Archive for the ‘music’ Category

This is my new, not-favorite holiday: the first yahrzeit, or anniversary, of my father’s death. In the Jewish tradition, you light a 24-hour candle the evening before the day. The day is determined not by our Gregorian calendar but by the Jewish calendar, which rises and sets with the moon.

A lunar calendar means 28- and 29-day months. This is why Jewish holidays never stay put. Philip Roth, writing about his childhood, said that the adults always talked about Passover being early or late but no one ever said it was on time. Wilfrid Sheed in My Life as a Fan wrote that the Jewish holidays roamed the calendar like shortstops.

On the yahrzeit of your parent, there are prayers to say and visits to make – to the synagogue. I might have appreciated the latter, standing in solidarity with the other mourners, though of course there are no visits to the synagogue just now.

I remember my parents and grandparents lighting the yahrzeit candles for their parents. This practice seemed disconnected from me when I was young. It was something the Old People did, along with moving slowly, not understanding anything I wanted to do, and talking about their vanished world.

[The play] succeeded because it made people laugh and cry and remember the past, all at the same time. And even though one always heard how bitter everything was in the past, the old people were still crazy to relive it. (Emanuel Litvinoff, from his short story “Fanya”)

I felt so disconnected from this ritual and for so long that it only occurred to me while writing this that when my grandparents lit candles for their parents, they were keeping alive the memories of people who had been born in the 1870s.

So now I’ve lit my first candle and said some prayers. Though I recognized years ago that this train was heading my way, it was still a shock when it stopped to pick me up. Also, I’m not sure that lighting a candle and reciting some prayers hold the right meaning for me and my relationship with my father.

Next year, we’ll light a candle and then watch one of Dad’s favorite movies: Stagecoach, The Big Country, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Patton, Sink the Bismarck!, Sink the Hindenburg!, The Enemy Below, The Enemy Above, The Big World War II Movie, The Way Bigger World War II Movie, and The World War II Movie Where We Win Again But You Kids Will Never Understand. Dad also liked Get Smart!, All in the Family, Westerns, the Red Sox, shows about animals or ancient Egypt, and everything that delighted his children. Some of these entertainments might be a tough sell for certain people I live with.

Looking back over this blog, I may have been at my best when I was memorializing family, friends, dogs, musicians, and other writers. I hate to think that I’m turning into A.E. Housman, but you have to go where the writing takes you, and apparently this is where it’s taking me. I even managed to work Run-DMIrving into my music column.

I’ll change the mood in our next exciting post. Brace yourself for 10 Things I Hate About Dogs!

You can live in a box from Costco and chew it up.

Hello, everyone, and I hope you’re enjoying your extended stay in your own home. If you have a home. In addition to all the homeless people in what is supposed to be the most affluent patch of ground on the planet, there are all the people in Washington, Oregon, and California who are suddenly homeless because of forest fires that have been whipped up by global warming.

Our backyard, the middle of the day, the middle of September. We only had to breathe the air from the fires. At least we didn’t have to run from them.

Enough complaining. I really do care about all of you. I want you to be well and happy and thinking about me me me because I’m now writing for Copper magazine, which is published bi-weekly by PS Audio. My first story is in issue 120. The best part: They’re paying me!

It’s not clear to me what will happen to this blog now that I can write about music for money, which has not happened since the 1990s. Today I restarted my writing blog, and in fact I wrote about writers and money, two concepts that rarely intersect. But Run-DMSteve? I’m not sure. Well, I am sort of sure. I will always provide substantive, objective reporting on dogs.

Don’t make me come up there.

Tango, who is 4 months old today, just learned how to turn her water bowl upside down and race around the yard with it in her mouth.

Tango: Look what I did! I make things happen!
Lucky: How are we supposed to drink water now that you’ve spilled it all?
Tango: I make things happen!

Now that’s investigative journalism.

