"Your name is Heidi? I have a cousin named Heidi--and she's a girl, too!"
If I ever needed an alias, it wouldn't be Heidi, or even Choo Choo Charlie. I'm going with Bob Diddley.
My favorite conversation between two young people at the library recently:
"Your name is Heidi? I have a cousin named Heidi--and she's a girl, too!"
If I ever needed an alias, it wouldn't be Heidi, or even Choo Choo Charlie. I'm going with Bob Diddley.
Got a kick out of this bumpersticker:
"Born OK the First Time!"
More Random Thoughts (because I feel like I've got ADD lately)...
Upon the death of Robin Williams a few weeks ago, I wondered if Dead Poets Society (Touchstone Pictures) would hold up after all these years. It's been #1 on my all-time list since its 1989 release, but since it's been at least ten years since I viewed it, I had to question whether or not it would still move me. Turns out that I was more thrilled and shocked by Dead Poets Society than ever. I'm a sucker for almost any movie about coming of age and rejecting conformity, and Williams and a fab ensemble cast turn in some remarkable performances--the film is still a wonder. I excerpted the audio of a classic scene to air on my radio show back in August. It's the scene where Williams instructs his young students to rip an "introduction to poetry" section out of their textbooks. Indeed, "this isn't about laying pipe--it's about poetry." In a nutshell, the beauty of life. There's something ironic about that now. Williams will be missed for a long time to come.
I look for movies that are honest and emotional, and was more than charmed by 2013's Frances Ha (IFC Films). It's the story of a 27 year old woman (Greta Gerwig) struggling to make it in New York; she is fabulous because she brings a complex character to life, one full of youthful energy and mistake making, dealing with a lonely streak and a deep commitment to her best friend (played by Mickey Sumner). The movie was shot digitally, and then de-colorized to black and white; it's a stunning presentation. And the script, written by director Noah Baumbach and Gerwig, is everything you remember about finding your feet and not-quite maturing yet: It's profane and innocent, silly and cutting, and a whole lot more. Someone referred to Frances Ha as "just above Mumblecore," which is a lame, trendy term--not to mention an assessment that just doesn't hold up.
The Seattle Mariners are still in a pennant race, just behind Oakland and KC for a wildcard birth, but it's not so great to be a baseball fan in the Northwest these days.
Ten years of mediocre to poor baseball have produced a lethargic fanbase when compared to the World Champion Seahawks. Recently, I was listening to a Mariners game and midway through, the Seahawks pre-game show cut off the baseball game. When that happens, you have to move your ESPN radio setting to a crappy conservative station in order to hear the rest of the Mariners game. It's ridiculous--you suck, ESPN! You should make Seahawks fans--not Mariners lovers--switch to the other station; NFL fans will lap up anything. Scads of people wear football shirts in my locale, very few baseball. I found a good looking Mariners shirt at Goodwill but there was a little hole on the backside of the material, so I'll have to keep searching.
If you could slap someone who's an inventor, who would it be? Back in the '80s and '90s, I would have liked to have slapped the person who came up with the CD jewel box; drop the damned thing, and it's useless. Nowadays, I would yell at the inventor of the new-fangled car alarm, the one that beeps the car horn when people lock their auto and walk away from it. Why am I subjected to that noisy crap?
I was asked if I'd like to choose some music for a display at the library where I work! There's a little sign that plugs my show and there are three shelves to put up some discs that library patrons can checkout and take home. So far, they've gone for Derek & the Dominos' Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (Eric Clapton's finest hour by a mile), Joni Mitchell's Blue (slightly better than a few of her other best records), Ron Sexsmith's Retriever and The Exciting Wilson Pickett. I have other stuff ready to restock the display, such as The Buena Vista Social Club (the DVD, since we no longer have the album).
A final note: I overheard two parents and their son in the movie section of the library last week. They were trying to find him something for him to watch, and kept badgering him about what he wanted to learn. The couple insisted that he have a goal, make something of himself, and not melt his mind watching a bunch of garbage that other children watch. That might be a good parental strategy for young students close to college age, but I looked around the corner and saw that this kid was about 12 years old; "let him be a kid," I thought. Neither parent let up. "Son, tell me what you're interested in!" demanded the father, getting more intense. I could hear the boy answer, kind of sheepishly, "pirates."
You might know that I haven't had television since last December--in some ways I miss it, but in others, not at all. I'm reasonably satisfied with the Mariners' radio coverage and check in with them almost every night--yet I long to see a game in person, or even on TV.
Earlier this summer, I voiced a scripted line in a radio ad for a charity softball game at Dream Team Park that the Seattle Seahawks' Malcolm Smith was part of. Looked up the address and I knew the street, but where was Dream Team Park? I couldn't summon the location or get a mental picture of what the place looked like.
