Monthly Archives: December 2006

James Brown

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So sad about The Godfather of Soul, and especially sad that I never got to see him in person. So many of the greats that I grew up with and who shaped music as we know it today are gone now. As noted, I got a new turntable for Christmas, and it’s a beaut — really the turntable I should have had for the last twenty years. Such great sound. And one of the first records I put on it is one I haven’t listened to in years and years — James Brown Live at the Apollo, from 1962. It’s absolutely revelatory — the precision, the musicianship, the cleanness of the sound, and the earliest of funk. I don*t even know if it’s available on CD, and right now, I don*t care, ’cause I gots a new turntable.

So who else did I never get to see that I wish I had? James Brown, Johnny Cash. The original Who — I came very close to ponying up all the money I had and going to see them in Toronto way back when, but I didn’t, and Keith was gone by then anyway. The Beatles? Eh, you couldn*t hear anything at their concerts anyway. I’ve had chances at the Stones, of course, but I really don’t like arena shows at all.

So who have I seen through the years that really left an impression? Ray Charles, quite a number of times. Always amazing. Can’t count the number of times I saw the Ramones, and it was never less than great. Joe Jackson, who gave the best concert ever in the “Blaze of Glory” days. Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, The Kinks (and Ray Davies solo) have all blown me away. Aimee Mann, of course, is always amazing. The Cowboy Junkies stunned me with their live performance.

Ah, well, the legends may die, but vinyl will live on.

Random thoughts

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  • The Nutcracker doesn’t get old, not after 7 years and something like 14-17 performances. Not something I got at first, but once you’re into it, it’s just delightful and watching it over and over is not a problem. Which is good, because we definitely get to watch it over and over again.
  • Who knew Brian Setzer would have such a career?
  • Red eye reduction is not working. Not the camera kind, the real life kind. Oh, the misery of dry eye. I’ve had to back off the steroids, and it’s just not working without them.
  • Christmas is back on, as originally planned — lasagna on Christmas Eve, the family together on Christmas Day. I’m normally cool about change, but not with Christmas, for crying out loud!
  • I need a new driver’s license picture. The last one was taken fully bearded, and now, not so much. Not normally a problem, but it caused a trooper to give it the fish eye the other day (they check ID if you’re parking at the Empire State Plaza). The beard’s not coming back, so time for an update.
  • There is no snow anywhere, but we’re still scheduled for a ski day on Friday, dammit! I spent a million dollars on ski stuff this year, and if we have to ski on mud, we’re going.
  • I’ve had Sirius Satellite Radio for more than a year now. In that time, I have since listened to terrestrial radio exactly NEVER. I used to have to torture myself with local public radio as I drove around, but no more. Underground Garage rules my world, and Howard Stern unleashed on satellite is so far past funny. It’s hard to imagine how good it can be when people can talk the way that people talk.
  • Christmas anticipation is a little less intense when you get all your shopping done before Thanksgiving. What would normally be an insanely busy time of year is reduced to just incredibly busy, without the pressure. But the pressure is a big part of it.
  • No longer responsible for Christmas dinner, my intent is to make gunpowder plot punch (just google it, it’s on the BBC website somewhere) and Rachael Ray’s panettone bread pudding and consider my job done for the holidays.
  • My advice is to start drinking heavily. I’ll just watch.

The weekends are doing me in<

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/div>It ain’t the work, it’s the weekends. At least in December it is. So crazy busy lately. Friday night, got talked into going to rollerskating night at the elementary school, something I’ve never done before. I was happy for the chance to strap on some quads for the first time since I can’t remember when, and it was as orderly as an event featuring a school gym, countless children, and rental rollerskates can possibly be. If the PTO really wanted to raise money, they’d tape it and sell it, because watching hundreds of kids constantly hitting the deck doesn’t stop being funny.

Yesterday, running around, a birthday party, household chores and the Aimee Mann Christmas show at the Egg. Aimee was great — less of a blow-the-roof-off-the-dump approach than last time around, but a nice mix of her current Christmas stuff and a few songs from throughout her career. Grant Lee Phillips, an able showman, was there, as well as Rachel Yamagata — neither one was my cup of tea, but by building them into the show instead of presenting them as opening acts, there was a much nicer flow, there was no intermission, and things just kept on moving. Very nicely done. Today, two rounds of dress rehearsals and finally The Nutcracker itself, the late show at the Egg tonight. Somewhere in all this some laundry and housework got done.

