Archive for the ‘Arts & letters’ Category

Happy Mothers Day

May 13, 2018

Faces only a Mother could love.

This one goes out to all you mothers.

 

Bikes and books

April 7, 2018

The Soma Saga, canti’ model, en route to the Embudo Dam trailhead after a leisurely couple hours in the saddle.

Anybody who thinks pseudoephedrine sulfate isn’t a performance-enhancer should gobble a little Claritin-D 12 Hour before the daily bike ride sometime.

I resorted to doping yesterday as mulberry, ash and juniper transformed my mighty two-lane freeway of a snout into a narrow garbage-choked alley, and hijo, madre, what fun it was. I’d still be out there if I hadn’t run out of water and food.

It didn’t hurt that I was riding the Soma Saga. What a La-Z-Boy of a bike that beast is, especially the day after riding trail on the Voodoo Wazoo, with its low end of 38×28; that’s fun, too, but of an entirely different sort.

Si, mijo, ese es un libro real.

If the going gets steep on the Wazoo you just have to suck it up, snowflake. Stand up or get off. On the Saga, with its 24×32 granny, you can sit back and relax. It feels like there’s always another, lower gear.

When the provisions ran out I rolled home and ate a plate of leftover pasta with arugula pesto, some nuts and fruit.

Then I finished reading “The House of Broken Angels,” by Luis Alberto Urrea. He name-dropped Thomas McGuane, Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury in a New York Times Q&A, and acknowledged Jim Harrison and Richard Russo in the book itself, so yeah, goddamn right I was gonna read him, and in actual analog-book form too.

The story reminds me somewhat of “The Milagro Beanfield War,” by John Nichols, in that every Spanish-speaking reader in every border town in Estados Unidos and Mexico alike is going to say of it, as an Alamosa bookseller did to me of “Milagro,” “This book is really about us, you know?”

I got my copy used at Page 1 Books. Go thou forth and do likewise.

R.I.P., Robert Grossman

March 20, 2018

One of Robert Grossman’s famous covers for The National Lampoon.

Illustrator and caricaturist Robert Grossman has stepped away from the drawing board for the final time.

He created some memorable covers for National Lampoon and other magazines, and took strong whacks at a wide range of politicos, among them Dick Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In a 2008 interview with The Times, asked whether caricatures of presidents and presidential candidates were undignified. Grossman replied: “Undignified? Virtually anything has more dignity than lying and blundering before the whole stupefied world, which seems to be the politician’s eternal role.”

That same year, in an interview with The Tennessean, Mr. Grossman explained the edge illustration had over other forms of journalism.

“Reporters labor under the terrible requirement that what they report must be true,” he said. “Opinion writers need to endure the less stringent demand that what they opine be at least plausible. Nobody ever expects what cartoonists do to be either true or even plausible. That’s why we’re all as happy as larks.”

Your Friday Funk

February 23, 2018

Leave it to Atomic Dog George Clinton to bring the Friday Funk.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, asked what he thought of white artists performing black music, Clinton replied in part:

It’s all one world, one planet and one groove. You’re supposed to learn from each other, blend from each other, and it moves around like that. You see that rocket ship leave yesterday? We can maybe leave this planet. We gonna be dealing with aliens. You think black and white gonna be a problem? Wait till you start running into motherfuckers with three or four dicks! Bug-eyed motherfuckers! They could be ready to party, or they could be ready to eat us. We don’t know, but we’ve got to get over this shit of not getting along with each other.

‘expression is the need of my soul’

February 20, 2018

Archy and Mehitabel, like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, have transcended their times and speak as well to today’s world as they did to their own.

This tickled me no end when I read it in bed last night.

Archy and Mehitabel live! And in them, so does their creator, Don Marquis, who started cranking out tales of their lives and times for his newspaper column back in 1916, two years before my father was born. George “Krazy Kat” Herriman, whose work is likewise deathless, provided the illustrations.

Another writer I revere, E.B. White, wrote the introduction to the book at right. In it, he recalled how Marquis suffered for his craft and eventually, like Archy the poetic cockroach, fell exhausted.

I don’t recall when I first stumbled across Archy and his feline shadow Mehitabel, but I must have been quite young. I was reminded of them many years later when I first read the collection “Essays of E.B. White,” and rushed out to buy me some Marquis.

Christ, he was good. As White notes in his introduction, the work is among a handful of books by American humorists “that rest solidly on the shelf.”

“It is funny, it is wise, it is tender, and it is tough,” he added.

And it holds up. If you don’t already have a copy, get one. You’ll find it marvelous, even if you’ve never thrown yourself headfirst at the keyboard, as have Archy, Marquis and I.

Not insane! (Well, maybe a little)

February 13, 2018

A Firesign sampler.

Thanks to Steve O’ for sending me on a little trip down Dr. Memory Lane with his mention in comments of a KCRW podcast that looked forward, into the past, at the Firesign Theatre.

I first stumbled across the Firesigns in high school. The source of the contagion may have been my friend Bruce Gibson, who was something of an audiophile, or perhaps Dan Stephanian, who was an actual disc jockey.

