Amoeblog

(Before which the author's mother visits.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 6, 2009 02:58pm | Post a Comment

That's my Ma, milking the cow. (The cow is the one with horns.)

This past week my dear, sweet Ma came for a visit. Her time here flew by quickly; we entertained ourselves with long walks, stories from her youth, and cooking-related reality TV. I also introduced her to one of my best friends in the whole world: absinthe.

She has a new iPhone, but her fear of technology had limited her use of it to – get this – making phone calls! I mean, what’s the point of a phone if all you do with it is call people? That’s so 1990’s! So I introduced her to all the things her new phone could do: map out directions, take photos, slay red dragons, make chocolate sprinkles, cure melanoma and make other kinds of chocolate sprinkles. She was quick to learn and I expect she will soon be filling my email inbox with pictures of my nephews, her tomato plants, and chocolate sprinkles.

In honor of her visit, I have assembled the following short list of things she loves, in hopes that you, too, may find some joy in them. If you’re not interested, don’t worry – she’s very easy-going and non-judgmental, and won’t take offense. I, however, will hunt you down like a dog and slay you. With my iPhone.

Glenn Gould


Chopsticks!

One of the most famous classical pianists of all time, and still controversial, Glenn Gould was the very definition of an eccentric genius. Most famous for his interpretations of J.S. Bach’s music for keyboard, Gould also championed modern composers, such as Alban Berg and Arnold Schönberg, while frequently disparaging more popular composers such as Frédéric Chopin and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, finding their works often insincere and unsatisfying (a sentiment, incidentally, I share with Gould).


Gould died at age 50, leaving behind a rich and compelling catalogue of recordings and a few pairs of very rank smelling gloves.

In addition to some more traditional documentaries, there’s a film entitled 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould that provides an entertaining (perhaps more than deep) look at this musical prodigy.


He also provides the soundtrack for my Mother’s iPhone ringtone.

His Hand in Mine – Elvis Presley


Ma was raised in the church, where she played organ, piano and served as choral director. She also arranged flowers and… I dunno – probably designed the stained-glass windows, too. The church was in Florin, California, which had been mostly populated by Japanese farmers until, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government forced the Japanese into concentration camps – an event that seems remarkably absent from our consideration of American history.


Florin, California (circa what I'm talkin' about)

Anyway, at this time in Florin, there was really nothing to do but milk cows, watch the strawberries grow, and participate in church functions, which is what so occupied Ma’s time. Playing music served as one of Ma’s few truly fun activities, and her association with old hymns remains a positive one, although her belief in the traditional tenants of Protestantism has been replaced by something more akin to Shirley MacLaine’s persuasions.

If you want to see Ma’s eyes glaze over in bliss (and you know you do) I suggest spinning this album from Elvis Presley.


Carlos Montoya

Another controversial, artistic genius Ma gravitates towards is the flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya.


"Mine! All mine! Ahahahahahaha...!!!"

Montoya is renowned as much for his agility at playing guitar as he was for his ability to fly. He could fly in the air of his own volition and remains the first and only human in history to do so. It was on Montoya that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster based their superhero creation, Superman. This resulted in Montoya suing the comic writers in a case that was ultimately settled out of court, with Montoya being paid off in raisins, his favorite between-meal snack.

The following song was composed by Montoya for his wife, Lois, who would eventually divorce him, complaining that his willingness to work for dried fruit made life with the musician “crazy-making” and “mostly fucked.”


My Ma may have returned to the glorious state of Northern California, but she remains an eternal houseguest in my heart …where she is currently building a pulpit and brand-new steeple.

(In which you might enjoy a fever.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 9, 2009 03:02pm | Post a Comment

The American shad or Atlantic shad, Alosa sapidissima, is a species of anadromous fish in family Clupeidae of order Clupeiformes.
It is the State Fish of Connecticut, enjoys foreign films and candle-lit dinners for two.


Not that long ago, a customer came into Amoeba Music Hollywood and approached me sheepishly. She uttered that accustomed customer opening line:

“I’m looking for a song… I don’t know the name of it, or who did it…”

If Amoeba Music employees had a dime for every time we heard that sentence, our bosses could dispense with payroll and we’d all live comfortably (hint, hint, Gov. Schwarzenegger).

