Monday, April 21, 2014

By The Book

There is no friend as loyal as a book.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) Writer

I have taken the liberty of copying the New York Times’ book review feature called By The Book and asked myself some of the same questions they ask authors. Here is a brief interview about books with myself.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
I don’t have any books on my nightstand. I read outside of the bedroom. What I am currently reading is “An Object of Beauty” by Steve Martin.
Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?
I would say John Cheever and William Trevor. Trevor can pack so much information into a relatively short sentence better than anyone else I have ever read. Cheever creates situations where I feel I am viewing a family or an individual’s private moment during a moment of crisis. Philip Roth just retired, but I think he is among the best writers I have ever read. There are many other writers I like such as Dennis Lehane, Edward P. Jones, to give just a couple of names.
What books would you most recommend?
It depends on what they liked. For example, I think a good mystery is a great way for someone to start reading. A good mystery is a page turner and it provides the reader with the excitement of a good book that is beyond anything the movies can deliver.
Who do you like as a mystery writers?
I would say that I am rather stuck on Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher. A new writer that my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed was Roger Hobbs’ “Ghost Man.” I am looking forward to reading P.D James and Jo Nesbo.
What are your literary guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre?
Mystery. I love bibliomysteries best of all. My favorites are John Dunning’s series with his bookshop detective Cliff Janeway. I also enjoyed Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The “Shadow of the Wind” and its cemetery of lost books.
Which books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?
“How Murray Saved Christmas.”
What was the last book to make you laugh?
There is always at least a line or two in most books that makes me laugh out loud.
The last book that made you cry?
It doesn’t take much, but I so enjoyed reading “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson. It felt like a Hallmark movie, just an old fashion love story.

The last book that made you furious?
Probably some nonfiction about our government’s involvement in Iraq that one wishes was fiction.
What kind of reader were you as a child? And what were your favorite books?
Not much of one, but I did read a few books.
What were the most influential books you read as a student?
Mark Twain’s “Mystery Stranger.”
Whom do you consider your literary heroes?
I wouldn’t call them heroes, but I admire prolific, talented writers. The writer who makes me most jealous is Steve Martin. He is just so talented in so many areas.
Who was your biggest influence regarding what you read?
I would say both my uncle and my friend Mark.
How do you find out about books?
The New York Times book critics and the book review section on Sundays, friends, articles, bookstores, etc.
Which novels have had the most impact on you as a writer? Is there a particular book that made you want to write?
I initially wanted to be a journalist. So, any books about reporters made me want to write. Also, now I enjoy essayists.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
The biography of George Washington “His Excellency” by Joseph J. Ellis. Washington was a saint; especially compared to the egoistical, lying mercenaries we get to choose from today.
You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
It depends on what type of evening I wanted. For history David Halberstam, Kevin Phillips, George Seldes, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Studs Terkel, Gay Talse, and many others. For fiction Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Philip Roth, and I could go on.
I would simply be a fly on the wall. Just to listen to them would be thrilling and inspiring.
What kinds of books do you like to read before you go to bed?
Whatever book I am currently reading.
Do you enjoy historical fiction?
Yes, I love long sweeping stories by Beverly Swerling, Ken Follett, and many others.
What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
I didn’t finish it and don’t remember it.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
Many of the classics that I just will never get around to. Although I do hope to read “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas and “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.
What do you plan to read next?
There is a new western coming out by Larry McMurtry that I am looking forward to reading.
Any overlooked books you want to mention?
I thoroughly enjoyed “The Last Samurai” by Helen DeWitt and thought it would be on all the bestseller lists. From the dust jacket’s first paragraph: Ludo, age six, is a prodigy. His mother, Sibylla, raises him alone and tries hard to keep his voracious intellect satisfied while she struggles to make ends meet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bands, Singers and Songs that Influenced My Musical Preferences

Music should come crashing out of your speakers and grab you, and the lyrics should challenge whatever preconceived notions that listener has.
Lou Reed (1942-2013), singer, song writer

