Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Become a member of the 201+ crowd!

Tooling around on Google Analytics last night and saw that over 55% of my visitors are extremely loyal, having visited the site 201+ times! Ok, so 55% of not very many is still not very many, but man, over 200 visits? What the heck are you people doing, anyway??

I appreciate it. But remember, the best gift you can give is a post now and then!! And if you're not a member of the 201+ crowd, join in the fun!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All Politics is Local - Unfortunately, Sometimes

Barack Obama's remark to Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press yesterday, in response to a question about Caroline Kennedy's expression of interest in HRC's vacant Senate seat, takes on new meaning today, huh? Something like he likes Caroline, but he doesn't need to weigh in on New York politics because he's got enough on his plate with Illinois politics. Rod Blagojevich indeed has hit a new low in Illinois state politics, and that is saying something.

I remember encountering the comment some years ago, in law school I think, in the context of federal vs. state power, and the notion that a part of the beauty of the federal system is that we've got 50 states to experiment with different levels of regulation, different regulatory approaches and the like, and that, where we can, we should leave matters to the states to regulate because they are "closer to the people." That is, viewing the state legislatures as so-called "laboratories of democracy" as the Reagan "New Federalism" was still relatively fresh--moving power from the federal governments to state/local governments. And an effective counter to that argument (or at least it seemed so to me at the time) was that if you wanted to see how powerful lobbyists could get, unleash them on the state regulators. They could be rolled with ease, and that, even though there were 50 state governments, if you really wanted to see an industry (e.g., take the tobacco industry) control their own governmental regulatory regime, turn it over from the feds to the states.

I think events in Illinois today prove that that surely would be a probable result.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gregory Ascendeth, Part Deux

Well, it's now official. David Gregory will take over the helm of Meet the Press. I think he is a pretty good choice (although I've also grown fond of Chuck Todd ("Chucky T" to us MSNBCer's)). But Gregory is tough, and won't let people roll him. I think he'll have to learn to balance the toughness with the respect factor that Russert had mastered. That's the way to do it. (I read somewhere in the summer that one of the hardest things to do was to knock these tried and true politicians off their talking points. I tend to believe that is true.) For example, Tim was pretty tough on old Tricky Dick Cheney, but fair enough that Cheney still did his show. It reaped benefits as Cheney was haunted by his "greeted as liberators" quip on MTP in the Iraq war build-up.

But, most importantly, it is a significant prediction break-through for me personally. See my June 23 post predicting Mr. Gregory's pending appointment (click on the "Predictions" label and you'll get there). Now I am going to advocate a review of the tape of the Hagler/Leonard fight to get that overturned. I don't know what to do, though, about my "Ghost" fiasco. Thoughts, dear readers?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Earl the Pearl

On Sunday we will say goodbye to our good friend, Earl Gibson. Earl was a fixture at Hammerstone's for many years. I used to joke that I had never been in a Soulard bar when Earl wasn't there - and was only a slight exaggeration. Click on the image at left and I believe you can read his obit as it appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Earl was a very frail African American man in his late '80s, but he entered like royalty. Everyone knew Earl. And to know Earl was to love him. He would eat some kind of a crazy meal (like hot dogs and cherry coke), say hello to everyone (and I mean everyone), get up and sing "It's a Wonderful World" and bring down the house. He had a virtual set he would do with Eric Brooks (a/k/a, the Human Jukebox) after the Voodoo set.

Earl had been a member of the Inkspots as a young man, and he must have been something then. I can only imagine.

Earl passed away in October, and Hammerstone's is having a fund-raiser to buy him a headstone tomorrow (Sunday)--Pearl Harbor Day. For Earl the Pearl.

To paraphrase Al Pacino--"Say goodbye to my little friend." We miss you, Earl.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Day

Sixty years ago, my parents got married. Last night, Barb, Steve, Max, Nathaniel and I shared a dinner with them. This morning, they went to Grandparents' Day at Nathaniel's school (Crossroads College Prep) and, among other things, heard him playing bass in the band. Tonight we will be snug in our home together.

Happy anniversary, Mom & Dad!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Greatest Generation

If you read my blog, thanks. I'm guessing there's a decent number of you that read my sister's blog, too (Notes from the W.G., see sidebar for link.) And some may even remember my son's short-lived blog from late 2007, which was better than either my sister's blog or mine.

But my ma would be the greatest blogger of the family. A natural. She forwarded this by email, which was sent to them by one of my Dad's old army buddies, about Thanksgiving in France during the big one. Enjoy.

* * *

This is from Dad's friend (B.O.) in the 99th and describes their Thanksgiving just a week or so after Dad left for the hospital with his frozen feet. They were a bunch of miserable kids - 18-22 years old. Hard to imagine, isn't it?

"Sixty-four years ago, in First Army defensive positions in Belgium facing the Siegfried Line, we took turns from our foxholes to go back to our kitchen area for Thanksgiving dinner. We'd been hearing that all the companies along the line would be having roast turkey with all the trimmings. It was cold and raining, and as we passed down the chow line and held our mess kits out for our turkey dinner, the cooks lobbed in mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and boiled turkey, plus pudding--all piled together in the mess kit. We had to eat standing under the fir trees of the Ardennes Forest with rain dripping from our helmets into our already-mixed-up meal. Our cooks had never been known to get any awards for their culinary prowess, but that was inexcusable! This occasion could not be considered a great Thanksgiving, but it was certainly unforgettable!And we could still be thankful for

Let us give thanks."

Indeed, B.O. Thanks a million.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Scene: One Year Anniversary

Ok, it's not been quite one year since I started writing this blog, but nearly so. But just this week my good friend Kevin Flanigan emailed a link he stumbled on that he shared with his brothers Tommy and Sean [Kevin, Sean and Tom--my own personal Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard] and me: It is not a fancy website, but that's Nature's Table for you. It was a "real" place--real music and real food (although not the "real America" Ms. Palin spoke of--in fact, just the opposite!). I frankly cannot imagine my four years at Illinois without that place. I guess I didn't realize that it had only opened in 1979. To me, it seemed like a place that must have been part of the U of I music scene since the '50s or '60s (not that I thought that much about it at the time). And I'm a firm believer that the school is much poorer for not having it there still (sadly, it closed in 1991, a victim of university expansion).

But it was a scene. I never played there. My jazz chops were just not good enough at the time. But I was an devoted fan. The memory of that session with Ray's Condition Blue, featuring pianist Mike Kocour ("he's a math major? You've gotta be kidding me!") and the great Jeff Stitely on drums remains vivid (see my post of on Kocour from November 2007). I've copied some pictures from the website that include those guys, just as I remember them. (Hey, I didn't recall the flannel so much, but I guess it was "in, man, very in.") The list of daily gigs at the Table that is at the website is fascinating. I can still go down that list and tell you, with a fair amount of certainty, which gigs I was at (I mean, is it weird or what that I remember going to a Friday happy hour of hot music featuring Tom Birkner on cornet and vocals?)

In a strange three degrees of separation, Stitely was a neighbor and friend to Matt Farmer. Matt went to high school with my friend Neal Connors. Not only did I meet Matt by playing gigs with him and Neal up in Chicago but we've become very good friends. And where did I meet first meet Neal? While playing in Jeff Stitely's big band at U of I, naturally!

Little things can fundamentally alter the course of one's life, can't they? One big one was my introduction to this wonderful U of I jazz scene in the summer of 1981, between my junior and senior years of high school, going to the two week Illinois Summer Youth Music program (ISYM). I also went to Indiana that year and did a band and orchestra camp. Because of that, I elected to go to the jazz program at Illinois. There I met Tom Birkner, heard and played in a big band with the even-then-amazing Kevin Kizer (a kid my age, already playing in the #1 jazz band at Illinois), experienced John Garvey (Garv), encountered Tom Wirtel (then Shabda Nur), heard the likes of Brad Wheeler, Ron Dewar, Joel Spencer and others I can't remember right now, and of course, met the Kev-ster himself. Two young trumpet playing kids--one from just south of Chicago and the other from smack dab in the middle of nowhere-- but who had a lot in common. One of the most important of which was a love of music and playing which I think has shaped the people we became, even if we were not the next Dave Bilger or Wynton Marsalis.

What a scene.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the Edge of Being on the Edge

What does it mean to live life "on the edge"? Sometimes, when feeling particularly smug, I think that I do. But I know deep down I don't, really, compared to many.

But I had a self-congratulatory moment like that while on vacation in Turkey. (Hey, isn't being on vacation in Turkey in itself on the edge? I guess not for the 75 million Turks of the world.)

On the second night of our recent sojourn, I found myself with a small opportunity. I knew we'd be doing things "as a group" for most of the trip (not on the edge!). Which was going to be fine. But if I was going to do anything on my own, off the beaten track, I could sense, "this was it." So I asked our guide, Ozlam, about the jazz club in Istanbul that had been recommended to me by a friend of an acquaintance. She said she'd help me get there.

