Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Bob Dylan at Agganis Arena, BU, Nov 16, 2017

Cecelia and I were lucky enough to see Bob Dylan at BU's Agganis Arena last week. We grew up in different places but we both grew up liking Bob Dylan. We met at BU. So it was right and just. And I will try to properly recall thin's here. (Above you see him playing at Tony Bennett's 90th birthday late last year but, if you can imagine the band outfits as white, you get the same picture we saw, at least on the slow crooner numbers.)
Mavis Staples opened the show and her voice is still strong. I'd be wrong not to mention. She put out a pretty good vibe that had optimism and resistance in it. Very useful this particular week.
For his part, which was the big part, Bob is really a trip, and I think he has a bit of the put-on thing going on sometimes, but it seems like good fun mostly. I think he tries in his Neverending Tour to recreate the feel of some show somewhere in some Neverland place.
I know parts of it made me recall when we saw him at Worcester's War Memorial Hall in the early '80s, or when I used to go to CYO dances as a highschool lad, or what I imagine it must have been like for swing era bands hitting a bunch of old train connected vaudeville towns in the East or Midwest, and Rod Serling at every whistle stop. That's cause he and the band wore uniforms (white long tails), they played a spectrum of music (what a great band!), and it had a bit of old show biz ramataz throughout.
His voice is kind of shot, but it mostly worked, and wasn’t hard to get used to it. He is touchy about getting having been criticized when he is at least as good as Tom Waits and inarguably better now than Leonard Cohen.
I'd have to qualify some of the stuff as Unrecognizable. But just as many were invigorated by their re-imagining. I guess it would be hard to do so many shows and do songs the same way. Cecelia and I saw a PBS show about John Coltrane the evening before, which was all about 'making it new' - two very different artists, but there is a connecting thread in there.
Did I say the band was great? I'd count them as good as The Band. Cecelia couldn't agree, because "The Band had Levon Helm". And there is no argument there. I'd point out that bass player Tony Garnier has been with him for over 20 years at this point. Wikipedia tells me the lineup is the same as The Tempest -(less that CD's guest appearer, David Hilgado).
Bob Dylan — Vocals, Piano
Tony Garnier — Bass Guitar, Double Bass
Donnie Herron — Pedal Steel, Banjo, Mandolin
Stu Kimball — Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
George Receli — Drums
Charlie Sexton — Electric Guitar, Fiddle
You know how The Band tried to do that Waltzy stuff on the Last Waltz? These guys do it better. They can play like guys at Capital Studios in the small combo days, and do rockn roll like Little Richard, Roxy Music, the Beach Boys, whatever they want. But the Night They Drove Old Dixie Chicken? No, I don't think so.
In fact, there was a heaping helping of material from Dylan's Tempest record - the last original material studio recording he released.
The songs that I liked best on that (Roll on John (about John Lennon) and Tempest (about the Titanic)) he did not do - but he sure made me want to go back and get closer to the stuff on that one. Worth digging in to!
When he did his Franks Sinatra stuff, it was sort of with a sidewise chuckle (at the end he did what had to be an Elvis pose). And they were over before you knew it and he made it back to the PNO. From time to time at PNO he would stand like Jerry Lee or Little Richard (he only either played piano or sang solo - no guitar, no harmonica). They'd turn the stage lights off between every number and the musicians would do some semi-violent tuning up. I think Berthold Brecht had a name for the effect. Google it. My meter is ticking.
You may, (if you ah from Woosta) say Jack "you ah wooly wehd" or (if from elsewhere) "Jack you are an impossibly die hard Bob Dylan fan." I am not going to argue. I am looking at a turkey in the fridge, and am torn between stuffing and dressing. The set list follows with some comment.
A word about the Agganis Arena. It's on Commonwealth Avenue on the site of what was a National Guard Armory when I got to town. Just a block or so from the site of old Braves Field, and the Warren Spahn diner. Its named after Harry Agganis, who is the greatest athlete in the history of Boston University. His was from Lynn, which is between Boston and Lowell, an All-Merican - his nickname was "The Golden Greek" and he played two sports. He was drafted by both the Cleveland Browns and Boston Red Sox, and went with the Red Sox. In his second year with team he got pneumonia, came back to play, and then had a pulmonary embolism and died, at 26. No dressing that up, it's pretty sad stuff.
1. Things Have Changed - Very good rendition
2. It Ain't Me, Babe
3. Highway 61 Revisited - Reminded of Jerry Lee, or Little Richard. Done as hard driving blues as at Woodstock or in Johnny Winter interpretation
4. Why Try to Change Me Now (Cy Coleman cover) - Frank Sinatra style, crooning, cradling mike and mike stand. Less than 2 minutes.
5. Summer Days - starts out as Cajun (Creole? Zycdeco?) blues style with fiddle - and then it morphs.
6. Melancholy Mood (Frank Sinatra cover) Crooning, cradling mike and mike stand. Less than 2 minutes.
7. Honest With Me - this was done in a rock n roll style not so far from Beach Boys (Dance, Dance, Dance) I felt like I was at a CYO dance.
8. Tryin' to Get to Heaven
9. Once Upon a Time (Tony Bennett cover) -Touching, like Tony did it.
10. Pay in Blood - I'd say this was Unrecognizable, but never got familiar with it in the first place. On this one the band really did a wild work out - which reminded me of the time (mid-'80s) we saw Roxy Music at the Orpheum, of all things
11. Tangled Up in Blue - done as a blues but otherwise Unrecognizable
12. Soon After Midnight
13. Early Roman Kings - I think I waved my bandana at the end. Lyrics include "I aint dead yet/ my bell still rings. Just like those/ early Roman kings."
14. Scarlet Town
15. Desolation Row - Exquisite. Strange lyrics over haunting calypso
16. Thunder on the Mountain - This sounded like surf music to me, and included a Wipe Out style drum solo, that also gave a fell of a CYO dance. [Shout out to Alicia Keys! Everybody!]
17. Autumn Leaves (Yves Montand cover) - Astride, as if Elvis met Frank, and yes the leaves were falling like mad outside this particular evening as winter and rain started to take hold. This was like a slow dance at a CYO dance.
18. Love Sick
19. Encore: Blowin' in the Wind - totally different treatment. But very musical. And those lyrics still kill.
20. Encore: Ballad of a Thin Man - Recognizable. The whole band takes a bow.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunnyland At The Keys

