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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Should I Start Wearing My Trousers Rolled?

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Like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects to be 46. I mean, sure, you have the knowledge that you'll turn 46. This becomes almost self-evident once the 45 threshold has been crossed. I mean that it doesn't often occur to one that someday one will turn 46. One contemplates 40. And 50. And 60. And even 99. (I've got my fingers crossed.) But turning 46 doesn't really cross the radar screen unless one encounters someone who is 46 and has the thought, "Jeez, I hope I look better than that when I'm his age." And I could have had that experience up until yesterday.

Or today, really, because today I turn 46.

I was born on the 27th day of the 9th month of the 9th year of a decade at about 9 in the morning. I'm nothing if not consistent.

Wifrod Brimley shares my birthday, although he had his first one some 25 years before me. I don't know what Tom Selleck's birthday is.

Other people who are extinguishing candles today are: Avril Lavinge, Shawn Cassidy, Robb Weller, Meatloaf (the singer, not the foodstuff), A Martinez, Liz Torres, Randy Bachman, Don Cornelius, Dick Schaap, Barbara Howar, Greg Morris, Will Sampson, Roger C. Carmel, Sada Thompson, Arthur Penn, Carl Ballantine, Jayne Meadows, William Conrad, Johnny Pesky, Louis Auchincloss, Leonard Barr, William Paley, Vincent Youmans, Sam Ervin, and Harry Blackstone, Sr.

Of course a fair number of those listed are dealing with neither cake nor candles because of a slight case of death.

To the others, l'chaim!

Monday, September 19, 2005

This Week's Surreal Satellite Radio Moment

I heard something on the '60s channel this past weekend that I had not been familiar with before, although the DJ insisted that it had charted back in ye day. This curiousity was Frankie Valli and the Fours Seasons singing Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice." It's a strange rendition of the song, with Frankie singing in a high falsetto that made him sound like the demon spawn of Tiny Tim and Dave Seville. It was cheery and nonsensical and the arrangement bore no discernable relationship to the lyrics. At times, Frankie made a sort of muted trumpet sound with his lips that the DJ identified as being him blowing Dylan a raspberry. I suspect that it was much more innocent than that, and was simply Frankie's attempt to channel "Sergeant Pepper." "Sergeant Pepperoni," if you will. (And you don't have to. It's not a rule.)

This was followed by The Byrds' time-honored rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man," which hangs on Roger McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker and David Crosby's harmony. This is one of the Woodstock Nation's favorite sing-a-longs, up there with "Lord Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz" and "Unchained Melody." My only question about it, and The Byrds themselves, is this: Why does Roger McGuinn always sing the lead when he's got Crosby standing there? Does this make any sense? I mean, McGuinn can ribbit along okay, but Crosby can flat-out sing. Would he have sawed away at a Suzuki method violin while Jascha Heifetz played the occasional eighth note? No wonder why Crosby moved on to--uh--what's their names.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Chamberlain's Man

I'm making what I hope is the final change in the lineup of "Next in the Series." I'm going to replace "The Political Thing" with an adaptation of a play I wrote many years ago called "The Chamberlain's Man."

"The Chamberlain's Man" is an out-and-out farce that has William Shakespeare as its central character. Although at the time of compostion I had thought him kind of a variation on the character Bob Hope played in movies like "My Favorite Brunette" and "Casanova's Night Out," I realized last week that he was really much more like Basil Fawlty. I intend to go forward with this idea in this revision.

I'm postponing work on "The Political Thing" simply because I think the story is going to need more than three episodes to tell properly. It could need half-a-dozen or more. And so it made sense to push it to the second season, where there will be plenty of room for something that big.

As for "The Chamberlain's Man," it's just long enough for three episodes, and really just calls for some polishing of what was a juvenile work. I'm taking as its credo a quote from John and Yoko: "All artists are con artists."

On a related creative note for the few who care, I've started marking up the printed out pages of "Michael Drayton, Detective Guy" so that I can retype and rewrite them. With any luck, I'll be able to push right through and finish it sometime this fall.

In the meantime, fight the power.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Satellite Radio

One of the interesting things about having satellite radio has to do with the multiplicity of formats that the unnamed provider throws at you. There is a run of channels devoted to the music of particular decades of the previous century. There are country stations and jazz stations and rock stations. There are talk stations and spoken word and the blues. You can get kids songs and the call of the Red Sox game. It is narrowcasting at a level undreamt of even by cable TV.

