Thursday, June 30, 2011

Great Song

I think I may have posted Joe Ely's version of this song some time back. But here it is by Tom Russell, who wrote it:

Toonerville Thursday

Here's a bit of a treat: a couple of Toonerville Sunday strips, which I stumbled upon on-line. Click on them to make them larger (and easier to read).

Thursday's Quotation

Something to think about from the noted novelist Upton Sinclair (1878-1968):

"Human beings suffer agonies, and their sad
fates become legends; poets write verses about
them and playwrights compose dramas, and
the remembrance of past grief becomes a
source of present pleasure - such is the
strange alchemy of the spirit."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Very Cool Song

I always wondered why the Leroi Brothers never hit it big. They were around for a long time (may still be playing as far as I know), and had a great sound at once classic and modern. Here's their version of the Roy Head classic "Treat Her Right:"

The Last Movie I Saw

I've got to stop believing critics when they label the latest Woody Allen movie as a return to form. It doesn't happen with every one of his releases, but every couple of years, that seems to be the theme, and it certainly has popped up in much of what I've read about Midnight in Paris. I've become convinced that Allen will never match (and certainly not top) his classic mid to late seventies films, and there's no reason why we should expect him to. Those efforts, epitomized by Annie Hall or Manhattan, depending on your individual perspective, were uniquely tied to their times at a moment when Allen was clearly in sync with the zeitgeist in a way that it's ridiculous to assume will ever happen again. That's not a bad thing, and it doesn't mean his more recent (and not so recent) work is no good: Allen can prove over and over again his ability to entertain without us ever mistaking his movies for something more. In a way, this is much like the records put out by Bob Dylan over the past forty years or so-- they will never match his mid-sixties output, no matter how good they are, because it's impossible to imagine the confluence of circumstances that led to his being recognized as the "voice of a generation." He's made some fine albums since that heyday, but despite certain stylistic signatures, much like Allen, he is too peripatetic an artist to lock in to maintaining critical renown. Midnight in Paris is a solid, but lightweight entertainment. It's pleasant enough to while away a couple hours, and fun if you get all the historical and artistic references and cameos. But given how regularly Allen pumps these things out, it's really kind of silly to expect more than that, and so in the future I'll just assume that it's wishful thinking on the part of reviewers who think Allen's latest can stand with his masterpieces. I will say that the shots of Paris in this one make me want to visit, but I'm not sure I'll remember much more about it a year from now when his next movie comes out.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

Good advice from the journalist Damon Runyon (1880-1946):

"The race may not always be to the
swift nor the victory to the strong,
but that's how you bet."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Fun Song

I kind of wish there was an actual video to go along with this song, as I imagine it would be as much fun as the tune. Also, this group has one of the all-time great band names: the All Girl Summer Fun Band:

Soup Diary 110628

I'm not a big fan of asparagus. I'll eat it, but I've never bought or made it for myself, and would always opt for some other vegetable if I had a choice. The other day I could have opted for some beef noodle soup when I was out for dinner, but I decided to take a chance on something new and went instead for the cream of asparagus. I think I may have actually gritted my teeth and winced a little as I raised the first spoonful to my lips. But my adventurousness (if it can really be called that) was amply rewarded with an extremely tasty cup of soup. The asparagus flavor was somewhat muted in a very creamy broth with just a bit of bite. Given that this was a Greek restaurant, I should not have been surprised-- I can't recall ever having a disagreeable dish at a Greek restaurant. And I can't really express how gratifying it is to keep discovering new flavors of soup that I genuinely enjoy.

Tuesday's Quote

Here's something worth remembering once said by the American journalist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, better known by her pen name Dorothy Dix (1861-1951):

"I have learned to live each day as it comes, and
not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow.
It is the dark menace of the future that
makes cowards of us."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cool Song

I always thought of this as a bit of a novelty tune, but what a novelty tune. I believe that Gary Numan enjoyed considerably more success in England, but this was his only real success on this side of "the pond," and it still sounds good to me:

Four Pictures: Akron Falls

Tom, Natalie, Andromeda and I went for a walk yesterday at Akron Falls Park. I'd never been there before and found it a really nice place for a hike (though kind of small). Here are a few pictures I took of the area.

The creek producing the Falls is called Murder Creek, a name which came from a legend about events that unfolded there back in the early 1800s.

I look forward to going back sometime for another stroll, as it was a very pretty park.

