Sunday, March 27, 2016

El Dia De Suerte - Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe

This is from 1973. These guys are giants; this stuff was boss. This music is an intellectual challenge, and supremely danceable.

When I talk of the "Newyorican" cats I mean these guys. Puerto Ricans, without a doubt, but with the New York sensibility. (If I called it the "Fania Sound," my friend Jose would say that I was a racist!)

The subject of "underrated" came up about six weeks ago. This music is underrated, big time.

And by the way, this is not some kind of foreign music, some kind of illegal alien music. Puerto Ricans pay taxes like you and me; they have the vote (although not 100%); they got drafted and went to Vietnam like any other Americans. This is American Music, writ large.

If it takes a minute to work on you, please give it the minute. Maybe it was easier for me, back then. These guys had better (redacted) than anyone!

Eddie Hodges - Girls Girls Girls (Made To Love)

Eddie actually attended my high school for a year or two, around '63, '64. I believe that his parents wanted to socialize him a bit. He'd been leading the sheltered, show business life pretty much all of his life. Not a bad kid, though.

He even traveled with us, after school anyway. There were city buses lined up outside so that we didn't have to go and take regular buses with the general citizenry. You know, to spare the citizens some grief. Eddie took it all pretty well. The bullies knew enough not to really lay into him, but he took a bit of teasing. Took it pretty well, I'd say. Maybe he was just confident, or maybe he was oblivious. Who knows? I never really talked to him.

I was one of the few who had seen him on Broadway. I'd seen "The Music Man," that would be around 1960. My parents took me.

I'll say this: the boy had great clothes. We had to wear a jacket and tie every day. Not necessarily a suit, but decent pants and a sports jacket and tie. Conservative shirts and ties. The hot set-up at the time was Continental Cut suits, and Eddie had a bunch of them. Sharkskin in many different shades of grey. Man, that cat was clean, as they say, or said.

Perhaps I'll ask Professor Google if Eddie is still alive. That's a good place to start.

Ricky Jay -- Card Control

Again, my friends, never play cards for money with anyone who can do card tricks.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Don Covay - Mercy Mercy.wmv

I've mentioned this song over the years, but looking back it doesn't look like I've ever shared it.

Jimi as session guitar player. He came up with the lick. It's a good one.

Lucky Just To Still Be Alive

Upon reflection, when I think of all of the times that I have been visited by life-saving luck, I turn my eyes to the Great Mystery and say a silent prayer of thanksgiving. I’m just lucky to still be alive.

The Burst Appendix

My closest call was medical. Sometime in early 1987 I was stricken with something that the doctors found mysterious. This was not surprising, on two counts. For one thing, our medical provider at the time was a clinic of family medicine staffed by residents who were medical students at UCLA. They were not completely ignorant, but they could mimic ignorance pretty well. For another thing, my family had no health insurance, which means that you’ll get the bare minimum standard of care, if you’re lucky. My wife and I were self-employed, and health insurance for a family of four was more than our family economy could bear.

My wife (ex-wife) got us into the clinic as a half-way measure. We got very low cost care and a ticket into Santa Monica Hospital if necessary. She also checked with the social worker and made sure that we qualified for Medical. It was a lot better than nothing. My wife’s efforts were a bit of luck for me in themselves. More on this in a minute.

I seemed to come down with a stomach flu that put me out of commission for a couple of days. This condition became recurrent and persistent. I never got a fever, so the doctors just prescribed muscle relaxers for the vomiting and sent me home. “Drink lots of fluids.” After a few episodes, major, long term diarrhea was added to the symptoms. The doctors told me, well, somehow you’ve managed to strip the lining off of your small intestine or something. This all went on for six months. By the end of that time I was so weak that I could only speak in a voice that was hard to hear. I had already lost some weight, going from 145 pounds down to 140.

During this time I was occasionally subject to the “bounce test” for appendicitis. I passed every time. Those young docs let that go as proof that it wasn’t the appendix. The lack of health insurance meant that further tests would not be recommended.

On the last day of this saga I came down with yet another “stomach flu.” Same drill at the doctor’s, but this last guy must have seen something in the cards. He said, “if you get a rigid abdomen, come right to the hospital. Don’t wait, and don’t call first.” I’d never heard that one before. “How will I know?” I asked him. “Oh,” he smiled, “if it happens, you’ll know it.”

