Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012


Speaking of bootlegs (were we?) it looks like this brilliant, often-circulated, unofficial recording will finally see the light of day. I remember listening to this killer show--in which Mick Taylor shines--on vinyl back in the mid-seventies, on a bootleg called "Bedspring Symphony." Later, it circulated on CD as "The Brussels Affair," and was highly prized by Stones' fans. Listen to the intertwining guitars of Taylor and Richards, the tight r section of Wyman and Watts, and Jagger's bluesy growl not yet overly campy but seriously in charge. I hope the official release is as clean as the soundboard boots I've heard.

Give it a listen here: BRUSSELS

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


by Mark Twain

The rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction shall require:
1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
2. They require that the episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale and shall help to develop it.
3. They require that the personages of a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit sufficient excuse for being there.
5. They require that when personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when people cannot think of anything more to say.
6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand tooled, seven dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it.
8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as "the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest" by either the author or the people in the tale.
9. They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages in his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

In addition to the large rules there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:
12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

Thanks to The Writing Life Too

Monday, January 23, 2012


Mike Dooly as Tullus Aufidius and David Drummond as Caius Martius Coriolanus in Seattle Shakespeare Co.'s production of Coriolanus

We just watched some greedy politicians lying their asses off, a mob of protesters mic-checking the rich and powerful, and some battle-traumatized soldiers turning their guns against civilians. No, we weren't watching the 6 o'clock news, but watching a four hundred year old play, Coriolanus. Few understood human nature like Will Shakespeare.

Actors from the Seattle Shakespeare Company took the stage and brought us back to the earliest days of Rome--some five hundred years before Julius Caesar. The cast was strong and agile, bringing humor to shifty Patricians and Plebeians vying for power. David Drummond, in the title role, brought the hulking soldier to life. A large man, he paced the stage like a lion trapped in a pit. He swung his sword at enemies but was never quite sure who his enemies were until he finally fled his "supporters" and joined the rebels in the hills bent on attacking Rome. Drummond joins a long line of actors playing the conflicted warrior, including Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Toby Stephens, Robert Ryan, Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman and Ralph Fiennes, who is releasing a film based on the play. (Watch the movie trailer below)

Friday, January 20, 2012


You heard "At Last" at the last twenty-nine weddings you attended, and that song will undoubtedly accompany every tribute you'll hear today for Etta James, but she did plenty of other songs you didn't hear on that marriage mix-tape. In fact, better songs. So we're going to remember Etta our own way, performing a soulful classic she wrote, "I'd Rather Go Blind," accompanied by Dr. John and BB King. Despite what Newt Gingrich says about black people, Etta worked her ass off all her life. Born Jamesetta Hawkins, she lived a life no multimillionaire presidential candidate with a Tiffany account would trade her for, no way, and she struggled hard against poverty, racism, heroin addiction and leukemia, which finally killed her a few days shy of her 74th birthday. We will miss Etta James.

We lost another great musician this week, the inimitable Johnny Otis. Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes was his real name, and this Greek American musician, bandleader, songwriter, impresario and disc jockey was often called “the godfather of rhythm and blues." He was a masterful entertainer, and he led a wild, mixed race band (unusual at the time) that could swing, play R&B, and both rock AND roll. Oh, and he could do that crazy hand jive. Go, Johnny, Go!

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


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Seattle is heading for the Snowpocalypse, if you believe the hype. The Washington Post says we're in for a "megastorm" and the Huffington Post says it may be the worst snow storm here in decades.

"Residents of the Pacific Northwest are bracing as Seattle weather will take a turn for the worse tonight," says the Huffington Post. "Forecasters are calling for what could be the harshest winter snowstorm in several decades. reports a 'potential major winter storm' will hit both lower elevations and mountainous areas near the coast beginning Tuesday night, and will move east as far as Montana and the Northern Rockies. Most of the snow will fall on Wednesday, reports The Seattle Times. Accumulation between six and 14 inches is expected. This means that snowfall could break Seattle's single-day record of 14.9 inches set in 1969."

Oh, brother. We've got plenty of cocoa and miniature marshmallows and Wendy made some killer chicken pot pie so we'll probably have some hot chocolate (spike it for me!) and pie, and settle in at Downton Abbey for the night. In the meantime, here is Seattle's own Stan Boreson with a song for you intrepid winter souls eyeballing the snowy sky and shaking on your boots. This should calm you down.

Monday, January 16, 2012


History gets rewritten when rebels die, and MLK suffered a doozy of a celebrity makeover. Now everybody acts like his good buddy, as if he's some non-threatening teddy bear perfect for dragging out during campaigns and photo ops. It's good to remember King was a savvy community organizer, a protester who believed in non-violence as well as civil disobedience, an activist who had the guts to take on a corrupt, unjust system. Then, as now, the comfortable mainstream wagged their fingers at protest and civil disobedience, and the middle class, law-abiding Silent Majority supported those cops with their riot batons and dogs and firehoses...just like they do now. Now people think King was involved in a righteous struggle for dignity and human rights because it's safe in the past, and history has judged it so, but at the time folks got jittery when these agitators blocked their route, carried their signs, sang their songs, and occupied their Comfort Zone. They still do.

