You spin me right round

Yard sale record player with fold out speakers: $5

Simon & Garfunkel LP from St. Vincent de Paul store: $1

Listening experience: priceless.

 

record player

R.I.P. Allen Toussaint

Allen Toussaint passed away earlier this month. This article is a fine tribute.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Toussaint back in 1993, when I was working at a radio station and got to be the on-stage host for the Cincinnati stop of an “In Their Own Words” songwriters tour featuring 4 performers doing acoustic tunes and answering questions about their craft. Allen was part of a quartet that also included Guy Clark, Joe Ely and Michelle Shocked. He was the epitome of grace, class, humility and charm.

Most of his work was behind the scenes – writing songs for other performers, playing sessions, producing other artists – so he doesn’t get nearly the  credit he deserves. (He was even covered by Devo!) The article referenced above says, “he was arguably the greatest songwriter/producer to ever come out of New Orleans.” To me, there’s no argument – Allen Toussaint reigns supreme.

 

Older. Wiser. Cooler.

Normally when there’s a pre-roll ad slapped on the front of a video I want to see, I click “skip ad” as soon as I can. But the one below sucked me in within the first few seconds. I watched the entire six minutes and 46 seconds and was so glad I did. I wouldn’t even call it an ad, it’s a short film really, a character study with a powerful message. Heck, I didn’t even know what the ad was for until the very end.

Ricky is my new hero, and Doris rocks!

Turkey trot

Happy Thanksgiving! I went for a six-mile run this morning on a hike/bike trail near our house. What a  wonderful way to start this Turkey Day… not many people out, great running weather, sun coming up…

While I ran I thought about the many things for which I am thankful:

  • my health – this week I heard about another college classmate of mine who passed away suddenly, which really gave me pause.
  • my wife – she works as a nurse 4 days a week, teaches 4-6 exercise classes a week, just ran the New York Marathon and spent all day yesterday getting the house in shape as we prepare to host the Thanksgiving feast. (I helped a bit, but not enough.) A human dynamo.
  • my kids – they all have their moments, but overall they’re great kids.
  • my job – a year ago I was 80% sure I’d be laid off from work and pounding the pavement looking for my next gig. But what happened when my old company split actually turned out to be a plus for me.
  • my friends – I don’t see them as often as I’d like to, but when I do it’s sustenance for the soul
  • a good book – there’s no better way to escape the your own world and inhabit another.
  • music – my lifelong love affair with tunes goes on…
  • public transportation – a weird one, I know, but I’m convinced that by taking the bus to work most days instead of driving, I’ve reduced my stress immeasurably and have been able to read more.
  • craft beer – yum.
  • hike/bike paths – they make a run or ride so much more relaxing than fighting traffic.
  • tofurkey – actually I’ve never had this, but as a vegetarian I feel like I need to represent.
  • Bea Arthur – the most golden of the Golden Girls.
  • Scoopable kitty litter – most welcome in a two-cat household.
  • Xavier basketball – makes the winter a bit more bearable.
  • you! – thanks for reading.

 

Music to my ears

My daughter Leah and my son Peter attend a Walnut Hills High School, which is typically ranked as one of the top public high schools in the country. If you start there in 7th grade (which Peter did and Leah is doing now), you have to take three years of Latin. (Ah, the romance of the original Romance language!)

Students also have to take at least one semester of music class… which went over like a pregnant pole vaulter at our house. Leah had never had a single music lesson in her life prior to choosing her musical weapon of trumpet. Practice isn’t always pretty… in fact sometimes it sounds like an elephant is being tortured:

But it’s a prime example of “practice makes perfect.” They may not put in the 10,000 hours required to reach Malcolm Gladwell’s “mastery” but they certainly become quite proficient by the end-of-semester concert. And the kicker is they wind up liking it. After completing his mandatory class, Peter wound up signing up for another semester of music of his own volition. So no matter how practice sounds to other folks, it’s music to my ears.

It’s like ol’ Bill Shakespeare said “If music be the food of love, play on”

Hooray, hooray, it’s MST3K!

One of my all-time favorite TV shows might just get a new life, thanks to Kickstarter. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a fantastic comedy show, with the human Joel (and later Mike) and his robot companions Tom Servo and Crow watching really bad movies and making really great jokes about them. The show started out on a UHF channel in Minneapolis in 1988, and eventually made its way to cable for nearly 200 episodes, wrapping up in 1999. Now they’re ready for a 21st century grassroots renaissance, and you can be a part of it via Kickstarter.

Please give generously. We could all use the laughs.

Pedestrian at best

2015-10-13 14.30.03

There are a couple of different ways to use the word “pedestrian.”

pedestrian

So, is this sign about a detour for walkers, or is it about a boring detour… or both?

Either way, it’s a great excuse to play a Courtney Barnett song.

 

You can’t beat a live Pony

This weekend I went to see the same band two nights in a row. I’d never done that before, but for this particular band the concerts were a decade in the making… and well worth the wait.

I went to the Woodward Theater to see the Ass Ponys, a Cincinnati band that formed in the late 80s and had a brief brush with national fame in the post-Nirvana wave when major labels started paying much more attention to indie rock artists. They went on hiatus in 2005 and this past weekend marked their first full-length shows since then.

AssPonys

Probably the most apt adjective that can be used to describe the Ass Ponys is “eccentric.” They were a classic Donnie & Marie band: a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll. Their lead singer, Chuck Cleaver (yes, his real name), looks like a refugee from a biker bar in the bad part of town, but often sings in a sweet falsetto. And their songs were unique, to say the least. They exposed and even celebrated the weirdos, the freaks, the outcasts, the underbelly of society. In other words, my kind of people. What other band can boast of songs about bed wetters, the morbidly obese, craft-crazy grandmas, wall-eyed girls, $25 death cars, people with polythelia and parrot-hating, pickled-egg eaters who die of indigestion?

And the songs weren’t novelty songs, they were damn good. 10 years later, they still sounded damn good.

In a better world, Ass Ponys would never have broken up. But when your band name is Ass Ponys and the first single off your major label debut is “Little Bastard” you’ve really limited your chances for broad appeal. Chuck Cleaver is now in the band Wussy, so obviously he doesn’t put his band names through focus groups. But the bottom line is both Ass Ponys and Wussy are brilliant.

Here’s a sampling of their catalog, in chronological order. Their entire recorded output is well worth repeated listens.

 

One stop shopping for all your favorite vices

casino vices

Drinking, smoking and gambling – it’s the addiction trifecta!