Previous month:
June 2014
Next month:
August 2014

music friday: sixties pop

Might as well keep the mix discs coming. This one’s called “Sixties Pop”, and as was true of the others, I have no idea when I created it. I also have no idea why I decided to let Neil Diamond represent men.

  1. The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”.
  2. The Crystals, “Da Doo Ron Ron”.
  3. The Shangri-Las, “Leader of the Pack”.
  4. The Ad-Libs, “The Boy from New York City”.
  5. Neil Diamond, “Cherry Cherry”.
  6. Lesley Gore, “It’s My Party”.
  7. The Dixie Cups, “People Say”.
  8. The Shirelles, “Baby It’s You”.
  9. Betty Everett, “You’re No Good”.
  10. Neil Diamond, “Kentucky Woman”.
  11. The Dixie Cups, “Iko Iko”.
  12. Lesley Gore, “You Don’t Own Me”.
  13. The Chiffons, “Sweet Talking Guy”.
  14. The Dixie Cups, “Chapel of Love”.
  15. Neil Diamond, “I’m a Believer”.
  16. The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back”.
  17. Betty Everett, “It’s in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)”.
  18. Lesley Gore, “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”.
  19. The Toys, “A Lover’s Concerto”.
  20. Neil Diamond, “Thank the Lord for the Night Time”.

catching up, part two

More TV quickies:

The Leftovers. OK, it’s been three episodes now, I better say something about it. The premise is intriguing (the world, two years after 2% of human population disappeared, Rapture-like). There is a good mixture of talent associated with the project, both behind the camera (Damon Lindelof of Lost, Tom Perrotta who wrote the novel on which it’s based, Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey of Friday Night Lights) and on screen (Justin Theroux, along with many TV-recognizable names like Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, and Michael Gaston … not to mention Liv Tyler). Thus far, it is an uncompromising series … it’s not easy to like, it’s not clear they care if you like it, and if you wonder if they’ll ever explain what the hell is going on, remember Damon Lindelof worked on Lost. The third episode even took a stylistic change from the first two, which is pretty early for such shenanigans. I’ll stick with “intriguing” for now.

Masters of Sex. Season Two begins, and it’s at least as good as it was before. Masters and Johnson continue to turn themselves into human pretzels as they try to convince each other they are not in love, just fucking for science. Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan make the characters believable.  And I hear Sarah Silverman is going to show up at some point.

The Strain. Fairly loony horror thriller, like The Leftovers if the creators actually wanted to entertain their audience. It’s got Guillermo del Toro behind it (along with Chuck Hogan), and that’s pedigree enough for me. The cast is most semi-known “that guys”, although there’s a hobbit running around, too. (Who knew that Sean Astin was 43 years old? Heck, his mom Patty Duke is 67!) You don’t have to wait forever to figure out what The Strain is about … it’s about creepy, scary stuff, and who cares if it makes no sense.

 

Meanwhile, the latest edition of 24 concluded this week. It was more of the same … the only reason it wasn’t tired old news is that we’d had a break of a few years, and there were only 12 episodes instead of 24. Jack Bauer was still Jack Bauer, the main bad guy changed several times, many many people died, Jack saved the day. There was some fun casting … not only did we get the return of Chloe O’Brian, but there was Lady Stark from Game of Thrones, Chris Partlow from The Wire, and Yvonne Strahovski as Jane Bauer. Nothing new, but we checked in every week. Grade for 24: Live Another Day: B.

Still to come at some point: I actually read some books.


catch up

How did the World Cup impact my life? I went to one movie and one play and one baseball game, sent my regrets to a couple of invites, and watched 64 soccer matches. I also missed a lot of blog posting. Correction: this blog suffered, but I managed daily posts on my World Cup blog, some of which I’ll link to at the bottom of this one.

So, time for a quick TV catch up.

Emmys: Tatiana Maslany didn’t get nominated, so there’s nothing more to say.

The Bridge started Season Two. I gave Season One a B+, but in retrospect, I probably liked it more than that, and I’m glad to see it on the schedule again. This is a quickie catch up post, so nothing detailed, but if you haven’t seen it, Season One is a worthwhile streaming binge, and Season Two is off to a good start.