Something will continue to happen in this space, and I thank you, my loyal readers, including the three people who made it this far because you were hoping for another puppy picture or one of my inane contests. Keep hold of your sanity, everyone, as we count down the agonizing final days until this stupid election arrives. In fact, hold everything you’ve got. Talk to you soon.

Random Pick of the Day
The Kingbees, The Kingbees (1980)

In my series on Forgotten Bands, I forgot several deserving bands, but the number one forgotten band I wish I hadn’t forgotten was The Kingbees. They were part of the rockabilly revival that began in the late 1960s with Sha Na Na and ended in the mid-’80s with The Stray Cats – two bands that knew how to take ’50s rock ’n’ roll and glaze it with sugar.

In-between there was Robert Gordon, who was an expert interpreter of the rockabilly era, and The Kingbees, who wrote music inspired by rockabilly, not watered-down (Sha Na Na) or pimped-up (The Stray Cats ). The Kingbees are at their best on their self-titled debut, particularly “My Mistake,” “Shake Bop,” and “No Respect,” all of which were played on the alt-music stations of their day but probably nowhere else.

Sha Na Na and The Stray Cats had the clothes and the haircuts, and Robert Gordon had Link Wray on guitar, but the forgotten Kingbees had the best music.

Random Pan of the Day
Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia (2020)

You might enjoy this album of dance-pop hits by the English dance-pop goddess Dua Lipa, but if you’ve already heard Madonna, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, P!nk, Kesha, Robyn, etc. etc. etc., then Lipa is not going to surprise you. Her best song is “Don’t Start Now.” I added that to my library, which surprised me.

I just realized that Madonna is now Classic Rock.

Antifa, assemble! Comrade Joe Biden, chairman of the Supreme Anarchist Council, has ordered us to attack and destroy the suburbs. The suburbs are the source of his power, so this order doesn’t make sense, but what do we know? We’re anarchists! The Sex Pistols sang “Anarchy in the U.K.,” not “Squared Away in the U.K.”

I’m coming for you, white suburban housewives! I’m going to stuff your mailbox with all the AOL discs my Dad saved from the ’90s. I’m going to dump dead leaves in your aboveground pool. I’m going to replace your IKEA living-room furniture with bean bags. We’re going to have so much consensual sex (while wearing our N95 respirator masks) that you won’t have a free moment to curl and set your hair, mend your stockings, make all your kids’ clothes, get that apple pie into the oven, or pick up your husband at the train station after he arrives from his job in the city, which, by the way, no longer exists because we’ve already burned the cities.

I won’t be alone, either. In the first round of the 2020 amateur draft, Antifa Disunited selects: Tango!

Tango takes out the second baseman and breaks up the double play.

Will she chew everything you’ve got? Only if it moves…or stands still! Will she deposit toxic by-products on your lawn? Why should she limit herself to your lawn? That’s right, you’d better wear a mask!

Does she know fear? How about hell no?!

Tango eviscerates a local moose.

Tango knows when to throw down!

In an hour she’ll resume with a bang and a boom.

Tango is being trained by Antifa’s Chief Tactical Officer, Generalissimo Lucky:

Crouching tiger, yawning dragon.

Lucky is drilling Tango in how to infiltrate your white suburban housewife house!

Tango is here to do whatever she can, be it early morning/late afternoon/or at midnight/it’s never too soon!

Tango hears Comrade Biden’s call.

Rig for collision! America wants its suburbs destroyed? America gets its suburbs destroyed. It’s time for us to go do/that voodoo/that we do/so well!

I hope everyone reading this is safe, healthy, and strong. In Yiddish, that’s zayt (safe), gezunt (healthy), and shtark (strong). You know gezunt from “Gezuntheit!” You may also know shtark from Starker, the KAOS flunkie in Get Smart! A shtarker is the guy who moves your furniture, not the guy who tutors you in math. My Dad always said, whenever I tried to lift anything heavier than a stack of New Yorkers, “Stevie! You’re not a shtarker!”

