Babes in Toyland, 1995
For a brief period in the nineties the end of August brought those of us living in the Minneapolis area a street party known as CedarFest. Held in what was long a 'bohemian' area of town- The West Bank- this free event had dozens of bands which were picked for their potential, not their achievements. Mike Doughty and Soul Coughing, G. Love, Jonny Lang when he was still a kid, Frank Black and many more musical hipsters. The sun was hot, the crowds were cool. If you weren't of age, this was a great chance to see bands that usually only played in clubs. If you were, you could even get a beer or two...
... Which was the end of it. Someone OD'ed on alcohol, and the event's organizers were sued for allowing him to be 'overserved.' A lawsuit that, even if you were successful in defending yourself, would bankrupt all but the richest pockets. There are still a few free festivals, but they specialize in Oldies acts and are usually pretty tame.
The ruins of an English manor house in Cowdray park, on the edge of the town of Midhurst in West Sussex are graceful in their decay, ghosts of more splendid time. The house was built with the kitchen tower separate as to protect the rest of the manor from a cooking fire. When the estate burned in 1793, only the kitchen remained, and still does to this day, it almost looks as if it is ready to start cooking a banquet for Elizabeth I or Henry VIII, two visitors who once graced its halls.
Dandelions flyin', kids were fryin'In the summer of '65, our neighborhood rock band played a series of impromptu concerts in various locales- i.e., my garage. The neighborhood urchins would quickly assemble, and on one occasion, a new girl showed up. She hung around afterwards, and we got to talking. She was from Onamia, and was staying in the city with her cousins who lived in a house on the corner of Dupont and 51st, about a block away.
Bugs with a magnifyin' glass
The sun had every body jumpin'
But I was cool as a seven pound bass...
The clouds were pumped upSo we started to "see" each other a little. Me being fifteen and in a band and all, I was a 6 foot tall, 125 pound stick of macho dynamite. Her name was Angie, she was thirteen and liked to smoke cigarettes. She would tell me of things she would do back in Onamia, things such as hanging out, stealing cars, and sniffing gasoline.
And so was I
That day I saw your lovely face
all across the sky...
Her mental acuity seemed to indicate that she wasn't lying about the gas-huffing.
I was always a passer-byOne day, we went for a walk and ended up at the Top Diner. This small cafe was on a truck route, it had the usual fare- burger's and fries, special of the day and pie for dessert. I bought us fries and a coke (two straws), Angie asked me for a quarter for the jukebox. She choose her three songs, The Beatles, Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark Five, and when she said "let's dance" I was feeling 'Glad All Over'.
I never had much of any style
But you walked up and talked with me baby
Don't you know you made my whole life worthwhile?
Oh! How wonderful Fate can be...We managed to stay out of trouble (she was only able to kiss for a few seconds at a time- (maybe she had asthma?) and the only time we were almost caught together was when we were in her aunt and uncle's kitchen and they came home early from shopping (I made it out the front door.) The last time we saw each other was when we were with a group of us kids were hanging out in the park. A bunch of rowdies with hot-rods cruised by. Angie flipped them the bird. They were ready to to kick our asses, but a police car drove by at just the right time. The next day she went back to Onamia, and our 'affair to remember' was soon forgotten.
How did you really happen to be?
The day I heard your sweet voice
Sing a song in me...
Well, I waited here for the sunset
I thought that you would too
Now you're somewhere out there in this great big world
And I've lost my heart, My summer love...
Summer Love original lyrics by Jimmy Derbis, copyright 1976
One of the only "completely finished" rooms at Flippist World Headquarters is the summer porch, the youngest son and I made it over about four years ago. We thought about heating it and adding electricity but we limited our efforts to the walls and windows, retaining its early 20th century character.
It's a summer place, a place to take coffee in the morning, a place you can relax and listen to the birds sing, a place to read a book or do the crossword, a place to nap. It is a peaceful place- it never has the wearisome din from a television or stereo. The raw cedar shakes don't need a finish and the dark tongue and groove planks on the ceiling have never been touched by a brush since they were installed many years ago.