Rectify is back. Fittingly, I haven’t said anything about it yet … I never got around to writing much about Season One, either. It is a much better show than that suggests, and I promise to write about the S2 finale, at least. In the meantime, with the caveat that it is among the slowest-moving series ever, I highly recommend it.

Longmire keeps rolling along. I guess everyone should have one series that harks back to earlier TV times. This is a solid show that tends to pile up on the DVR. But I’m never given up on it.

I haven’t said anything yet about The Leftovers, an intriguing show but one that I think needs a few episodes to sink in. I’ll get to it eventually.

Lots of new stuff began last night, which we postponed so my wife could go to bed. Season Two of Masters of Sex is reported to be excellent, while The Strain is getting mixed reviews, not on quality issues (most reviews are positive enough) but on the seeming lack of importance. It’s supposed to be a “good summer show”. Looking forward to this one.

OK, life is back to some approximation of normal. For those of you who ignored my World Cup blog, here are a few highlights:

June 25, “Greece

July 1, “Belgium-United States

July 2, “Names

July 4, “Quarterfinals, Day One

July 8, “Brazil-Germany” and “Aliens Land, Chaos Ensues

July 10, “National Stereotypes

July 11, “Has the World Cup Been That Good?

July 13, “Germany-Argentina


music friday: euphoria

Following up on last week’s post, here’s another mix-disc I made long ago. No idea what the date is … there are no recent songs to help in that regard. Clearly I was going for the late-60s FM underground radio vibe.  One thing I notice in retrospect: all of the 17 artists are white, 16 are men, and the one woman was known at the time primarily as Paul McCartney’s protégé.

  1. Moby Grape, “Omaha”. No, it’s not called “Listen My Friends”.
  2. The Grateful Dead, “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)”. That I loved this song was evidence I wasn’t a hardcore Deadhead.
  3. The Youngbloods, “Euphoria”. Cover of a Holy Modal Rounders song.
  4. The Sir Douglas Quintet, “Mendocino”. Fine career, first as an ersatz British Invasion band, then as part of the SF Bay Area hippie movement, and later as the Tex-Mex legends they always were. Augie Meyers forever!
  5. Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band, “Chevrolet”. I never know how much history to stick into these little blurbs. If you want more about this band, ask in comments, or check out Wikipedia.
  6. Dave Van Ronk, “Romping Through the Swamp”. Got it from Peter Stampfel, who borrowed the melody from a 1928 recording by Cléoma Breaux and Joe Falcon. This comes from an odd album by the consummate folkie, where Dave got a band together (the Hudson Dusters) and played something as close to rock and roll as to folk.
  7. Phil Ochs, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”. He called himself a “singing journalist”. Later, he released an album of new songs called Greatest Hits, with a picture of Ochs in a gold lamé suit on the cover.
  8. Donovan, “Epistle to Dippy”. For many people, “Dippy” describes Donovan. They need to listen again.
  9. Tim Buckley, “I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain”. An album we played over and over. And over.
  10. Them, “Mystic Eyes”. Van Morrison before he was Van Morrison.
  11. John Mayall, “Room to Move”. Perhaps appropriate that this harmonica workout comes after “Mystic Eyes”.
  12. Mary Hopkin, “Those Were the Days”. No, Paul McCartney didn’t write it. It was a Russian song from the 1920s, melody by Boris Fomin. Gene Raskin added English lyrics later.
  13. Thunderclap Newman, “Something in the Air”. Written for the movie The Magic Christian, which featured Ringo. Their guitar player was Jimmy McCulloch, who later worked as part of Paul McCartney’s Wings. Sorry, no John or George trivia, but the band was championed by Pete Townshend.
  14. John Lennon, “Cold Turkey”. Here’s John! (Sorry, no George.) The artist is a misnomer, since this was released under the name “Plastic Ono Band”. The video is nicely synced, but the band on the video is not the band on the record, which was John, Eric Clapton, Ringo, and Klaus Voormann. I actually sang this on stage once … a band of my friends that I would later join wanted to play it, and I was the only one who knew the lyrics. So I got to spend the last couple of minutes moaning like I knew what heroin withdrawal felt like.
  15. Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My Way Back Home”. Eric Clapton returns! OK, it’s more Stevie Winwood’s song.
  16. Fleetwood Mac, “Albatross”. Not your Buckingham-Nicks Mac. The video is misleading in some miniscule ways. I don’t think Peter Green is using the same guitar he used on the recording, which wouldn’t matter except they are syncing to the record. Also, Jeremy Spencer is playing slide in the video, but I don’t think he was on the record. None of this matters to the large majority of people who only know two of the five people in the video as part of Fleetwood Mac.
  17. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “East-West”. You could write a book about this one song. Dave Marsh practically did in his liner notes for a hardcore fans’ CD, East-West Live, an album that runs for close to an hour and features only three tracks, all of them live versions of “East-West”, the last one running 28 minutes. There’s also a Mike Bloomfield website that includes a very lengthy examination of the song.