Oftentimes, we Amoebites will know what the human’s looking for. That’s because we’re mostly socially awkward music geeks who’ve traded in awesome housing and reasonable hair-styles for choice, Italian soundtrack LP’s and an ability to name-that-tune of obscure mouth-harp blues artists.

The song the woman was looking for was “Fever,” which has been covered by many artists, though most famously by the great Peggy Lee


“Fever” was written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell and published in 1956. At first the songwriters had little success with the song, until they decided to re-write it using words and music. These proved to be the magic ingredients, and soon people took interest. It first became a hit for the (unfortunately named) Little Willie John...


For a while, it was taken under consideration that “Fever” should replace the notoriously difficult to sing “Star Spangled Banner” as the National Anthem of the United States, but as “they” who were considering it only numbered two and spent most their time sleeping under a bridge, drinking from storm-pipes, and screaming “Go back to toyland, Eisenhower!” at airplanes, the idea gained little merit.

What follows here is a sampling of the many versions of “Fever” that exist. You can almost certainly find one that suits you, regardless of your taste. And then, once we’ve all found a cover of the song we each like, we can finally come together as one people and… well… I dunno… listen to the song, I guess.

Can I get an amen?!







































(Wherein your neon's flashin & your one-arm-bandits crashin.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 8, 2008 08:47pm | Post a Comment

"Say cheese"

Oh, hey! Fancy writing you here.

Where? Vegas, baby. Yours truly is currently 29 floors above desert level, tucked inside the golden, looming Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on The Strip of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Corey, the dude I’m totally in a relationship with, and I left early this morning (if you ask him) or late this morning (if you ask me) and hit the freeway.

His car’s stereo plays MP3’s, and I’m notorious for making gigantic mix CD’s for the slightest road trip. (“Oh, we’re driving to Trader Joe’s? Better burn a ‘Going to Trader Joe’s’ mix!”) Corey, who finds my ravenous appetite for music overwhelming, manages to be patient as I force hundreds of hours of tunes upon him.

A couple weeks ago we were driving back from a romantic getaway in Santa Barbara, listening to the mix I had made for our trip to Disneyland, because we had already listened to the mix for driving to Santa Barbara on the way there (you following?). The mix for driving to Disneyland was mostly chipper, romantic songs – lots of doo-wop, some schmaltzy kitsch, with some Disney songs here and there for good measure. One of the songs was “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. Corey smiled and said, “Now this is music!”



What Corey would say, as he’s said to me countless times, is that he “finds an album he likes, then listens to it over and over for weeks – maybe months – until he’s tired of it”. MP3’s containing entire discographies, however, are daunting.

Then there’s me. I’m the guy who's frustrated that iPod’s can only offer me 80 gigs of memory. (I have two – one for classical music and one for everything else. How do I live without a third iPod for jazz? It’s not easy. I sing spirituals to ease the burden of it.) Furthermore, these music libraries stay on shuffle. As I go about my day, I want Leadbelly to begat Cherrie Currie to begat Betty Carter to begat Yma Sumac to begat Germs to begat De Kift, ad infinitum.

So, when I hear Corey say “Now this is music!” in response to “Sweet Caroline”, I collect six albums by Neil Diamond, burn them into one MP3, and present it to him like it’s a Christmas goose to Tiny Tim.


I am so sorry that you're having to look at this picture.

But he’s not Tiny Tim. He’s Corey, and just because he once commented about a Neil Diamond song does not mean he wants everything the man recorded. Why can’t I get that through my handsome skull?

What does any of this have to do with Las Vegas? It’s some of what occupied my thoughts as we took the four-hour drive here.


The drive is beautiful. Mostly vast expanses of desert, broken up every eight minutes by a potty break at a gas station.

We arrived at the hotel. It was windy! Like, crazy windy – skinnier bellhops were being swept away by swift air currents. We barely made it into the lobby. We checked in, found our room, and changed into our trunks, eager to enjoy the famous “beach” of Mandalay Bay.