Glad to include this song by my old Mugar cadre mate David Hofstetter. It tells the tale of the Boston music scene back in the days when we used to stay out late! Dave was a giant help on The Sunnyland Blues book, the Just You and Me record and more. He was not just our official photographer, he was also East Coast promo man for Proud Truth Publishing.Come with us now to those fabulous  days of yesteryear. I love that Dirty Water!

Sunnyland At The Keys

By David Hofstetter

At the Tam and at the Channel
In black silk and in red flannel
The music burrows deep into your brain
Hubert Sumlin and Roy Orbison
And a whole lot more of them
Just one listen and you'll never be the same

And the crowd is up and dancing
Lots of sweat, lots of romancing
It's July and the AC has broken down
But there's still cold 'Gansett
And the effect is nearly tantric
On the couple in the tux and the wedding gown

And Sunnyland at the keys
He's making me believe
That the blues - it's true! - can really set you free
Every field shout and holler
Every thump and loosened collar
Gives the crowd another taste of sweet relief

At the break at the next table
There's a gasbag spreading fables
Trying to get two girls back to his place
Says he drummed last year for Mayall
They call that a total fail
'Cause they know lately Mayall's only using bass

And if you take another "T" branch
You'll wind up at the Hillbilly Ranch
And up on stage there's Mr. Sleepy LaBeef
He's a mountain of a man
With a baritone, goddamn
That can make your heart vibrate just like a reed

Across from Fenway, there's the Rat
So if you got a Mohawk or a tat
Lou Miami will rock you to your core
When the barkeep yells "last call"
And you thing you've heard it all
Lou'll blow your mind with a To Sir With Love encore.


