Monday, April 30, 2007

Apr 30; This day in history. Casey Jones dies.

On this day in 1900, engineer John Luther "Casey" Jones of the Illinois Central Railroad died in a train wreck near Vaughan, Miss., after staying at the controls in a successful effort to save the passengers.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sonny Rollins Radio Tansmission

More than a few players couch there work in a mystic veil. Sonny Rollins is more than open, however He does not mind calling out influences, even the off-beat and patently indecipherable ones. If as a lad in St.Thomas he saw a film where a Danish opera singer sang Amor [or something like that], and he was able to repurpose that general modus as St Thomas, he can talk about it. He is known for a certain type of improvisation in concert where he quotes from far and wide.. riffing like a mocking bird, but finding new things in all the music that is out there. To me this is a real essence of most creative processes. Rollins recently played Symphony Hall in Boston, and spoke on Christopher Lydon’s radio show. That conversation is available as a podcast MP3. Yippie-Aye-Oh-Kay-Yeah.

Was reading newish Kerouac book today, Book of Sketches. He writes:

Be like Bird, find y.self
little story tunes too
string yr complexities
along a well known line...

Sonny Rollins on OpenSource - Podcast MP3
Related Sonny Rollins OpenSource pages – OpenSource site

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Satyricon Confidential Trailer Revisited

Don't like to repeat myself. But my old Radio blog is like unreadable. Because it accepted keyboard specialties of Microsoft and then, in a new rev, crashed on them, populating stories with ?s where ' or -- outta be. So I redid this one, anyway, offering it up here, yet again.

Flash - It is summer, the evening, and the tickets are going on sale for the Milwaukee premier of Fellini’s Satyricon. The film: Much anticipated. Maestro Fellini has promised to visit our planet, as if it were an alien one, by going back to the time before Christendom.

I for one cannot remember the world too well in the time before Fellini’s Satyricon. It has been with me since I first heard the music of this film – Fred’s friendly sound genius Nina Rota at hand using BBC-style colonial world field recordings Gamelan and such -- to help conjure the dream.

Exposition - It was a much anticipated film not movie, says I. Movie was an American thing. Our invention. But Fellini was the great film artist, and he had a love for the low culture of movies, and this could be viewed as a movie. And I would be there firstly if I could, in this case, making the 25-mile drive to the big city of Milwaukee in Dad’s Buick Wildcat. Awaited, Satyricon was, as film, the form, was in its flower; as a Hemingway novel was awaited in the 20s, a play by Williams in the 50s, or like a Dylan record still somewhat today.

I asked my high school girl friend E. -- this being after high school, my sometimes girl friend, to the flick -- and she had to accept. She had to! It was Fellini. She was a blue-eyed, pearl-ear-ringed Cuban college girl, who could be easy to argue with, especially in the realm where intellectual Europe still had it over the Americas. She carried old Spanish ambience up from Cuba on a deportee prop plane. Fellini was the last gasp of Europe’s cultural hegemony.

I am sure I had decided I would emphasize that I believed in movies, not film, unlike the phonies, poseurs and auters, most of them older and perhaps owning their own (foreign) cars, who she had just been now encountering in college. A salesman even then was I, looking for my angle, and trying to be true.

We had taken many film classes and argued over many films before making up, many times, and starting over. Again. Again. Saying something stupid was my part. Film arts was a bonanza for my libido.

Dont remember specifics of her garb that night. But remember general look of the day. Heidi braids. White t shirt. Farmers blue jeans. Sandals. Yet, as I indicated, somehow tending to high culture maybe it was the earrings.

Satyricon was playing at the Downer Theatre in Milwaukee. Friday night. Twas Summer. Still light as we early bought tickets. In Cambodia, skulls were beginning to pile up. We were too early to gain entrance to the theatre, but first on the block. We found ourselves with time. And decided to taste the air, and walk around said block about and abutting Downer. Green grass lawns, houses and apartments once of the thoroughfare.

So we were on the block and like I said it is dusk. Light but dark.

It is quiet as Milwaukee can be.

And a girl in a peasant blouse is taking a corner a little acutely on her big tired white bike, and - boom - is hit by a car. The quiet gone, the scene marked by her scared shocked shrieks.
We and others run to her help. Police, ambulance, arrive. I think I may have knocked on a door to call for the ambulance and help.

