Sunday, September 24, 2006

MR. BIG ARMS

I've said it before but youtube.com is a wonder; it's bringing back creativity to the dull, dull world of entertainment. Mr Big Arms is an example. I love his videos; and he's such an odd duck. He posts these charming silent movies with themes like ironing or setting up a chair in the back-yard, but then he also has videos where he just flexes his muscles. A true 21st Century Internet star. I think I'm in love!



His incredible deco furniture in his house is worth the peak into his other videos.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006



I never will forget, how that brave Jeanette MacDonald
Just stood there in the ruins and sang, and sang...

SANS FRANCISCO


For ten years I’ve lived next to the Francisco stop on the Brown-line el in Chicago. For ten years I’ve heard every 6-8 minutes “ding-dong”, the whoosh of doors, then as the train pulled away from a distance just the last part of the automated announcement… “Violators will be arrested”… The train station has always been my temperature guide, mornings seeing what people were wearing. It was my constant amusement seeing what cute guys were on the platform or my annoyance when the overnight attendant would be screaming on the pay phone to her boyfriend at one in the morning.

For the next six months, all that has changed. The Francisco stop is no more. Due to the “we must look as much like Toronto as possible” policy that the city has adopted, the cute covered bridge designed station is being replaced by one of cement and glass. If it’s anything like the one at the other stops, it will be clean and efficient and boring. The Rockwell, Francisco, and Kedzie stops were always the best because this was where the el stopped being elevated and road on the ground. Suddenly you were no longer on an el but on a neighborhood trolley. But ah! I wax nostalgic, because they were also badly painted, narrow structures that I never could get my suitcases through when I had to go to the airport. But no more.

On Friday night, September 15th at 10PM the demolition started. Flyers were posted on all the doors in the neighborhood warning people to keep their windows closed during the construction and that the station would be closed for four months. Around 7 that evening I trod on the station for the last time. I was going to take my camera but I thought, “Oh, I’ll do that tomorrow, they’ll still be up”. On the station CTA workers were posting up signs in Arabic that I only could assume said “Don’t wait for trains here, you idiot.” You think that you wouldn't put up signs telling people the station is closing two hours before the station closed. However...

When I got home at ten the spotlights were up and men in hard hats and Tom of Finland work boots started BANGING and SAWING and TEARING.

I stared for several minutes as one of them chopped up the station’s bench that I’d sat on countless times. I remembered the many nights just jumping on the train after midnight to go to boy’s town on a whim. Within minutes it was gone and thrown in a pile. I turned away and closed my windows, as warned in the flyer, expecting the dust to start flying. And it flew… and flew ALL NIGHT LONG. I tried to go to sleep at around midnight, but each time I drifted off, the crane would start its long, loud moan, and then I’d hear a crash. I dreamed all night long about people banging shoes together. I don’t think I slept for a solid ten minutes that night. At around 5:30 the banging stopped! I got up and look at the clock, “They must be done for the day”, I thought. I fell back into a deep sleep and then heard the load moan of the crane and a crash as a load of wood was dumped as if from a long way up into a the metal dumpster. The sky was pink, I’d given up. Standing in the window I watched them as they pulled the wooden slates from the roof of the enclosure. The rest of the morning I was in a daze.

I left the house for several hours that day, but had to return because I had planned for a small party that night. I was shocked by how fast they were demolishing the station; they were three-quarter completed by six o’clock with only the main station’s shell standing. It was around that time I noticed that my coffeehouse neighbor had planned a party in the back patio. My coffeehouse neighbor and I have not been on the best of terms these past few years. One of the reasons he bugs me is his complete stupidity about some common sense things. Like don’t plan a children’s birthday party the same time that they are going to tear down an el station. As the saws continued, shingles were thrown and the windows smashed ,twenty feet away there was a party of pre-teen Latinas in their pink party dresses having cake. The most harrowing moment being when the crane lifted a side of the building they were demolishing and pulled it high in the air, and then slowly swung it breezily over the patio to the screams of children, mothers pulling them out of the way. Nothing says Happy Birthday like nails being ripped out of wood!

By midnight the pounding had stopped I looked out my window and there was nothing but track. It was dead quiet, and dark. The trains just zip by now with just a toot… as if to say "Goodbye old el station… We hardly knew ye…"

For some history of the Francisco El stop click HERE.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
You have.
May this country forgive you.