Monday's Quote

I think socialist leader Norman Thomas (1884-1968) may have been on to something with this line:

"The secret of a good life is to have the
right loyalties and hold them in the
right scale of values."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Band I Like

I came across a review of the first album by the Birdwatchers of America a couple years ago in The Big Takeover and was intrigued enough by what was written to search it out. It fully lived up to expectations, but I've never seen or heard anything else about the group until I stumbled on this clip at YouTube. I think it gives a good idea of their style; maybe you'll like it too:

Sunday Funnies

These strips from 1952 are not as visually experimental as some of the Polly and Her Pals examples that I've posted before from the 1920s, but Cliff Sterrett still had great flair (and was pretty funny too).

Sunday Quote

I found this to be an interesting notion, from the artist Andy Warhol (1927-1987):

"I suppose I have a really loose interpretation of
'work,' because I think that just being alive is so
much work at something you don't always want
to do. The machinery is always going. Even
when you sleep."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another Blaze Foley Song

Here's a clip from Youtube featuring Blaze Foley singing the song he's probably best known for (this is the one covered by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard). At the conclusion of the song, you get a little patter that reveals a bit of his personality as well:

The Last Movie/Concert I Saw

Last night I went to a screening at the Hallwalls Gallery of a documentary twelve years in the making called Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah. The event included a q&a with the director Kevin Triplett, and was followed by a one man concert by Gurf Morlix who was a friend of Foley's and who shared a number of funny stories not included in the film. Foley (that's him above) appeared to be kind of an outcast, often drunk and homeless, but with a soul that garnered many friends and which came across in the very pretty, touching, and often funny songs that he composed. The film does a great job of telling how his career was regularly upended by his idiosyncrasies and addictions, while also making it clear why he was so beloved by so many of those who took the time to get to know him. Morlix (that's him below) was one of those and his stories of a time when Foley basically lived on his couch were themselves highly entertaining, but with an edge of poignancy that Foley could never quite pull things together. The concert of Foley compositions was one revelation after another (the only one familiar to me was something covered by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard on an album I picked up back in the 80s). At this point, the movie can only be seen in these special screenings, as Triplett is still working on some copyright clearances, but if you get the chance, go see it; and if it iincludes a performance by Morlix, don't miss it-- this was just a great evening of entertaining music and stories, and even though Foley's story has a kind of tragic ending (he was murdered), you can't really come away from hearing his story without it leaving a smile on your face.

p.s.-- the reference to "duct tape" in the title is due to one of Foley's idiosyncrasies: he used such tape as a fashion accessory, apparently as a joke in response to the flashy garb adopted by so many mainstream country performers in the seventies and eighties. A fan made Morlix a coat completely out of duct tape for this tour, which he wore to perform one number last night (see picture); but only one number because as Morlix explained, "Duct tape doesn't breathe."

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Here's a great old Daffy Duck cartoon in which he takes on the hapless Elmer Fudd. This is almost as much of a mismatch as when the latter has to contend with Bugs Bunny (though Elmer gets a little retribution in the end):

A Saturday Quote

Words of wisdom from the 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848):

"All men profess honesty as long as they can.
To believe all men honest would be folly.
To believe none so is something worse."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Good Song

I saw Gurf Morlix perform this evening (more on that tomorrow), and this was his closing number. It was written by a guy named Blaze Foley, and it's pretty darn good:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

This weeks question: whose eyes (or more accurately, whose eyelids) are these? Put your guesses in the comments section, as usual.

Last week, I asked who for you to name two of the four folks cropped out a picture of Dad, and Mom got exactly two (Sara and Scott, the others were Catie and Thomas). Congratulations Mom, and how about a few more players this week?

The Last Movie I Saw

I always liked Mel Gibson, right up to some of the off-screen comments around the time of Passion of the Christ seemed to launch him into full-bore craziness. Like a lot of people, I've found it difficult to separate his work from his increasingly obnoxious behavior, but I was willing to give his latest movie The Beaver the benefit of the doubt. The idea that a severely depressed man might need a surrogate to communicate with the rest of the world, even a puppet, seemed to have some promise as a dramatic premise, and up to a point, the movie is pretty good. But unfortunately, it ultimately goes over the top in execution, which I did not expect from director Jodie Foster (who I think of as more thoughtful than run-of-the-mill Hollywood types). Gibson is actually pretty good at building a sympathetic portrayal, and I found it easy to suspend my disbelief in relation to the whole Beaver as spokesman idea; I found it much more difficult to accept most of the components of the subplot revolving around the Gibson character's oldest son. When things take a badly telegraphed ugly turn at the climax, I lost any lingering sympathy for the story. It's weird, but even though I can't fault Gibson for the film's failure, it will be hard not to associate it with his ongoing career tailspin. I imagine few would accept him at this point in a more comedic role, but maybe that would've been a better choice at this point for rehabilitation. Oh well.

