Archive for the ‘Arts & letters’ Category

Dave’s not here … but Cheech is

January 27, 2021

“The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry?”

“Are you for real?” you ask.

“Does Howdy Doody got wooden balls, man?” I reply.

It’s no joke, ese — the vato loco half of Cheech & Chong has been collecting Chicano art for years, and soon some of it will be on display at a former public library in Riverside, Calif.

According to The New York Times, Cheech has already donated 11 works and plans to donate 500 more once storage is built for them. His holdings have been on display at more than 50 museums in the United States and in Europe.

Says Cheech: “We are going to make Riverside and the Riverside Art Museum the center of Chicano art in the world. And we’re going to bring the world to Riverside.”

Orrrrrrale, homes. No word yet on whether Sgt. Stedenko will be tasked with guarding the collection.

R.I.P., Claude Bolling

January 25, 2021

Not just another jazz album.

Damn, I don’t know how I managed to overlook Claude Bolling’s departure. He and Jean-Pierre Rampal helped spark my interest in jazz way back when.

I got in by way of what they called “fusion” — outfits like The Crusaders, Weather Report, Pat Metheny Group, Return to Forever;  individuals like Stanley Turrentine and Grover Washington Jr.; and so on.

Some classical and jazz purists turned up their snoots at this sort of thing, but I loved it. Being a flutist of sorts myself I instantly found a connection with the Bolling-Rampal collaboration, right down to the whimsical cartoon album covers.

Bolling himself seemed to have a playful nature, and he resisted attempt to categorize what he was doing musically.

Mr. Bolling’s compositions were sometimes described as “combining” jazz and classical music, but he had a different view.

“I don’t like the word ‘combination,’” he said in 1982 in an interview for The Syracuse New Times, a weekly paper. “This is simply a dialogue between two kinds of music. I have made nothing new. This has been going on for a long time.”

His music will do likewise, no matter what the snobs say.

The sky’s the limit

January 22, 2021

And the skies are not cloudy all day? Where’s the fun in that?

My man Hal Walter hasn’t been writing a ton lately. But when he settles down to it, he does a job of work.

His latest can be found over at Substack, a platform that helps free-range weirdos like Hal and me crank out whatever for a small fee. But you needn’t reach for your wallet quite yet — you can have a look around without signing up for a newsletter subscription.

I’m not certain that email newsletters are the way to go. Not for me, anyway. Unlike Hal, I’m fairly comfortable with the WordPress platform, and I’m not really interested in trying to make money off this little one-ring circus of mine.

Anyway, does anyone really need another newsletter cluttering up the in-box? That’s pretty much all I get anymore, or so it seems. I have to scroll a long way down the in-box to find an email from an actual human being.

Hal’s Substack presence is very much a work in progress — at the moment, it’s a blog without the email newsletter. But while you’re waiting on the mail, you might pop round to see what he’s nailed to the wall.


Not broken, simply unfinished

January 20, 2021

Walk this way.

I don’t fly the flag a ton. I know where I live; sometimes I’m happy about it, and sometimes I’m not.

Today, right after Joe Biden’s hand came off the family Bible, I moseyed out front and planted two flags, one for Joe, and the other for Kamala Harris.

I wish I’d had a third one, for Amanda Gorman. But we can’t have everything, not even in a country that’s already better than the one we left at noon today. Another hill to climb.

Goin’ down

December 31, 2020

In the loo and adieu for you.

Hoo-boy. Pee-yew. That’n looks like a double-flusher to me. Might have to break out the plunger. Or a stick of DuPont Extra.

But it’s gotta go, come hell or high water, and I won’t miss it once it’s gone.


We put an old woman in a home. My foot in a splint. My cat in an urn. And our lives on hold.

We’re alive to bitch about it, which has to count for something. [Insert thunderous sound of knocking on wood here.] Plenty of other people aren’t.

Also, I finally made it to Social Security, so, yay for me. Plus Herself remains on the clock in a real big way, so, bonus. We want for nothing. Call it a lamp so that we need not curse the darkness from beneath our designer masks.

It feels greedy of me to miss my cat. Running. Road trips. Hot springs. Random acts of shopping. Long bicycle rides. Stand-up comedy. My favorite non-alcoholic beer. Bookstores. Mexican restaurants. Living in a country that helped defeat fascism, not resurrect it.

You know. The little things.

Still, I miss them. I do. And I don’t expect to get a lot of them back just like that, with a simple change of calendars, or administrations.

Especially my cat. Not unless Stephen King gets involved, and that’s a bridge too far for me. Turkish v1.0 could be scary enough.

We already have plenty to be scared of, thanks all the same.

Nevertheless, here we are, on the threshold of a new year. That I am not optimistic is not helpful. Time to show the affirming flame. We must love one another or die.

What’s he building?

December 27, 2020

And we wrap up our Christmas 2020 bloggery with Tom Waits, who seems to have had the Music City Bomber on his musical radar back in 1999.