Maybe it's the way I look. (Someone once remarked, hearing me play in a club, "Hey, you sound great--but you look like a lawyer playing the trumpet.") Ozlam looked up the address on the map. She went over it with me carefully. She wrote down her cellphone number and made me tuck it in my wallet ("Please, please, call me if anything happens!"). Oh, and about that wallet--take out all your credit cards, she advised. Not getting the warm and fuzzies.

So about 10:00 p.m. (after the evening group meal) she loaded me into a cab and gave the cab driver the proper coordinates (in Turkish, naturally). And off I went, into the night in Istanbul with no hope of communicating with my driver.

Over the bridge and water to the north part of Istanbul. Feeling a little nervous. Ozlam had told me it was at the base of a tower. Unfortunately, not knowing Turkish, I didn't realize she had only told the cabbie to take me to the base of that tower--no club name, no precise address, let alone even the right street. I couldn't communicate well enough to make him understand my precise destination. So I paid the fare and got out. I did not see the club, so I fished around in my wallet for the address--unfortunately, I had removed the small slip of paper with the address when I took out my credit cards. (At least I still had Ozlam's number--Whew!) Asked for directions. "Up there and to the left." Those directions were meaningless, as the street layout was Byzantine. Literally.

Edgier still. Should I just pack it in and go back to our hotel? I've made a good faith effort here--who would know? Giving up would make a funny little story in and of itself. But when am I going to be in Istanbul again? So I snaked down and about (after a couple of false starts, a couple more questions of patient waiters at a couple of restaurants) and eventually made it to the club. A guitar duo playing classic jazz. (And a cover charge that would have made the owners of the Blue Note in New York blush.)

"Do you have reservations?" they asked. "No," I replied. I looked around - the place was maybe a third full, on a weeknight. Reservations--are they crazy?!?!

So I settled into my seat, taking in the amazing little scene:
A perfect, small club, with brick walls, a small bar, small round tables and a little stage with a piano and drum set, unused that night (but well worn, otherwise). The smell of clove cigarettes in the air (John Garvey, anyone? "BE QUIET!" Garv would have implored). Wonderful musicians from Europe playing wonderful American art music at the crossroads of Asia, Europe and the Middle East. I emailed my friend Matt Farmer in Illinois (coverage in Turkey was amazing), who immediately replied I should request Steely Dan's "The Fez". And guess what--in the half hour since I arrived, the place had become cram-packed --a mostly young (but all vibrant, happy, and happening) group. Reservations indeed!

A couple of over-priced beers later, the place was buzzing with energy (but quiet--it's all about the music--but they're into it, man). The group swung into "Some Day My Prince Will Come," and I thought of my man, Miles. I looked up by the entrance to the door, and saw the sheet music for the tune that is the club's namesake: "Nardis" Then in little letters, its composer (well, at least by attribution): Miles Davis.

In Istanbul.

Listening to a tune Miles made famous.

At a club named after a Miles tune.

Miles, who plays the trumpet. And who grew up in Alton, Illinois, a stone's throw from where I live now.

On the edge. And right at home.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Go Green for Christmas

What are the traditional Christmas colors? Red and green, naturally. Why not emphasize the latter and buy Tim Green's new Christmas recording, Change of Seasons? Click right here and get on the bandwagon: Tim's website has been on my blog sidebar from the get-go. If you don't have his other recordings, you can rectify that situation, effective immediately.

Tim is playing bass with Trio Cambia (or, as I call them, Gang Green) on this recording. [Hey, doesn't "cambia" translate roughly to "change" in Italian? Works on multiple levels--Change is coming to the White House. Tim is a master of playing the changes. And his recording is available for mere change.]

I have never known someone who has mastered two instruments as an adult, at whatever level--forget about at a professional gigging level. But Tim has. And it's mighty tasty playing.

Do you want to support the environment? Time to go Green!

Worried about the financial crisis? Help the new Treasury Secretary and put some more Green in your life!

Want to make your friends green with envy? Make them envious of your new Green!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Our Moon Shot

I'm not much into czars. Really, I'm not. Whether it's the "Drug Czar", an "AIDS Czar" or a "Katrina Czar", this somehow seems a uniquely American (shall I say, Bush-ian) knee-jerk response to any serious problem (see or Well, that and declaring "war" on something, like a tactic (terrorism) or a seemingly intractable societal problem (poverty or drugs).

But here's something that's been cooking in my brain since this summer: Obama needs do the Kennedy thing and set an aggressive goal that we are going to achieve energy independence and create a new green technology base in America in a ridiculously short period of time (8 or 10 years). Then, appoint Arnold his "Energy Czar." And turn him loose. Let him go. Give him real power. Don't muzzle him (could you anyway?). Like Biden, let him rip. Allow him to "terminate" his way to energy independence and environmental sanity. We'll clean China's clocks on this new green technology, Tom Friedman-style.

I know Arnold has an "R" by his name when they identify him as the California governor. But let's get real: the Governator is a Democrat. He's married to a Kennedy, for crying out loud. Plus if you listen to him, he generally says the right things. OK, he supported McCain. But that just shows he's a politician, and a pretty smart one. (Look at Joe Lieberman. Joe's a Republican, I'm sorry to say. He should either quit (or get kicked out of) the Democratic party, OR have backed the Democratic candidate. One or the other. Stupid politics. As Sarah Palin would say, say it ain't so, Joe!)

Arnold got my juices flowing when I heard him on George Stephanapolous's Sunday morning gab-fest this summer. It just makes so much sense: (1) Arnold is right on this issue. (2) Arnold's done what he needs to do making money and politically (perfect that he can't be president--he can't have much higher executive ambitions now--he's been the governor of a state that is bigger and more powerful than most countries). (3) Obama gets credit for "reaching across party lines"--big time. This guy's a Republican superstar (notwithstanding he's really a Democrat).

And finally, and most important and urgent of all (4) The country desperately needs this to happen, immediately, and with the right policy.

Check this out. As Peggy Noonan might say: Savor.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Back Again

I guess blogging is like exercising--you either get into the habit or out of it. Not having posted for two weeks in Turkey, I came back to having my Internet down at home. It took me a few days to realize it was going to take more than unplugging and replugging in my modem, and that combined with jet lag put me out of the humor to blog. Not to mention having to be glued to the election coverage.

Well, I will try to do some posting, and hopefully people will "check back in" to the blog. Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hello From Istanbul

Vacation in Turkey has started with a wet, cold, rainy day.  A fun ferry ride, nice lunch, visit to the spice market, and then to the one of the Ottoman palaces built in the late 19th century as the Ottoman empire was in decline (their response to the decline in power--start building palaces, the more ornate the better!).  At least I can prepared for the weather.  By that, I mean I brought clothes.  Oh well.  

Trying to figure out how to get to a recommended jazz club tonight or tomorrow night. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Four-Letter Words





Alan Greenspan speculated that the current economic crisis might be described as a once-in-a-century event (let's put aside for now that he may have been one of the chief arsonists in that fire). That's still more frequent than a Cubs World Series win. Which all brings to mind another four-letter word familiar to Cubs fans:


If I may be permitted to offer one observation to those Cubs fans who read words on this space: A few years back, the Cardinals won 105 games in the regular season and were the class of major league baseball. Then they got whacked in four straight in the World Series by the dreaded Red Sox, ending the fabled Curse of the Bambino. It hurt. But, you know, it was a great season. Last season (2007), we stunk. Flat out. You know, it's much better to have a great season, even if you come up short.

I first got turned on to this concept being a Knicks fan back in the early '90s. The Knicks had gone to the finals (in a Jordan-less NBA) but lost in 7 to the Houston Rockets. Then Pat Riley promptly quit as head coach of the Knicks. "A wasted season" complained the players, and the NY sports press amplified that sentiment with their massive megaphone.

Not so fast, one astute writer observed. This was a great season and a great run of seasons for the Knicks. Yeah, they came up short, but they were competitive as hell, and it was fun to watch. In a few years, when no-one is showing up at the Garden on a Wednesday night to watch them play Golden State, the fans would look back with fond memories of the "glory years." It sure beat being mediocre.

Which all brings to mind yet still other four-letter words familiar to any Cubs fan:




Saturday, October 4, 2008

Put to Rest, Finally

Well, I am happy to report that the fabled "liberal media bias" myth has been dispelled once and for all! Why do I say that, you ask?