I finished my Census work early one evening and decided to catch a couple of innings of whomever was playing at the field (not far from where I was working) where I used to watch my stepdaughter Natalie play fast pitch softball twenty years ago.
It was fun to be there. High school aged kids were playing hardball and one team had a left-handed catcher; hadn't seen that since Little League, when my friend Denny Wnuk played for one of the better teams in the league. Rather than a dirt pitcher's mound, the field now uses two large pieces of artificial turf on the small hill, laid over each other like a plus sign, so that was different.
Different kinds of signs in 2014 as compared to 1994, too. One said: "No Sunflower Seeds"; another, "No smoking--smoking allowed in cars only." And then, just as I was about to leave, I glanced at the highest-placed sign there. It read: "Dream Team Park."
The world is so cruel.
Only this week did I learn that my friend Dave Amara (1964-2014) passed on June 19th.
Some of my longest running relationships with friends, family, co-workers, etc. include several people who share the same first name, and this Dave was younger than any of them, so I am especially shocked and saddened. He was a true friend, a beautiful person.
We stayed connected from the first time we met (1986 or early 1987) until fairly recently, when he called me on the air at KAOS. The phone call might have been no different than usual, except that Dave was going through a difficult stretch. Perhaps I could commiserate with him because I too know about struggling to keep or attain a good job, about family strife, and what it's like to be a loving father. Although I became a parent long before Dave, I always learned something from him. I would visit him at his home when I traveled from Washington to Michigan almost every summer (1994-2010) and witnessed how much he loved his children during the more recent get-togethers.
He was crazy about the British band Badfinger, and a few years ago did a radio special with WCSX/Detroit's John O'Leary on the group. I hope that is archived somewhere.
Needless to say, my radio tribute to Dave this week is a set of Badfinger tunes.
Dave was pals with Joey Molland, who joined Badfinger in 1969 when the Iveys split and morphed into their more celebrated incarnation. Since Joey has been been playing the oldies circuit for many years now, and it's not known for huge revenue, Dave would pick him up at the Detroit airport--and once he did an incredible favor for Joey. Molland was trying to either get to Canada or get back into the states and realized he didn't have his passport. I probably don't have all the details right, but it went something like this: Joey's wife Kathy (now deceased) overnighted the passport to Dave from the Molland home in Minnesota and Dave hurried it to the Windsor-Detroit border (Windsor, Ontario is the true "South Detroit"), enabling his friend to enter, or re-enter. And I don't believe this great act of selflessness had anything to do with idolizing a rock'n'roll star, either. Dave would have done the same for anyone he cared about.
One of the coolest memories I have of Dave happened during the dregs of my radio career. I had to do a remote broadcast for WBRB one June (possibly from New Baltimore, MI) during the hell that is known as Fishfly Week in Michigan. Those awful insects with wings (which live only 24 hours--or a week, depending on which encyclopedia you read--after they exit the larvae stage) stick to everything in sight: your clothes, your skin, your car, buildings, your dirty soul. The dead ones eventually end up on the ground and crackle as you step on them; no avoiding that, as they simply pile up, everywhere. Dave hung out with me at that broadcast for a long spell--he may have even helped me pack up the radio equipment when that ridiculous night was finally over.
When WBRB folded in early 1990, Dave left the funniest message on their answering machine, impersonating the voice of a senior citizen. He said, "The Voice of Macomb County has been silenced forever!" I've tried to simulate that tone many times, never getting close to how zany he made it sound.
He was cool enough to support my sometimes struggling bands over the years, often joking about how our main singer didn't get the opening line correct when we played Badfinger's "No Matter What." We always had so much to talk about, and last night, I found the vinyl of the Rutles album he gave me. It brought back a rush of memories.
The unforgettable Dave always signed off his emails to me with "keep believin'." I miss you so much, my wonderful friend. I hurt for everyone who loves you, which includes myself. You have always made me believe in the power of friendship.
Some random thoughts...
Just seeing if I can catch your attention with this headline--seems like it's been ages since I've blogged. The title refers to those Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln books that big mouthed Bill authors. I almost want to keep an open mind and read O'Reilly's take on American History, but...would you?
We are nearing July 1st in my home state since 1993, Washington, and the county plastic bag ban is about to go into effect. Recreational pot is legal, plastic bags are not. Reminds me of ten years ago when someone blogged how much the world has changed--that (then) the greatest rapper (Eminem) was white and the greatest golfer (Tiger Woods) was black.....Dennis McDougal has written Bob Dylan: The Biography (Turner Publishing, 2014) and he stole a line from me! Well, probably not, but I've been saying, "In Bob we trust" for years on the radio, and here it is, in print. I suppose you could say the same about those other Bobs, Wills or Marley. Meanwhile, McDougal needs to correctly spell Stevie Ray Vaughan's surname in the next printing.