The beach is man-made, (un)naturally, with waterfalls, a wave-generator and tons of sand. Sounds nice, right? But you’ve already forgotten, haven’t you (as we did) about the wind storm. Instead of sunbathers and body-surfers, we entered something more akin to if-Disney-created-a-Hurricane Katrina Land.

Huge billows of sand hit us – grains stinging our skin – as we sought out a pool or hot-tub that was sheltered. When we found some that were, of course they were packed. Defeated, but laughing, we retreated. We saw five or six lifeguards (who had nothing to do because the entire beach was empty) taking refuge behind a wall, sitting huddled, looking like a human re-creation of a scene from “March of the Penguins”.


"I hear they're hiring at the Luxor MGM."

After grabbing a bite to eat, we settled back into our room, which is where I am now. The front desk mentioned that we would have a “view of the lagoon”, which we do, technically. What she neglected to mention is that the lagoon is half an acre at the base of the hotel, whereas, stretching out for miles beyond it, is the airport. Oh well. She can’t be expected to tell people they have a “lovely view of Las Vegas International Airport”.

I’m not sure which airline it is, but one of them has airplanes painted like orcas. It’s a surreal thing to be looking out on a desert horizon and suddenly see a Killer Whale go flying across the sky.

Anyway, I’ll be keeping in touch. I’m only sorry I didn’t make a “blogging from Las Vegas” mix to listen to…

Etch-A-Sketch

Posted by Whitmore, September 29, 2007 05:11pm | Post a Comment

This boggles my mind. The art of George Vlosich III is something astounding, something baffling; I don’t understand why he’s chosen this medium! The artist Paul Klee was once asked about how he draws. He said he simply takes a line for a walk. The line George Vlosich takes for a walk goes on one insanely long nutty jaunt. And when you consider that all it takes is a single inadvertent bump for his art to be toast …

Vlosich uses an Etch-A-Sketch, and yes, it’s the same exact rectangular, red plastic framed model toy many of us had as kids. Each Vlosich Etch-A-Sketch piece takes considerable pre-planning and will typically take between 40 to 60 hours of patience, focus and attention-to-detail to complete. Remember, to draw with an Etch-A-Sketch, there is one line and only one line all the time. There’s little room for error, you can’t erase a mistake.

Probably the best thing I ever drew on one of those things was some pathetically lopsided cat. Vlosich produces refined images and precise portraiture and has since he was a kid. He started drawing when he was about ten years old. By the age of 18 he was being commissioned by the Topps Trading Card Company to produce a series of Etch-A-Sketch drawings as special inserts for their 1998 Topps Baseball trading card collection. He continues working today, still using the Etch-A-Sketch and it’s 5 x 7 screen, but Vlosich has also expanded his art to include painting and illustration, and has set up a design company specializing in advertising and logo design, sports memorabilia and apparel. Plus, he has a line of greeting cards. So next year for Christmas … someone send me one. I’d be damned pleased!

RAP AND ROCK STARS MORE LIKELY TO DIE PREMATURELY

Posted by Billyjam, September 7, 2007 09:28am | Post a Comment
Rap & Rock Stars More likely to die Prematurely

You ever notice how everytime you open a paper or read this  AMOEBLOG that it seems that yet another famous celebrity you
grew up listening to has passed on? And how it seems like the
ratio of rockers or rappers compared to regular folk
dropping off the face of the earth is much greater? Well, it
doesn't just appear that way. It is that way. According to a
newly published British based study, according to Reuters,
rap and rock music stars -- "already notorious for their
so-called 'crash and burn' lifestyles really are more likely
than other [regular everyday] people to die before reaching old age."

All of this is proven by the study of more than a thousand mainly British and
American jimi hendrixartists, spanning the time from Elvis Presley's era up until two years ago (the years 1956 to 2005) in which the
study found these musician stars were "two to three times more
likely to suffer a premature death than the general population."
 
The study's results showed that between
1956 and two years ago there
were a hundred deaths among the
1,064 musicians examined by researchers
at the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool
John Moores University.



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