The scene is bustling. The girl in a type of panic. We comfort her with handholding and word muttering.

Then, a guy like Sal Minieo maybe on a bike too is hanging about, and saying to me, See they wont help, the bums.

He is pointing a little down the way at a small bland Dodge, maybe a Ford, clearly an unmarked government car, where two unmarked guys in butch haircuts have Styrofoam coffee cups. They probably called the police but they didnt leave their stations, whatever stations they were. They look like FBI.

And the guy says: That’s my uncle's place. You know Frank Baliestreri

And I dont really respond. Frank Baliestreri is in the papers, the reputed head of Milwaukee Cosa Nostra. The building he points to is very nondescript.

And he taunts the police or the FBI, mostly under his breath.

The girl on the street is conscious but she has some type of injury. Cant move much. She is freaked and we are freaked.

They guys in the unmarked car are just there. And it is getting darker.

Then the girl is being taken way and says to me: You must give a message to some one. Call her. Tell her I’m all right. And she gives me a note with a name and a phone number and – I’ll never forget this - the name on the note reads ‘Mother Condor’.

Who I call and, of course, say first, she's alright, just like I was told. And she’s going to the hospital.

And Mother Condor who is mad at me, and getting madder of course says: What do you mean she's alright? How can she be alright if she is going to the hospital? Good question but I stick with my story.

Somehow, we are back on Downer. We look at one another. The pulsating sequenced light bulbs round the marquee buzz. The night is not so hot, but this could be Dillinger’s last theatre now as we enter.

Another planet and time. I keep to course.

I am not a stuck-up filmista. I will load up on stuff from the concessionary counter! Buy the biggest box of Juju bees of my lifetime. And root beer. Pop corn. And Milk Duds for good measure. Good and Plenty? Perhaps that too. I had a factory job then and was rich on Fridays.
And boy the movie music is trance-inducing. And the film can become suddenly violent or depraved. No matter what, it is undecipherable. The dread drone thing of the flick is working for me, but I never really quite get a rhythm with it. And we are both thinking back to Mother Condor and possibly Frank Baliestreri.

Satryicon is awfully hard to understand, and all the readings I did on La Dolce Vita are not helping me here. As the Juju bees lap upon the shores of my root beered stomach, Alka Seltzer comes to mind.

Thats what Satyricon means to me: Alka Seltzer. It has always been a squeam. On the big squeam. == But read friend GordonThomas's dream here . It’ll knock you clean right out of your spleen.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Microsoft snookers Google

Windows software developers can be forgiven if they don’t take too much interest in the wacky machinations of the technology business. But we thought we would note a recent business deal that may indicate where Microsoft is ultimately headed, and which, though not accomplished, is a good sign for Windows developers.

Last week, Microsoft passed on the opportunity to buy DoubleClick, the major force in placing Internet banner ads. Rumors had Microsoft behind the scenes bidding for DoubleClick ahead of Google’s eventual $3.1-billion move. There seems little question that Microsoft’s interest pushed the price of DoubleClick up, far past the price paid earlier this year in the more touted Google buy of YouTube.

The latest deal shows that Google’s business, for all the buzz about its Ajax software and nifty productivity suites, is the advertising business. There was fear here that Microsoft would enter that same advertising business in a big way with the DoubleClick purchase, in order to counter Google, seen as its next big adversary. Pushing up the price and unmasking Google’s real character was an even better outcome. [On TheServerSide.NET]

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chinese Poesy, or Striving in city and heading home

There is a new installation in the Chinese galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The review that ran in yesterday’s Times struck me. Because, well the writer boiled down the poetry of the Chinese, pretty simply and pretty aptly.

As often as not the mood is regret. If only we could have the old ways back. Or, I miss my distant friends so much. Or, all things die and so must I.
So it may be hard to believe a great body of art can be built on something so simple, but it is true. It is about parting, goodbyes, leaving the city to go for the sylvan idyll. But there it is, and it is a tune the Irish know too. And one I have settled into more than not.

I was reading this on April 13, the famous commemoration day of me leaving New York City in 1973. In fact I was reading it in at bar in Hingham – the then new town home of my parents that I first came to when I came to Boston. At the Snug at 5 oclock time when the just-off-work postal workers on Friday were flirting with the gals.