If I ever get in a band again--it's been six years since I've played drums in a show and I really miss it--how about Ex-Trollops for a moniker? Well, it's better some of the other names my bands have used (Anyway, Possession, the Hush). I liked the last name my pals Tony, Bill, Chris & I came up with, the Distractions, but it turns out that lots of other bands used that name. If only we could have used a search engine back in the 1980s to check on that.
Inducting Linda Ronstadt into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame recently, Glenn Frey talked about playing in Ronstadt's band before his own taste of fame. Said Frey, "We were working on a style of music none of us had ever heard before. Two years later, people called it country rock." Come on, Glenn! Rick Nelson, the Byrds (who were heading in a country direction even before Gram Parsons was added to their lineup), and probably some hippies in Austin (say, Shiva's Headband) were there long before you, pal. Some of those Eagles sure think highly of themselves.....Can't figure out why people walk around like zombies downtown checking their texts and the net while moving in slow motion. Doesn't the stimulation of being in a town or city matter more? Or being alert? Playing music through headphones makes more sense than this frozen state.
How busy is the library I work in? It's number two in the system of 27 Timberland branches, and I'll describe it this way: sometimes the aisle I need to work in has a person or persons in it, so I'll use another, and then another, and then another, to go around them.....A sobering thought: I overheard a caretaker at the library talking to the person she's responsible for--a woman in a wheelchair. Caretaker: "I wouldn't leave and forget about you." Woman in wheelchair: "Yes, you would."
Finally, I've avoided reviewing Mark Lewisohn's epic bio, The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1--Tune In (Crown Archetype, 2013) because I've covered so many others. Lewisohn has done more research on the Fabs than anyone else, partially because he has annotated their reissues and compilations, etc. The great flaw of the book (only the first of three books has been issued, 900+ pages, ending in 1962), as you can imagine, is the overkill of the incredible details. I swear, Lewisohn can tell you the exact amount of steps one of the Beatles needed in order to catch a bus from their home. But there is lots of new information I hadn't heard before, and my favorite bit comes from December 1958, where John, notoriously blind as a bat, relayed to Paul about something he saw when leaving Forthlin Road late one night without his glasses. John told Paul that he saw on Mather Avenue "some mad people sitting on their front porch, playing cards at one o'clock in the bloody morning." The next time Paul went past, "he looked for himself, and it was an illuminated nativity scene."
The most beautiful sound I've ever experienced in my lifetime doesn't come from music, believe it or not.
It's coming home from work and hearing a tiny voice from the back of the house. And it's just one word: "Daddy!"
I am never going to forget that.
I admit to not being very kind to Seattle Mariners radio announcer Aaron Goldsmith, now in his second year with the ballclub.
Years ago, when reading a "helpful tips" broadcasting article authored by a radio consultant, something really struck me: that the "e" (as in "et cetera") and "i" (as in "in")
possess completely different sounds, and should be not interchangeable. Fortunately, I was raised to speak that way, so imagine my level of intolerance for Goldsmith, who repeatedly says the batter, "hits a long drive to cinter" (not "center") and that the Mariners are, "playing good definse tonight" (not "defense").
It annoys me greatly that an announcer who pronounces the "t" in the last name "Barton" with jarring emphasis is somehow too lazy to pull his jaw back a tiny bit more in order to say, "friendly confines" instead of, "frindly confines." But he does, and I wrote him about it last year. No response.
Yet Goldsmith did something really cool last night, as he prompted the engineer back at the radio studio in Seattle to drop in the recorded station ID, as stations are required to do at the top of every hour. When AG called for the ID, nothing was heard but crowd noise from the stadium; the person running the soundboard was either distracted or sleeping.
So later, when Goldsmith mentioned the names of the small staff of broadcasters on hand working the Mariners-Angels game, he said the board operator (who was likely an intern) was, "running a tight board back at our studios." It could have been a little jab aimed at the mistake, it could have been for the purpose of encouragement, and it could have been a nice way to let management know that the person in question was basically doing his work well despite that goof. Methinks it was all three--quite clever.
Mariners radio listeners have really missed fan favorite Dave Niehaus, who died
in 2010--Niehaus was a terrific storyteller the way Ernie Harwell was in Detroit. For the 2011-2012 seasons, Seattle used a rotating radio cast rather than replacing the late Niehaus outright, and I often enjoyed it.