It’s either high school or college where the songs you hear are the ones that stick with you through life, generally. I say that, but I still have fond memories of songs that give me that  from an earlier period. I can recall running around our old neighbor waiting to hear The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" on the radio. The station was AM KHJ 93, boss radio. But, I was not a Beatles fan early on. I preferred The Monkees.
I liked The Monkees well beyond the years I should have. Micky Dolenz was my favorite.  I recall being teased when I left my neighborhood buds to go home to watch The Monkees Monday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC. I would come back outside once the show was over to scorn and ridicule, but I was full of confidence for no reason and it didn’t bother me.
Eventually it was through these same friends that I discovered Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. "WPLJ" (Wine Poured Lemon Juice) was an early favorite. This was around the 8th grade. We’d listen to "Fat Man" by Jethro Tull and sing it to one of the over weight kids in our hood.
By high school, I was a fanatical Rolling Stones fan. It happened gradually. In 1971, I purchased Sticky Fingers and listened it to over and over. I had my parents old beige Hi Fi (short for high fidelity, not to be confused with Wi Fi). By the time Exile on Main Street came out, the Hi Fi was passed its prime and I needed a new record player to play Exile on. The album would skip around. The only song I could hear all the way through was "Hip Shake." I helped an uncle who was driving a moving van and earned $30. I immediately went to Kmart and purchased a stereo that would play Exile.
Over the years, my bedroom décor evolved from motorcycle pictures and black-light posters of Dennis the Menace flipping off the world, a pull-top chain that circled my room, to a shrine to the Stones. However, there was a large poster from the cover of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs that was allowed on my Stones wall, which my parents disliked. Just thinking about Diamond Dogs brings back a flood of high school memories.

Impressionable songs and groups

One of my first records
The Monkees – "I’m a Believer"  written by Neil Diamond and recorded by The Monkees in 1966 may have been my first rock and roll record. Micky Dolenz was the lead singer as he was for most of their songs. I sat in front of my grandparents’ stereo and listened to it over and over while staring at the cover wishing I could meet them. My grandparents were obviously very patient with me. It has a very cool organ opening and an easy chorus to sing along with. I had no idea what the song was about, thinking it might have been about fairy tales. I was ultimately right since the song was used in the movie Shrek. Some of my favorite songs included: "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "She," "Mary Mary," "Words," and "Going Down."
The Beatles – After The Monkees I gravitated to the fab four. The first album I owned was Meet the Beatles that my father purchased for me because he thought The Monkees were silly. What did he know? Oh how I wished I still had that Beatles album that he got for me. I have since replaced it with another original. The first real album that I requested was Abby Road, which I received as a birthday present from my grandparents. I was in the 7th grade and I liked "Octopus’ Garden" and "Maxwell’s Silver Hammer."
Sticky Fingers cover
The Rolling Stones – The Beatles broke up, so naturally off to the Stones. Sticky Fingers was the most current at the time. "Brown Sugar" and "Dead Flowers" were my initial favorites, but soon I grew to love the whole album. Of course the whole concept about sticky fingers or why there was a zipper and a man in his underwear was lost on me. Get Yer Ya Ya’s out,  The Rolling Stones live album featured the best version of Jumping Jack Flash, which I would play to get myself pumped up for our park and recreation basketball team. Eventually, every song became a favorite.
Leon Russell
Cat Stevens
Leon Russell & The Shelter People / Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman – I have to group these two together because at a family gathering, a third or fourth cousin brought a date who worked for Rolling Stone Magazine. I must have talked to her about music and she sent me these two albums along with the current issue of Rolling Stone that had the first part of Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas article. I gravitated to Leon Russell. I loved his raspy voice. I started my snooty taste in music at this point. If you didn’t know who Leon Russell was or didn’t like his music, we had nothing to talk about. I liked a few songs on Tea for the Tillerman and eventually in high school the song "Wild World" reminded me of my first love when we broke up the first time.
David Bowie's Space Oddity
David BowieSpace Oddity was a record I borrowed from a friend. I put inside my notebook, so no one would think I was too weird. I played the album while shooting hoops in my room (you know, one of those foam balls and plastic hoop). I was now a David Bowie fan.
Frank Zappa – Over Nite Sensation was a wonderful album
Frank Zappa's Over Nite Sensation
with a great cover. You simply were not cool unless you liked Zappa. In science class the teacher would let us bring in albums to play during class when we were dissecting frogs or whatever. I brought in Frank Zappa and The Mothers’ Just Another Band From LA, which featured "Billy the Mountain." Some of my classmates were offended by the ending chorus of "Billy the Mountain" – You don’t fuck around with a mountain. The teacher not wanting to make a big deal out of it let it play on.

Joe Cocker
Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs & Englishmen – I listened to this one over and over and still listen to it when I play ping pong with my buddy. I discovered Joe Cocker through Leon Russell. Some of my favorites included: "Delta Lady," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Feeling Alright," and "Cry Me a River." They have released a deluxe CD featuring more of the songs from that tour. It makes an already great album that much better. I recall around this time in the early '70s that another friend and I walked to the local theater to see the double bill of Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs & Englishmen with The Rolling Stones’ film Gimme Shelter.
The Kinks – I saw them at CSUN, again at Irvine, and
The Kinks' Soap Opera
Universal. They were a fun band and I enjoyed most of their songs. When a friend first said he was now into the Kinks back in ’75, I said, yeah right and I am listening to Herman’s Hermits. The Kinks made a come back with this Soap Opera. Some of those songs still resonate today such as "Rush Hour Blues," "Nine to Five," and "Have Another Drink." I was barely working back in those days and they still meant something to me. I suspect that is where I eventually picked up my appreciation for good lyrics.