Well, how has the VP debate been covered? Either it was a tie, no damage done to either campaign, but no "game changers" either. Or alternatively, Sarah Palin "won" because (pick any or all that apply): (1) she was more folksy, made a connection with the people (you know what I'm saying, "wink, wink, ;)"); (2) Biden was "boring" (all those facts and figures); (3) Biden was off his game and "lost" the first part of the debate (too passive); (4) Biden generally did not attack back ever (didn't take the bait, for example, on the "white flag of surrender" poke); and/or (5) Palin "exceeded expectations", in part because of the disastrous Katie Couric interviews, and did not run crying from the stage, vomit on the stage or freeze up -- generally saying some combination of words that vaguely resembled sentences, including nouns and verbs. [Matt Lauer asked Guiliani the next morning whether she had "mastery of the facts" or whether it sounded like she crammed for a test for a week. Guiliani said he didn't know how you could separate the two. To Matt's credit, interupted and said, well, "one is knowlege of subjects built up over years, and the other is cramming for a test." Seems pretty simple to me] []

Am I right on how it's been reported? You betcha!! (Ok, maybe not the NY Times editorial page, but Palin will pick that up, because she reads "all" of the newspapers, remember?)

So that's the media reporting, including the "liberal elites." What's the objective evidence? CBS poll immediately following debate: Biden over Palin, 51% to 36%. CNN poll I just saw reported tonight: Biden 51%, Palin 36%. What about the "gender gap", you ask? Men: Biden 51%, Palin 36%. Women: Biden 51%, Palin 35%. Hmm. That's starting to sound like a Biden victory. But put facts aside--it's about personal connection, right? Now what was the most moving moment of the debates so far, on personal level? Was it Joe being emotional about being a single dad, not knowing if his sons are going to make it after he tragically lost his wife and infant daughter at age 29? Say it ain't so!!!

Now, doggone it Joe, there you go again....


Finally, someone has written that Sarah Palin didn't tie or win the the debate. And I think we have a new phrase:

"Sarah-phonics , a mash up of sentence fragments and colloquialisms glued together with misplaced also’s and there’s — gibberish really."

Here's the entire post:

Don't worry, Sarah Palin will never see it - it was in a newspaper (NY Times).

Monday, September 29, 2008

"This is an important election..."

How many times have we heard that? Only every election, right? However, we now know this is a truthful statement sometimes.

Only bad thing is, we can now see it was 2000 (and/or 2004). The deregulation chickens have come home to roost. Big time. We really need to know what happened to our economy. This is sickening.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Marc Bulger should demand to be traded. Now. I don't know if he should do it publicly or privately, although I think he's smart not to talk about his benching publicly, as then his trade value might be diminished if he is branded a "problem" player.

The Arizona Cardinals are on St. Louis TV before the Rams inevitable crushing at the hands of the Bills later this afternoon. And there is our old pal, Kurt Warner, still playing for the Cards. He's been through a lot, and I can't say I always was confident in his playing (relative to Bulger's abilities or otherwise). But I think all Kurt has ever wanted to do was play ball. He wants to get well paid, too, I'm sure, but he strikes me as more of a throw-back (no pun intended), in that really, bottom line, he just wants to get in and play ball. And he may not be Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning or Bart Star (or even Kurt Warner, circa 1999-2000). But he is still at least moderately effective most of the time, still may fumble a lot, but also brilliant at times. Good for Kurt. I am happy for him. I really am.

One thing that has been consistent with the Rams, even in the glory years of 1999 to 2001 (with the good blip in 2003 as well)--they've never protected the quarterback. Warner got pounded, as did Bulger (not to mention our old buddy Trent Green, the guy starting for Bulger today who went out because of a devastating sack in pre-season '99 that paved the way for the former Hi-Vee grocery clerk). If Warner had stayed with the Rams, does anyone doubt that he'd have retired years ago from too many concussions, too many aches and pains (and maybe worse) to the body? We've let Bulger just get bloodied up, and yes, while he has not been effective this year (and a lot of last), it is just not reasonable to ask or expect anyone to get blistered and still be effective throwing the ball.

So for Bulger to preserve his career, he should do what Warner did--run as fast as he can from the Rams to preserve his body and his brain. Warner's decision was tougher--he went from a winning organization to a perennial loser (or pretender). But the Rams are just a stinky football team now, probably the worst (or certainly in the bottom 3) in the NFL. Why stay?

Run, Marc. Run fast. Before it's too late for you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bubbles Bursting in Mid-Air

Well, the economic scene was fascinating and scary this week. Seems like we came close to a complete melt-down. Nothing like a little socialism injected into our society that cannot do a lot of good. Heard a commentator say (and I don't know if this is pretty close to the truth) that its a good thing we have Paulson as president these days. Where is Mr. Bush anyway?

I had the feeling earlier that the McCain/Palin bubble is bursting too. Could have just been a good week for Obama on the stump (but maybe we've turned a corner)? Seems like it was a lot of things--(1) blatant flip-flopping on "I'm a deregulator/I'll clean up Wall Street and go after those fat cats" (2) press calling Mr. McCain to account for his misleading ads (MSNBC not shy about using the "l" word) (3) even a lot of conservative commentators (Brooks, Will, even the inane Krauthammer, as I understand) flipping out about Ms. Palin not being ready for prime time. And I'm sure other things.

What do you think, folks? Should the government be bailing out financial institutions? I don't know that they had any choice. But when will we figure out that what we like, expect and think works in this country is regulated capitalism?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gregory Ascendeth

This summer I predicted that David Gregory would be tapped for the Meet the Press gig (see post on June 23). Looks like he might be gathering steam, as he will now host MSNBC's election night coverage, rather than Olbermann and Matthews. Also looks like he's being "groomed" for the MTP spot, per this article.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Band Dad's Musings

Here is new one for me--sitting at a BreadCo blogging while waiting for Nathaniel's bass lessons. He's doing a band now, followed by private lessons, so I was trying to figure out what to do with myself for two hours. I figured I could go to a BreadCo with wireless, log on and get some work done. That'd be great, except I forgot our website to log in on! I go from a saved link at home that has recently changed, so here I am blogging away. (This should be a new post on a blog about blogging, like Jeremy Duncan has in Zits.)

Saturday was recording session #2 at Benton Park Studios. The Voodoo Band is feeling very comfortable in the studio now, and we fixed up a couple of boo boos from session #1 and laid down four more good tracks. We are focusing on originals this time out, to save $$ on license fees for covers, but mainly to show off the pens of Raul and Blind Willie, who have written some of the band's best songs. The working title is "Sundown", after a Latin-tinged, bluesy number penned by Raul. We are having a ball.

Strange twists so far on the Republican veep situation. I don't know what to make of it all. But one thing's for sure: what a strain this could put on the poor Palin family. I wished we lived in a world where their privacy could be respected, but we do not. I feel for the young daughter going through a pregnancy in this environment.

Voodoo Blues Slideshow

Our August recording session:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin Comparison

Palin's pick has reportedly "energized the base". I know one person who is a card-carrying member of the base who was down-hearted with Sen. McCain who was personally very energized by Ms. Palin's selection. We don't ever go toe-to-toe, because we are friendly and we don't want to ever release our nukes on each other. But it baffles me how he could have been poised to consider Obama, and when an ultra-conservative appears on the scene as the veep choice, then he is more excited about Mr. McCain's chances. I still don't get it.

Of course, the lack of experience here will not seem to matter to the Republicans--after all, this is just the vice president, not the president, and how could the Democrats put a person so unready at the top of the ticket? Putting aside that the experience of Mr. Obama's is superior to that of Ms. Palin, Mr. Obama went through the electoral process. People had a chance to make their case on his experience or lack thereof, and he won nonetheless, vanquishing the mighty Clinton machine. He earned it. While she might be smart, capable and bright (even if I disagree with her views), Ms. Palin has not. Plus, I've heard, and tend to believe, that some of the best "executive" experience is in fact running a campaign for president--which Obama did better, by all accounts, than Clinton, McCain, Giuliani, or any other candidate in the field this year.

But the bottom line for me is that John McCain simply did not pick the person he thought was best to take over should something happen to him. There is just no doubt about that. Again, she might well turn out to be a terrifically smart and capable person, but McCain could not have said to himself, 'this person is the best, or among the best, most capable people to lead the country if that becomes necessary.' She is someone who he thinks will help him politically, plain and simple. He met her once, six months ago, at a conference. She has not thought much about the Iraq war. She did not even know John McCain's Iraq policy yesterday. You can bet Biden knew Obama's backward and forward in late 2007 (and probably earlier), and has great ideas to help give it shape and make it work better. This is what we need.

Here's what gets me: even if you are a die-hard Republican and her views are in line with yours, you do not have any idea how she could perform the job of president--it might be okay (from your perspective), but you simply don't know and don't have any basis right now to credibly predict. Come on, Mr. McCain. You can and should have done better than this. We deserve it; you might be our next president, for crying out loud. Start doing the right thing!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Saturday Results

The Voodoo Blues Band unfortunately pulled in the silver medal at last Saturday's Blues Challenge in Springfield. The winning band was from Springfield, and our fellas who stayed to hear them were complimentary but thought that we compared favorably. In any event, we played pretty well and had a chance to strut our stuff, including a lot of originals by Raul, our fearless leader.