just keep throwing

Five years ago today, I attended my first, and so far only, no-hitter. It was Jonathan Sanchez going against the Padres.

Sanchez had shown some promise early in his career, striking out a batter an inning, but struggling with control problems. After going 2-8 to start the 2009 season, he was sent to the bullpen. But after a couple of relief appearances, he was back on the mound for at least one start when future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson had to drop out with a shoulder injury.

He struck out 11, did not walk a batter, and only allowed one base-runner due to an error. His father was at the park … he flew in from Puerto Rico, and apparently had never seen his son pitch in a major-league game.

Attendance was just over 30,000 … the Giants weren’t selling out every game by that point. It was the last year I had season tickets, so I was there. It was the first no-hitter by a Giant in more than 30 years.

A look at the Giants starting lineup will take fans back a bit. Aaron Rowand hit leadoff and played CF … his catch in the ninth inning helped save the no-hitter. Randy Winn hit second and played RF … he left in the second inning, I forget why, and Nate Schierholtz took over. Third-baseman Pablo Sandoval hit third, and first-baseman Travis Ishikawa was the clean-up hitter. Then came Edgar Renteria (SS), John Bowker (LF), Juan Uribe (2B), Eli Whiteside (C), and Sanchez. Whiteside was only catching because regular backstop Bengie Molina was with his wife in the maternity ward. It wasn’t a close game … the Giants scored four in the second inning on their way to an 8-0 victory. The suspense was all about the no-hitter.

Sanchez had his best season in 2010, when he helped the Giants to the World Series, picking up the win in the final game of the regular season to put the team into the playoffs. He went downhill rather rapidly after that, but he’ll be remembered by Giants fans for that no-hitter, and for 2010.


a hard day's night (richard lester, 1964)

A Hard Day’s Night has been re-released in a 50th anniversary version that has been nicely restored. We took the opportunity to see it on the big screen. It was an interesting crowd … theater couldn’t have held more than 100 people, probably less than that, and it was maybe 3/4 full for an afternoon bargain matinee. I didn’t check everyone’s ID, but I’d guess the vast majority of the people in the audience were alive when the film was originally released. The print is gorgeous, the sound crisp, the movie as good as ever. When we did our Fifty Favorite Films series on Facebook, I chose A Hard Day’s Night at #42, so I’ve written about it fairly recently. I’ll cut-and-paste here.

In the meantime, Salon ran a couple of good pieces on the re-release. Andrew O’Hehir talked about its place in movie history, and Luke Epplin did an excellent job of breaking down how Lester created the claustrophobic feel that permeates the film:

The subtext of “A Hard Day’s Night” is that the Beatles have become entrapped by their success, confined to a series of interchangeable interior spaces broken up only by live performances, mad dashes into chauffeured vehicles, and inane interviews with the befuddled press corps. It’s a glimpse of Beatlemania from the inside — more tedious than exhilarating. The film exposed a central irony of the Beatles: They were always on the move, but their movements were increasingly restricted. They traveled from one exotic locale to another, but each new place looked just like the last.

Here’s what I wrote for Facebook:

Before A Hard Day’s Night, rock and roll movies fell into two basic categories. There were the cheap exploitation films that stuffed as many rock acts into the flimsy plot as possible, and there were Elvis movies. Elvis showed promise in a few of his earlier pictures, but by 1964 he was already reduced to Kissin’ Cousins (and, to be fair, Viva Las Vegas, which wasn’t as bad as most of them). Beatlemania meant that the Beatles were prime candidates for a quickie pic designed to milk the pop culture moment before the kids moved on to something new. So the budget was set at just over half-a-million dollars, and the director’s chair was handed to a TV director with only two features on his resume, a sequel to The Mouse That Roared, and one of the rock and roll quickies, It’s Trad, Dad, which featured Chubby Checker, Del Shannon, Gary U.S. Bonds, Gene Vincent, Gene McDaniels and more.