Spare (me the) change

December 24, 2020

Funny-looking reindeer around here.

When I was a greedy and impatient young pup my parents granted the opening of one present each on Christmas Eve.

Now I’m a grizzled old mutt and there is just one present under the tree, period. And it’s for the both of us, Your Humble Narrator and Herself.

Opening it this evening seems silly, especially since we already know what’s inside: an Apple TV HD. It is to replace our Apple TV (3rd generation), which no longer pulls down HBO Now, Now having been rechristened Max, as in Mad, which I am.

We generally enjoy an hour of TV with our dinner. But should there be anything worth watching on HBO Max, which lately seems as unlikely as finding a sense of honor and duty in government, we have to bypass our old Apple TV — though, oddly, it seems to work just fine with everything save HBO Max (happy holidays, AT&T, you miserable pricks).

Dig that crazy midget Xmas tree, daddy-o. And the cool wrapping on the lone gift.

The workaround involves booting up the even older Mac Mini, lighting a candle to the shade of Steve Jobs, chanting our Video Mantra (“TV Input, HDMI-1, Receiver Input, AV-1”), switching inputs on both TV and receiver, launching a browser (Which one? I never remember), and finally shrieking, “Goddamnit all to hell anyway!” and running right back to the loving tentacles of Netflix, sister of Cthulhu.

Tomorrow we will have the new Apple TV, so, yay, etc. Herself’s gift will be watching it. Mine will be setting it up.

This is less enthralling than it might have been long ago, in the Before Time. After 30 years of providing my own tech support for personal and professional gadgetry I’m having trouble working up any enthusiasm for wrangling a new comosellama just in case HBO, against all odds, comes up with another “The Sopranos,” “High Maintenance,” or “The Wire.”

I’m for sure not holding my breath while waiting for a new George Carlin special. Neither is George.

Who might ask: Is newer always better?

When it comes to bicycles I’m much more interested in friction shifting, rim brakes, and the nine-speed drivetrain than I am in the latest shiny object making the registers ring, when customers and product can be found in the same place at the same time.

I have an Apple Pencil for my iPad Pro, but when I sat down yesterday to draw a holiday card for the neighbors, I used my old analog A.W. Faber 3H pencil, a fistful of Sakura Pigma Micron pens, and a sheet of Strathmore 300 Series Bristol paper. And yes, the card was in good old black and white. (I thought of making a quick trip to the art-supply store for colored pencils, and then I thought again.)

Speaking of iPads, there’s a metric shit-ton of e-books on mine, but I notice I’m mostly reading real books lately. The kind you don’t have to plug into the wall.

This is just the yelping of an old dog who’s tired of learning new tricks, pining for a day when he not only didn’t have to keep stuff running, he didn’t even have to buy the stuff. It just sorta, like, grew there, under the tree.

But time passes and things change.

“Nothing endures but change,” as Heraclitus observed.

Izzat so? Well, spare me the change, you one-scroll wonder. And gimme some George, goddamnit. I already got too much stuff.

Happy birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven

December 17, 2020

Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler
(1820) Wikimedia Commons

OK, so, he was no Tom Waits, but still, credit where credit is due. The man made some music, as my piano teachers felt compelled to remind me whenever I groused that I wanted to play some modern rock ’n’ roll, not some dead old German dude.

The New York Times has a sampler here.


R.I.P., John le Carré (and George Smiley)

December 13, 2020

Two of the many John Le Carré books I’ve read over the years.

We keep losing George Smileys while the Karlas of the world dig in like ticks.

John le Carré, a.k.a. David Cornwell, wrote a couple dozen books before he finally set down his pen forever, and I read most of them. I especially loved the Smiley stories; in another life his rumpled little man with an eye for detail, plodding doggedly along in the shadows, could’ve been a newspaper copy editor, so no doubt I felt some kinship there.

And le Carré was none too keen on Adolf Twitler, who reminded him of the other fella, the original fascist gangster. Probably compromised by the Russians, too, he thought.

Speaking with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” back in 2018 he said he thought it possible that Il Douche “was taken into what I call a honey trap — that he had ladies found for him, and he misbehaved in Russia.” But the real trap, he thought, may have been laid by the orange nitwit himself.

“I think the kompromat, if it’s taken place, has taken place very largely through Trump’s own endeavors to raise money in all sorts of dark places,” le Carré said. “And together, all those efforts amount to a self-compromising activity, which the Russians have embraced. I think they have him by the short hairs.”

Le Carré raised his money the old-fashioned way, by working for it. His final book, “Agent Running in the Field,” was published in October 2019, when he was 88.

Birthday card from a Mad Dog in Albuquerque*

December 7, 2020

The last leaf on the tree. Well, not really;
we had to make life imitate art a little bit here.

A happy 71st birthday to Tom Waits. This particular autumn is taking a whole lot of leaves; I hope it won’t take him.

* For anyone who isn’t a Tom Waits fan — could such a person exist? — the headline riffs on the title to his song “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,” from the album “Blue Valentine.”