Well, maybe we'll end up at the Memphis finals one of these times!

We heard overheard Biden and Obama while in Springfield, but were not able to really attend the event--even though it was close by, there was a completely different entry (complete with top flight security) that made it near impossible to do both things. There were numerous sharpshooters on the roof--I felt equal parts chilled by their apparent necessity and good that they were there and taking it seriously.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Biden Time

I was a Biden man before I was a Baracknafile. I've been burned by David Brooks before (he has turned on my main man from Illinois and gone all conservative on me--I feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football). But he wrote a nice piece today on Biden's good qualities. We shall see:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More On Saturday

Well, this is very interesting. The Voodoo Blues is now apparently opening for Barack Obama (of sorts). The Old Capitol Blues Festival, where we'll be competing in the ICBC Blues competition on Saturday afternoon, will be one block from Sen. Obama's rally with his new veep choice.,CST-NWS-sweet20.article

The competition will pause momentarily for Sen. Obama and his speech. We are slated to hit the stage from 12:30 to 1:00. Obama speechifies at 2:00. The note we received from the ICBC President was that plans were to press ahead--e.g., he still thought we'd be able to park near the stage, they're just anticipating a short pause. I don't know--that's hard to imagine. But boy, will it be exciting!!

As of yesterday, it looked like Biden was rising fast. Joe was my actual favorite in the Presidential field until it became apparent he had no legs and had to drop out post-Iowa.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Goings On

A big weekend coming up:

First, a show on Friday night in Chicago with the Blue State Cowboys (see sidebar link for Matty Farmer's great BSC blog). We are playing at McKellin's Tavern in Rogers Park, as a warm-up for a Cleveland wedding gig in early September (strange, but true).

Saturday, an early start to get to Springfield for the Voodoo Blues Band, who will be competing in the Illinois Central Blues Club Blues Challenge. 25 minutes to wow the judges for a shot at going to the 25th International Blues Challenge in February 2009 in Memphis! We hit the stage at 12:30, hoping for blues history (or at least a fun chapter in our personal lives) to be written. Check it out:

Finally, back to St. Louis for a one-song performance of a cover of Cake's cover of "I Will Survive" with my buddy Chris Lawhorn's band, Rule 3, opening for More Cowbell at a charity benefit for Annie's Hope at the Old Rock House in St. Louis (performance at around the 7:45 to 7:50 mark on Saturday night).

Then, plain old jam session at Hammerstone's, 4-8, in Soulard, per the usual (see Voodoo Blues Band link at sidebar).

Did I mention we've started hitting Benton Park Studios for CD #2? Mostly originals. Sounding good so far....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More for your iPod

Check out some golden oldies from my own personal past (I was doing some basement cleaning and one thing led to another), in the classical realm:


1. L'Histoire du Soldat
2. Pulcinella Suite
3. Octet for Wind Instruments

If you check any of these out, check out Stravinsky conducting the Columbia Chamber Ensemble, in particular of L'Histoire. Charles Brady is on cornet, and Charles was one of Ray Sasaki's teachers (my trumpet prof at U of I). It is near flawless playing. Ray told me a story (that I hope is true!) worth repeating: Brady was practicing his triple and double tonguing on a famous phrase in "Marche Royale" that Stravinsky wrote as slurred. Stravinsky overheard him before the session and asked what he was doing. Brady responded sheepishly he was just practicing and not to worry, he'd slur it as written on the recording. Stravinsky said, no, he liked it better tongued. And that's the way it's done now (bedeviling all of us who then had to learn it that way).

Oh, and check out, on the jazz side, two more interesting covers from saxophonist Bob Berg: Michelle (Beatles) and Something in the Way She Moves (James Taylor). Not to mention Maynard Ferguson's 1972 big band cover of JT's "Country Road".

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Time To Pack It In and Jet off to Something New

Ok, after a long hiatus (I apparently haven't had much to say (I know, do I ever?)), I must say this: I am sick to death of hearing about Brett Favre and every little thing he does (look there he is with a clipboard on the sidelines!). Enough already.

Monday, July 21, 2008

For your iPod

I stumbled on a couple of really interesting and cool jazz covers of novel tunes, and would like to share some with you. Anyone who has an addition, I invite you to post it.

What got me going on this (again) is discovering a couple more Brad Mehldau covers of contemporary pop tunes, I guess you'd call them.

I've noticed that Beatles tunes in particular seem hard to cover, and I started trying collect the more successful of the bunch (in my view). Mehldau in particular appears to be creating his own sort of Beatles' White Album covers, having done at least four by my count. Two of them are great and very accessible, and one (Martha My Dear) is pretty far out there, and requires some work on the listener's part (although worth it to me--it is almost more like contemporary classical music than jazz to my ear).

Besides Beatles pop/tunes, I am fascinated by covers of songs that are sort of more "kids' stuff" perhaps (e.g., Sesame Street Theme--I know Clark Terry used to cover it, but I have never found a good recorded version of it).

Anyway, here goes:

Blackbird: Brad Mehldau - really nice, pretty straightforward for Brad

Dear Prudence: Brad Mehldau - a little further afield, but a beautiful yet dissonant solo

Rainbow Connection: Nice version on a Tommy Newsom album. Tommy was the long running sax player in the Tonight Show Band whose shtick was being the polar opposite of the flamboyant Doc Severinson. But the version of Rainbow Connection on that album is a piano trio led by John F. Hammond with no horns. Anyway, it works.

Peter Cincotti does a reasonable vocal version of it as well. It is just a great tune.

She's Leaving Home: McCoy Tyner-- lush and beautiful

Eleanor Rigby: solo piano by the great Chick Corea

True Colors: Josefine Cromholm & Ibis. This is a very sparse treatment that could benefit from at some point getting a hair more traditional (like halfway through). But I find it quite arresting. I actually am also a big fan of the Cindy Lauper version that was a hit in her heyday.

Candy Man: Ray Brown trio (with Monty Alexander on piano)

Pure Imagination: (like Candy Man, also from the original Willie Wonka movie): Monty Alexander

Still Crazy After All These Years: Brad Mehldau

I've Just Seen a Face: John Pizzareli - I'm not huge fan of Pizzareli (not a hater either, mind you), but this is a great version of this tune

Further out there:

Brad Mehldau: Martha My Dear & 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (you have to get about 3 & 7 minutes into the latter before you can recognize the verse and chorus, respectively)

Nobody Does It Better (the Marvin Hamlisch Bond movie tune): Sex Mob. Check it out, the leader plays a slide trumpet. Also, he likes to record things the first time the musicians have ever played through a tune, to capture the freshness and spontaneity of it.

Not quite on point, but you also might check out a couple of great (and completely contrasting) versions of Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' from "Oklahoma"--it is perhaps a little surprisingly a great jazz tune: Ray Charles with the Count Basie Orchestra and Hank Jones on solo piano.

Finally, I really love this version of Joni Mitchell's A Case of You by Dianna Krall:

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Weird Story

The week before last, Nathaniel was in Rock School camp, which ended somewhat early in the afternoon. I picked him up a couple or three days that week and made an effort to get there kind of early so he wouldn't languish at the camp with nothing to do. We were driving home and I didn't want to to make something for dinner so we decided to eat out.

We went through the 'usual' list, and nothing was sounding too good, and I finally threw out C.J. Muggs in desperation. C.J. Muggs is pub-type restaurant about two minutes from my house in old Webster. To my surprise, he said that sounded pretty good. But as we drove past on the way back, it was a little too early for me (he hardly had any lunch and was ready to go then). So we compromised, since we were so close to home, that we'd come back in 45 minutes or an hour.

When we did, we couldn't turn on to Lockwood (where C.J. Muggs is located). But we were so close, I just parked and we decided to hoof it the rest of the way. We saw a police car up the way, and I wondered if someone had had a heart attack or similar misfortune. As we got closer, we could see that a car had driven up over the curb and crashed through the plate glass window at one of the local businesses. Guess which one?

Right: C.J. Muggs. It flipped us out--we could have been sitting right there. Thankfully no one apparently was seriously injured in the crash.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What's in a name?

What do people call you? I am lucky to have a lot of good ones going right now.
  • Rob
  • Robert
  • Robert (ala Francais: ro-Baire; try rolling the "r" for more fun)
  • Roberto (roll the "r" even harder)
  • Bobby Joe
  • Endicott [often slowly enunciated, with special emphasis on each syllable]
  • Dude [that's what Nathaniel calls me when he's not thinking too hard]
[Yes, Bobby Joe has made it into the list as a permissible iteration.]

I'd even take the Dallas version, how JR Ewing (Larry Hagman) referred to Patrick Duffy's character:

"mmmBobby" (You've got to say the "Bobby" part fast; try it--you can't fail to sound just like JR!)