A shtarker would not have read the profile of the English novelist Anna Kavan that I recently plowed through. In 1967, Kavan published a book called Ice, which is beloved by Patti Smith, J.G. Ballard, Doris Lessing, Christopher Priest, Jonatham Lethem, and Brian Aldiss (who called Kavan “Kafka’s sister”). That is a literary lineup that can hurt you in a lot of ways.

“Kavan’s fiction features icy heroines, dystopian quests, and gothic flourishes,” the profile’s author, Leo Robson, writes. The last word of this piece is “doomed.” “Yeah!” I said to myself, mentally pumping my fist. There’s no telling how this global crisis is going to end. It’s definitely time to read something that’s icy, dystopian, gothic, and doomed.

I didn’t.

I’m fortunate that I still have a job. I work from my basement. Because I am of a certain age, and rapidly aging, I wrote to a friend to say that I wanted to retire from an office, not from a basement. He wrote back and said I should retire from the basement: “You know you were going to end up there anyway.”

I’ve started running. I’m still writing. I’m rebuilding my house [citation needed]. The inside doorknob pulled out of the front door like I was in a horror movie. The lockset was only installed in 1942. It’s already broken? Fortunately, the good men at Atlasta Lock & Safe told me I could bring in the knob and its attached spindle and they’d tell me how to fix it. I was masked, they were masked. They told me how to fix it. I fixed it. Now I love 1940s technology. Doorknobs, doorbells, steam irons with buttons. The battleship Iowa.

Our garden (and pizza) is helping everyone get by here at Run-DMSteve World HQ. My wife has a project. Our dog has a project. I have a project: shade composting. The one spot in the yard where I could create a compost pile never gets any sun, but through sophisticated methods I cannot reveal and against the advice of Anthony Fauci I have transformed an enormous quantity of dead dirt into loamy dark soil, well-aerated and suffused with yummy worms. The shade-composting season is short (by the end of May, my compost will have the consistency of concrete) but intense.

I’ll share my success in the manuscript I’m preparing: Shade Composting: The Secret Process That Spells Doom for Your Spin Bin. This is the sequel to my first gardening book, The Daylily Solution: Stick ’Em in the Ground, You’re Done.

We’re all watching more screens for more hours than ever before, so let’s look at something we watched here at the Bureau while sitting 6’ apart.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
This retelling of The Taming of the Shrew has a serious moral flaw at its center, and it’s not Shakespeare’s ideas on how to manage women. The film is set in Seattle (it’s filmed mostly in Tacoma), but it doesn’t include a single band from Seattle. The soundtrack is an undifferentiated mass of bands from such Pacific Northwesty places as California, Florida, Minnesota, Sweden, and the U.K. Even the band that performs live in the film, Letters to Cleo, is from Boston; they play covers by not-Seattle artists Cheap Trick and Nick Lowe.

There’s a scene in a lesbian club where someone mentions Bikini Kill. That’s the lone Northwest music reference in this film from the Seattle music renaissance. (Cultural note: In 1999, all lesbians wore spaghetti-strap black tops and weighed 90 pounds.)

None of this crap is memorable, except for the George Clinton classic “Atomic Dog,” and he ain’t from Seattle, either. The 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack is the opposite of the Singles soundtrack: both movies take place in Seattle, but only Singles sounds like it.

Oh right, the movie: Though the script manages to be both underwritten and a mess, 10 Things I Hate About You is sufficient to keep you occupied during a pandemic. It stars the teenaged Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We also get the annoying David Krumholtz (fans of Firefly will recognize him as Mr. Universe), Joe Isuzu as the clueless gym teacher, Daryl Mitchell (Tommy Webber of Galaxy Quest) as the angry English teacher who can rap in Shakespeare, and Allison Janney as the porn-writing guidance counselor.

I enjoyed this film, but I would’ve enjoyed it much more if it had been about the English teacher and the guidance counselor and the music was by nerds in flannel shirts and maybe Sir Mix-a-Lot. (But not Kenny G.) As we said in Seattle in 1999, let’s call for pizza.