Bob Dylan – I knew of him, but never listened much to him. Once I broke up with my first love, I found the lyrics "Positively Fourth Street"  resonated. Then, "Don’t Think Twice," and pieces of "Just Like a Woman" all made sense to me. Dylan became a very important artist to me.

Tom Waits' Night Hawks at the Diner
Tom Waits – Continuing my appreciation for raspy voices and solid lyrics, Tom Waits fit the bill. I also think my snobbishness played a bit of role here. I detested much of what radio played especially when it came to Boston, Rush, Kansas, and the like. I remember playing his song "Better Off Without a Wife" numerous times before I was married to daughter’s mother. There is a lesson learned (or not learned) in there somewhere.
Elvis Costello – This guys lyrics always good. "Watching the
Elvis Costello
Detectives" was the first song I recall liking, but over the years his words grew even more biting and to the point. An old favorite was "This is Hell," which was how I was feeling about my home life in late ‘94.

Sinatra's Trilogy featured New York, New York
Frank Sinatra – He came into play during college. A friend called up excited that I had to listen to "New York, New York." Sinatra warrants his own essay, which I will do eventually. Sinatra was my gateway to jazz. I loved my discoveries of various Sinatra songs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Updated List of Concerts I've Seen

Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.
Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), abolitionist

Rock concerts
Frank Zappa (3xs, my first concert ever. Tom Waits was the opening act. This was at the Santa Monica Civic)
Beach Boys and Chicago (Anaheim Stadium)
David Bowie (2xs, Diamond Dogs tour, Anaheim Convention Center, and The LA Forum)
Jethro Tull (Los Angeles Forum)
ELO (Santa Monica Civic)
Tom Waits (2xs, Ivar Theater in Hollywood and at the Pantages Theater)
Leon Redbone (opened for Tom Waits)
Arlo Guthrie (Santa Monica Civic)
Pete Seeger (Cal. State Long Beach)
The Kinks (3xs CSUN, Irvine, Universal)
                                                        Paul Simon in concert                               Photo by DKW
The Rolling Stones (14 times: LA Forum 2xs ’75; LA Coliseum ’81; Anaheim Stadium ’84 not sure of the year, Rose Bowl 2xs one of those was Daughter’s first Stones concert, of course she wanted to go to the bathroom during the encore, but we were back without missing a song; Seattle Dome; Staples Center Halloween night three years ago; Madison Square Garden.
Joe Cocker (2xs, Santa Monica Civic & UCLA)
Bob Dylan (3xs, Universal Amphitheatre, Tucson, and Lake Tahoe casino, front row center)
Paul McCartney (2xs, his first tour after the Beatles and in 2011 at the Las Vegas MGM)
Elton John (2xs, Hollywood Bowl and at Caesar's Palace)
Guns & Roses (opened for the Stones)
Sheryl Crow (opened for the Stones)
J. Geils Band (opened for the Stones)
Prince (2xs, once opened for the Stones and was pummeled with shoes and at Staples Center)
Bruce Springsteen (2xs times, LA Sports Arena, Coliseum)
Red Hot Chile Peppers (Opened for the Stones)
Sting (Wiltern Theater)
Guns & Roses (Opened for the Stones)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Hollywood Bowl)
Crosby, Stills & Nash (at the Greek)
The Eagles (2xs The first time was a free private concert at the Wiltern sponsored by American Express and an open bar promoting Jack Daniel’s Black Label)
The Grateful Dead (Santa Monica Civic)
Paul Simon (2xs)
Ray Davies (2 or 3xs)
from Google images
Elvis Costello (2xs)
Lucinda Williams (opened for Elvis Costello)
Leon Russell (at a local venue in Agoura)
John Fogerty (Nokia Theater)
Randy Newman (Universal)
Rod Steward (early ‘80s, LA Forum)
Taj Mahal (Lake Tahoe, opened for Bob Dylan)
Zac Brown (Hollywood Bowl)