Just never a "Bob". To paraphase Stewie on Family Guy: "So help me, don't call me 'Bob.' For every time you call me 'Bob,' I shall kill you."

Saturday, June 28, 2008


My sister has taken to posting poetry on her blog, which is a wonderful thing. She marries them up to a beautiful picture (often one she or Steve has taken) or an interesting thought.

I don't know much about poetry, so let me try some Pooh-etry:

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.

Hey, baby....

How does one measure a life? How much money did you make? How many things did you accumulate? What did you accomplish at work?

Of course not. We all have and know our own measures which are of a much more personal nature, that carry far more value for each of us. But let me submit one variant for your consideration and amusement: How many times, and by how many people, and in what contexts, were you called "baby"? This seems as good as any to me. And the more the better, from my perspective.

This is a wonderful word, so versatile. Of course it can be innocent, or sweet, or sexy, or loving in the most innocent way (as between and a parent and a child), and everything up to and including much more sultry, adult versions. I love them all.

I've been thinking about this concept a lot lately, and I'll share with you why. The ending line is going to be my new mantra in life.

The Voodoo Blues Band sessions on Sundays at Hammerstone's are, among other things, great jam sessions, when some of the top St. Louis blues performers come by to say hello, share a drink, share a story, have a laugh, and, of course, lay down the blues. Our sit-ins are much more than people who just show up; they become and remain our dear friends.

One such friend who comes by often is both a wonderful drummer and a singer. An older gent who has been on the blues scene for years and years. Played with everybody. He doesn't just play the blues, he lives it, breathes it, drinks it in--it simply oozes out of the pores of his skin. A few weeks ago, he showed up after what for him had been a relatively extended absence. We were all so so glad to see him again, play with him again, just hear him again. As he was leaving the stage from sitting in, I gave a him a big pat on the back, smiled and beamed, "Morris, you sounded great!!"

He stared back at me with an expression I don't quite know how to describe in words (sort of like "huh?") and after a small beat, gave me a response I don't think I'll ever forget as long as I live:

"Baby, I always sound great."

And without more he moved on to his cheeseburger and listened to the rest of the set.

Morris, yes you do. My new mantra. Feel free to share your baby stories with us.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I love to make predictions. Sometimes they are wildly right (I correctly foresaw the Cardinals taking the 2006 World Series even though they stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way in to post-season that year (remember the Astros closing in fast while the Cardinals reeled?)). But just as often (if not more often), they are stupefyingly wrong: I confidently asserted Marvelous Marvin Hagler would knock out Sugar Ray Leonard in the late '80s. Woops. The worst of all might have been after seeing "Ghost" in a sneak preview (on a double-bill with Days of Thunder, no less). It was a very rare instance of seeing a main Hollywood feature without knowing a gosh-darn thing about it in advance (think about how much you typically know about a movie before plunking down your hard-earned cash at the box office). After seeing that towering pile of junk, I prognosticated (with my usual air of arrogance) to Sharon that it would last all of one weekend (maybe not even a full weekend), then (definitely) straight-to-video and (to a moral certainty) never heard from again. (I still think that's the fate it deserved.) Double woops and a half.

But to get proper credit, I have learned the hard way one must make a prediction in advance--it does not help to say after the fact that you were secretly harboring a premonition of events to come all along (a trick I've tried to no avail).

So, while we learned this weekend from Brian Williams that Tom Brokaw will be helming Meet the Press through the November elections (which has to be a temporary fix), I will make my prediction on the permanent successor to Russert: David Gregory. I think they are grooming him for that spot. I'm not saying I think he's the best or my top choice, necessarily. But I predict he is going to get it. You heard it here, if not first, at least before it was announced.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Were There

For those who have never made it in to Hammerstone's, I thought I would share this with you. Apparently, one of our many legion of fans came in and took the attached video of us on a typical Sunday and posted it on YouTube. They really did a nice job, and captured pretty much what it's like to be in the club when we play...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some Good Advice

Blind Willie forwarded me the following clip from a 1958 appearance on the "Art Ford Jazz Party" television show with Buck Clayton and Charlie Shavers in a classic "cutting contest" (Charlie is the one in the cap). Willie sent it together with the original message from his friend, which included the following jazz urban legend. I love it:

A lady walks into a music store to get a bottle of valve oil for her young son, who has just started playing trumpet. A kind older gentleman offers to help her, showing her bottles of Al Cass, Bach, etc. The lady asks the gentleman if he plays the trumpet. "Oh yes," he replies, "I've played professionally all my life. I worked with Artie Shaw, Bob Crosby, and had my own band." The lady asks, "What's your name?" "Billy Butterfield," he replies. "Well, Mr. Butterfield, since my son is just starting to play, do you have any advice for him, based on your years of experience?" Butterfield thinks a moment, then emphatically states "Yes. Don't trade fours with Charlie Shavers!"

But what I really find most amazing in this whole thing is that there was ever a t.v. show called the "Art Ford Jazz Party"!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

"I saw it on Russert"

That's the way I referred to Meet the Press--it wasn't "Meet the Press" to me, it was "Russert". I have missed very few episodes of Meet the Press in the last many, many years. He was rigidly dogmatic, to the left and right and center(who else was fair to Pat Buchanan?), in getting to the real nub of the matter.

He more than "covered" the news; he helped shape what it was, but not in an obtrusive or manipulative or unfair way. What are the defining statements for Cheney, if not (to Russert on MTP): "We'll be greeted as liberators" - "Saddam has reconstituted his nuclear program"? My personal belief is that he played a central role in taking down the candidacy of Mitt Romney in December 2007, not because he vindictively went after him in a partisan way (Bill O'Reilly anyone?), but because, through his sheer journalism skills and enormous preparation simply exposed the guy as a "phony" (that was the worst word that his dad, Big Russ, could say about anyone). That's what he did--he would expose you. If what he exposed about you was great, then your stock went up. If not--well, you better hope the video goes in the same warehouse as at the end of Indiana Jones.

Beyond feeling enormously saddened that a vital man would die so young in the midst of doing what he truly loved, I feel frankly worried about the hole his passing is going to create in discourse about the election (not sure Stephanopolous is up to it, Matthews a bit too wild-eyed, David Gregory is a tad too smug for my personal taste). How am I going to get the raw information to inform my thinking on civic matters without having Mr. Russert spend hours doing the homework for me and presenting it in an immediately grasp-able way? Many of my political posts were done after watching "Russert" on Sunday morning, and being so juiced there was some point I just needed to make. (See "Dead Man Talking" about Russert's devastation of Romney discussed above.)

Russert was like a great portrait photographer. At his best, through his skills, he could show you what someone really looked like. Not his view of who you are, but who you really are. If you are a beautiful person, that will show. If you are ugly, that ugliness will show. It's not like other journalists (Sean Hannity, anyone?) who can't help putting their own spin on what you look like, don't prepare and overlay their own views--like taking a Polaroid, drawing a mustasche on the print and showing the picture to you and saying: "Here, here's what this person looks like." No, just take a picture that really shows the person. Sounds simple, but getting to a point where you can really do that, reveal the subject but not reveal yourself, I can imagine is one of the hardest things to do in portrait photography. That's what Russert did journalistically.

I'm going to miss him. Enjoy this more recent sample of his work:

The best part of this is that Russert was going to actually let him off the hook (relatively speaking), but McCain cuts him off and "answers" the quote, shooting himself in the left foot after having put his right foot in the bear trap. It's like Russert dug the grave, then led McCain in the general direction of the hole to see if he'd fall in. He does, and when Russert peers over the edge and starts to ask McCain if he'd like a ladder to get out, McCain interrupts him and says, "Hand me that shovel, this hole isn't deep enough!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

This one's for Steve

Here is the Dave Brubeck group playing "Take Five". I know this is one of Steve's favorites. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Taylorville BBQ, Blues and Cruise Fest

Thanks to the great folks at Taylorville, Illinois for having the Voodoo Blues Band open their first ever BBQ, Blues and Cruise festival. We played the early afternoon, and the festival went on despite severe weather the night before which almost trashed the county fairgrounds where the event was held. They had an amazing turnout, and everyone seemed genuinely glad we were there. Also thanks to for booking us on the gig. Maybe this will be an annual event for us.

Here are a couple of web pieces on the event, for those who just can't get enough. Nice words about the band (albeit before anyone up there ever heard us):

Saturday, May 24, 2008

They Don't Do This Anymore

Well, the votes are in and '60s Miles won the poll. So here is your clip, with that unbelieveable group: Miles, Wayne Shorter (ts), Herbie Hancock (pno), Ron Carter (bs) and Tony Williams (dr, and complete with mustache that Miles made him grow so that he could get into the clubs as a teenager when he joined the band). [Thanks to St. Louis Jazz Notes for giving me the idea for this post.]