Down on Boylston, there's Paul's Mall
And you can haunt its hallowed halls
With Sonny, Monk, Mingus, and Sun Ra
All the greats they do come by
So while you groove to Groovin' High
You'll forget the blizzard right outside the door

Out in Somerville, there's the Zircon
And if your driving skills need work on
You can try the rotary in Union Square
If you make it out alive
There's a chance that you'll survive
James Montgomery's blues punching through the air

And I did it all with you, love
Forty years, my brilliant she-dove
And there ain't a day that I don't wear your ring
Save us a table in the sky
I'll be there by and by
And I'll kiss your eyes when the band begins to swing


           Sunnyland Slim, Eldora St., Boston, circa 1978 - Photo Credit: David Hofstetter

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The objective

Spring Quality lights up fall day: The 2017 Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct Ozone Park Oval

Photo Credit Joe Labozzetta / NYRA.

OZONE - Nov 11 - The wind held promise as shadows deepened on green turf and Aqueduct ground crew prepared for the 1 3/8th Mile Grade 2 Red Smith Stakes at OZONE PARK, N.Y. Saturday. As many as 12 thoroughbreds were expected to contest the event on the turf. I expected a slow early pace followed by some diligent closing. We got that -- if not a winner.

On paper the race seemed to augur a conflict between some high-class visitors (Messi, Money Multiplier, Hunter O'Reilly, Oscar Nominated - together responsible for over $4.8 million in earnings) and some talented but less vetted locals. The visitors may have had more confirmed class, but they'd been through long campaigns that put their conditioning in question. As far as speed went, Money Multiplier with many established 100+ Beyers had and edge. Pace, again, appeared likely to be slow or moderate, and a stalker would seem to have better chance than late runner. I estimated a Beyer figure between 95 and 100 would do it.

The selections here were 10, 3 with 3, 5, 7, 9 10.

I could not pick between Get Jets and Call Provision on top (the former had slightly bested the latter in the Sept 24 ungraded Cole stakes at Belmont). Underneath, I wheeled each of them along with Spring Quality, Oscar Nominated and Hunter O'Reily. I then waited with anticipation for the Red Smith Stakes, on afternoon when most of America was watching football. Last year's winner was one of my favorites, Bigger Picture, who won this year's United Nations Stakes, but trailed in last week's Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. But back to the Red Smith Stakes…

This race is named after the late great sports news writer, who entered the world as Walter Smith. He sort of inherited the mantle of Damon Runyon, though a fair bit more modern. He came from the era when boxing, baseball and horse racing were the American sports pastimes. I used to enjoy his New York Times columns into the 1980s. Words that flowed and stories that held. Here is an excerpt of some of his writing...

This is the week when dear little old ladies in Shawano, Wis., get to know about sports figures named Spectacular Bid and Flying Paster. Spectacular Bid and Flying Paster are thoroughbred race horses, and there are vast and sinless areas in this country where they and their like are regarded as instruments of Satan 51 weeks a year. Then comes the week of the Kentucky Derby, and sinless newspapers that wouldn’t mention a horse any other time unless he kicked the mayor to death are suddenly full of information about steeds that will run and the people they will run for at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May. In cities all over the land stenographers invest their silver in office pools, in cities and towns and on farms the sinless old ladies study the entries and on Saturday almost everyone tunes in on television.

And now, tuning into YouTube, we go to track announcer Frank Imbriale...

OZONE - Nov 11 - The golden leaves of Autumn eternal were sent a whirl as November chilled in earnest and they held the Red Smith Stakes at OZONE PARK, N.Y. Saturday. The winner by ½ L was Graham Motion's Spring Quality.

The results: 7-10-3

Memories of Peter (4) was allowed to set a slow first half-mile fraction of 51.08. That type of laggardness is par for the course these day in turf routs here.  Memories faded to fifth, but close to Money Multiplier the favorite, who had vied somewhat for the early lead.

The pace picked up as he faded- Spring Quality's final furlong went 11.12. Spring Quality paid $27.20, and proved he was capable of a distance that he had not previously won at.