Jazz concerts
Frank Sinatra (4xs, three at the Universal Amphitheater, once at the LA Forum with Liza and Sammy Davis)
Tony Bennett (Hollywood Bowl)
Ella Fitzgerald (Hollywood Bowl)
Sarah Vaughn (Blue Note in NY)
Mel Torme (2 or 3xs, at the Hollywood Bowl)
Carmen McRae (4xs, Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Brandford Marsalis (Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Terence Blanchard (Hollywood Bowl and at local jazz club)
Ray Brown (Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Benny Green (Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Jane Monheit (3x at Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Tierney Sutton (3xs Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Karrin Allyson (3xs, Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Dee Dee Bridgewater (2xs, Catalina's Jazz club)
Oscar Peterson (Hollywood Bowl)
Diana Krall (Hollywood Bowl)
Regina Carter (Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Joshua Redman (2xs, Catalina’s Jazz Club)
Sonny Rollins (somewhere in Orange County)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Few Items About The Misanthrope

“What is the answer? In that case, what is the question?”
 Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946, Writer

Read a couple of blogs posts at Tosy and Cosh that inspired me to start posting again. We’ll see how long it lasts. Not sure why I stop and start. I enjoy publishing them on Toner Mishap, but then stop just as suddenly as I start.
Let’s be optimistic and say this time, we’ll try to post more frequently. Now I am careful to emphasis that I am not going to post every day, which is just too much effort. We did it for one year in 2005 until 2006 and we had fun and gathered a bit of attention. Most of the posts from me were political in nature. While in hindsight the posts were rather too full of hyperbole, but then again that was my aim to call attention to the views and get comments.
Photo by RJW
So in the spirit of starting anew here are a few things you may or may not know about me. Me being the Misanthrope, I would rather not use the pseudonym, but I have almost 20 followers under that name.
Here are a few things about me:
1.     I enjoy reading
2.     I’d rather go by the initials RJW
3.     I like to write and like to be read as well
4.     I go to the gym more often than not
5.     I work from home and rather happy about that since I spent years driving to downtown Los Angeles from a far away suburb
6.     I often make notes while reading I underline in light pencil in my books or I write down a phrase or sentence I admire
7.     I play darts with a buddy, but not in bars
8.     I play ping pong and have yet to find any one who can beat me on a regular basis
9.     I am pretty good at darts
10. I like more drama type movies over silly slapstick movies
11. I am not a fan of slapstick, except for the old time greats: Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields
12. I love Godfather and Godfather II
13. A close second or third depending on how you count is Django Unchained. My favorite scene is when Christoph Waltz is surrounded by a crowd after shooting a marshal and then ends up getting paid
14. I like to golf, but rarely do
15. Happily married, finally
16. I feel very grateful and thankful for all I have
17. I am looking forward to retiring in five years at most, but hopefully sooner
18. Photography is of interest to me. I would like to get much better
19. I write poetry, but have no idea if it is any good
20. I love music and my tastes have evolved over the years (this will be a post in the near future)
21. I have hundreds of books and have turned our living room into a library
22. I dislike cheap, stingy people
23. I have no interest in religion or fairy tales that people believe verbatim
24. I have more than 23,000 songs in iTunes
25. I have playlists based on moods
26. Politics have gotten even more ugly over the years. Yes, in the early days of this country it may have been even worse, but we are suppose to be more civilized
27. I don’t think American is as good as it once was
28. We, America, have no business being the world’s sheriff
29. I like scotch before a steak dinner
30. I like red wine. Melbec is rapidly becoming a favorite
31. Utah has a lot of beauty, but far too many narrow minded people
32. I do not like pretentious people
33. I have written short stories, but have never submitted any for publication, mostly because I don’t think they were good enough
34. I have written essays and I had one published in the Seattle Times, but upon rereading it I can't understand why it was published
35. Arrogant people make me sick
36. Don’t understand why more young people don’t listen or learn from their elders
37. I have been burnt out in my job for a few years now, but keep going because I have no choice
38. My favorite rock band was the Rolling Stones beginning in 1971 with Sticky Fingers and growing with Exile on Main Street
39. Discovered the poignancy of Bob Dylan after the break up of my first love
40. Enjoy many of Woody Allen’s movies. One of my favorite's is Midnight in Paris. I used to love Annie Hall, but not so much any more
41. I tear up too easily for anything emotional
42. I wish I set a better example for my daughter in many areas
43. I’m very proud of my daughter who has a bachelor’s, master’s, and a law degree
44. I miss my dad, my grandparents, and my uncle
45. I met my wife on Facebook. We knew of each other since the 7th grade. We were on opposite pages in our school year books through junior high and high school, but never hung out or talked much
46. Now my wife and I are together most of the time
47. I love puttering and hanging out around the house
48. I love my wife’s grandchildren. Daughter has none yet
49. I don’t go to many concerts any more because I’ve seen most everyone I want to see and they are too expensive these days
50. I have a great idea for a short story that I have been toying with for years
51. I appreciate and thank you for reading through all of the above