This is from the Steve Allen show from 1964. I'll have to give credit to Steve for letting Miles blow for about 9 minutes (can you imagine that anywhere on network television these days?). That makes up for Steve not knowing the tune "All Blues" ("...ok, blues of some kind or the other"). Enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What's wrong with Gerry Ferraro?

I'm sorry, but the notion of her saying that the Dem race is sexist after the race bomb she threw into the stream this spring gets my goat. It is also prompting this post, which I make with trepidation on the fear that some may find it offensive. [So it might get taken down--feel free to comment that I should remove it.]

At the risk of wading where no white male should go, I'd like to observe that yes, there are, unfortunately, racists and misogynists in the U.S. today, and that many vote with race or gender as a principal (negative) motivating factor. And it's not right in either case, although the dynamics may differ, given that women are not, technically speaking, a "minority". There is a kernel of truth in what Ms. Ferraro said (namely, that Sen. Obama has been helped by his race, to some degree), but it seems to me that one reasonable way to look at the situation is as follows:

1. In case you had not noticed, Sen. Obama is black. That, generally speaking, has not been a plus in national Presidential politics (especially for someone with his name). His race is a factor for many who vote. It is a positive factor for most African Americans, who have a measure of pride in having a wonderfully gifted African American candidate, and as a result that constituency has supported him in great numbers. That does not trouble me. On the other hand, there are many (unfortunately) who apparently have voted against him on account of his race. That troubles me. So the question is, has race been a net plus or a net negative for him?

2. In case you had not noticed, Sen. Clinton is a woman. That, generally speaking, has not been a plus in national Presidential politics. Her name, too, carries some baggage. Her gender is a factor for many who vote. It is a positive factor for many women, who have a measure of pride in having a wonderfully gifted female candidate, and as a result that constituency has supported her in great numbers. That does not trouble me. On the other hand, there are many (unfortunately) who have voted against her because she is a woman. That troubles me. So the question is, has gender been a net plus or a net negative for her?

That's the germ of sense in what Ms. Ferraro said: Obama's race certainly has shaped what his voters have looked like, demographically. (I say 'germ' because I think she actually was trying to get at a slightly different point, but I think that notion that, for some, his race is a positive for him, has truth.)

Whether or not either factor (race or gender), on a net basis, has been helpful or hurtful is the thing that no one has any clue of how to analyze or answer effectively.

Monday, May 19, 2008


The Voodoo Blues Band packed up at 8:00 p.m. sharp last night to head over to BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups for a scheduled 8:40 p.m. slot at a cancer benefit for the Siteman Cancer Center hosted by We needn't have hurried--they were running horribly behind (what else when dealing with five blues bands?). We got a chance to see and hear many of our good friends (including the Soulard Blues Band, our "warm-up" act, so to speak--well, at least we hit the stage after them).

It's always a hoot to hit the stage at BB's, consistently rated the best blues club in St. Louis, especially following the Soulard Blues Band, consistently rated the #1 area blues band (even if they were only the #2 band there that night--I mean, seriously, ya gotta have a horn section to really kick it!). We finished off the night helping out our good friend (and great blues diva) Erma Whiteside, who blew the roof off the place. [Steve and Barb, your album cover shot was used on a great poster promoting the event--that shot is everywhere!:]

Next up--we are playing at a new venue in St. Louis, the Gramophone, on Wednesday night at nine. Also, don't forget to check out Blind Willie's daughter Cara, who will be doing a gig at the Lucas School House in Soulard on Thursday night, including Matthew Von Doran on guitar and Dave (Red Clay) Certain on bass. Dave is Certain-ly one of our favorite bass sit-ins on the Sunday jam.

At the end of the month the Voodoo Band will hit the road and be at the Taylorville Blues festival on May 30. Thanks to our friend Dave Beardsley at for getting us out there. Dave is also the webmaster for the Voodoo Band's website (see sidebar for a link).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One For Chris Matthews

I'm not a huge Chris Matthews fan, generally speaking. But his ripping into conservative radio talk show host Kevin James for not knowing basic history when Mr. James was on to discuss the Bush remarks to the Israeli Knesset is what more media people should do: if a question is fair, keep asking it until you get to the nut of the thing.

Strangely a good week for Obama after losing West Virginia by 40+ points: first, John Edwards. Then, Bush elevates Obama by that crazy speech, so that people have a lot to talk about other than the West VA loss and Obama's weakness among voters who vote based on race.

Friday, May 16, 2008


After a long preamble of "harrumphs" and pompous pontificating from all members (me included) of a little five-some at lunch today, a colleague posed the rhetorical question to the group of how the Cardinals could put Izzy on the disabled list if he didn't really have a disability, wondering whether there wasn't some rule or something on that. My response was that he does have a disability: He can't pitch.

"Reagan" Democrats

What does this even mean?

Of course it is a term all us political junkies have heard and used for years and years--this is nothing new. But the icing on the cake for me must have been the West Virginia primary, and the anecdotal interviews with those infamous "hard-working, white, blue collar" voters. Some of the comments were so blatantly racist it made me sick. Some of the comments I heard were unprompted; people were asked about voting generally, and, despite not being prompted about race, said things like they would never vote for a "colored" (and of course much worse--that's the kind of stuff they'd say to a reporter and then would make the airwaves).

So when I heard one more reference to "wooing the Reagan Democrats", I had a severe twang of "Why???!!!??" I know you've got to 'build a broad coalition to win', but ... words escape me. If you're undecided you must not be thinking about it too hard is all I can say.

Have you ever heard the phrase a "Kennedy Republican" (Maria and Arnold aside)? Guess what: a "Reagan Democrat" is no more a Democrat than a "Kennedy Republican" is a Republican.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Memphis Madness

In the fall of 2006, my friend Matt Farmer called with an improbable boondoggle: grab your horn, we're all going to hang out in Memphis in the Sam Phillips Recording Studio (Sam's next studio after Sun Records--they recorded Mr. Bojangles and Son of a Preacher Man there, among others) while a CD is being cut. Matt's good friend Mark Morse had hired a working rockabilly band (Rockin' Billy & the Wild Coyotes) and decided to cut a CD. They were the real deal (and so was the production team), complete with pompadours and multiple tattoos, and grabbed Neal and me when we came in ("The horn section's here!!"). While they didn't need us on much (maybe less than they imagined after they heard us play), we did make it on to one track (guess which one when you read the tunes). If you want a copy of the CD, Top Dead Center, go to CD Universe (online):

It's really a fun rockabilly CD! My favorite cuts are "Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)" and "Shake Your Hips."
P.S., Matt tells me that's a picture of Billy Favata (the slap bassist and one of the "Wild Coyotes") whose likeness appears on the CD cover.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"We're who we've been waiting for..."

A somewhat derided campaign line from one of Barack Obama's earlier acceptance speeches this primary season. I was reminded of it listening to MSNBC this week when Chuck Todd said sometimes you don't see turning points when you are in them. As HC's lead was dwindling Tuesday night in Indiana, the punditocracy was taking that, coupled with the big win in North Carolina, as the effective end of the Democratic primary. (I myself have been known to worship at the altar of Rev. Tim Russert ("we now know who the Democratic candidate will be, and no-one will dispute it")). Todd drew a parallel to the Obama victory in Missouri on Super Tuesday.

Same narrative--Clinton ahead early, but wait, the city vote is coming in late (go St. Louis!) and Obama does much better (winning in Missouri and coming close in Indiana). Two states that border Illinois. And, in Indiana and Missouri, two states that might, without further analysis, appear to favor the Senator from New York. But Todd rightly reminded us of the importance of that win in Missouri, giving Barack a good victory outside the deep South on that Super Tuesday and turning that day more or less into a wash, with a slight nudge to Clinton, rather than be viewed as a blow-out for Clinton. (See two earlier my posts, if interested, in February on Mighty MO, including the fact that George Will said the state to watch on Super Tuesday was the Show Me state. Also see Will's editorial from Thursday of this week--great:

Also, Indiana really is the first time that a narrow loss has been widely construed as a victory, even though the punditocracy had been (wrongly) spouting that margin of victory was the thing to watch in earlier races (not fully appreciating that, mostly, a win is a win). But not so in the dear old Hoosier state.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Two Big Ones Last Tuesday

I'm referring of course to two unbelievable throws by Cardinal center fielder Rick Ankiel to nail two runners at third base in Tuesday night's game against the Rockies (what else did you think I was talking about?).

Third bagger Troy Glaus (the recipient of both missiles) said if he hadn't caught the balls they would have hit the base. Not sure that is true of the second one, but that was the truly astounding one, because he threw it from the warning track near dead center. Both on the fly. Maybe they could put him in as a pitcher--just hit a fungo to him in center field, then have him throw home a perfect strike.