When we moved in, in 1984, the porch was a sad place. It had a broken door to the outside, its windows were warped and drafty. The roof leaked above it, and the previous owners had used it to store junk (still there when we moved in!) We often wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. We removed the junk, eliminated the door and have used it every summer since.
The nights have been cool lately, we'll have a few more hot days, but the nightly chorus of crickets has now begun to sing "Autumn- autumn." When the last warm days of October are finally behind us the porch will rest until spring, its only visitors being cooling pies or other overflow food prepared for Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.
Note: The panoramic "stitching" distorts at the doorway- that wall is flat, the windows on either edge of the image connect in a flat wall as well. Click on image for a larger view.
Woody Allen's latest film, Vicki, Cristina, Barcelona, is a romantic fantasy set in a golden-hued Spanish summer. This is a beautiful small film which is charming in its characters, setting, and story. Vicki (Rebecca Hall), and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are in Barcelona spending the summer with Vicki's relatives. They meet up with artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who is on the prowl after breaking up with the fiery Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz.) By summer's end all of their lives have become intertwined in sometimes surprising ways.
This is not a movie with a great dramatic arc. Instead it is a study of interpersonal relationships and the appeal and shortcomings of romantic love. What a study! With its subtle and witty dialog spoken by some of the most beautiful people on the planet, it is a voyeur's dream; its fluid sexual choreography fulfills any escapist desires the viewer may have. Woody, in his 71st year, has given us one of his most knowing and affectionate looks at human desires.
That this film ultimately ends with all the characters back to where they more or less started gives it a melancholy, if realistic conclusion. Highly recommended.
All the kids are doing it.
Maybe I could get one with a bar code and my Blogger number?
Perhaps a favorite sports team?
Or the same one as a famous pop star's?
Or I could go all out?
I know! Just a simple line drawing of a famous cartoon character!
The more the merrier?
No, I think that just one, if it's the right one, will do...
Go for it...
Tracing the pattern...
Finishing the inking...
A few seconds for the bleeding to stop...
A quick clean up...
Wait for it...
Here it comes...
Isn't she a beaut?
Frank Agar, 1970
After last nights preview my thoughts returned to my days in school: taking photo classes (mostly independent study), experimenting (literally 'working in the dark') and being with perhaps the only person I consider my mentor- Frank Agar. My attention-deficit fueled scholastic career really only gelled in one place- as his lab assistant. His approach to his classes was refreshing, he had no apparent dogma to uphold, his open approach to everything photographic was a welcome alternative to my isolated, anomic existence.
In contrast, photos in last night's preview were fairly pedestrian, "safe" in subject matter and approach. But such is the legacy of the academic tradition. The digital revolution in photography was in evidence with various Photo-Shop enhanced prints, but still stuck in a 1930's to 1960's mindset. In contrast, painting, drawing and printmaking all had wildly divergent visions on display. One problem might be in the entrance categories- tradition printmaking (Intaglio, Lithography, and variations thereof) is well defined. Photography, since the advent of quality digital cameras and high-quality ink-jet printing, is still in flux and straining against its "purist" traditions.
Frank is gone now, but his open approach remains with me. There are exciting times ahead for those with an equally broad vision.
Until now I've refrained from posting about the Olympics; it has always left me with ambivalent feelings and even more so this year. A big part of this distaste lies with the American media's handling of the events, particularly with the analysis and the "personalities" who fill the gaps. It is getting better, at least Bob Costas didn't yak over the opening song this time (as he did to Pavarotti singing Verdi in Italy!) although perhaps he should have- to let us know that it was being lip-synced. Icelandic blogger Alda has an excellent post on the subject, as does Sharon Spotbottom, expressed in a most unique fashion.