Well it happened, and boy did I know it. It knocks you off your feet. It’s the worst pain that I’ve ever felt; it just shoots way up off the chart and stays at that intensity. I had to struggle to get dressed. My wife was deeply annoyed at having to drive me to the hospital. She was missing her show! (“Jeopardy,” I believe.) She kept giving me that “men are such babies” look as I sat in the car, doubled over and moaning.

But God bless her, she’s a tough one. A real tigress! The residents, knowing nothing, wanted to send me to County rather than admit me. I might have died on the trip, that’s forty or fifty minutes away. My wife said to them, there were two, “let’s talk out in the hall.” When they came back, after a few minutes, I swear there was steam coming up from their collars. They looked like they’d been mugged. “Well,” one of them said, “we’re going to admit you now.” Thanks, Ann!

They admitted me for an abdominal exploratory, because no one had any idea what was causing the rigid abdomen. Sure enough, my appendix had finally burst after a six month illness. The next day I was visited by the surgeon and he said, “how are you?” I let him have it. “Are you fucking kidding me? I got tubes hanging out all over, I got a Frankenstein zipper from pillar to post . . .” In that vein. He just laughed, “you sound like you’re doing fine. And boy, did you surprise us. You know where the appendix is usually found? Well yours was way over here (indicating the area of the left hip) and tucked behind the bone. It was a merry chase to even find it! What was left of it!”

So, medical history, and lucky to be alive. Rich people all over the world die of burst appendixes every day.

Chapter one seems to have run a bit long, so I’ll save other episodes of near-death for chapter two, if that’s okay with y’all. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Great attitude, Wolf.

RIP Gary Shandling, And All Of Us

He was one of a kind, and he will be missed. I’m sorry to lose him; I’m sorry for his family’s loss. I’m also sorry that all of us of a certain age are going through this loss process so frequently by now, and wondering when our turns will come. 

Gary was a year younger than I am. I particularly hate it when that happens.

It all seemed to accelerate this year, people dying. For some it was no surprise; for others we marveled at the fact that they had made it as long as they had. For some, there was a period of illness; for others, death came in an unanticipated rush. None of it is easy for the deceased, or the families, or we mere observers, whether or not we happen to be fans.

It’s always fun to watch survivors combing the fact patterns for evidence that the decedent participated in his demise in ways that make them feel safer. He smoked! He was fat! He drank to excess! It was the drugs! That’s a foolish exercise, because the truth is that a lot of people who live their lives very carefully drop dead suddenly, or come down with fatal diseases.

This year I have the definite feeling that I’ve crossed a threshold. I feel officially old. For a few years I have felt small, subtle changes, but this year something seems to have taken hold. Up until very recently I honestly believed that I was in my late-middle-age. By now I’m ready to admit that I’m in my early-old-age. What a fucking party! I find it all horrible, and I don’t like it one bit. I look in the mirror and I think, “what’s my father doing here?” I hardly recognize myself in photographs. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

Or not. The message in all of this dying is that any of us Baby Boomers could, at this point, drop dead at any time. It’s our duty now to make the best of that message, to try and find something positive in it. It would be great to find a way to embrace the whole thing, like Beethoven did, to find a way to embrace decrepitude. I wish my fellow sufferers luck. I don’t know if I’m up to it myself.

Good luck, dear readers. May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead. But not too soon, I hope. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Joe Bataan - The Bottle (La Botella) (1975)

I've always thought that Joe Bataan was one of the Newyorican guys, him recording for Fania and all. Sometimes it pays to look things up.

Turns out that his dad was Filipino and his mom was American black. Real name: Bataan Nitillano. He did grow up in East Harlem, though, and the vibe sunk in.

I've got this record. Well, somebody else has it now, along with all of my other records. At least they're all in one place! Ha, like I'll ever see them again. (End of bitter interlude.)

These Fania bands were so great. Great musicians; great swing. If you're looking, you can't go wrong with the Fania All Stars. Those are some great LPs.

Spin Easy Time!: How To Be Happy: One Male Blogger’s Advice About W...

This is a post that worth revisiting. For one thing, it's a great song; for another, it's full of good advice beyond the simple proposition of the song.