I wrote a poem or two about striving in city and heading home. That I often link-to this time of year. Go to poem [but dont try and download the MP3 version – it’s gone]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Shoot, the Player Piano Player Dead, at 84

Kurt Vonnegut died, a few weeks after he absorbed injuries to the brain in a fall. For me he is up there with Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and Thomas Pynchon as a great American writer of my life time. He looked something like Mark Twain and he filled the role manfully during his life here on terra firma, until he died, at 84.

You have to think a defining event for Vonnegut was the Bombing of Dresden .. a great historical event but seldom noted. As a POW, he happened to be in Dresden when the Allies firebombed it toward the end of World War II. A lot of our fathers were maimed in some way or another by the WWII experience. Like Joseph Heller, Vonnegut steadily wrote, and finally snuck up on this subject. He wrote about it most especially in Slaughter-House Five [assumedly the name of the underground meat locker he as a POW was working in making vitamin supplements for his captors when the British and the Americans deliberately created a firestorm upon the city].

He was a master of the elliptical and the fragmentary. Jumped time. Post modern before there was modern. And a guy’s guy. He considered alternative universes in prose. Brought a whole new tone to science fiction, maybe in order to make ends meet, but to important effect nonetheless. He was called a comic book philosopher. What do we need more?

He was a paperback guy. His early novels were not deemed heavy enough for hard cover. Which was perfect!

He worked in public relations [at GE] and sold cars – imports, in my parent’s adopted home of Hingham, Mass., in fact. I discovered reading his own bit, that, having three kids and hard scrabbling, he adopted his dead sister’s children [she dead of cancer one day, her husband dead in a train accident three days later]. Gotta give his wife credit too…but he was in a unique position to comment as the corpses ‘created by military science’ piled high in Vietnam.

What I had completely forgotten was Player Piano [1952], his first book which I bought at Shorecrest circa 1965. A satire on corporate life that carries echoes of Brave New World and concerns an engineer working at Ilium Works [GE] who comes to lead a band that destroys machines they think are taking over the world. [NYT]. The story of our epoch in germinal. I heard him - an old crank and beyond the pale of now what is admitted to the airwaves - on Imus show about a year or so ago [and Imus today coincidentally loses his job]. He was an artist for sure. He would start rapping on the notion of Hitler in orgasm in hell – cut to commercial!

Yes he repeated himself. Reading two of his book was enough for me. But a Passage of his stays with me forever. I think it is a great moment in literature.

I read it in Esquire before Slaughter-House. It’s oft quoted I’ve found on the Web. Ex-GI-Ex-POW Billy Pilgrim on the night of his daughters wedding watches old movie on TV. He sees it backwards. Bombers bombing. In the early days of surrealism the movie technology brought forth new visions. Still in the 60s in Vonnegut’s hands it did the same. Just play the movie backwards, moron, and describe it, if you will, and you will see anew. It’s not rocket science.

He came slightly unstuck in
time, saw the late movie backwards, then forwards again. It was a movie
about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who
flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took
off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France a few German
fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments
from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked
American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join
the formation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in
flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous
magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel
containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The
containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous
devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck
more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few
wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair.
Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and
everybody as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were
taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America,
where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders,
separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly
women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in
remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground., to hide
them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

This Passage as I said is oft quoted. In some way I have carried it with me. A great failing of the film of Slaughter-House Five that I saw on 8th St [w Valerie Perine, vavavavoom] was that it didn’t center on this [don’t even use it]. So it goes. It was great moment. Great art. And I have discovered today via this magical Internet that K.V. recorded this, and I got it off Itunes for 99 cents. Related links are below.The link below is to Amazon [$10.99] Awwhh.

The passage
Wash Post writer meets KV in 2005
TockTick – A recording of K.V.
Kirt Vonnegut, Novelist Who Caught the Imagination of His Age, Is Dead at 84 -NYT
NYT Kirt Vonnegut topics page [links]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All Through The Night

Saw All through the night. At the brattle theatre in Cambridge. A unique Bogart movie – quite humorous. He plays the New York tough maybe for the last time. He is a star. This is after Casablanca. But it is a warners bros b. helping the war effort Jackie Gleason and Phil silvers and William Demarest in the most expansive film role I have seen him play. More than a passing nod to Damon Runyon.

