Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You weren't alive when I started to drive

In the good old days, when my children were toddlers and just learning to talk, I would teach each of them, in succession, how they were to respond to the question, "Son or Daughter, who's the king of rock 'n roll?" They learned to point at me and say with great pride and enthusiasm, "You are, dad!" Of course for each one the dreaded day always came when they would grow tired of the game and begin to give me the big 4-year-old sigh and hairy eye roll. A tinge of irony would begin to enter their answers, as if for some reason they no longer fully believed their answers.

Thought of that for no particular reason while walking to my car after work tonight, so don't try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock 'n roll.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Excitable boy, they all said

While Ms. Who was out of town visiting my mom, our dog, Rusko the Wonder Dog, a pup picked up by Animal Control with at least 6 bazilion breeds within him as he ran the streets of South Bend's West Side with his brother, lousy with fleas & worms and visible ribs, but now my boon companion and inquisitive soul

he wakes me up with his deepest, most measured and deliberate, Bull Mastiff-y ... WOOF ... pregnant pause ... WOOF. This is his deadly serious warning bark, utterly distinct from his follow me I'm about to catch this rabbit yip, his let's play tug of war bark, his i'm ready to come back in the house bark, his best friend and vixen Bramble the German Short Haired Terrier is being walked on the sidewalk in front of our house quivering wimper bark.

He's given his Bull Mastiff-y bark precisely 3 times previous:

as a 5-month-old pup upon espying my next door neighbor, the retired History Dept. chair at IUSB, on his hands and knees behind a shrub doing some weeding along our fence line;

upon responding, still as a pup, maybe 6-7 months old, to a large man of saggy pants and hostile demeanor departing his friends on the corner to approach and tell me to "lend" him my cell phone so he could make a call, responding of course by saying WOOF with accompanying West Point cadet K-9 stare and ruffled neck fur that caused the big M-F to add the codicil "shit fuck, just asking, man," all to the evident amusement of his friends, to whom i had the distinct impression, he had just lost a wager;

upon espying the bizarre gesticulating inflatable thing that flaps around with vaguely humanoid motions at the entrance to my local car wash.

But my point is, when he once again reached deep and pulled from his convoluted prehistoric DNA this highly rare guard-dog bark, the fourth such bark of his life that I know of, I knew something was up, and in fact there was, as it eventually led me to the least dramatic crime scene I have ever imagined:

Yes, some asshole, the cops and i think it's punk kids as opposed to the unrelated adult gang that's been busting into my neighbors' houses and discharging hand guns in the quest for jewelry and silverware, these other assholes, have been breaking into garages and rifling through cars, throwing all the contents of the glove compartment as far as they can fling with their skinny little bony hands. These garage-theft assholes are just kids. Of course why they would be carrying around a short-handled sledge hammer and leave it in the trunk of my Bitoosh (the name accorded my Honda when my brother in law's elderly mother espied its previous license plate reading B2SH etc. and proclaimed in all seriousness, "Oh you've got a Bitoosh!" thinking it was the car model name) when startled by the WOOF ... WOOF of Rusko the Wonder Dog could give one pause. But eh. I'm sure the young asshole was just an excitable boy.

Ooh wah ooh.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Need for Speed: Brakes are good, tires fair

With one of my long lost kids home for spring break last week I had company whenever i wanted to go to a neighborhood jazz club or the movies. So we did that, and when movie time came, the multiple multiplexes in my great American city had multiple options of great movies we could see -- Dallas Buyers Club! 12 Years a Slave! -- all based on important true events and literate scripts with a message. So for us, the choice was obvious. I bought two tickets to Need for Speed, which is based on a video game.

This great film features three (3!) mythical Koenigseggs and tons of other stars including a Custom Mustang ("the Shelby car"), a Bugatti, which i didn’t even KNOW about before this but I sure do now, a Lambor-frickin-ghini, and two classics that those of a certain age and gender could identify as easily as … i don’t know, the full roster of the ’68 Chicago Cubs: a '68 Camaro SS, and a '69 Ford Torino GT (NOT the ’72 Gran Torino Sport ala Clint Eastwood but …) And a ton more that i’ll need to research the internets to uncover. And you’ve probably already heard this, but once again: there is no CG in this movie, these are all jaw dropping, awesome stunts.

Two other things I loved about this brilliant movie.

First, Jesse Pinkman’s garage & after-hours racing all take place in Mt. Kisko, which was like 15 minutes from where I spent grades 8-11 -- four years that lasted 2 decades in the mentally recorded movie of My Life, starring Me.

Second, Michael Keaton as the Monarch, giving me a great drug-free flashback to my buds & me watching Supersoul & Vanishing Point in ‘70 or '71. Tied for second, Imogen Poots, who i remember from the credits because you cannot make that name up. She plays Pinkman’s love interest and I think she’s an actual actor — that is, give her a good script and let’s see what happens. Yes i know our protagonist’s real name isn’t jesse pinkman but as with Ms. Poots i cannot remember the name of Aaron Paul’s character.

So, 4 out of 5 stars, 1 star subtracted for a shitty soundtrack that includes an especially egregious cocktail lounge cover of All Along the Watchtower.

This is a Who Am Us Anyway Must See.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Best when you hot you hot songs

Peggy Lee, formerly of the Benny Goodman Orchestra, still sounding great here in 1967 at the age of, oh i don't know, let's say 110. You need to be patient with this one, but if you give it a full 30 seconds it will start to work. What a lovely way to burn. Hand percussion by Jack Sperling, another Benny Goodman alum.

Anybody got a match? I would like to be able to say with a straight face that I'd rank some other rock concert film, maybe Woodstock or The Last Waltz, ahead of Stop Making Sense, because then I'd feel counter-intuitive, which is my preferred mode of being. But the truth is I've watched & re-watched Stop Making Sense from beginning to end more times than I can count & I continue to enjoy the hey out of it. Contrast this sucker with The Last Waltz, which when revisited makes you feel tired, sad, cynical, and nostalgic all at once. Although it contains any number of great performances, a little bit of Robbie Robertson's pity party monologues about life on the road goes a long, long way, & so whenever I dust off Charlie Mac's Last Waltz DVD (Charlie you'll get it back if and when you come visit us this spring) I have to do a lot of fast forwarding to get through his Tortured Rock Star shtick. In Stop Making Sense, by contrast, The Talking Heads love what they're doing, as well they should. The first time i saw this performance of Burning Down the House I thought, damn, maybe I should try to quit smoking again. So I don't burn down the house but also so I can keep up with David Byrne who must have lost 10 pounds by the end of the show, fighting fire with fire.

And Arthur Brown, because The Crazy World of Arthur Brown 8-track was playing at the very moment my friend Paul rolled his Mustang in the wee hours. Luckily I wasn't wearing a seat belt and so was thrown into the back of his car, cracking my noggin' against the rear windshield but living to tell the tale. When I returned to high school a week or so later, Paul brought in photos to pass around the lunchroom table showing that the driver's side passenger seat where I would have remained had i been strapped in was entirely occupied by twisted metal. This one also needs to be cross-indexed with the Who Am Us Anyway Field Guide to Pop Music's list of songs with the greatest opening lines. In this one, Arthur announces what kind of god he is and what he is bringing us, and I like that he is wearing a Bunsen burner on his head.