The playlists that can be found on any one station are unusually deep and this can sometimes lead to interesting juxtapostions of songs. For example, yesterday morning when I started up the van, I was greeted on the '70s channel by Bob Dylan singing "You Gotta Serve Somebody." This was followed by Elton John singing "I'm Going to Foist Some Pointless Crap on You" or something. Every silver lining is surrounded by a cloud, I guess.

This morning, on the '60s channel, I was treated to Paul Revere and the Raiders performing a song called "Let Me." This song featured the lyic, "Let me, let me./Baby, you don't get me" and a blatant ripoff of the musical break from "MacArthur Park." (This is the musical equivelent of a heroin addict rolling a sterno bum.)

Now, back in the '60s, I was prepubescent and quite the fan of Paul Revere and the Raiders. They had cool blue-and-buff uniforms and tri-corn hats and an afternoon TV show called "It's Happening," of which I was an aficianado. (I kind of remember seeing The Mamas and The Papas on there. Sometimes one wishes for the onset of senility.)

After hearing "Let Me," I had to check on on Paul and the Boys. I got this picture from the website.

Apparently they've gone over to the other side, since those are definitely Redcoats they have on. If you happen to be in the Sacramento area tomorrow, You'll be able to see Paul Revere and the Traitors at the Gold county Fair in Auburn, CA.

Mark Lindsay is no longer part of the group, but, according to his wesite, he's making a rather limited comeback.

There are some anomalies with satellite radio. For example, Depeche Mode plays nearly around the clock on one channel or another. I've heard Allen Sherman a couple of times on the '60s channel (including today; apparently "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" was the number two song 42 years ago today), but never on the family comedy channel. And I've heard cuss words several times on the family comedy channel. From Myron Cohen, no less.

But, all-in-all, I enjoy it. I recommend it. I wouldn't even mind being on it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Gasoline Alley, or A Trip Down Memory Lane

Thanks to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the lemming-like instincts of the human animal, I got to relive those halcyon days of the 1970s gas crisis yesterday, right here in good old Atlanta, G-A.

Among the lesser evils that Katrina brought ashore with her were power outages that shut down the pipelines that piped in the gas that went to the trucks that delivered to the stations that pumped into the SUV that Jack drove. Once this news got out, widespread panic became the order of the day, and dolts of every shape, size, and description started lining up to top off their tanks and to drive the price-per-gallon just another notch higher. (When my wife filled up her car the other day, she paid about $2.50 a gallon. By the time I got in line yesterday, it was $2.79 and 9/10 per gallon. A couple of hours later, I heard that it was up over $3.00. Apparently, there was a gas station in McDonough, GA that was charging as much as $5.87. Gov. Sonny Perdue, showing the perspicacity of the average politician, suspects price gouging.)

Many of the folks lining up were just topping off their tanks. I was there because the minivan I drive was down to about an eighth of a tank. If I wanted to continue to drop off and pick up my kid from school for the rest of the week, I had no choice.

So, I pulled into the QT near Sam's school where cars were in lines four deep at each of the ten or so pumps. It seem that this was one of the better situations in town. Sam wanted to go inside to get something--some beef jerky or a pack of smokes, I guess--but I declined. I was a tad sharp, but I shouldn't have been. This was the boy's first gas panic, and he didn't know any better.

I did though. I am a grizzled veteran of the Carter Administration and remember long lines, odd-even days, and limits on the number of gallons purchased. One time, when I took my VW bug to a station I had worked at a couple of years before, I drove down to the bottom of a hill and got in line. The line inched along and after a few minutes, I noticed a disheveled young man walking down the hill counting cars. In one hand, he had a cardboard sign. A drama was in progress, and I was a member of the cast.

The disheveled young man, who was also greasy and thin, counted cars until he got to mine. The sign had magnets attached to it, and he slapped the sign to back of my bug. Mine was the last car to get gas there that day. The people behind me were angry, but not with me. They were angry with the greasy, skinny, disheveled young gas jockey. He just walked back up the hill.

I felt guilt, but it was balanced by relief. I was riding on fumes.

Today, the pipelines are piping again, although at reduced capacity. I have no idea what the price is at the QT or the Shell, but I'm guessing too much. The remnants of Katrina are escaping to Nova Scotia. Perhaps by next week the levels of price gouging for gas will have returned to their normal, seasonal levels. Maybe the panic is over.

Life is difficult for the addicted. The lush times of glut are more than balanced by the hard days of shortage. An addict will shudder and shake and panic and pay anything for another fix. It's not a pretty sight.