Spin Easy Time!: How To Be Happy: One Male Blogger’s Advice About W...: “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, Never make a pretty woman your wife.” Jimmy Soul, "If You Wanna Be Happy.&q...


I'm pretty sure that this song starts with the chorus. There was nothing new about that when the Beatles did it with "She Loves You." In spite of what most Beatles fans would suggest. The Beatles deserve a lot of credit, but there are limits.

English Language Sayings

What follows is a list of sayings that are as old as the hills. (“Old as the hills” is one of the sayings in question.) Some of them make sense, but many don’t make any sense at all. Tacks are sharp, but who was it that thought that buttons were cute? Some are metaphoric. Rocks can be said to be dumb; doornails can be said to be dead. I hope that this is interesting to my English learner friends, among others.  

It’s possible that sayings like these were more in fashion in the old days, like when I was a boy. Language evolves, and American English has certainly changed in the interim. Maybe I’m being nostalgic.

Here’s the list that I came up with:

Hard as nails.
Older than dirt.
Healthy as a horse.
Poor as a church mouse.
Cute as a button.
Smart as a whip.
Dumb as a rock.
Ugly as sin.
Pretty as a picture.
Blind as a bat.
Quick as a cat.
Strong as an ox.
Old as the hills.
Dead as a doornail.
Clear as a bell.
Black as coal.
Bright as the sun. (For intelligence.)
Quiet as a mouse.
Sharp as a tack. (Also for intelligence.)
Thick as a brick. (Indicating a lack of intelligence.)
Right as rain.
Clever as a fox.
Clear as mud. (If not clear at all.)
Sleep like a baby.
Sleep like a log.
Hot as a pistol.
Cool as a cucumber.

I’m sure that there are a lot more. If you remember some that I’m forgetting, maybe you could leave them in a comment. 

(Be sure to read the comment. My friend Michael seems to have a great memory for these things.) 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Walt Disney's & Salvador Dali - Destino 2003 (HD 1080p)

Oh, just let go, have some fun! Dali is the very incarnation of fun, and Walt Disney knew a thing or two about fun, too.

Evidently this collaboration, begun in 1946, was completed in the late 90s with CGI fill ins. If those sorts of technical details harsh your mellow, maybe it'll ruin the experience for you. Didn't bother me a bit. Sometimes it pays to be a Luddite.

I'd never heard of this until a friend of mine shared it on Facebook. Not a Facebook friend, actually, but a guy that I've known since the 70s. I wouldn't have expected him to be the one to share this, because there are no power chords, no heavy bass, and almost no drums at all. But life will fool you. Some people do learn new tricks in their old age.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Are You Trying To Be Funny?

That’s a question that you’d hate to hear in a bar.

Sometimes I consider trying to be funny. Then I remind myself that trying to be funny is like trying to be cool. If you have to try, you ruin the whole enterprise. You’re either cool or you’re not. Same with funny.

(For the record, I am not now cool, nor have I ever been cool. Probably not funny either, unless you mean funny, you know, in the head.)

I had an idea for the blog that I discarded, because it seemed like the only excuse for it was an attempt to be funny. I try to entertain; funny is entertaining. It was a series of facetious questions. It occurred to me that people’s answers to the questions would be more entertaining than the questions, but I don’t have the kind of blog that gets a lot of comments. The questions in a vacuum would be sad. So I dropped the idea.

Here I’m just putting the idea to rest, throwing out a few of the sample questions.

Question: If you had to pick a movie to watch once a week for the rest of your life, which movie would you choose?

This seems like a tough choice until you realize that no regular theatrical release would be tolerable. The obvious choice is your favorite (redacted) DVD.

Question: If you were going to play a famous criminal in a movie, who would it be?

Age appropriate, please!

Question: (For a man) If you could be any famous actress for one weekend, who would you be?

Follow up question: Who would you want to have sex with?

This question, I think, works better for straight men than for anyone else.

Question: If you went to prison, which fashion icon would you prefer as your cellmate?

This question is probably rude.

Question: If you could commit one felony without being punished, what would you do?

Unless someone on your Death List is an urgent priority, the theft of a huge amount of money is probably the way to go here.