My favorite radio moment from those years was when Ken Levine--besides working for the Dodgers, Padres and Orioles, Levine was a screenwriter for "Cheers," "The Simpsons" and other TV shows--was calling a tremendous catch made in the outfield. Uncharacteristically, he couldn't find the right phrase to convey to the listener, but that's what made it really fun. Said Levine: "If any superlatives about that catch would come to mind, I'd be using them right now!"
A N Y W A Y
People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
LOVE THEM ANYWAY
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
DO GOOD ANYWAY
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow.
DO GOOD ANYWAY
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them.
HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU'VE GOT ANYWAY
--from a sign on the wall of Shishu Bhavan, the children's home in Calcutta
(That one is for my mom Shirley, who passed on June 5, 2010. She is still my
inspiration; at least 50 percent of my foundation comes from her)
Perhaps I shouldn't get too self-congratulatory about reaching the 20 year mark at KAOS-FM with my Retroactive show on April 14th, since it was just four years ago when I got to that point at my place of employment and had the rug pulled out from under me.
But free form radio was something I'd wanted to do since I was a teenager and I can't describe how fulfilling it is every week to play almost anything you want to play while finding a way to balance what is aired. I have special rules about rotating my artists in order to keep the show from sounding like a personal jukebox. Can anyone tell who my all-time top ten favorites are, based on what hits the Retroactive airwaves? Doubtful.
I feel the show has depth because I'm lucky to have lived in three different areas of the country and musically, I have a vivid memory of what made those places so special. Coming from the Midwest, the bedrock of my long-running show was inspired by the great 1960s AM (CKLW, WKNR) and FM (WABX) stations that lit Detroit up back in the day. I got to Texas in 1973 and didn't understand that folkie/country thing at all ("What is this 'Cosmic Cowboy' crap?," I wondered, as somebody named Pete Brown and another person played a bunch of songs for my fellow incoming students at Texas Lutheran not long after we first arrived).
Thankfully, I found some fabulous stations in South Central Texas (KRMH, "Karma" in San Marcos, KLBJ/Austin, and even KEXL/San Antonio--KOKE was supposed to be extraordinary, but I could never tune it in unless I was driving 50 miles north to Austin) that positively fueled my radio listening, not to mention the rock column I wrote for the college's weekly newspaper for four years. Austin radio, God love them, played more Little Feat, Freddie King and Bonnie Raitt than I ever heard in Detroit. Those three stations, while in tune with the early '70s "Progressive Country" movement to an extent, refused to be defined by that sound. And I refused too, explaining to my Michigan friends that "Texas isn't just country music"; in much the same way, I needed them to know that I wasn't at TLU (then TLC) studying to be a minister--not that there's anything wrong with that, to paraphrase the Seinfeld program.
Just before I left Michigan for Washington state in 1993, I found out about two trailblazers from Tacoma, the (Fabulous) Wailers, and especially the Sonics, who compare favorably to Detroit's proto-punk pioneers the MC5 and the Stooges. I try to get something on the air from a Pacific Northwest band every week, and not as many artists from my other regions of residence, because the Northwest is where I live.
Put simply, I am still having a blast doing my Saturday program. There are many colleagues, mentors and more that have helped me attain what I feel is a very good radio show, familiar sounding yet not predictable. There are too many of you to thank, but I will mention two this time: My fellow KAOS progammer, Steve McLellan, and my loving wife, Gina. Back when I got kicked in the teeth after giving my all to a job I'd had for twenty years, I thought maybe I should give up the show and concentrate on finding new employment. Steve and Gina were among the first to say that quitting KAOS would be a mistake, because my soul is in there. Thanks to them, and to everyone else who has aided me along the way. It's too late to stop now.
PS--My first time on the air at KAOS was right before Retroactive began. I was subbing on a program called Have It Yahweh. And of course, someone phoned in to say that I was making fun of God by using that moniker. "It's not my show!," I told them.
PPS--The best phone calls I've received? One time, a listener said that he had moved away from Olympia for several years, came back, and was glad to hear I was still at good old 89.3...Another time, I had Yoko Ono on and the phone box lit up. "Uh oh, here comes a nasty call," I figured. Yet it was a completely different type of response: "I love Yoko! Is that from Fly or Approximately Infinite Universe?," they asked. That is so Olympia.
Addendum (KAOS Volunteer Appreciation Banquet, May 17th): Gina did the most loving thing for me this day. She had a special card made up that had pages from my battered, 20 year KAOS notebook with a maroon-colored cover printed on one side--under my hand-written "Chuck Berry," for instance, the numbers listed say that he was played on shows numbering 1, 12, 20, 24 and so on. The card's flipside was blank, and she snuck around at the banquet (while I was getting drinks, talking to someone in the corner or whatever) and got several KAOS programmers to sign the card and congratulate me on 20 years. What a really beautiful gesture. Thank you, Gina.