More Friday Family Blogging

In case you got the idea from the previous post that my Grampa was naturally headless, this should clarify that he was not. That's Gramma behind him (long before she was a Gramma).

Friday Family Blogging

I got my hands on some pictures from my Mom's collection, including the above of Mom and friend (I'm sure I know the name of the dog, but can't for the life of me recall what it is). I suspect that's my headless grandfather in the background.

Friday Philosophy

Something to think about from the mind of French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004):

"If you read philosophical texts of the tradition, you'll notice they almost never said 'I,' and didn't speak in the first person. From Aristotle to Heidegger, they try to consider their own lives as something marginal or accidental. What was essential was their teaching and their thinking. Biography is something empirical and outside, and is considered an accident that isn't necessarily or essentially linked to the philosophical activity or system."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Great Song

Let's see, we've got the Oscar Peterson Trio, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong collaborating on a George and Ira Gershwin standard. I don't think it gets much better than that:

Toonerville Thursday

Speaking as an uncle many times over, I like the idea of an "Uncle's Day"-- but I'm not so sure I accept the "good for nothing" qualifier. Then again, I've never been subjected to the evils of bathtub gin (or its equivalent).

Thursday's Thought

George Burns (1896-1996) became something of an expert on aging, so I would take his following comment as being pretty much on the mark:

"If you ask what is the single most important key
to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding
worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't
ask me, I'd still have to say it."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Great Band

I've extolled the virtues of Darker My Love previously on this site, and here I go again. They are definitely one of my favorite contemporary groups, and on a very short list of artists whose next work is eagerly anticipated. Here's a performance of a song off their excellent album Alive As You Are:

"Ghost" Pictures

I recently figured out how to do double (and triple) exposures on my camera, and had some fun today collaborating with Nik and others to take some interesting "ghost" pictures. These would be much better if I'd used a tripod, but in some ways the shaky backgrounds add to the effect.

The kids got into the spirit of trying to come up with different ways to maximize the effect, including the shot below of the ghost slide.

This last shot is also a double exposure, but I tried something different here and I like the effect. Using manual focus, I took the picture of Emma, then took the lens completely out of focus for the second shot. That's what created the vaguely soft focus aspect of this picture. Needless to say, the experiments will continue!

Wednesday's Quote

A great line from an early Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall (1755-1835):

"To listen well is as powerful a means of
communication and influence as to talk well."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Classic Sixties Rock and Roll

This wasn't the biggest hit by Paul Revere & the Raiders (that was the real name of the keyboard player, by the way; the singer is Mark Lindsay), but it sure is fun. Check it out:

Soup Diary 110621

One never knows from where or when a great cup of soup will emerge, but I really expect something by my brother-in-law to surpass anything I've had recently in a restaurant. But that's the case: a pot of red pepper soup concocted by Dan about a week ago surpassed everything else I had over the past few days, and that's not meant as a backhanded compliment-- his soup was really good. I won't run down all the competition, except to say that I had yet another very disappointing cup at Fables. Their Thai Carrot Ginger was overly sweet, like someone had dumped a barrel of honey into the mix (maybe this was a response to my criticism of the sour Sweet Pea soup a couple weeks ago? Is it possible I wield such power? It's a scary thought). Dan's soup struck a great balance between flavor and tang, and was a perfect creamy texture. I hope he makes it again sometime; I hope he can make it again sometime, as he strikes me as the sort of cook who kind of makes it up as he goes along. With even more relatives visiting from out west, maybe that'll be an excuse to make another batch. I've got my fingers crossed.

Today's Quote

Here's a line from the Peruvian-born author Carlos Castenada (1925-1998):

"Look at every path closely and deliberately,
then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does
this path have a heart? If it does, then the path
is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Funny Stuff

My brother-in-law Tom showed this to me and it made me laugh and laugh. You'll especially enjoy this if you're a dog person, but even you cat people might take some sinister glee in it as well:

The Last Movie I Saw

For many years John Sayles was at the top of a very short list of film writer/directors whose work I'd go see automatically without any need for additional information or reviews about the specific movie. If his name was on it, I'd see it (that's still true, but the way, though his last effort, Honeydripper, never got to a theater in Montana so I'll have to hunt it up on DVD). The main reason for this was because it was clear that he was interested in building stories around characters who were real, true-to-life people, and that quality was evident not just in his protagonists, but in virtually every person who popped up on screen. Even when he dabbled in science fiction (with Brother From Another Planet), he maintained that connection with reality and, to my mind, made a movie that was way better than something like E.T. Win Win was not made by John Sayles, but given that this is the third movie in a row* directed and written by Thomas McCarthy that exhibits that same commitment to dealing with small-scale reality (by which I mean, the drama comes from the kind of events and conflicts encountered by almost anyone in the course of day-to-day life) rather than big issues or heightened melodramatic circumstances, he's now joined Sayles on that aforementioned list. In Win Win the plot turns on the decision to place an elderly man in a nursing home, and the repercussions that has on his family and others. The performances are great all through the cast (also a Sayles trademark, by the way), especially Amy Ryan and Paul Giamatti, who keep things believable at every turn. McCarthy doesn't pen the kind of sprawling scripts that Sayles is noted for, with multiple layers of story unfolding concurrently in a kind of roundelay of intersecting lives, but aside from that I see McCarthy as the inheritor of Sayles' commitment to maintaining a scale and tone that values contemplation and insight over spectacle and escape. Here's hoping he keeps up the good work.

*The others are the equally fine The Station Agent and The Visitor.

Quote of the Day

Boy I'd really like to believe this statement, uttered by the great comic filmmaker Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977), is true:

"We all want to help one another. Human
beings are like that. We want to live by
each other's happiness, not by each
other's misery."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Day Tune

This isn't about fathers or anything, it's just a song that I remember my dad telling me he liked (it was one of the few that was even remotely in the rock and roll vein). I like it too, and when I hear it, I think of Dad. So hear it is:

What I Did Today

I spent the better part of this afternoon wandering around the Griffiss Sculpture park down in a place called Ashford Hollow. It's a big nature preserve whose trails have been decorated with numerous large pieces of sculpture, both realistic and abstract. The Rosieks and I had a really good time hiking around the grounds (despite the big hills), getting a little sun, a little exercise, and a lot of art.

A lot of the sculptures are interactive in the sense that you can touch them, bang on them (you know, to see if they're hollow), even climb on them. Some are really nicely integrated into the setting, like the series of "Bathers" you can make out on the far edges of the pond in the shot below.

There were a few pieces that offered some respite from the sun, as a lot of the work was set up out in these big open meadows (others, as seen above, were in the woods).

I would guess that the "Castle Tower" was the highlight of the exhibit, since you could actually go up to the top and survey the wide vistas of Cattaraugus County from that perch (I think that's what Natalie is doing below).

I didn't quite get up to the top, but I did get this nice shot of Sara under a tree sketching from a porthole in the side of the Tower:

All in all, a really nice day out in the countryside with the family (topped off, by the way, with hot dogs at Ol' Man Rivers!)

Sunday Funnies (Happy Father's Day!)

A classic Charles Schulz Peanuts strip, which made me think of my dad. Hope any and all fathers reading this enjoy it too.

Sunday's Quote

A great notion put forth by the noted Roman philosopher Marcus Fabius Quintilian (35-95):

"For it would have been better that man
should have been born dumb, nay, void
of all reason, rather than that he should
employ the gifts of Providence to the
destruction of his neighbor."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Great Band

The Mutton Birds may be the finest band to come out of New Zealand (I frankly don't know enough about the scene there to say with absolute certainty). Here's a great song by them that goes back to the early nineties:

What I Did Today

I spent most of my Saturday out in Mumford, NY, site of the Genesee Country Village. This is kind of like Colonial Williamsburg, except it commemorates an era a couple of generation later, and the more "frontier" kind of atmosphere found in upstate New York. There are several dozen buildings comprising the village, most of which are restored and open to the public. It's a great place to experience a little history.

I took over 400 pictures (I was actually shocked by the number myself), some of the sights, some of family I was visiting with, and some attempts at artsiness, given the unique setting and some of the lighting situations I found.

I'm a little surprised that I never made my way over there before-- it's just about an hour's drive from where I grew up. But though I've been hearing about the place for years, today was the first time I went there, and I had a great time wandering amongst the buildings, listening to the docents tell the stories of the various places and families who inhabited them, and enjoying the great weather.

We were there for over five hours, and except for some mildly sore feet from all the walking, I think I could have easily spent another couple of hours exploring the grounds. We did miss the nineteenth century rules baseball game (because we were way over on the other side of the village, but aside from that it was a perfect day.
Thanks to Theresa, Dan, Nik, Helen, Emma, Natalie and Ben for helping make it such a good time-- I hope we can do it again some time!