Question: If you could invite Bob Dylan to your house for one holiday (and he’d show up), which holiday would you choose?

Probably best to avoid religious or sentimental holidays. How about a Labor Day Picnic?

Question: Who wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or David Copperfield?

Warning! This is a trick question!*

Question: If Anderson Cooper were a baseball player, what position would he play?

Too easy. Second base. (What? You were expecting something rude? It’s a simple baseball question!)

Well, that’s it, folks! This particular idea for the blog is officially discarded.

*” 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or David Copperfield” is a book by Robert Benchley, who was effortlessly funny and never seemed to have to try at all. 

The Valentinos Everybody Wants To fall In Love

This SAR material is very strong and very smooth. You almost can't go wrong.

And a "nice job, fellows!" to the Womack Brothers, here masquerading as the Valentinos.

Sopranos Redux

We’re in a new condo over here, and for the life of me I can’t figure out the wi-fi TV. And my cable TV company, my useless cable TV company, which I was longing to dump anyway because I hate CNN, and the tennis grand slams and the NBA playoffs are a pretty shitty trade-off for paying them $720 a year, the cable tech came to move the service and decided after a half hour of examining every wire in the condo and scratching his head that it couldn’t be done. So I cancelled that. And the wi-fi, proca miseria, the menus on this thing have levels within levels and I can’t figure it out. Only about a year old, too, the TV. That’s a fast developing field. The new ones are an open book.

The DVD player, however, is superb. A Blue Ray Samsung, although I’m not quite sure what Blue Ray is.  So I looked through my boxes of DVDs and decided to watch season one of the Sopranos again.

This time around I hardly thought of it as a show about wise guys at all. This time I saw it as a show about terrible wives and mothers, with terrible children thrown in for comic relief.

Arty Bucco’s wife is bad. Tony’s wife is even worse. And of course Tony’s mom is the worst wife and mother in the history of television. Only her namesake on “I, Claudius,” that other Livia long ago, comes close. I cut Livia of the Caesars some slack, because she always had reasons for the terrible things that she did. Livia Soprano, on the other hand, does terrible things on a daily basis just for the shear, blistering hell of it.

I cried out to God a few times watching Carmella torture Tony over every little thing. This guy is some provider, too. He’s not the typical “good husband,” but he really brings home the bacon (and the capicolla). I love Edie Falco, she’s great, but Carmella Soprano is a very unsympathetic character. She’s happy to help out with the guns and the money, and she knows that sometimes someone has to go, and still she’s only too happy to spend the money. I call that ratification, making her as guilty as Tony. At all other times, however, she is complaining in that screechy voice.

At one point, Anthony Junior is in a snit and is acting out by playing awful music at high volume. Carmella starts screaming up the stairs, drowning out the stereo. “AJ!!! How can you play that music so loud when you know your father is sleeping!!!” Well, Carm, he’s awake now.

Poor Tony.

But Carmella is only the insult that comes after the real injury. His mom takes the whole bloody cake. Hold your entries! We have a winner! After a lifetime of jabbing all of the people close to her with exactly the right wrong thing to say, she tops it all off by trying to get Tony killed by his own homies. By his own uncle, no less!

The flashback scenes, where Tony’s dad Johnny and Livia are young marrieds and Tony and his siblings are children, are almost hard to watch. Livia says the damnedest things. She talks, yells, about smothering the children with pillows. She belittles Johnny, and she blocks his advancement. She nags Johnny even more viciously than Carmella nags Tony, and with the same constancy and intensity.

Livia is finally diagnosed from a slight remove by Tony’s psychiatrist, another failed wife and mother with a bitter ex-husband and a pain-in-the-ass son. The doc comes up with “borderline personality” for Livia. That’s a bad one. I looked it up, just to make sure that I wasn’t guilty myself. I’m way short of that, but for my own mom it was four corners, a direct hit.

Maybe that’s why I like the Sopranos so much, and why, for me, Tony is almost the only sympathetic character on the show. Our moms are in the same club. We’ve walked in the same moccasins. I watched, again, and again I felt the guys pain, I was genuinely sorry for him.

It’s a good show. I bought the season one DVDs years ago when a place I liked went out of business. A bootleg DVD place in my favorite mall. Rent got too high, I suppose. It was a clearance sale. I picked it up for about four dollars, the whole season on four DVDs. I love Thailand.