"A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


That's the ad, and quite possibly an election-swaying production, from the Colbert Super PAC. For the dull, it should be explained that this is a parody. A parody is "a humorous or satirical imitation," and this mimics the mud-slinging ads of Super PACS intent on swaying campaigns with the sheer force of money.

But it's more than a parody. It's an audio-visual aid, an educational tool to alert the public ti the profound changes in campaign finance that may allow the richest to simply buy their way in to office. No big change there, you might say, but now they act as if it's nothing to be ashamed of, and the law gives it all a big green light. About two years back, the highest court in the land "un-evened" the playing field by allowing unlimited anonymous donations to campaigns. A couple fellows from Huffington Post explain what this means.

To further confuse you, here is Jon Stewart from a press release talking about his role as head of the Colbert Super PAC:

Hi again, it’s me, Jon. When I took over this Super PAC, I had no idea there’d be so much email-writing. Also, there are a lot of plants around Super PAC office with extremely specific watering schedules. Seriously, does a Northwood Spotted Fern really need to be watered "thrice fortnightly at dusk"?

Anyway, The Definitely Not Coordinated With Stephen Colbert Super PAC made an ad, and I figured you’d want to know. I’ve attached the press release below, so hopefully your mouse’s scroll-wheel isn’t broken.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Otis Redding was the greatest soul singer of all time. He was a force of nature, and his performances were filled with such power and passion that he often left audiences wrung-out like washrags. Otis was a dynamo. There was no stopping him. Strangely enough, he got into show business by accident (see the great documentary, Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story) and after carrying in bags and equipment this roadie wowed a handful of musicians in a little Memphis studio--and then he went on to wow the whole world.

Otis was brilliant and a joy to hear. His voice was sweet and grainy and full of emotion. His biggest triumph may have been performing at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where he won over the "love generation" with a killer set, but sadly his life was cut short that very same year in an airplane crash. Fans mourned the loss worldwide. His biggest hit, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" (which he co-wrote with Steve Cropper), was released posthumously and shot to the top of the charts after his death. In the clip below, he performs "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" at the Monterey Pop Festival, in 1967. Can you feel that?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


One fellow famously said, Being a writer is like having homework every day of your life. He was right, of course. If you're not sucking the academic tit--or even if you are, some of the time--you work your day job and come home not to eat and collapse in front of the TV, but to write. Strange as it seems, you write. You puzzle friends and family with this need to "get it down," and their well-meaning encouragement is little help because they--like all logical people--wish you would simply get this out of your system and stop this fool's errand. I'm kidding, but only a little. The writer is blessed and cursed, and in the act of writing he is actively defining himself and his world because he knows boundless, mad life hasn't been captured yet--it's still running loose though perhaps trailing a couple quill pens and maybe a harpoon from its rough hide--and the writer can't be satisfied living in the vague and cliched constructs of the unreflective and the conventional because he knows better. He simply can't fake it. He knows where the TV show is going--has to go--well before the commercial break, and he's seen the movie before, and he's already familiar with the twice-told joke, and he's read the book--and while he may sound only jaded or world weary he is really just waiting for something new that is not a reproduction of something else, not an echo, not some familiar, formulaic trope, and that discomfort, that cognitive dissonance, that impatience with the conventional, may--if the need is strong enough--be a sufficient catalyst to make him create that new thing. Vonnegut was one such soul. He told his story and he made it new and he twisted the old, reformed it, mangled it, undermined it. You couldn't just read his work comfortably and without reflection. With humor--sometimes very dark humor--he made us look at ourselves. That's risky business. It's like making caricatures of people at the carnival. Is my nose that big? Sure it is, even bigger, but I need the money.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Amy Walker's accents are amazing. A natural mimic, the aspiring actress performs a wide range of regional dialects--twenty-one in this video--and she has even fooled "locals." In a recent film, her New Zealand accent was so convincing that the director had no idea she wasn't a kiwi until after the shoot when he learned she was from Seattle. She has quite the ear. Nowadays, regional dialects are not as extreme as they used to be because people move more frequently than they used to, diluting the differences--and due to the homogenizing effect of national television and radio. Most people speak a geographically neutral accent. Still, there are pockets in both big cities and rural areas where people still speak with thick accents. In the deep south, for example, folks write with a "pin." In New York, they still drink "Cwa-fee." In Boston, they still "pawk the caw." Do you have any regional giveaways in your speech?

Monday, January 2, 2012


The new year is a good time to roll back the clock and take stock of the past. Usually, we limit that backward glance to the past year, but someone has cobbled together the past century, so in case you missed it I suggest you watch this eleven minute film. That way you won't feel stupid when someone brings up the Yalta Conference, say, at the water cooler. What a century.