Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, picking his nose and eating it. I've seen similar photos of Henry Kissinger doing the same thing--is it a European thing?
Going out to lunch this morning, some elderly gentleman walking down the street approached me and asked for directions to a nearby street. I didn't know where it was, and my mom was helpful enough to point him in the wrong direction, but I suggested we consult the Thomas Brothers, and the 1993 edition atlas was enable to steer us in the right direction. We offered the man a ride, as it was a bit far and he seemed a bit confused. Soon enough, we were at his destination, he thanked us and got out of the car, and waved at us as he crossed the street. And as we felt all warm and fuzzy inside, a car crested over the top of the hill about fifty feet up the road, and the old man came about one step away from stepping directly into the car's path. Fortunately he looked up and saw the car and stopped, but for a split second we thought the reward for our good deed would be watching an elderly man be struck down by a speeding auto. I suppose the moral of the story is, never help the elderly.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Arrested Development creator quits the show, casting doubt on Showtime deal. At least the article throws us a bone, suggesting that the feature film hinted to in the series finale might actually materialize.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Humphrey's 2006 concert schedule has been announced. I must say, the prices overall aren't as outrageous as I remember in the past. I generally find Humprhey's expensive, but it seems as though they partially subsidize the concert series with the highest profile acts, like Ringo Starr (at $115, the only act to break the $100 barrier), and most of the shows I'm interested in are affordable. But, while I love Lyle Lovett, I doubt I will shell out $95 to see him there again. But I'll definatley go to Robert Earl Keen, Pink Martini, and, of course, Randy Newman (incidentally, his Disney Hall gig has been rescheduled in November, as his wrist has not yet fully healed). Other shows are tempting, such as Roseanne Cash, but I'll probably stick to the three shows that first grabbed me. I'm not real wild about Humphrey's as a venue, as they seem to cram a few too many people in per row. A bit wider seats would make a world of difference. But I understand their dilemma, trying to accomodate as many people as possible with limited space.

The question is, should I go buy the tickets in person when they go on sale next week? In the past, I've bought tickets to shows well after they went on sale, for moderate draws like Paula Poundstone and Spinal Tap, and got decent seats. When I bought tickets for Lyle Lovett a few years ago, I decided to go down and buy them in person. I woke up at 6 AM, thinking I'd beat the rush. Turns out people camp out overnight, both scalpers and individuals, and I ended up waiting about six hours to save on the Ticketmaster fees. The final indignity is that, after waiting in line for hours, I bought my tickets, and was charged a "convenience fee" of a buck or two. I still saved substantially versus buying on-line, but being physically sore from sitting on the sidewalk all morning, things didn't feel very convenient. I was told they had to charge the fee since they use Ticketmaster's ticketing software, and the only way to avoid the fee was to purchase tickets in person the day of the concert. I'm going to enough shows that it'll probably be worth my time to wait in line, and at least I know now to bring a book and a chair.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Snakes on a Plane went back to reshoots in response to an enthused internet response. They toughened up the film to an "R" rating to appease the online fan base. I think this is a mistake. Clueless executives greenlighting a film in which Samuel L. Jackson shouts "I want these motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane!" can produce a cult classic; when marketing flacks insert the quote "I want these motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane!" because their scouring the internet reveal that that's what fans want to hear, just sounds pathetic.
Buck Owens, dead at 76.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I saw Arlo Guthrie last Thursday, performing at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. My parents had seen him there almost a decade ago, and had a great time, so I went with my mother this time around. The large concert hall was about half-full, mostly of long-haired hippie types and their kids. The concert was definitely a nostalgia trip for most of the audience, and while I may not be able to reflect wistfully on the '60s, I heard "Alice's Restaurant" quite a bit growing up, so I was able to get as excited as everyone else there at the thought of hearing "Alice's Restaurant" on this, the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

Guthrie played two sets over two hours, opening the second set with "Alice's Restaurant." In fact, he saved most of his own hits for the second set, but the first set was solid, too, even if I didn't know most of the songs. He played some jazz from New Orleans, and talked about his train tour to New Orleans after Katrina (though he saved "The City of New Orleans" for the second half). He talked a lot, telling stories which were fun to hear, even if you could tell he was telling them for the millionth time (which is fine, but his attempts to make as though thoughts just randomly pop into his head seemed a bit tiresome to me). After playing "Coming into Los Angeles," he recounted a somewhat recent airport run-in with the Secret Service, which concluded with him awkwardly realizing that the officers approaching him were no there to hassle him, but were greeting him as fans.