(I’ll deny that if the authorities are monitoring my blog. Maybe I just threw it in for local color!) 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sick and Tired - Chris Kenner

I played this song numerous times on my "English by Songs" radio show up in Phrae, Thailand, a long, long time ago. People made requests, like Brittany Spears or something. I just reminded them whose show it was. To paraphrase, "listen to this fella, 'cause that's all you gonna get."

After a few months people told me, "Khun Fred, at first I didn't like the music that you played, but now I like it!"

Witness the intercultural power of Chris Kenner!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Literary Criticism

I have a book, “The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry,” and I’m just reading through it again. It’s highly entertaining. Many of the usual suspects, but many names that I’d never heard before. I bought it years ago, and I wrote many notes in the margins. Notes like . . .

Being actually crazy may be an advantage.
I’m not sure about this, but she makes it work.
Tell us how you REALLY feel.
I like this guy but he can try too hard.
Wanting to be crazy cannot deliver insanity.
How do you spell poser, poseur? This is all an act, but she sure fooled a lot of people. Or is fooling.
It’s all self-mythologizing and desperate.
What a fucking joke.
As a poet, J.D. was a great actor.
Wow, I abase myself. This shit has melody, rhythm and harmony, brother.
Very self-congratulatory intro, but I like the poetry very much.
Self-conscious and not very good.
Woah, cowboy! Give them doggies a break.
All kind of cloying and precious.
All through this period there was a lot of self-conscious, pseudo-post-traditional piffle . . . D.B. comes to mind.
This has great rhythm; it’s a good read.
Ambitious, and suffers for it.
Oh, yes! On the ragged edge of narrative looking off into dreamland.
Back to earth she loses something and starts to sound like me.
This is great “out loud” poetry.
Not very good.
A little better, but still all a little self-conscious outsider wannabe.
Oh, please. Just be yourself. The Beats are dead.
My first favorite in the book. (Page 219.)
Read and learn, Grasshopper.
Cut-ups, probably.
Conversational and readable . . . is that a good thing?
An evidently famous two-bit St. Augustin, a self-aggrandizing and embarrassingly desperate hipster wannabe.
Way too pleased with himself to be either hip or cool.
Does it matter if any of this actually happened?
I like this guy. This stuff is playful.
Unpretentious and readable.
Flippant and unimportant and not funny.
Not very good.
This reflexive rejection of private property grows tiresome.
Get over yourself.
So what?
Suitably obscure.
I start out not wanting to like some of these poems. One like this, as I read it, it gets better and better.
I like this one very much.
Nice neutral tone. Droll.
This one is great! I think that I always discounted him because of his dull presentation. I should go and READ his songs.
This is terrible.
This worship of the drunken obvious must stop . . . it has never been cool to be a sloppy drunk in a vacuum.
Saved by the story . . . otherwise?
I like this poem very much – you can dance to it.
Very enjoyable, maybe there is hope.
Why do I like this poem? Naturalistic but deep.
Nothing could live up to this intro. The poem sure doesn’t.
It sounds good in the air but I don’t understand how the text dispersal improves the poem. (Except that it’s “modern,” the one thing that it couldn’t avoid if M. wanted it to.)
Silliness mistaken for poetry – infects the world with silly poison.
This is it, isn’t it? This is why we go on.
Do lots of poets do this kind of self-promotion? Or does (the editor) just like this kind of advertisement?
So impressed with himself, he is, at such length . . . the need to self-mythologize.
(Some Prison Poets)
Still living? “You are hereby sentenced to twenty years on death row.”
Thumbs down.
Good poem, but I hope he’s back in the can.
Country Club jail writer. Could be a good career move.
He’s pulling time, but it’s killing me.
Jailbird, I like this one. I have one of these too, “My Father.” Good subject, we all have one.
Jailbird, boring.

W.W. loves me more than most living persons, and has more confidence in me than does anyone else alive or dead. Thanks, Walt. I love you. 

The Detroit Cobras - Leave My Kitten Alone

Good cover of a Little Willie John song by a band that may or may not still be around. I discovered the Detroit Cobras on the old Napster before they killed it. Got it from the list of a person named "Soulphisticate," along with a lot of other great stuff.