Rarely will I post political things on this blog... but this is a chilling, important speech by Keith Obermann.
This is posted on www.crooksandliars.com one of the best sites for news video. Click above to be connected...
Killing Me Softly With Their Songs


For the last five years I've been working a project to digitize my record, tape, and video collection. It's a lonely, boring process. I've spent hours and hours on it; I wonder why am I doing this? Will I ever want to listen to any of these Ferrante and Teicher albums again? I've spent hours playing them, digitally cleaning them, then cutting each track; Occasionally, I'll clip the pops out of scratched songs, or fix a stick in the record, as if I'm restoring some rare jewel, but it's just some Hawaiian song sung by Bing Crosby. Why do I bother?

The process seems never ending because my record collection seems endless; Years and years of record stores, and estate sales have created an overflow of entertainment. Right now I don't have a closet to put my towels in because it's filled with albums. It's like some sort of disease, except instead of tumors I've being over taken by dozens and dozens of versions of Clair De Lune (I've got it from everyone from country piano guy Floyd Cramer, to a banjo version, to Larry Alder doing an incredible version on the harmonica, and oh - urgh Andy Williams with special lyrics about some ballerina).

I started collecting records when I was nine, when my Uncle Bruno gave me a box of 78's he found in the garbage. I remember that they were a special thing that only I had... Everyone else at school was listening to Barry Manilow or Elton John I was listening to Ernest Hare and Billy Jones singing "Oh Gosh, Oh Gee, Oh Golly I'm in Love". As time went on I kept adding and adding to my collection. With every garage sale and record store my living space was taken over by Dean Martin, Rod McKuen, and Johnny Mathis albums.

In the mid-90's I worked as a music researcher for NPR's This American Life. So this gave me another reason to buy records. My job was to fill in a song between stories. They'd call me up and say, "Do you have any songs about writing letters?" I'd say "Sure about twenty"; The problem with having this job was it made me buy everything that I thought I'd ever need. Now that I'm not doing this, do I really need the "Bowling Polka" album?

So, I had this brilliant idea to turn these albums into digital files, save a photo of the cover and just keep whatever albums I love or that are rare. I just didn't imagine that this process would be so overwhelming. Three thousand albums at a half-hour a piece = 1500 hours. If I quit my job and did this 8 hours a day, it would only take about six months. At this rate, I have an image of myself stooped over my computer transferring my last Eydie Gorme album, my eyes clouded from cataracts; I will only be able to do Eydie's albums because her high notes will be the only thing that will cut through my deaf ears.

The only thing that keeps me going is finding of some gem of a song or listening to some amazing album I bought 8 years ago. I've so many albums and 45s, 78s that I never listened to... They are like little daily presents.

This song I'm featuring today is one of my new favorite finds... It's on the Nickel label. My wish is that you all have "a love" like the one described in this song; and that they are safely behind bars or restrained in some legal fashion.

It's by Sidney Pitchback and the Sisters.
Click to hear: This is the Woman

As Thax said when he heard it... "That poor woman..."

Enjoy
Man Takes a Photo of Himself Every Day For Six Years --
And turns into Steve Lawrence.


With over 2 million views I'm sure everyone has seen this... but I thought it was fascinating. And he has the most beautiful eyes...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thax's Goodbye Show.

I've been lately been trying to go back to my lounge roots. My friend Marna introduced me to Steve, who I knew in high school when he was friends with the Radtke family, whose brother was in a band called Problem Dogs, and whom I probably went to a ton of parties with in the early 80s. Sometimes the world is just too small; because now I've been working with Steve on doing some standard stuff again. What goes around comes around. Steve is a fantastic guitar player and it's been fun trying to stretch to be as good as he is. Seamus plays violin on Nature Boy, a bit of a crossover from bric-a-brac. It's all Full Circle.

I will be writing soon about my past performing experiences, but for now I wanted to post my latest performance at Thax Douglas' going away show at The Hideout...

Enjoy.



Dear Constant Reader:

And my apologies for my lack of posts... My computer at home got a horrible virus
script on it and I had to redo the whole thing.

I'll be back up to speed again next week.