It was about a .. well not a gangster .. a gambler. Who investigates a murder of a local baker. There is a dame involved. He gets pinned with a murder which leads him to uncover a secret ring of Nazis. He disrupts their plot to blow up a battleship in New York harbor.

It’s always stayed with me. It starts with the simple act of a murder of a cheesecake baker [by no less than Peter Lorrie, under employ of no less than Conrad Veidt]. Has a plot. But more than that it has characters. Takes place in a single day and night. All through the night an apt title. Great black and white. Getting toward the acme where Hollywood had refined light and dark presentation. Influenced by Hitchcock and in turn German expressionists cinema. It’s a world of gamblers nightclubs and maybe gangsters. Of docks. Of warehouses. An underworld. A mood. More a mood than anything. Which is what I like best about it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

On Memphis Minnie

This poem and art disappeared for awhile from the old Radio Weblog site. Found it and thought I'd repeat it over here. Tagging it [new feature on this blog] with 'blues.' Most go back and do a lot of that. When I wrote it, it was snowing in Boston, and my flight to Orlando LotusSphere had been bumped one day. WHRB was in the intercession where it plays artists in lengthy [day-long, week-long, etc] sets.

On Memphis Minnie

I was on the sofa and outside it snowed
Getting ready to go to Florida.

They were playin Memphis Minnie on the radio
Just Memphis Minnie hour upon hour

And I started writing down what I heard
And observed

Her train done been here and gone
Look what you get...she says
Look what you gettin

Gettin for a lousy dime.
Splash!...the high hat says in turn

Ya gotta think
about it

I'm gonna strut my stuff...she replies
Always calling...calling

Calling the Ice Man
Warning ...
But friendly...

Calling the Butcher and of course the Chauffer
Taking misterioso up from the country.

Taking it for a drive

Encountering the Night Watchman
As it’s the time for him
To punch his clock.


The chamber ensemble responding
But boy can
Play guitar

Piano playing pure hokum
Odd for blues cause vaudeville
Died ...
But it lives on the side in her Victrola lines.

She suggests ...
Minnie ...
that you go down in the alley

Implores in fact ... you
to quote-unquote
Get your business fixed;
Down in the

Some people take a blues yknow
And she's right on here ...
Go jump off a bridge and drown ...
Not the blues singer. Not Minnie. She looked up and
down the river

But Minnie's mind never took her to jump
Overboard and drown.

Take it Charlie I think she said
but it could have been Joe
Joe McCoy
take it - at least when I'm looking at you -
says she
choreographing the blues
painting a view
muddy river and
big boat

That's the Minnie thing
painting and waiting
waiting for the iceman
strutting here stuff
eye on the big boat
singing a blues
as she is waiting
that's what she do

Wondering in the SouthSide as now too
- a kazoo plays -
where is that Butcher Man who can
slice your ham?
Slice your ham
and cut it from the bone on down?

She dont have to wait for
the Butcher
but she must go
to the market

As she often told her
to take it to the bridge

One night Minnie
take a Strange Man home.

He left her
And she wonders
where can her Strange Man be?

For that matter,
Where is her Rooster?

Too many eggs in her basket she note –
Yet, as wolf noted too
that rooster been gone.

We asked Slim about Minnie
I'll tell you a story, says he.
Memphis Joe, Yank Rachell and them playing cards
And Minnie comes home from work.
Takes off her falsies, takes out her dentures
Unstraps her wooden leg
Throws all of that in the bureau draw

You turning in with me?
She asks Joe.
I dont know. He says.
Don’t know whether to jump in the bed or the bureau.

Was a big night for Minnie once
when her daddy took her to a show.
How poor but how happy but
Then - yknow - he was

And with midnight train in mind -
She must ask - what road is he on?
She looks out at the whole damn dark world

World that has so many roads
And she asked the questions we would ask
If we weren’t just watching
The snow

Minnie finally asks
To RCA man - Melrose? -
Recording the blues
Can we have a clarinet in this?

And what is Big Bill saying
to Blind John in the corner?
The answer questioning comes
Get paid in ones!

Breaking ice.
Humming a blues
in Chicago.

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