Boy, I sure miss Napster.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Bangkok Taxi Drivers

Disclaimer: There are no complaints here. I love our taxi drivers here in my adopted city, Bangkok.

The Bangkok Post yesterday reported that the government is planning a crackdown on taxi drivers in our fair city. While the Thai government allowed that most taxi drivers are fine, they say that they are responding to a lot of complaints, mostly from foreigners but also from Thai people. The complaints center around being ignored while hailing a cab; the driver refusing to go to the desired destination; and the driver asking for a flat rate in lieu of using the meter. When you put it like that, it sounds like a big problem.

But if there is a problem, it’s rather a small one.

I have a special window on this issue, because I’ve actually driven cabs for a living. I did it for two years in New York City and a couple of months in Los Angeles, all at night. So I’m sympathetic to taxi drivers. Let the record show that I remain a very good tipper to this day.

I’ve lived in Bangkok for almost nine years now, and I take cabs all the time. I take multiple short rides almost daily, and I take long rides pretty frequently, too. Sure, I get ignored sometimes, maybe even with a wave off, but it’s rare.

Maybe the guy's on a radio call, but maybe it’s because I am Farang. Many cabs have radios; many drivers use their phones to get rides; and there are a few Internet services now where you can order a cab. So there’s that. And the Farang thing, Farang often want to go to high traffic areas like Sukumwit Road, or Silom. That just eats up time, and for a taxi driver, time is money. Also, most Farang don’t speak Thai. None of the tourists, anyway. That makes it hard on the driver. Maybe the driver has had bad experiences with Farang, I know that it happens often. So I understand.

There are also times when a driver tells me no, he ain’t going there. Several times a year I must go to the immigration office. That’s really far away, and it’s off the beaten track. When I go, I leave in the early morning, during peak traffic hours. It’s a tough ride. Sorry, but I’ve got to go. If I do get a refusal, again rarely, the next cab almost every time says, “sure, get in.”  I encourage them to take the motorway, where I will pay the tolls, and I tip them generously when we get there, but they don’t know that at the outset. Most of them, by far, say yes because it’s their job. Thais are very proud people. Whether they are selling you food or driving your cab, they really want you to be happy with the job that they do for you. (That’s why you can safely eat the street food in Thailand, not like some places.)

I also get the “no meter” thing sometimes. Again, rarely. If I’m alone, they just say, “200 Baht” or something, for a ride that I know will only make 80 Baht on the meter. If I’m with a Thai person, they might say, “meter . . . broken.” Speaking Thai comes in very handy when this happens. I’ve taken so many cab rides that I know what the fare will be within a few percent. “Up to you,” I tell them in Thai, “but I take this ride all the time and it’s 60 Baht, and that’s all you’re getting.” At that point they usually laugh and turn on the meter. At the end I give them a 15 Baht tip anyway. No harm in trying to gouge a foreigner. That happens in every big city in the world. I never did it myself, but I knew a lot of guys that did.

Actually, I’m very fond of the taxi drivers in Bangkok, and very well satisfied with the service that they provide. It’s cheap, for one thing, the rates have hardly changed at all for over ten years. And most of these guys are very likeable. Very often I have a riotous good time talking with them. It’s very interesting. Thai people in general love to talk together, and the taxi drivers are no exception. Many times, when the driver discovers that my Thai is okay, he is delighted at the opportunity to talk to a Farang. (Very few drivers can speak English at all, but that happens once in a while, too.) Speaking with a person who has a marginal grip on your own language is an art, and I can tell you that most people can’t do it. You must speak slowly and use simple words and constructions. That’s a lot harder than it sounds. Of all the people that I talk to, taxi drivers are about the best at keeping it simple and saying it slowly. They’re very sympathetic listeners as well. They fill in the tones that I miss and they can read the meaning in my often oddly phrased Thai. They’ve spoken to Farang before, and they know what works. This makes the experience a good lesson for me, and a real confidence builder, too.