The elephant in the room, or rather the dragon, is China itself. Equally complicit is the United States, its trading partner and economic bedfellow. The stink of money, money made at any cost, clouds these games. The apt spectacle of a smog-shrouded Olympic Stadium gave a graphic proof of the results of this unfettered economic expansionism. The bizarre murder of one of the biggest supporters of US Volleyball cast a chill over that competition- not saying that it was anything other than a random act of violence, but it wouldn't surprise if it wasn't. There is just too much money and power at stake.
Which is how we got into this quandary, I suppose. The Olympic ideal may never have been as utopian as it seems, but the seed of that idea has grown into some very strange fruit, indeed.
(click on pic for larger image...)
I'm sharing my summer reading with you today- nothing but "Top Shelf" material.
From left to right:
Life on the Mississippi, or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation...
Prince and the Pauper, my first brush with greatness...
The Fountainhead Revisited, this author actually makes sense, Ayn...
Paradise Reclaimed, giving me brief but vivid glimpses of a better world...
Rose Garden, Rose's garden is planted with only the finest tomes...
Munkay Shines, Oh! Does she ever..
Ginger and Salt, spicy Welsh Rarebit, with a bittersweet finish...
The Graduate, and now the fun begins?
Móðir, Kona, Meyja, a new sort of Icelandic Saga...
Ghost in the Machine, "Pfft! Is that internet thing still around?" ~Homer Simpson
BIZZARO!, he makes me laugh. Hard. Don't forget to check the links in his posts!
Windy, Rainy, and Cool, Windy? Oui. Rainy? Oui. Cool? Tres Cool...
Pride of the Shire, she was out of this world, now she's back, better(?) than ever...
I Remember You...
Drama class, 1968
You were always on the periphery of the group, never speaking, always listening. Who was watching you? We were watching each other, never you. We never spoke to you. We couldn't understand what our selfishness meant. We liked nice clothes, the attractive charms of youth, status. All those things are gone now.
Grant me this moment of foolish regret, for I remember you now.
I will always remember.
I was on a lake. It was twilight and the darkness of the evening was quickly surrounding me on all sides. The old row boat which I was in was slowly drifting as if it was being pulled by some invisible force, pulled to the shore of a small island. I disembarked onto a lush lawn; there was a path leading into the island's heavily wooded interior. A sort distance into the woods the path opened to a clearing, with a large old house in its center. It seemed to be some sort of an institutional dwelling, too large and too regular in its features for a regular home. A dormitory perhaps, or possibly even a convent. The wavy glass in its windows seemed to reflect a distorted face in every pane. A palpable taste of fear rose in my throat, yet still I walked on, on towards that ominous edifice.
As I approached the front steps I looked up and a monstrous figure loomed above the roof line. I knew that I was doomed.
And then I woke up. I was wide awake and went over to the window and looked out, my heart was still racing. The early morning sky out my window was just beginning to lighten. In the distance, I could hear the rumble of a freight train. The birds had not yet begun their dawn chorus. I gradually calmed down, by then the sky was quite bright. I returned to bed, and went back to sleep.
Forty-Seven years later and it seems as if it happened only yesterday.
A more peaceful image than yesterday's, although both originated on the same trip. An after-dinner canoe ride on a pleasant summer's evening makes up for days of wintr'y bluster. Much as the legendary girl with the mid-forehead curl, when the days here are good, they are very, very good.
Let us speak of the horrid days at some other time.
Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend
Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don't tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof
The truth is in the eyes
Cause the eyes don't lie...
On The Fringe
The Minnesota Fringe Festival is a wild mix of short plays, dance and performance art. I had the chance to see War of the Worlds- The Musical last Friday, and it was well worth the time spent. Presented as a 30's radio show, those of us in attendance became the "studio audience" as this recasting of Orson Welles' radio drama was turned on its head- the cast thinks the reports
of an invasion are a hoax, only coming to the realization that it was really happening after the studio has been invaded.