The best part of all was watching the other players (bench included) react to the throws. Like the look on Tony's face when Rick hit that homer in his first game up as a position player last August.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


In response to an email from my Mom on April 22 (date of Pennsylvania primary, for those keeping score at home) that all us political junkies (she and I included) were having a hard time taking it (getting all whipped into a frenzy (even though the media is yanking us around, as she so aptly put it). My response on that date was as follows. I was a bit off, but since it still looks forward even from today, so I might as well post it:

"Let me take all the mystery out of it for you.

Hilary wins by 8%, stays in the race, and you've got two more weeks of "it all comes down to Indiana/North Carolina" (take your pick). More hand-wringing of the sort we've had for 6 weeks (is victory slipping out of the Dems' hands in a "can't miss" year? Are we handing the election to McCain? etc etc).

Then same thing happens in Indiana and NC. And "it all comes down" to Guam or Puerto Rico, or wherever. Then after that, "it all comes down" to what the super delegates do.

[That is not the worst case scenario, I suppose, but it seems to me it is probably the "most likely" worst case scenario. So expect that, and anything better is a bonus.]"

Even if you are a Hillary supporter (and I know a few read this blog), I am assuming this is killing you, too--maybe for slightly different reasons, but it seems crazy now, huh, that it feels so demoralizing on both sides for candidates who are so similar on the issues (compared with the alternative) to be ripping up on each other so bad?


Is it possible the Democratic primary voters in Indiana and North Carolina will actually backlash against the Wright flap, similar to the way New Hampshire voters reacted when they perceived that the press was taking too much glee in the supposed melt-down of the Hillary candidacy and the "end of the Clinton era"? I just wonder if there is a certain segment of the voters who are sick to death of hearing the talking heads pontificate on all the things that are supposed to move us. I don't know, but it occurred to me that there might be a certain segment that just wants to go out and show the press corps (again) that, paraphrasing Sergeant Shultz, "they know nuth-ink".

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tom Friedman is back!

I saw that Tom Friedman was back writing for the New York Times, having been on a sabbatical to write a book on the environment. I am looking forward to reading his columns and getting his new book when it becomes available. He is always one of my faves, and with Paul Krugman having gone all wacky (at least at times) on me, I need it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Whither The Daily Show (II)?

Jon Stewart skewered Hillary last night, showing her evolution of position on the role of voters in the Democratic primary system (from "the voters will decide--voters get to decide who wins" to a more recent "well, the voters play a part in the process (a very important part)"). And then there's the line that she has received more votes at the polls than any other candidate. This math works if you count of course Michigan (where Obama was not on the ballot), not to mention Florida. This sort of political expediency is what is driving a lot of us nuts.

But I refer you to my earlier post--what would have happened had Mr. Stewart been skewering her throughout the entire writers' strike? I don't know of course, and probably the answer is "not much."

And my fervent hope is that should she garner the nomination, that she beat McCain, and, most importantly, that whomever is president show some real leadership. It is a travesty that we are not even having a discussion, let alone moving toward solution, on vital issues such as global warming, Iraq, health care, the economy, etc. Global warming alone scares me, as I believe we are unleashing forces we do not understand, and may already be past the tipping point.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's wrong with Paul Krugman?

His last editorial on the Democratic race was not comprehensible to me. I know he is a Hilary advocate and I have no problem with him using his column to argue in favor of her candidacy over Obama's, even at this late date. But his most recent column seems petty and holding Obama to a standard that he does not hold Hilary to. He criticizes Obama's criticism of economic policy over the last couple of decades, and takes him to task for lumping in the Clinton years (which he believes were pretty good). This despite her politicizing the San Francisco "bitter" remarks, which although not Obama's best political moment, seems mild in comparison. Well, if Krugman wants 4 more years of Republican presidency, he is doing a darn good job of trying to ensure it happens.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blog Mania

Faithful readers,

I want to encourage you to visit (and mark as a favorite) Matt Farmer's blog on the Blue State Cowboys: The Blue State Cowboys is Matt's eclectic, semi-regular cover band. I've been gigging with Matt and the BSC for nearly 10 years now, since August/September 1998. We've had some very interesting gigs (Japan, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, not to mention several taverns within easy walking distance of Matt's house).

I came to the band (then the Redstreaks) through my saxophone playing buddy, Neal Connors, who went to high school in Chicago with Matt. Neal and I had met in the jazz program at the University of Illinois in the early/mid-80s, then reconnected later in life. He asked in '98 if I wanted to go up a play a gig with him in a cover band in Chicago (he really thought I might say no). On the drive up I learned the songs (let's say I listened to a tape of the songs on the way) and also learned that the band was doing a demo recording that day to send to get a gig on the military base in Iwakuni, Japan. When we walked into the studio and Neal introduced me to Matt and the fellas (basically as my buddy Rob, he plays the trumpet), it was an interesting scene. Mildly pleasant hellos (not unfriendly mind you, simply not effusive), mostly silence (all warm-up ceased) and a series of whispered conversations between Neal and Matt and furtive glances my way from Matt. I asked Neal if he had told anyone he was bringing me, and he said "not so much". When they heard I could play a little, there was a palpable look of relief from the band. By the end of the night (we had a gig at Gamekeepers, a neighborhood bar, later than evening), I was a full-fledged member of the band. The rest has been history.

One of our most memorable gigs was at a tiny tiny bar in Hiroshima (the Jacara club), where Candy Dulfer had once played (her posters were up everywhere). They opened the bar up for us (I think it was a Sunday), and had other bands in. We were treated like American rock stars and shown a great deal of love and respect. We looked smugly to ourselves when an all-Japanese blues band on the bill got up to play, then had those grins wiped off our faces when they launched into their set. A few bands later (including an incredible acoustic set by a singer and two percussionists doing American pop tunes) John Tully and Mike "Waldo" Walsh whispered to me, "We're the worst band here tonight." And they were right.

Thanks for the memories, Matt and Neal.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Costa Rica

Nathaniel and I had a great time in Costa Rica. We went with Mountain Travel Sobek, an adventure travel group based in San Francisco with whom we went to the Galapagos Islands a year and a half ago. There were 16 travelers, six of whom were high school age or younger, so lots of opportunities for Nathaniel to hang with the younger crowd. Nice couples from Chicago (with two boys), Portland (with two girls), and Toronto (two very young girls who were not on the trip). A California dad (a California professor, complete with beard (he looked all "adventury", per Nathaniel) and his 14-year old daughter. There were two Davids travelling alone, one from Cleveland and one who was an employee of MTS. The latter, now living in SanFran, is a 24-year old originally from St. Louis and was a really wonderfully nice guy. Jorge was our guide, together with about 2 to 4 helpers at any one time, depending on what we were doing at the time.

We sea kayaked for the first three days on the Pacific side of Costa Rica (camping on the beach--talk about a lot of sand in your tent!), with snorkeling on the middle day. Then we river kayaked to a neat lodge on the north/Caribbean side in Tortuguero Park (a national park devoted in large part to preserving the breeding grounds for giant sea turtles that have laid eggs there for who knows how long). The final two days were white water river rafting on the Pacuare River. This was neat, there were some Class 3 rapids (maybe even one or two that were Class 4), but we made it through just fine. We also did a really neat zip line on the last day.

We (me in particular) came back with little sun-tan--I was so freaked out about the hot Costa Rican sun that neither of us saw much sun without 30 SPF sunscreen on. We saw some amazing wildlife, most notably some small caimans (a small relative of the crocodile), as well as an actual croc or two) and many different species of monkeys (not to mention countless birds--not my favorite, but fun nonetheless).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dazed and Confused

I am terribly confused by the current state of the Democratic nomination process. I am disheartened by the fact that we've got a six-week slog to Pennsylvania, and that there seem to be at least two certainties in this period of general uncertainty: (1) Barack and Hillary will likely try to rip each other apart and (2) nothing will likely change after Pennsylvania. On the latter point, Barack seems likely to have a significant lead in the pledged delegate race even if Hillary wins decisively. And I can't articulate a logic for either of them to get out. Indeed, I would say the opposite--there is none. Why should she leave the race if she seems to have the momentum and has won a lot of big, important swing states that a Dem must carry to win the general and is behind by a relatively small margin? Even though she can't make it up, she is close enough to plausibly say they are essentially tied. And he has even less of a reason to leave, if he (as seems all but certain) will still be leading in pledged delegates. What is the rationale for quitting and conceding a race where you've won (1) the most states, (2) the most delegates and (3) (perhaps), the highest number of popular votes?

One thing that we seem to have learned is that Hillary has a base of committed supporters who seem unlikely to switch allegiance to Barack in the nomination process in large numbers. I think we already knew that about Barack's supporters (as the infamous David Brooks has described it, Barack's supporters are passionate and and many of them are not just supporters but believe he must be nominated and must win). While I don't know that I go that far in the Barack/Hillary battle (although I do go that far for whoever is the Democratic nominee, as I think another 4 years of Republican (at least Bush-style) leadership may put solving the world's environmental issues, in particular global warming, beyond reach for all time), I am one who believes that because there is a dedicated base of Hillary-haters in this country, that she will unite the opposition in a way that will be difficult to overcome.