So I hope that the government isn’t too hard on the taxi drivers. They’re talking about some pretty severe penalties, big fines and even jail for some things. These guys have been a big help to me for a long time now. They have helped me to get as far with the language as I have. I like them, and I wish them the best of luck in this uncertain world. In the spirit of St. Joseph, Jesus’s dad, who speaks for the working man in heaven, I bless them and call them friends. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Just as a point of reference, here's the hit. The great Ernie-K-Doe, singing an Allen Toussaint song. (See the recent post of this song by the Yardbirds.)

I do love the versions of these songs by a couple of the more talented English bands of yesteryear, but the originals usually cut them down to size. It so happened at the time that I was already a fan of New Orleans music, and the fact that the English bands covered the songs was something that drew me into fandom of the English bands. Then, I will admit, the English bands showed me lots of stuff that I had not been familiar with. In music, what goes around, comes around.

"Racist" toothpaste commercial

They refer to this as a racist commercial, but really, I mean really, it's as anti-racist as anything I've ever seen.

It mocks racism; it shows the hollow, knee-jerk core of racism for what it is: a snap judgment based on the merest showing of a racial difference, in total ignorance and total defiance of the facts.

The black athlete in this commercial is clearly the good guy, and the stupid mom is clearly the bad guy. She jumped to the wrong conclusion. Amazing, really. The mom is Thai, this is a Thai commercial, and the athlete is black, obviously a foreigner.

"Darlie" toothpaste was originally "Darkie" toothpaste. The logo was a minstrel show makeup'd black man in a top hat, with a giant, toothy grin. At some point, twenty or thirty years ago, even in Thailand that became untenable. So they changed the name to "Darlie" and dropped the image. That was progress, and this commercial was progress, too.

I give the company top marks for making this commercial in an obvious attempt to atone for their casual, racist past.

To me, Thai TV commercials are among the best in the world. Some of them are screamingly funny; others are just graphically brilliant; many are poignant little stories that often have nothing at all to do with the product that is being advertised. Like this one.

Thailand is a fascinating place. It may appear unsophisticated to many viewers, but deep, hidden sophistication comes into focus pretty quickly for anyone who takes the time to think a bit. I'm lucky to live here, and I hope they let me stay for a long time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Yardbirds - A certain girl

The picture accompanying this video includes Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, but neither of them played on this cut. It's from the first American release (LP) by the Yardbirds. The whole thing was in the can when Eric Clapton quit. He was replaced by Jeff Beck, whose picture was on the cover of the album. If I recall, one or two cuts had Jeff on them and the rest, including "A Certain Girl," featured Eric.

Lots of deadbeats on YouTube complaining about the model's dancing in this video. I think she dances just fine.

A Possible Reason

Several posts down there is a home movie that was shot in my neighborhood in New York. Made just seven years before I was born, it shows a world that is completely alien to me. In the accompanying text, I wondered what might have caused such a huge change. Maybe I have an idea. 

Let's use 1960 as the year I really got my wits about me. (I do remember things from the early 1950s, but it's all anecdotal and fragmented.) The film was shot in 1941. 

In 1920, the population of America was 100 million. 

In 1940, the population was 130 million. 

In 1960, the population was 200 million. 

By now, the population is 320 million. 

That is a staggering growth rate. Between the time the movie was made, and the time that I became really aware, 70 million souls had been added, almost doubling the population. 

So maybe it's possible that at some point during explosive population growth the societal rubber band cannot stretch anymore, so it just snaps. The ruinous changes that have occurred in America over the last thirty years may have been caused by the overloading of all systems simultaneously, everything from government to police to medicine to entertainment . . . everything. 

Plus, people are stressed out by the crowding. In 1920, even the big cities in America had a population density more like a small city in Kansas. (As if there were any other kind!) By now, it's more like the Ginza in Tokyo out there, and not just in the cities. The density, and the traffic, are murder everywhere. 

Long ago everyone knew everyone, even in the cities (by the neighborhood, of course). Even in the big cities, you probably knew the name of the cop on the beat. He was a regular fixture in the neighborhood. Now, nobody knows anybody else. 

It's true that the changes in the communications world have had a huge impact as well. From the onset of TV in 1948*, right on up to the triumph of the Internet and mobile phones. People have been driven into their own little worlds, and they no longer have a need to actually get together and do things in groups. One way or the other, people are more isolated and alienated than ever before. 