Christmas is a little messed up this year. For starters, my mother is of the belief that she can just up and decide not to provide lasagna for dinner on Christmas Eve. She tried this once before, it may have been 1977, and there was a general revolt. But the crowds are smaller and perhaps more docile now than they were then, and she’s probably thinking she can get away with it. We shall see. And because of the shuttling of children, my sister is declining to do the Christmas day get-together, which is fine but which leaves me scrambling to figure out how to fill the day and feed the family. There may be a sudden repeat of last year’s Rachael Ray Christmas. In fact, the panettone is waiting to be made into pudding right now.

New Year’s Eve is even more messed up, as Albany has cancelled First Night, and I’m really not going to want to drive all the way to Saratoga. There’s a smaller schedule of entertainment during the daylight hours on the 30th, but that’s not the same, is it? Not sure I’m up for hosting anything, and we have an invitation or two, but still not sure what we’re going to do. (Of course, if I could, I’d be skiing on any and all of these days, but still no snow to speak of here in the Northeast.)

And in video news . . . .

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Not really big on videoblogs, or vlogs — more of a reader/writer, and watching college chicks babble just isn’t that entertaining to me. So I’ve been out of the Youtube loop. Then I accidentally learned that CBS posts some of the Letterman stuff there, so I was able to watch Howard Stern’s appearance this week (videotape’s a pain, and I don’t have TiVo). And then I started wondering what else was there . . . and it occurred to me to search for one of my all-time favorite comedians, Norm MacDonald. I was not disappointed. Bizarre appearances on Regis and the View are posted there, but best of all, his absolutely savage Daily Show appearance from earlier this year, just days after the death of the Crocodile Hunter. It’s so funny it hurts.


The one videoblog I did deeply enjoy was Amanda Congdon on Rocketboom. Now Amanda’s gone all mainstream, which means tighter t-shirts but no more throwing the script, and her new gig at ABC News is bound to bring me even more searches for “Amanda Congdon’s breasts.” It just will.

Vote!

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Vote for the Kennedy of your choice, but vote! Seriously, I’m pimping this pic for JPG Magazine’s “Embrace the Blur” theme — so show me some lovin’ clicks, folks, and I’ll remember ya when I’m famous. I promise.

Recital 358

‘Tis the season

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Victorian Stroll 127 Father ChristmasAs much as I love Schenectady (not quite my hometown but definitely the city I grew up with) and as much as I have grown to love Albany (my working place for the past five years) I must say that Troy is still the liveliest, most charming of the Tri-Cities, and never is it more charming than on the day of the annual Victorian Stroll. Once a year, the streets are closed, the shops are opened, and thousands (this year, perhaps two tens of thousands) of people converge on downtown, wander around the stores, boutiques, restaurants and historic homes. There is music and morris dancing, Father Christmas and Newfoundlands, more hot cider than you can possibly imagine, dozens of people in Victorian garb, and all kinds of wonderful things to do. But mostly it’s just an opportunity to mill around on an almost-winter day (and this year it was sunny and very warm), think about the Christmas season that is just beginning, enjoy roasted chestnuts and Christmas cookies, and take it all in. Unlike Schenectady, where the downtown is just starting to breathe again, and Albany, where all we have are bars and restaurants, Troy has a wonderful mix – boutiques, galleries, antiques stores, and of course the restaurants that have sustained Troy for years, but also a violin store, a piano store, little specialty shops, and even a new used record store – and who opens a used record store these days? You could ask the same question of bookstores, but there’s a great new(ish) bookstore now, too. With the Arts Center of the Capital District as an anchor in Monument Square, the redevelopment of the Stanley’s building just a few blocks away, you’ve got a very solid working downtown that should continue to grow.

Even without the stroll, it would have been one of the busiest weekends, ever. ALL of us had works on display in galleries this weekend – necessitating an unprecedented bout of framing last week. That was weird and cool. There was the usual shuttling for Nutcracker rehearsals. There was an eighth-grade dance, and an eighth-grade movie outing. There was a pancake breakfast and dinner out and last night there was just plain exhaustion. Another weekend like this one might just do me in.

’Tisn’t quite the season, by the way – it’s finally turning cold, but we’ve had NO snow whatsoever since a mild blanketing back in, when, October? Millions of dollars worth of ski equipment gathering dust in the garage – our home mountain, Mount Snow, is barely even open. Please bring me some snow, Santa!