But then back to point #1: in order to win, I think each of the Hillary and Barack camps feel the need to sharpen the distinctions between the two. I am not generally squeamish about a tougher campaign, but it works against Barack because that is one of the prime underlying rationales of his candidacy and its appeal: that he is a different kind of politician. But I despair that the likely result of the next 6 weeks (and beyond) is more fodder for the mounting Republican attack machine which will come with guns-ablazing against whomever--it matters not to them.

It also bugs me, as an aside, that Hillary includes in her laundry list of wins (and this is her, in her stump speeches, not just her campaign or other surrogates) Michigan and Florida. Florida is at least arguable, but including Michigan is completely disingenuous--no campaigning, and she was the only name on the ballot. (Didn't we used to criticize the USSR for "elections" where there were only Communist party candidates?) Every interviewer should question her on that in every interview until she stops. She has legitimate claims to victories, and, as Barack has said, to argue that her policies are superior to hers. But not to argue she won the Michigan primary where no-one else (most notably Barack) campaigned or was on the ballot. A whopping 40% took the trouble to come out and vote "uncommitted".

Also, although I can admire for sheer political chutzpah Hillary and Bill's notion that in a race in which you are behind, your solution is, we'll take the #1 spot and give you the veep nod, I'd also say it is possible to admire chutzpah (e.g., Lee Atwater and Karl Rove) and admit is is "brilliant" (or at least damningly effective) politics, while being disgusted by it.

I don't see any alternative but do-overs in Florida and Michigan. The argument in Michigan that we must "respect the voters" demands this--although not in the way most mean it. I hear that argument as a rationale that we must respect the votes cast in January. But what about those who would have wanted to vote for Barack (or others who were in the race at the time, Edwards most notably) but didn't have the opportunity? How is that showing "respect" for the voters of Michigan? 'Sorry, but you had one alternative, and since you took the trouble to come out, we're going to "honor" it.' That's just not right, no matter whom you support.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Son Volt

Time for a new post! One of my favorite musical colleagues is jazz guitarist John Farrar from Belleville. John is a fine, fine player, and covers many genres well. John and Neal Connors were my musical saviors, rescuing my trumpet playing from the dustbins of history, for which I will be forever in their debt.

Take a look and listen to John's brother's band. Jay Farrar is one of the founders, with Jeff Tweedy, of the alternative country music genre, and is still kicking it with his own band, Son Volt. They have some terrific music. Check out "Drown". Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Missouri--a homer's perspective

I think George Will was correct to watch Missouri on Super-Tuesday. Maybe this is a "homer" mentality, but Missouri showed more courage than either "liberal" bastions California and Massachusetts. Illinois and New York don't count, given the "favorite son/daughter" dynamic. (See "It Isn't Easy Being Purple").

I am wary though of seeming to bash Hillary too much. I just worry she'll just unite the Republicans in a stroke, while Obama won't. So to all the Hillary voters who read this blog, I respect the choice you made--if you went by the debates alone, it is hard to make a case that she should not get the nod, hands down. I just don't think that's the end of the story. Looks like she is in a pickle and no consensus from the talking heads about what her campaign strategy moving forward should be--and they're not disagreeing on the edges but on fundamental approaches. No matter what happens, that Obama momentum appears it is going to be hard to slow.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Yeah, Baby!

"Viva Las Vegas!" - Elvis Presley.

My sis has a much more literate post and relevant quote regarding her travel plans. See Notes From the W.G. (link in sidebar).

I plan to return a much poorer man.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Barack to the Future

Great speech by Obama last night--I thought he was talking directly to Calfornia and other states coming up with the "we need you" bit. Not at all desparate or whiny or angry, but with the right sense of urgency, like: "Get a hold of yourselves and do the right and courageous thing--now is the time to step up". Brilliant.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

It isn't easy being purple

When asked what the one thing voters should be watching for in the political morass of Super Tuesday, George Will said: Missouri. Strap in, it will be fun to watch!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Feeling Different?

I hope it's not just me, but that Mr. Obama has turned some sort of corner. Maybe the 1-2-3 punch is: route in South Carolina, endorsement by Caroline Kennedy and Ted Kennedy (read the NY Times piece by Caroline if you haven't) and Edwards dropping out.

I think Hillary is a smart cookie and a tough campaigner, but I think there are at least four reasons we must choose Obama over Hillary to have a chance at winning in November. They are interconnected, but yet at least arguably distinct:

1. No Dynasties/Clinton Fatigue. There are no dynasties or royalty in American politics. We've got more political families in the U.S. than Bush and Clinton. I think the Democrats are weary of the Clintons and won't be enthusasitic supporters in the general election. We can't afford not to have a juiced up Democratic base, because....

2. No uniting the Republicans. Related to number one, the Republicans are in disarray and disappointed with their field. The best (only?) shot they have of uniting and getting energized is clear: we nominate Hillary. And Barack will get some, if not a lot, of crossover votes, more than enough to compensate for those who won't vote for a black man. Were they ever going to vote Dem anyway? And especially for Hillary?

3. Yesterday's Politics. The Clinton way is to divide and polarize. Slice and dice the electorate. Get some votes by alienating some in the hopes that you'll attract more (net) than you drive away. Yes, the Republicans are the Zen masters of this art and perfected it with Atwater and Rove. People seem ready to turn the page I think, and this strategy may backfire. I loved Bill because he could "play the game" right with the Republicans; it was fun having someone who could hand them their hat from a purely political point of view. Sort of like trading for that big home run hitter. You love it when he belts one out for your side, but deep inside you also don't like what it does to the rest of your team; when Ozzie starts swinging for the fences and pops weakly to left center (instead of knocking the slap opposite field single and stealing second), you know you're cooked.

4. Billary. Bill may be quiet going in to Super Tuesday. But at some point he'll enter the stage again. And if Hillary gets elected, Bill is going to be involved in everything trying to burnish his own legacy and do everything he didn't get a chance to in the first eight years ("Hillary who?" he'll say). He did some great things (and was Abe Lincoln and George Washington rolled in to one compared with the current occupant of the White House), but I just think a co-presidency cannot actually be good in this instance. And I don't doubt that's exactly what it will be--when I was typing this entry, I typed "... if he gets elected...", and I was really thinking of it that way--that we'd be re-electing Bill. Enough already.

So let's all chant: Fired up! Ready to go!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Count or Duke?

I've been asked for sample snippets to assist with the latest poll. (Ella won the last poll soundly, for those keeping score at home.)

You get the essence I think of Count Basie's swing with this rendition of Corner Pocket from 1962:

Harder to generally characterize the Duke sound, but here's a clip of the great "Take the A Train" that purports to be from the early '40s:

Great playing, although not concert footage, obviously. Duke's group had a fatter sound, although I'm not completely satisfied that I've captured the contrast well enough.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama II

Well, the first paragraph of my January 7 blog entry was correct--just was a little early, meant to say it was correct for South Carolina. I just don't think the nation is ready for Billary II. Paraphrasing something I read attributed to The Nation, the Clintons are high minded on the surface but smarmy underneath. It is too bad because each of Bill and Hillary have extraordinary gifts and talents. But they each have inner demons that they apparently cannot control (especially Bill).

How does a McCain/Obama race in o8 stack up?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No-one Knows Anything

I think the conventional wisdom is that a long primary brawl hurts the Republicans, and the Dems are in better shape because they'll have relative stability. I heard Newt Gingrich say he was not sure that was the case, citing 1992 as a good example. George HW Bush had it sewn up and Bill Clinton had a very messy path to the nomination and was in third place (behind Bush and Perot) in May (maybe June even) in 1992. But then he of course won the whole thing. I don't think a nutty primary process will hurt the Republicans as much as people think. Although if they nominate a nutty candidate that might be a different story. I know some really die hard Republicans who are very dismayed at one or more of the significant GOP candidates.

Bottom line, the pundits can't figure this one out. They'll say as much, but then inevitably go on to to explain what is going to happen in any event.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ella or Sarah?

In case clarification is needed on the recent poll: Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan. (The correct answer is: why pick?)

See them together (with Pearl Bailey); although well past their prime, worth a view:

It is not apparent from that clip, however, how unique their respective singing styles were. Here are two clips that are fairly representative of how great they each were and yet how different their styles were.

Ella struts her stuff on Mack the Knife in 1965:

See my initial post about Ella's version of Mack the Knife with the Duke Ellington big band. That version is available on iTunes; just punch in "Ella Duke Mack the Knife" on the search and up it comes. The whole album is available, but you can also just buy that track for a mere $0.99.

Sarah with My Funny Valentine in 1981:

Sharon and I saw the wonderful Ms. Vaughan in the late 1980s at the Blue Note in New York. Magic.