This was a broad farce, augmented by some clever songs (sung in close harmony with absolutely knock-out precision!) and vintage radio skits performed in the styles of Burns and Allen and Abbott and Costello. The musical had been shortened to fit within the Fringe format (one hour maximum) and this probably helped keep it in tight focus.
Due to the complex nature of theatrical production, it is always a challenge to present a polished performance in a festival setting. That Greg Eiden, who wrote the book and music pulled this off with such aplomb is a testament to him and a very talented group of actor/singers, and two tap-dancing, three-legged "Martians."
And yes, the Martians tap danced on all three legs!
The alto sax player noticed her first. His day gig was as a TA at a local Open School. She attended classes there; he said she was probably 16 years old- she had a good fake ID. She would come to see us play on weekends and almost every night in the summer. She looked the part, it was easy, you only had to be 18 then to drink. A few years before the legislature had lowered the drinking age in an effort to stop the carnage on the Interstate when 18-20 year olds would go to Wisconsin to legally drink and then kill themselves while driving while intoxicated on their trip back to Minnesota. So for a few years the club scene in Minneapolis was thriving- lots of teens enjoying lots of booze, listening to lots of bands.
Little Miss High School would undergo a transformation every night. She came in all dressed up, wearing nice clothes and make up, holding her cigarettes and a clutch purse. As the night went on she got older looking with each passing hour. Her prim mouth would sag, her fine features coarsened, by the end of the night she could easily pass for 40.
Same old story. Youth wants age. Age wants youth. Is there ever one night, one moment of NOW, that is just right?
But not in that bar, with a few too many drinks, a fake ID, and listening to a band play tunes that were out of sync with the times as well.
Drink up now, Missy, it's closing time.
On the Madness of Crowds
Too freakin' much man.
We were all rocking out; the lights were going wild.
Then he came out into the crowd, and was singing there.
Everybody just went nuts.
He made his way deeper, and deeper, into the throbbing mass.
And then he touched me!
Gathering of the Ali'i
Webley Edwards produced the long running radio series Hawaii Calls as well as a series of recordings on Capitol Records in the fifties and sixties. These records were all themed around Hawaiian music, some more traditional than others. Many featured flamboyant covers, this music is often labeled "Exotica" by collectors.
For some unknown reason, the thrift stores I frequent have had a run of these lately. Most of the albums have a broad variety of "Hawaiian" music composed by professional writers. This album, with the most lurid cover of all, turned out to be a pleasant surprise:
A host of leading Hawaiian musicians, drummers, chanters and singers made these recordings... ...as a prelude to the Gathering of the Ali'i (the old nobility) to dedicate the meeting place on the site of one of the early homes of the former royal family. The sounds and the voices and harmony are exotic, and they are all truly authentic - from great Hawaiian artists, whose eyes misted or sparkled as they performed!
The list of performers reads like a who's who of Hawaiian artists:
Al Kealoha Perry
Lani Kealiiwahamana and Iwalani Kahalewai
and many others.
The music on this album, while sometimes tainted with modern influences, is about as close to the old styles as you are likely to find.
Wood and Steel
An old guitar, unwanted in a thrift store.
It may as well have been a cute puppy; simply irresistible.
It was just an old Kay, but it had a real spruce top.
The date code inside showed that it had been made in 1953.
Its finish was thin brown paint, scuffed and chipped, but no real gouges marred its beauty.
It had been played with, but you could tell from the fret wear pattern that it had never really been played.
Some stripper, sandpaper, steel wool and lacquer and the inner beauty of the wood glow shone as never before.
A replacement set of tuners, a bit of fret work, and a new set of strings; this old thing made of wood and steel began to sing.
Some guitars are like lovers, passionate and demanding.
But this one is more akin to an old dog- no longer frisky,
but perfectly content to be gently stroked.
I'm growing tired of searching now
There's nothing much I crave
Give or take a little time
You can write it on my grave
There's nothing more I care to own
Nothing left to feel
All I ever wanted was
This piece of wood and steel
~David Allan Coe