9. When I first noticed "Graphic Novels" a few years ago, I was confused. Sounds like another term for porn, doesn't it? But at its most inspired level, it's really an advanced comic book, which is stirring interest in reading for young people who might need some encouragement where literature is concerned. While some graphic novels are nothing more than converted comics--not that there's anything wrong with that, to quote a Seinfeld episode--others, in the adult department, are deeply into mythology and history, illustrating some very sensitive, adult issues. One, Daddy's Girl by Debbie Dreschler (Fantagraphics Books, 2008) is about child molestation and is difficult for me to take in. But I applaud Dreschler's commitment to calling attention to this horrendous issue.
8. Comment from parent who was asked by one of his children for help on the public computer when they couldn't do what they were attempting: "I don't know; make it happen."
7. Here's a terrific BBC series that's worth renting: Last Tango In Halifax. The remarkable "romantic drama" about modern life in Britain first focuses on the reunion of two characters (Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid) who haven't seen each other in sixty years. The series, now about to begin its fourth season, is so compelling because the quality of the writing and the depth of the actors (the best are probably the women who play the daughters of the couple, Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire) continues all the way down to the teenagers in this wondrous ensemble cast. Lancashire's performance is especially inspired, because she plays a late-blooming lesbian struggling with her family life, a pathetic ex-husband, work demands (the head teacher in a high-profile school) and much more--she can be warm or icy, down to earth or self-righteous--in a complex, moving portrayal. "Much more" applies to virtually every character in Halifax, since even the more vilified players show a humane side to their personality and those with obvious decency can have a dark side or mistake-ridden past. It's rich viewing, from creator-writer Sally Wainwright's top drawer scripts, to the unforgettable humor and believability of each situation. A stellar series--you'll be hooked.
6. The new album from Squeeze, Cradle to the Grave (Virgin Records), brings surprise after surprise. I read that this is their highest charting debut of any of their records of new material (the band debuted in 1978) and there's a reason for that: Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook's cutting, hook-filled songs--as odd and obvious as ever, in the same league as the tunes on their inventive and propulsive albums from the '80s, Argybargy and East Side Story. This doesn't happen for me much anymore; when I finished playing Cradle to the Grave through the first time, I fired it up again.
5. There's this homeless guy that comes to the library and watches movies all day, so I thought I'd hook him up with one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, The Intouchables (distributed by Gaumont, France). Released in 2011, it's actually a lot more than just humor, since it's based on the true story of a touching, strong bond between a paraplegic (Francois Cluzet) and his recently hired caretaker (Omar Sy), a man just released from prison. Since I noticed that the man was no stranger to movies with subtitles, I offered him this one. He's never mentioned if he liked it, or decided not to watch it, or that it just wasn't for him. For me, The Intouchables is sensational; there is at least one scene that Gina and I had to back up and watch again, because we were laughing so hard that we missed some of the dialogue.
4. Social commentator, progressive speaker and MIT professor Noam Chomsky came into my thoughts last week. I recalled some of the open meetings I attended around 2001 when KAOS radio was seeking a new general manager for a station--not to mention The Evergreen State College itself--known for its creative ideas. One of the GM candidates thought he'd impress the small crowd by tossing Noam Chomsky's name into his presentation. The problem was that he called Chomsky "Norm."
3. More library stuff (are you sick of it yet?): I used to get rid of business cards and other advertisements left on tables and desks by people trying to plug their businesses or even their ideals. I'd either throw that stuff away or recycle it--recently, I found a card with a religious message and wanted to chuck it as I would with anything else.
I came up with a better idea: I took it to the 220s (if you remember the Dewey Decimal System) and put it in a book about Christianity. My position is that no one's going to convert a person to any religion or philosophy (or sell items) in my library--they will have to preach to the converted instead.
2. If you're not getting the (Bob) Lefsetz newsletter about the music industry and other things, you should--if only to find out if your blood will still boil. And Lefsetz's comments about Los Angeles having the best FM rock stations in the '70s riled me up, as he discounted Detroit or places in Texas. Funny thing is, I heard '70s rock radio in Detroit and Austin, and it was often amazing. And I suppose it's like arguing apples vs. oranges (especially since I didn't live in California), but I couldn't believe Bob's criteria for what constitutes a great radio market: he said that LA was the best because it had five radio stations playing rock'n'roll then, so you could push the car radio button and hear something else if you didn't like the song currently airing. WTF! I wrote back and said that quantity doesn't override quality, and the fact that Detroit only had one or two knockout rock stations actually made me a better listener because I was part of a captive audience. Would I have given Little Feat or the Move much of a chance if there would have been a button to push and escape elsewhere? No. Lefsetz never prints my emails, but I finished strong, saying something like, "Did your favorite station in LA play a current song and follow it with a primal 1950s rock track by Bo Diddley? Mine did. But you probably have no idea--you had already switched stations."
1. The gentleman from New Orleans: So sad to hear about the recent death of the magnificent composer-producer-singer Allen Toussaint (1938-2015). A proud, soft-spoken man with a gift for arrangements and social commentary, Toussaint really connected the music of New Orleans to the rest of the world in the '60s and '70s and should be a household word. Part of the reason Toussaint was underappreciated was because he used his mother's name, Naomi Neville, for some of his songwriting credits. But everybody knows his songs, don't they? "Working In the Coal Mine" and "Ride Your Pony" (for Lee Dorsey), "It's Raining" (Irma Thomas), "Mother In Law" (Ernie K-Doe) "Fortune Teller" (Benny Spellman, the Stones, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, "Yes We Can Can" (originally with just one "Can"--Lee Dorsey, the Pointer Sisters), "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further" (Dorsey) "A Certain Girl" (K-Doe, the Yardbirds, Warren Zevon), "What Do You Want the Girl to Do" (Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Lowell George), "Brickyard Blues (Play Something Sweet)" (Maria Muldaur, Three Dog Night, Frankie Miller) and "Southern Nights" (Glen Campbell). It's an astonishing catalog. The icing on the cake is Toussaint's brilliant production on Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" (recorded with the Meters as the backing band) and punchy horn arrangements on the Band's Rock of Ages live album (especially "Life Is a Carnival" and "Chest Fever"). I've barely scratched the surface of what was a remarkable career--moments that touched the world. R.I.P.