Amoeblog

Cruise to Mexico: Part 1

Posted by Job O Brother, September 20, 2010 04:34pm | Post a Comment

This last week, the boyfriend and I were treated to a seven day cruise to Mexico, courtesy of his parents, Chris and Fred, who also accompanied us. Those of you who know about our last ill-fated cruise may be surprised to learn we would go on another, but you know what they say…




Anyway, always keeping you, dear reader, in mind, I kept a log of events which I will be extrapolating here on my Amoeblog.

Just as soon as I finish unpacking and figure out where to put my souvenir statue of Saint Jude


'Sup.

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Sherman Oaks

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 16, 2010 05:13pm | Post a Comment

Sherman Oaks from Mulholland

This blog is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods (as many as you'd like) to be the subject of future entries, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities (again, as many as you'd like), vote here. Should you also like to see blog entries about Orange County communities, click here.

 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Sherman Oaks

Sherman Oaks is a neighborhood located in the southern portion of the San Fernando Valley, surrounded by Van Nuys and Valley Glen to the north, Valley Village to the northeast, Studio City to the east, West Hollywood to the southeast, Beverly Crest and Bel-Air to the south, Brentwood to the southwest, Encino to the west, and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve to the northwest. For this episode I was joined by frequent traveling companion, Shimbles. It was a hot day, yet, for unknown reasons, he kept rolling up the windows so that he could listen to and sing along with the hits of Sugar Ray, Smashmouth and Collective Soul videos on his iPhone.


HISTORY

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New Latin Releases For February 2010

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 9, 2010 12:56am | Post a Comment

Nacional Records
seems to be the only choice these days for any Latin Alternative music these days. While releases by artists such as Mexican Institute Of Sound, The Nortec Collective and the Zizek crew show the electronic future of the genre, Banda De Turistas reaches back to 60’s era Kinks for inspiration. Magical Radiophonic Heart contains fifteen songs of garage/psyche/pop bliss that would please the kids discovering a past that they never knew. Those kids that look retro yet weren’t born when The Dukes Of Stratosphere first came out, let alone The Kinks! Banda De Turistas is available on CD only.

Speaking of retro, Vampi Soul just released a couple of reissues. Spiteri, a band of Venezuelan brothers (Charles & Jorge) who moved to England, hung out with the likes of Traffic, The Animals and Osibisa and, in 1973, released a gem of a debut album. Spiteri, or as it was known in Venezuela, Disco De La Culebra (The Snake Record…because the band logo was a cobra), which was their only proper album. They were supposed to be Venezuela’s answer to Santana. But like the band’s original press release stated, “Santana is a rock band influenced by Latin music…Spiteri are Latin musicians influenced by rock.” Within the heavy 70’s rock and onslaught of percussion, one can hear Spiteri’s Venezuelan roots. As Jorge Spiteri put it, the band played “With The Beatles and Traffic in our minds and Joe Cuba in our hearts.” Sadly, due to immigration problems, most of the band started to leave England and the brothers were left with a line-up that consisted of them with English musicians. The band soon broke up but not before recording a killer funk version of The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man” that sounds like something Mandrill would have done. This release is available on CD and limited edition vinyl.

The other reissue Vampi Soul released this week is from El Gran Fellove, a totally underrated Cuban singer that made most of his career in Mexico. Born and raised in Cuba, he was a contemporary of the likes of Cachao, Perez Prado, Celia Cruz and Chano Pozo. He was known for his scatting, a style that he later dubbed the “Chua Chua.” El Gran Fellove could have been much bigger if it wasn’t for his loyalties. He was asked to play in both Machito and Tito Puente’s groups while performing in New York in the late fifties, but turned them down because he didn’t want to cause friction with the singers that those groups already had. On top of that, he had a career in Mexico. There, he starred in a few movies and released recordings on the RCA label. Vampi Soul's collection, Mango Mangue, focuses on the work he did in the 60’s on RCA, including the song “El Jamaiquino,” a Ska/Mambo fusion that has been the desires of deejays for many years. This release is available on CD and LP.