Yeah, the population. Where's that train going to take us? It's' still roaring ahead, full blast. When are we predicted to hit four hundred million? And what will happen then? 

I hope that all of you youngsters are ready for a wild ride. I'll be leaving y'all to do the worrying at some point. 

*Sure, there was TV before 1948. But between June and September of 1948 the number of TVs in private homes jumped from about 25,000 to more like 250,000. (Extra points if you knew that they all wanted to watch the Milton Berle Texaco Theater.) 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Performance Soundtrack : Randy Newman - Gone Dead Train

Not all of the sensitive boys and girls died young. This is a great song, from the soundtrack to a great movie, and most of the important personages are still with us.

That's Ry Cooder playing his ass off and Rands singing the song. Mick in the photo and the star of the movie (is Mick sensitive? I'm not sure).  Anyway, here's to the living.  Make the best of it while it lasts.

Lowell George (Little Feat) - China White

Oversensitivity can help a musician to achieve his musical goals, but it can also lay waste to his personal or physical life in the meantime. So many of our musical brothers and sisters have thrilled us in the meantime but ruined themselves along the way. Ruined or killed; they died; they died for our sins.

Well, thanks for doing the hard work, Lowell, and Jimi, and 'Trane, and Bird, and Dwayne, and, God knows, Johnny Ace, and Little Willie John, and all the rest. We're still digging your vibes. Your early deaths harsh our mellow, but we forgive you.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Helmetheads - What I Like About You (OFFICIAL MV) |

This is a Thai outfit that has a lot to offer. Talent and loads of enthusiasm. I like them. Great video, too.

(Hint . . . the kids in the vid ain't the band.)

They remind of me the Mummies. Reverential covers of great songs drenched with overwhelming sincerity and performed with lots of talent and some swing. I wish them luck. Music is a tough gig.

White Light / White Heat - Ralph Stanley

A great song has enough slack in the lyrics to allow for a variety of interpretations. Singers from different backgrounds bring different experiences and deliver different meanings. This fellow, with real emotion and subtle enthusiasm, is singing about something different altogether than Lou Reed.

1941 Marches On - in College Point, NY

Queens, New York City, was my point of origin, and College Point was the place of my boyhood. I lived there until 1972. This parade was filmed a mere seven years before I was born.

College Point is a small, working class community on the north shore of Queens, standing between La Guardia Airport and the Whitestone Bridge. It is surrounded on two sides by water and two sides by swamp. (At least it was until recently. They've filled in most of the swamp.) It was like an island, and that gave residents a distinct personality. Boys from neighboring communities gave us a wide berth, because we had a reputation for being clannish, serious and tough. (Not myself necessarily, but a well earned reputation in general.)

Even so, I watch this with a strange kind of Star Trek alternative universe feeling. Your reporter was becoming aware only ten years after this film was made, but I can tell you that nothing looked like this anymore. This is a much more organized College Point; it looks like more of a community. It looks a lot cleaner, too. What happened, I wonder?

Could it have been World War II and Korea? Fears of communism and the Soviets? The New Deal? The atomic bomb? Do you think that it was TV that tore up the old social contract? Comic books? Black baseball players? Something happened, that's for sure.

Nice of someone's grandfather to make this movie that then see that it was preserved all of this time. These old films are fragile, and this one looks great.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


You take fifty or a hundred showers in the new showers. You take fifty or a hundred dumps in the new toilets. You wake up a few hundred times in the new bedroom before it is what you expected to see when you opened your eyes. After a while, things are in their new places and you know how everything works. Only then do you feel at home in the new home. But it takes time.

The blog’s been quiet for a week or so because I was moving. Moving is a considerable dislocation for some people, and I’m one of them. That’s on top of the hassle of the move itself. Things are settling down okay, I’m happy about that. Another week or two and I’ll have my equilibrium back. Such as it is.

I should be remaining in this place for the foreseeable future, which at my age is also called, “the duration.” So maybe no more moving. That would be good. I like it where I am. I’ve got some interesting neighbors. Things are handy, things like my job, the malls, a couple of decent hospitals and a few good friends. It sure isn’t the future that I would have expected for myself. It’s not even a future that I would have chosen for myself, not especially. It’s a future, though, and anyone who has one of those is lucky.

Thanks, everybody, for your patience.