Being near the pace was the place to be, and it worked to the advantage of Spring Quality.
"There was not much speed in the race, so I put him in a good position," Hall of Fame winning jockey Edgar Prado said. This was Prado's first NYRA graded stakes win in more than two years. The horse obtained a 100 Beyer figure.

I think Call Provision (10) and Get Jets (3) should both have been more active earlier. The Form says Get Jets was a bit unsettled at the outset. As the race ended very closely (like Call Provision, Get Jets was a mere ½ l behind the preceding equine, their slow starts could be important in deciding the ultimate outcome, although all agreed Call Provision was particularly impressive in defeat. Hunter O'Reilly, Messie and Oscar Performance failed to fire.

I offer a tip of the hat to the Daily Racing Form's Dan Ellman who had selected Spring Quality to win.

Trainer Motion indicated Spring Quality will get the winter off. Hopefully, we'll see him in the spring, when the birds begin to sing. - Jack Vaughan

Did I say close?

Friday, November 03, 2017



Should have called this Alphaland or some such.. Stasiville. But what's done is done.

Took the monorail from downtown Seattle to space needle oct 31 2017. the ride is some strangeness as the monorail has the feel i'd imagine of east Europe in the 50s. quite - organized - a bit dowdy. alphaville. .  the children played as in cape Canaveral rocket  grotto. a lonely Hendrix museum is nearby - its frank ghery style older than the enola gay. i realize i am being watched.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Are you privy?

Among the rights an American will assert is the right to privacy. We don’t cotton to police putting LoJacks on our or others' car undercarriages - at least not without a warrant. You can't come in my apartment or house without my invitation or a warrant. You can't film me in my boudoir unbeknownst, and so on. It's not exactly spelled in the Constitution, but the right to privacy is somewhere enfolded in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But digital technology and the Web as a channel has upturned the cart. To Be Cont. - Jack Vaughan

Friday, October 27, 2017

Some small poems

Lone bird
It's blues

As summer
Gets hotter - 
The conversation
Is more

And big jets
Of endless commerce
Scarf up what's left
of the sky.


I'm a bygone day
cant go to the hardware
and  keep from crying


Invisible Friend - After Champion Jack's TB Blues
when i was just a little boy
i was about the age of five
when i was just a little boy
i was about the age of five
i dint have to pretend
cause I had an invisible friend

He lived under the kitchen table
the best friend i ever found
on old augusta street
the best friend i ever found
nobody else could see Mel
but i liked him anyhow.

when i grew up
i became a drinking man.
I'd stop by the bar with a paper
and my friend would understand
we'd talk about assassinations
anything that came to hand

now my friend is gone
I'm not going to see him again
got Arthur-itus
n I may not drink again
but how i wish that i could see-
see my old invisible friend.


skunk in the garden
known for its spray
wakes me at night
and tells me to turn
each fan on exhaust

i saw its other side
skunk rooting
low and prehistoric
tending to the earth
slow moving
like a sloth

i have never
such patience
would like to be so calm and cool

for now i
tend to
the sky.


(After Apollinaire's "Pretty Red Head" )

Pale, fragile
ruddy red haired girl

and dark nomad-eyed
friend girl

in black

they stand close by 
the big box
of silver needles
at the 

held by a magnetism 
i am thinking
mysticism too. 

- Asa Wentoff-Juan Mourning, 2009


Swimming lessons

The farmboys would send
their dogs on me -
as I rode my Schwinn on
the road -
where the cabbage
were humming.
(Pua Sadinia)

I came upon a waterfall
on the beautiful island
Light flowed through the greenery
on a flower like a diamond.

John the Revelator, great advocator
Get's 'em on the battle of Zion
Lord, tellin' the story, risin' in glory
Cried, "Lord, don't you love some I"
Well Moses to Moses, watchin' the flock[13]
Saw the bush where they had to stop[14]
God told Moses, "Pull off your shoes"[15]
Out of the flock, well you I choose[16]


Bottle man on sneaker feet with
Shopping cart bumps down the street
Sunday morning in sleepy universe


Morn blues

I just remembered | 
that it's election day | 
So I bop on down behind the church | 
n vote for Tito Jackson

From the train I saw | 
radio tower disappear | 
it's top in cloudy mist - 
Next stop Waban  


On leaving my Aunt Gert's burying

Gert's car - a gold Buick -
My dad had her sign over 
On just about her death bed
To me.

