entirely under the control of the Ottomans.

I can't recall what this building housed, but that is one interesting dome on top. This was also near where we re-docked, so in our final installment tomorrow, we'll be back on dry (relatively speaking) land.

Monday's Musing

Thomas Mann (1875-1955) was one of the great novelists of the twentieth century, and an exile from Nazi Germany, which seems relevant to the following observation:

"It is a strange fact that freedom and equality,
the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some
extent contradictory. Logically considered,
freedom and equality are mutually exclusive,
just as society and the individual are
mutually exclusive."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Classic Roky Erickson

I just picked up the new Roky Erickson album with Okkervill River, and it's great. Made me dig through my older records by Mr. Erickson and rediscover this song, which sounds like something one might stumble across on an obscure blues collection from the 1920s (with much older roots). Check it out:

European Trip 48

More bridges and water from Prague. It seems the custom in Europe, whenever some kind of repairs or reconstruction is being done on old landmarks, to put us a covering that shows a picture of how the landmark will look when finished. That's the story on those pictures of statues on the bridge above.

More statues. If I'm not mistaken, the one around which you see a cluster of people is the one that one rubs for good luck that I mentioned in a previous post.

Ibelieve that tower is featured in a key scene in the movie The Brothers Bloom, which is worth checking out if you haven't seen it (it contributed to my desire to see Prague).

That's St. Vitus Cathedral looming up over the bridge above.

Anotehr angle on the bridge tower. You've got to admit, Prague is a very photogenic city-- just imagine how great these would look if I had a little more skill as a photographer.

More angels-- these overseeing one fo the more modern (a very relative term) bridges in the city.

Sunday Funnies

I read this this morning and it reminded me of Rand Paul, the self-professed libertarian running for the Senate from Kentucky. It seems he wants to end government handouts-- with the exception of Medicare payments to doctors, of which he is one. How convenient; Calvin would no doubt approve, but then he's like six years old.

Quote of the Day

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was one of the all-time great American poets, and he had a good idea about what was most important:

"After you have exhausted what there is in
business, politics, conviviality, and so on -
have found that none of these finally satisfy,
or permanently wear - what remains?
Nature remains."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Classic Sit-Com Scene

I'm being a copy-cat here, because I recently saw this at another blog I check out periodically. But that just jarred my memory. Here's a classic scene from the old TV show Taxi with Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim. Funny stuff:

European Trip 47

Here are a few more photos from our boat tour in Prague. At one point we had to go through some locks, but there was another boat in front of us and only room for one. So we had a bit aof a wait alongside the park seen above.

Here you see that aforementioned boat with the lock gates closing behind it.

Another of the fancy-fronted buildings so common in the old part of Prague.

It was a rainy day, making the boat tour less than optimal (though the meal that was served was one of the best of our entire trip). Still, it's kind of cool to see umbrellas on bridges like i9n this shot.

This breakwall seemed kind of popular with the pigeons.

I heard that heavy rains in recent weeks have raised the waters in the Vltava up to flood levels, despite the damns and breakwalls. It's another aspect of history that doesn't get the attention it deserves: the effects of weather.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

I saw someplace that today is Richard Wagner's 198th birthday, so it seemed like a good idea to post this particular classic from the good folks at Warner Brothers, notably Chuck Jones. (If you click on the image, it should get bigger):

A Thought for Saturday

I like this statement on the idea of freedom of speech from Harry Truman (1884-1972):

"Once a government is committed to the principle
of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one
way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly
repressive measures, until it becomes a source of
terror to all its citizens and creates a country
where everyone lives in fear."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Real Country Music

So much of what passes for mainstream country music today seems like nothing more than pop with a little twang. But the Delmore Brothers were the real thing-- part of a heritage of harmonizing brother acts from the thirties and forties (the Dixons, the Allens, the Monroes, the Louvins, the Stanleys, etc.) that really sounded like they hailed from the hills, and were singing songs their grandparents taught them (whether that was literally true or not). Here's an example of their fine work:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Here is a slightly altered photo of Marenka, Liz and Gerik. One of the alterations is that the photo was cropped, and there is a fourth person in the foreground in the original shot. The question is, who? Please put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week's quiz, asking where a shot of Ben was taken yielded no correct answers, and in fact no one was even close. It was taken at Canandaigua Lake (on eo fNew York's famous Finger Lakes) a few years back. I thought someone might've remembered that! Anyway, better luck this week.

European Trip 46

Here's anothoer of those fancy fronts on buildings around Prague. This is a gift shop on the first floor, and is right across from a nice art museum that had a nice Alphonse Mucha show up (maybe it's permanent, given Mucha's local connections) along with one devoted to Salvador Dali.

This was some kind of platform or stage set up in the Old Town Square (note the surrounding vendor stalls). It must have had something to do with Easter, but we weren't around long enough to find outI did have a pretty good sausage from one of the stands just off to the left.

That afternoon, we went on a boat tour down the Vltava, and these next few shots were taken from the boat. Since the river cuts right through the heart of the city's old section, there were interesting views like that seen above.

We saw a number of swans and ducks, which made me wonder if the Ugly Duckling story had its origins in the area.

These pastel colored buildings are actually behind, not on, the bridge. Wouldn't it be cool to live in an apartment building that looked like that?

Look at the variety of roof styles in this shot. That's part of what makes it so exciting to explore new places, seeing the variety of architectural styles representing not just different cultures, but different eras as well. In Prague's case, that means going back over a thousand years in some cases.