My understanding is that Guthrie retired "Alice's Restaurant" a few years ago, but this being the 40th anniversary tour, he brought it back, opening the second set. He added some asides about the draft not being as far away as some would have us think, but basically it was the same song we've heard on the radio every Thanksgiving. He also performed "The Motorcycle Song," "City of New Orleans," and other hits, along with some new stuff. For an encore, he performed a "new" Woody Guthrie song, "My Peace," which Arlo had set to music, and which he explained was one of the last songs Woody had written while his handwriting was still legible. To paraphrase Arlo's explanation, the song is about the little peace that we all can have inside of us, which makes kids and dogs like to be around us, and if we all cultivate that peace, the big peace will work itself out. Earlier, he also performed another of his dad's songs, "This Land is Your Land," including a verse I wasn't familiar with, and rather liked: "Nobody living/can ever stop me/as I go walking/by the freedom highway/nobody living/can make me turn back/this land is made for you and me." He interrupted himself repeated during that tune, telling a circuitous story which turned into a retelling of the story of Joseph, a sort of watered-down version of Lord Buckly's schtick, which actually worked pretty well.

Overall, it was a great show. I was surprised that Guthrie had such a strong stage presence. The crowd seemed to love him, and he really fed off that positive energy. One other nice thing to note, my mom and I had great seats. Her knee had been bothering her, and luckily we had requested box seats, and received them, so the two of us had our own box, so she could turn her chair to the side and have all the leg room she could want. Me, I found the leg room nice, but the chairs weren't quite as comfortable as the normal theater seats. Moreover, being right up against the edge, I felt a touch of vertigo sitting there (though being so high, and almost over the stage, I sort of felt like some omniscient being looking down on Arlo, which was kind of cool). Still, I think I will request box seats the next time I go to a show there; several boxes looked empty, so I don't think there's a huge demand for them.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Elana James in concert at Acoustic Music San Diego. Formerly Elana Fremerman, she is the former fiddler of the former Hot Club of Cowtown, one of my favorite bands, which sadly broke up last year. Whit Smith was in my opinion the superior vocalist within Hot Club of Cowtown, but Elana's fiddling was really the star attraction, so I hoped the band's charm would remain with Elana's new group. The show was advertised as Elana James and her Hot Hot Trio, but by the time they made it to San Diego, they were calling themselves Elana James and the Continental Two, the Continental Two being Beau Sample (formerly of Cave Catt Sammy) and Luke Hill.

To my relief, Elana James and the Continental Two captured much of the joy of a Hot Club of Cowtown show. They're not completely at that level yet, but I imagine they sound much like Hot Club of Cowtown must of sounded with only a few months of experience playing together. Probably better, as James has the knowledge she gained with that band (and from playing in Bob Dylan's band last year) under her belt. They played two sets, made up of western swing and jazz classics, original songs written for Hot Club of Cowtown, and new material. Hearing Hot Club classics like "Secret of Mine" and "Forget-Me-Nots" (the song which first introduced me to the group) gave the evening a familiar feel, even as they tried out new material which mostly worked well. Their set included ample opportunities for Elana to burn up the place on some western classics like the instrumental "Draggin' the Bow" and some tune about barnyard animals, the name of which escapes me, set to the tune of "Froggie Went Acourtin'" or "The Crawdad Song." Quite a few jazz numbers were also included in their performance, including a cover of Duke Ellington's "I Don't Mind." Another swinging jazz number, "Atomic Cocktail," gave Beau Samples a chance to show off his voice, and he nailed it, making the song a high point of the evening for me. I assumed "Atomic Cocktail" was a product of 1950s nuclear testing (it seemed an appropriate ditty to spout out in some club on the Las Vegas strip for the atomic sightseers), but it was actually recorded in 1945, scant months after Hiroshima. The new songs written for the new group were somewhat more hit-or-miss, but mostly hits, including the beautiful "Eva's Waltz." All said, it was a fantastic evening of music, and I'm just sad it didn't go on for another hour (they had an early plane to catch in the morning, so they could record with Willie Nelson the next day).