It was really small fare
for the care he gave her
on her way out the turnstile.

And - tho not as hip
as her previous SS like Skylark -
it was choice.

almost literally 
only been used to go
to church. There
in Harwichport.

Gert's car - refused to start
on the sunny day that 
I was leaving her burying.

Did my cousin  or me
jump the starter 
with a screwdriver?

I don’t know - but 
t'was a chuckle and a back shiver
as the old gold Buick started
and we held wonderment 
at ghostly electricity

the graveyard 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Quantum computing conundrum roll

A recent Wall Street Journal article doesn’t hold back on the hype, at least in its headline. Quantum computing, it promises, will change the world as we know it. Courtesy of Google. The story that follows is a bit more measured. The obstacles to successful quantum computing are discussed, the murkiness of the applications is considered. There is a discussion of activity of some players - Dwave, IBM, and especially Google. Also noted- The NSA is building a quantum computer too. The conjecture is put forward that the nearest closest biggest opportunity for quantum computing relates to machine learning - guess because probability is involved and the computation problems could grow unmanageable eventually. We will see. 

The most obvious expectation is that the NSA is anticipating the possibility of a point where quantum computers could break important codes. And thus disrupt the present status of Internet commerce. Is that as big a threat as Hitler? I ask that because there are parts of the quest for quantum computing that bring to mind the atomic bomb program of the 20th Century.

More -

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Take it to the Bardo, Bridget

Lincoln in the Bardo, the first novel by noted short-story writer George Saunders, is set in a graveyard. It is at the time of the Civil War. Night, the first night of internment for little Willie Lincoln, the departed son of Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Willie was the most wonderful of children, and Great Emancipator Lincoln, completely disconsolate, goes to the graveyard to embrace his son's lifeless form, stacked in a crypt, ahead of an eventual journey to Illinois. Told in episodic bursts, the story reads like a play. That is due to its construction, which has various, graveyard characters delivering a stream of seeming recitations, or statements, many of which do not make immediate sense. Willie, like many of the other souls in the old graveyard, is in a twilight world between death and life - in, as Tibetan Buddhists might have it, a Bardo. We find him there persevering, observing, lamenting. The mood of melancholy is very deep. But broken from time to time by the humorous rim shot, albeit from an old snare from a not-too-far-off battlefield. Saunders' is a mix of low- and high-brow. 'Bardo' is in turns like a Romance novella, a Zombie comedy (or Marvel comic), a Buster Keaton movie but faintly macabre, an rejected outtake from Poe's Ulame era notebooks. It sets one to thinking of Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance (unto death), Wiscons Death Trip, Jose Feliciano singing the National Anthem. Characters come and go in Lincoln in the Bardo, as if in an Elliot play. Or, Our Town. But, a little funnier. The book holds interest, mostly because of its commanding mood. It has some --not a lot -- of the flair we find at times with Thomas Pynchon, who, on the dust jacket appears, heralding Sanders as "an astoundingly tuned voice -- graceful, dark authentic and funny." That seems like strong praise, although it may be for another book. Warning : If a you or a loved one are nearing the old cemetery ridge, beyond the vale, gonesville, I can't think it would be a bag of fun to cuddle up with Lincoln in the Bardo. But there is no telling what may fasten one's attention, especially at this moment in history. Bits of it are a bit like Doctorow's best in a way. Something like a French Symbolist prose poem too. While the episodic structure helps, it was finally a slow page turner and something of a dread fest for me. You might like it - but you should be ready for some sleeplessness, some graveyard walking, and some head scratching, I'd adjudge. Keep an ear out for audio version. Elmo is Willie and Alvin Dark plays Lincoln. -Jack Vaughan

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