The Firesigns struck me like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist, and if I hadn’t planned to be a cartoonist I might have gone into radio instead of newspapering. Their skit “The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye,” and far too many impromptu amateur performances of same, would provide an entrée into friendships that, like herpes, have proven impossible to eradicate.

We saw “Martian Space Party” at the Rialto Theatre in Alamosa way back in 1972, and even the actual Firesigns themselves in concert at the old Ebbets Field in Denver, circa 1977 or thereabouts.

One of our college hovels bore the sign “Ed Siegelman’s Ground Zero Equal Opportunity Apartments,” a FT reference from “Dear Friends.” And when I was assigned to build an actual show as part of a radio-production class I created an all-Firesign homage. Music, news, weather, sports and commercials, all were pulled from their tattered casebook.

Phil “Nick Danger” Austin himself even popped around the blog to try, Python-like, to squeeze a dollar or two out of the Bozos and Bozoettes who loiter around my drugstore, drinking chocolate malted falcons and giving away free high schools.

Phil’s gone now, dear friends, as is Peter Bergman. But last fall the surviving Firesigns, Philip Proctor and David Ossman, got together at the Library of Congress to perform and discuss the troupe’s work.

The Library has all their albums. I only have most of them, an oversight I intend to correct.

 

En pointe

January 9, 2018

Let’s dance.

Blogging is a sort of ballet, a piece of performance art originally done largely by amateurs.

But what if you don’t feel like keeping yourself on your toes?

Happily for me, I have you to keep me hopping. But my man Hal Walter has a smaller, less boisterous audience over at Hardscrabble Times, and he’s been wondering whether the game is worth the candle.

We have similar professional backgrounds, Hal and I. And we both dove headlong into the so-called “gig economy” long before it was cool and as a consequence have wives who outearn us six ways from Sunday.

But we find ourselves in wildly different situations at the moment.

Hal rattles around the rarified boondocks of Crusty County, Colo., whilst I reside in the tony suburbs of the Duke City. Hal keeps burros; I keep cats and what Herself claims is a dog. Hal mostly runs, and occasionally rides; I do it the other way around.

And Hal has an autistic son, while I do not.

That may be the kicker right there. A kid “on the spectrum” can be a real time-suck, and something of an unexpected and ongoing expense, and so Hal naturally feels compelled to devote the bulk of his attention to (a) his son, and (2) feeding the beast that dollars up fastest on the hoof.

This would not be his blog, in case you were wondering.

I hate to see it lying fallow, and say so now and again. But Hal replies that feeding the beast and shoveling up the mess afterward turns his brain to mush and leaves him with little left to say for free at Hardscrabble Times.

Where little is said, there are few to listen, and if the house is full of empty seats when the lights come up, well, shit, why bother to put on your red shoes and dance the blues?

So here’s my question: What brings you to a blog like mine or Hal’s? How many of these shops do you visit while making your daily rounds and what do they have on tap? Is it all about the words or do some folks do compelling photos, audio and video as well?

And if you like something you see on this blog or any other, do you comment, and then spread the word elsewhere?

Holler back at me in comments.

Brown shoes don’t make it

December 5, 2017

Roy Moore? Nope. Roy Less, thanks all the same.

She’s my teen-age baby
She turns me on
I’d like to make her do a nasty
On the White House lawn

It’s Day Two of Zappadan 2017.

Nickel and dimed

December 3, 2017

Bare trees, gray light; oh yeah, it was a cold night.

We’ve a cold front moving in, dagnabit. The Lord must be punishing us for voting Democrat.

Well, never fear. The Republicans will keep us warm by rooting through our pockets, looking for spare change to lay on real-estate developers, oil and gas operators, multinational corporations, banks making payments to offshore subsidiaries, and religious schools.

You’ll recognize the headline as having been lifted from Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book of the same name, which took an extended look at the millions of Americans slaving away full time for poverty-level dough.

Jessica Bruder has done something similar with “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.” She follows a cadre of rootless neo-Joads, 21st-century tinkers and gypsies crisscrossing the country in their “wheel estates” — beater RVs, vans and cars that also serve as their homes — in search of grueling, low-paying jobs.

It’s a fascinating read about Americans who are literally struggling to make a go of it. “A man who couldn’t make things go right could at least go,” as William Least Heat-Moon wrote in “Blue Highways: A Journey Into America.”

And another quote about going: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Our “leaders” would be well served by a little more meditation on interdependence and a little less study of the Book of I’ve Got Mine, Get Yours.

R.I.P., Tom Petty

October 3, 2017

Adios, TP.

Yesterday was a sad day in so many ways, not least because of the departure of Tom Petty. He was just 66.

The fake news was a wee bit early in declaring that he had left the stage; Tom managed one more short encore before taking his final bow. He always seemed like a regular dude to me, a craftsman devoted to doing his best in a culture that often settles for much, much less. And he just kept on doing it, right through a massive U.S. tour to celebrate his 40th anniversary as frontman for the Heartbreakers.

His music, so clearly influenced by The Byrds, has been part of my mental playlist for the better part of quite some time, starting with “Damn the Torpedoes.” And I expect that he’ll get a warm greeting from Roy Orbison, George Harrison and the rest of that ever-growing, ever-better Next World Orchestra.

Here’s one of my favorites — “Louisiana Rain.” Damn the torpedoes — full speed ahead.