Dia De Los Muertos

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, November 2, 2009 02:31pm | Post a Comment

Every year I look forward to building my altar for Dia De Los Muertos. It’s become more important to me than Christmas or New Year's, and most certainly more than Thanksgiving. It's time for me to take time out and think of those who have left this world and look forward to their spiritual return via memories, stories and offerings. Besides images of family and friends that have passed on, I like to include musicians and artists who have inspired me in some way. This year, many great musicians from Latin America and Spain have passed. So this is my ofrenda to them. Pan De Muerto, Chocolate and Tequila for all spirits who visit. I hope you can include the souls listed below in your altar or in your thoughts today.

Mercedes Sosa (Argentina)
Argentine folk sing and outspoken activist. Along with Silvio Rodriguez, Victor Jara, Violeta Parra and many others, was part of the Nueva Canción movement. Nueva Cancion was the mixture of Latin American folk music and rock with progressive and politicized lyrics. Mercedes Sosa is not only respected in her native country, but around the world. Her most recent album, Cantora, contains collaborations with the likes of Shakira, Caetano Veloso and Luis Alberto Spinetta.

Jorge Reyes (Mexico)
Jorge Reyes started one of Mexico’s first progressive rock bands, Choc Mool, in the late 70’s/early 80’s. He played both guitar and flute while incorporating many indigenous instruments of Mexico. In 1985, Jorge went solo and released a series of new age albums based upon indigenous Mexican culture. He performed legendary concerts at famous Mexican archeological sites such Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza and his music was used for movies and television shows around the world. Coincidentally, he had an annual Dia De Los Muertos show at The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City that was widely popular.

Joe Cuba (Puerto Rico)
His real name was Gilberto Miguel Calderón, and he was from Puerto Rico, not Cuba. He was known as the "Father of Latin Boogaloo," the marriage between Soul and Latin music. His many hits include “Sock It To Me Baby” “Bang Bang” and “El Pito (I’ll Never Go Back To Georgia)." As a bandleader, he helped start up the careers of such future legends of Salsa as Cheo Feliciano, Ruben Blades, Charlie Palmeri and Jimmy Sabater.

Manny Oquendo (USA)
Manny was a self-taught percussionist that went on to play with some of the biggest names in Latin Music. He played with Tito Puente, Eddie Palmeri, Johnny Pacheco and Tito Rodriguez, among many others. Manny was instrumental in bringing the complicated Cuban rhythm Mozambique to Latin Jazz and Salsa. He, along with Bassist Andy Gonzalez, formed Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevayorquino and recorded the classic Concepts In Unity, which is a must hear for any percussionist. Soon after, Manny and Andy formed Libre, a group that Manny played with until January of 2009.

Maria Trinidad Perez de Miravete Mille aka Mari Trini (Spain)
As a child, Mari Trini suffered from various kidney ailments. She was told that her condition was incurable, so instead of dwelling on it, she became of Spain’s most popular singers. She first went to France and recorded an album in French before returning to Spain in the late 60’s. While in France, she was influenced by Jaques Brel and Juliette Greco, and even went as far as saying that she wanted to become the “Spanish Juliette Greco.” The fiercely independent Trini found herself at odds the oppressive Franco –era conservatism and she was exactly what Spain needed. Her songs became feminist anthems and her attire (wearing pants rather than dresses) influenced women in Spain to do the same. Mari became popular for her romantic songs although she was quiet about her own romantic life. She hid the fact that she was a lesbian for many years, often having to answer questions why she didn’t have a boyfriend. Her popularity waned over the years but many of her songs are considered classics, such as “Acércate,” “Un Hombre Marchó,” “Yo No Soy Esa” and Una Estrella En Mi Jardín.” In 2001, she recorded a comeback album with Los Panchos, re-recording her greatest hits "Trios" style.

Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez (Cuba)
Mainstream audiences knew Chachaito as the bassist for The Buena Vista Social Club. However, like the other musicians involved with BVSC, he had a long career before that. He came from a musical family. His father was Cuban composer Orestes Lopez and his uncle was the legendary bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez. As a teenager he started to play in many of Cuba’s big bands. At seventeen, he replaced his uncle in the group Arcana y sus Maravillas and soon after started playing with Orchestra Riverside. He played classical music during the day and with Cuban dance bands at night. At one point, he was part of the Cuban experimental group Irakere along with Chucho Valdés, Arturo Sandoval, and Paquito D'Rivera. His only solo album, the excellent Cachaito, came out in 2001. It is a blend of Cuban Music with Dub Reggae, Jazz and African music. Unfortunately, due to the Buena Vista Social Club hype, the album got lost in the shuffle. Revisiting it recently, it was years ahead of its time.

Honorable mention:
Ralph Mercado (Puerto Rico)-Salsa promoter and once head of RMM Records.
Quintin Cabrera (Uruguay)-Nueva Cancionero, wrote “Senor Presidente.”
Suma Paz (Argentina)-Folk singer who introduced the compositions of fellow Argentine Atahualpa Yupanqui to the rest of the world.
Ramón Piñon (Tejano)- He was the leader of his own conjunto for many years and is known for helping give Freddy Fender his start in the music business.
Edgardo Miranda (Puerto Rico) guitarist, played with Tito Puente and Cortijo.
Ricardo Abreu (Cuba) one of the infamous members of Los Papines, known as “the Harlem Globetrotters of Cuban percussion.”
Antonio Vega (Spain) Former lead singer of Nacha Pop, wrote the Spanish Rock anthem “La Chica De Ayer.”
Rafael Escalona (Colombia)- Vallenato songwriter, co-founder of the Vallenato Legend Festival.
Jesus Alfonso Miro (Cuba)- Musical director of Los Muñequitos De Mantanza.
Otilio Galíndez (Venezuela) - A songwriter and composer who wrote many Christmas related songs. His songs were covered by the likes of Mercedes Sosa, Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez.


Happy Texas Independence Day!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 2, 2009 11:21am | Post a Comment

After Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the newly independent country organized itself into several states. In the northern Coahuila y Tejas, there were many Native peoples like the Alabama, Apache, Aranama, Atakapa, Caddo, Comanche, Coahuiltecan, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coushatta, Hasinai, Jumano, Karankawa, Kickapoo, Kiowa and Wichita that the nearly bankrupt Mexican government had little resources to subjugate. So they invited immigrants from the US, called Texians, to help keep down the aborigines.

Soon the immigrants outnumbered the Mexicans and Natives put together. These Texian immigrants made little to no effort to assimilate into their adopted country -- they they self-segregated, carried guns everywhere, didn't learn "the language" (Spanish) and wrote signs in English. Even though slavery was illegal in Mexico, the Texians (who numbered about 30,000) simply ignored Mexican law and brought 5,000 slaves. Before long, Mexican president Bustamante sought to restrict futher American immigration to Mexico, recognizing they were up to no good. Before long, the Texians took up arms and ultimately gained independence from Mexico.

Joel McCrea, not Texian, but played one on the radio

By 1850, Texians started referring to themselves most commonly as Texans. The Texas Almanac of 1857 waxed purple about the mere dropping of the letter "i," continuing the Texan tradition of making something out of nothing, moaning [in Chris Elliot's fancy lad voice] "Texian...has more euphony, and is better adapted to the conscience of poets who shall hereafter celebrate our deeds in sonorous strains than the harsh, abrupt, ungainly, appellation Texan -- impossible to rhyme with anything but the merest doggerel."