He had also directed the Oscar-nominated short The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. It was a plot-less gag fest, with joke piling on joke in a surreal fashion. It was this short, more than anything else Lester had done, that offered hints of what would become A Hard Day’s Night.

For A Hard Day’s Night, Lester and screenwriter Alun Owen gave the producers what they wanted: plenty of Beatle songs, with lots of close-ups of the lads, attached to a minimalist plot about a day in the life of the Beatles. But they were also up to something greater, and the Beatles turned out to be the perfect cast. Owen spent time with the group, forming easy-to-recognize stereotypes that felt precise (John witty, Paul cute, George shy, Ringo Ringo). The dialogue was fun, and Lester pasted over everything with a frenetic editing style that mirrored the frenetic lives of the four mop tops.

The result was a movie that convinced even grownups that these Beatles were A-OK. It didn’t hurt that the music was great (the U.K. album A Hard Day’s Night remains the best of their career). Lester and Owen captured the Beatlemania moment, and turned an unappreciated genre (pop musical) into a work of art. After A Hard Day’s Night, it was a lot harder to sit through a typical exploitation cheapie.

My favorite scene happens to also be Roger Ebert’s, the concert scene at the end of the film that climaxes with “She Loves You.” Ebert calls it “one of the most sustained orgasmic sequences in the movies.” He’s right on target.

#550 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 10/10.


jim brosnan

One of the fun things about the Baseball-reference.com website is that they solicit contributions by selling pages of the site. The price varies from $2 annually for an unknown player to … well, lots for a Hall of Famer. I sponsor several pages … some for other people, they make a good gift. Many of these are understandable to anyone who knows me … I sponsor the page for the 1982 Giants, Mike Krukow, and the like.

I also sponsor the page for Jim Brosnan. You get to add a short message … this one reads “For The Long Season and Pennant Race”.

Brosnan had a nice major-league career as a reliever and spot starter, nine seasons with four teams, pitching in the 1961 World Series with the Reds. What he was known for, though, was two books, The Long Season and Pennant Race, which told the inside story of the life of a baseball player, a decade before the more notorious Ball Four. The books were mild in comparison to Bouton’s classic, but they were also the first of their kind, and they had a pretty big impact. I certainly loved them at the time (I was 8-10 years old or so). I picked them up again a couple of years ago and they were still enjoyable.

SABR has a fine page about Brosnan which can be found here.

Brosnan died last Saturday, June 28. He was 84.


music friday: american rock

While going through the remnants of my CD collection (I haven’t copied them all to the hard drive yet), I can across a mix-disc I called “American Rock”. Seems like a perfect day to recall that playlist. I don’t know the date this was made. Music seems like mid-80s, but I have a hard time believing I have a 30-year-old homemade CD. Makes me wonder if it was originally on cassette and I copied it to disc for some reason.

  1. R.E.M., “Driver 8
  2. Cruzados, “Motorcycle Girl
  3. Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Look at Little Sister
  4. The Blasters, “Marie Marie”. Their first album was called American Music.
  5. Jason and the Scorchers, “Last Time Around
  6. Oingo Boingo, “Weird Science
  7. The Del Fuegos, “Don’t Run Wild
  8. X, “Burning House of Love
  9. The Call, “The Walls Came Down
  10. Wire Train, “Last Perfect Thing
  11. The Motels, “Shame
  12. The Cramps, “Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?
  13. ZZ Top, “Legs
  14. Van Halen, “Jump
  15. The Grateful Dead, “Touch of Grey
  16. The Romantics, “Talking in Your Sleep
  17. Tommy Tutone, “867-5309/Jenny”. Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, submitted a batting order yesterday that, if listed by position, read “8 6 7 5 3 0 9 …”
  18. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “I Love Rock and Roll

Bonus quiz: I’ve seen three of the above artists in concert. Name them.