There is no official CD of Elana James and the Continental Two yet available, but they were selling a "Top Secret Illegal Bootleg Sampler." I've been enjoying my copy very much, but as their first CD will be coming out in Europe very shortly, and, one can only assume, will have no trouble finding an American distributor, you might want to wait for the full album (especially since five of the eight songs on the sampler are currently on their website). But I didn't think to bring any Hot Club of Cowtown CDs for her to sign, so it was nice to have something for her to autograph. I always feel uncomfortable meeting artists I admire, as I never know what to say, but I found Elana as charming in person as she is on stage, and was instantly at ease with her. As sad as I am that Hot Club of Cowtown is no more, it was quite heartening to see that Elana James' musical career is still on track.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Peter Tomarken, dead at 63. I remember how excited I was as a child, when my family got our first VCR, and at long last I could tape Press Your Luck and watch it every day, not just when I was home sick from school. Loved them Whammies.
Issac Hayes quits South Park, citing religious bigotry.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cryogenically frozen millionaires are now creating trust funds so they don't have to return to life as a pauper. My favorite quote, from David Pizer: "It's money that I've earned. It's not a greedy or selfish thing." Well, actually, I think that's pretty much the definition of selfish: Refusing to share any of your possessions because you feel that you alone, having earned them, are entitled to them. But whatever. I just hope, when says he's being frozen with his wife and dogs, he means after they too expire from natural causes.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The original Nintendo Entertainment System is 20 years old. I had forgotten about Battletoads, that was a sweet game.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Randy "Duke" Cunningham sentenced to eight years, four months in prison. I can't help having a smidgen of sympathy for anyone who is most likely going to die in prison, but I thought it was pathetic the way his supporters, including, oddly enough, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, called for leniency because of his charitable works. If I stole millions of dollars, I could afford to give money to a folk singer's charitable work, too. In any event, it's nice to see that my congressman remains his strongest supporter. The problem wasn't that Duke wrote a menu of bribes on congressional letterhead, the problem was that prosecutors released a copy to the press. Thanks for the clarification, Duncan.

I had to go to school for a midterm, while waiting for the sentence to come down, and was trying to find something on the radio, but all I could find were nationally-syndicated talk radio shows. When I got out of school (don't think I did particularly well on the exam), I did catch the tail-end of a report that Cunningham had received a harsh sentence, but then moved on to discussing some punk kid who ratted out his teacher for talking politics in the classroom (I never understand why the students claim they're too cowed by their teacher to argue with him in class, but have no problem discussing it in great detail on talk radio). I didn't find out the details until I got home. I often see the CEO of Clear Channel Radio on financial shows, talking about how Clear Channel is going to compete with satellite radio with their quality local content, which always strikes me as absurd, as the entire philosophy of Clear Channel was always destroying local content and offering up canned talk. I'm sorry, but local traffic reports aren't enough to save radio.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The futures market sounds so adorable.
Most of the La Mesa City Council appologizes for threatening letter. Art Madrid failed to appologize, and said that he would send the letter again. What a horses' ass. Actually, my opinion is that he's just getting old and confused. But whether senile or corrupt, he shouldn't be in office anymore. I never got around to writing him a letter, but after seeing the council meeting on the news last night, I immediately typed up a rather nasty letter.