Ever since joining The USA, Texians have crafted a unique identity that seems to possibly stem from deep-seated phallic obsession coupled with a Texas-size inferiority complex. "Everything is bigger in Texas!" they brag incessantly. It is true that the size of their belt buckles and guts and insecurities are gargantuan, but in other areas, not so much. Their cry of "Don't Mess with Texas" further reflects an endemic insecurity and defensiveness of greater degree than is found anywhere else in the country. But denial of reality and a steadfast clinging to ignorant blind faith in themselves seems to be a crucial aspect of being Texian as well. Just look at the Oklahoma panhandle, for instance. Obviously it's named for its similarity to the shape of said object, but the Texas panhandle bears about as much resemblance to the the object in question as a pyramid does to a snowflake. No matter, try telling that to a Texian, where reality is always considered "fighting words."


Another essential aspect of the Texian identity is the pronounced cultural cringe. Instead of embracing its unique character, most Texians will threaten to "kick the ass" of anyone who brings up cowboys or their posh, plantation southern accents. This, considering Tales of the Texas Rangers, is just about the greatest thing ever! No, Texians will passionately deny being country and instead point to things they wrongfully assume to be uniquely Texan, in the process revealing an ignorance about the rest of the country more often associated with the east and west coasts. Most Texian's notions about the rest of the country seem to be based on their awareness of Oklahoma and exposure to television. Where Texas is first in many areas (obesity, capital punishment, smog, hate crimes &c), they brag about their kick ass county fairs, quality high school football, rapidly changing weather ("Don't like it? Just wait five minutes"-- *Yuck yuck*) and the fact that they used to be their own country. (Ever heard of Hawaii, California, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina or Vermont? No? Never mind.) They brag about their diversity in comically old-fashioned ways that sound like they're actually complaining, e.g., "We've got tons of Hispanics and Orientals." To make matters worse, they aren't the biggest state either in terms of size or population. On the other hand, they did invent Dr. Pepper there and Dallas's involvement in the history of recreational ecstasy consumption is criminally overlooked.


They are proud of their food, so-called Tex-Mex. Usually Tex-Mex consists of taking a Mexican dish and making it taste like something from a cafeteria. Usually it can be as simple as replacing cotija with cojack and slapping on a new name. Even though this hardly seems worth fighting for, the states of Arizona, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Texas still routinely argue over who first dropped a burrito in deep fryer.


This blind faith in denial is also evinced on something Texas can claim to be number one in. They have the highest number of religious folks who pack megachurches to pay tithes in what amount to cult infomercials. If there was a lesson to be learned from David Koresh, it's that he should've done his preaching in a behemoth class structure, not some flammable plywood Tuff Shed.


I don't mean to suggest that nothing good ever came out of Texas. Far from it. It's just that another big part of being Texian is ignoring everything that's good about Texas. Texas has produced Blind Willie Johnson, Ronnie Dawson, Geto Boys, Ornette Coleman, 13th Floor Elevators, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, UGK, Buck Owens, Mike Jones, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Big Moe, Hank Thompson, Ray Price, Pantera, Selena Quintanilla, Bob WillsDJ Screw, ZZ Top, Ernest Tubb, Slim Thug, Lefty Frizzell, George Jones, Chamillionaire, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Townes van Zandt, Tex Ritter, Jim Reeves, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Lightnin' Hopkins, among too many others to name. But, aside from the rappers, most Texians give little love to their homegrown artists and their radio stations are the worst in the country, completely ignoring their own rich musical past and replacing it with Christian pap.

In keeping with Texians' affinity for not appreciating what's good about the state, instead of pointing to their rolling plains, piney woods, big cities and wide open country, they attempt to unify the large region by covering it in religious-themed billboards.


Texas has provided us with so many of our presidents (and taken the life of one) that one can only wonder where our country would be today if they remained their own nation. In typical Texian fashion, the mural suggests that Johnson and the Bushes were the latest presidents born in the Lone Star. Never mind the fact that HW was born in Massachusetts and Dubya in Connecticut.

The stars at night are big and bright!!!




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