Hello, fellow pandemicians. I know you were all stunned by the decision on March 26 to stop the Candidates Tournament for the Men’s World Chess Championship. I certainly was. The games were exciting and one of the Russians got so cranky and insulted so many people that he was briefly trending on Twitter.

How weird is it that the last sporting event on earth was chess? See, I’ve been right all my life.

I hope you’re doing OK, and that you’re getting your facts from the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and not from uncredentialed idiots. Tying garlic around your neck or balloons to your ankles or eating 44 tons of plankton a day will not protect you.

Here in Oregon, I’m working from home, which I don’t like – work is work and home is home, and I prefer that they not meet – but at least I still have work. I have my wife and my dog. I’m learning how to talk to them and not just walk absently past them. I’m planning my July retirement party – we’ll be on Zoom or GoToMeeting, each with our own cake. This is not my idea of a good time, but I do like the idea of my own cake. Assuming anyone will be baking cakes.

It’s my task to distract you and help you find alternatives to chess, so here’s a movie I made starring a bird. Here’s the DJ whose live stream is boosting my morale. If he’s not on the air – his hours are unpredictable – here’s a recording of his show at the Slam! Quarantine Festival. This is whom I want to be when I grow up. That is the correct use of “whom.”

Let’s return to 1989, a year when the only things we had to worry about were invading Panama and finishing the World Series following the Loma Prieta earthquake, and listen to some music you older teenagers paid good money for.

Depeche Mode, Depeche Mode 101 (1989)

This double-record set gives us Depeche Mode on the night they ruled the universe, their 1988 concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena before 60,000 mesmerized DeModers. It took the Seattle Mariners 12 years to pull 60,000 fans into the Kingdome – and that was the day in 1989 when they promoted the teenaged Ken Griffey, Jr., from the minors.

It took me a long time to engage Depeche Mode in a committed relationship, which seems counterintuitive given my status as a synth-pop artifact. In fact, I panned Depeche Mode 101 in this blog in 2016: “…the songs don’t budge a centimeter from the studio versions. Sorry, boys, but a concert is more than a crowd screaming with joy because you blew up a firecracker. AC/DC would’ve fired a cannon out of a bagpipe.”

But I wrote that after enduring the third Star Trek reboot, which made me angrier than the Hulk trying to play toilet paper bride during a pandemic. Further spins of 101 have given me a different perspective. Sure, Depeche Mode (a former co-worker innocently called them Pesh de Mode) take few chances on these tracks, but overall the drumming is much more muscular and the songs generate far more revolutions per minute.

The audience eats this stuff up – this is the concert where the show ends with the fans still singing the chorus to “Everything Counts” 30 seconds after the band stopped playing. The effect is electrifying, but to give anti-Depeche Mode voices some space here, I’ll quote another former co-worker: “If I went to a show and the band stopped playing and they expected me to sing, I’d want my money back.”

I give Depeche Mode credit for including in their set list one of their earliest hits, “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” from their salad days playing bright poppity pop-pop-pop. That was when the band still had Vince Clarke, who left early on rather than be vacuumed into the gloom machine envisioned by Martin Gore. Clarke did pretty well for himself, founding Yaz (“Situation”) and Erasure (“Chains of Love,” “Who Needs Love Like That?”). By 1988, “I Just Can’t Get Enough” didn’t sound anything like Depeche Mode, but on their big night they played it, and they played it well.

Yaz Fact! The band was called Yazoo in Clarke’s native England, but in the U.S. they were Yaz in honor of former Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski.

I also give Depeche Mode credit for transforming “Pleasure Little Treasure” – a song with a subtle message: If you’re looking for a reason to live, I’ve got one right here for ya – from filler into a dark, howling rocker.

I love this disc now, but there’s an odd moment when someone in the band asks the audience, “Are you having a good time?” This strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of what they’re selling and why people are buying it. Listening to Depeche Mode, you can have an epiphany. You can have an emotional release. You can have a nervous breakdown. But to have something as light-hearted as a good time, what you have to have is Yaz or Erasure.