Monday, June 30, 2008

Sugar ... Still Just as Sweet

All us who enjoy music beyond background sound come across recordings we haven't listened to recently, and when we play it again get swept away once more by the beauty, power and enjoyment of it all.
Last week I reached into the glove compartment of my 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier for a cassette while I was driving somewhere, in search of something good I hadn't heard in a while. I found a favorite of mine, from 1992, "Copper Blue" by Sugar, and played it.
Wow, once again.
Bob Mould, the former guitarist and one of the singer/songwriters in one of my favorite 1980s bands, Husker Du, formed Sugar after two solo albums following Husker Du's breakup, and this, the new band's debut recording, was its best and a fantastic piece of music. From the first notes of "The Act We Act" and "A Good Idea" through "Changes," "Helpless," "Man on the Moon" and the powerful life/society with AIDS song, "The Slim," "Copper Blue" still kicks major ass and remains among my favorites.
Also credit Mould and Sugar with recording one of those albums you have to play at loud volume, and sounds best this way; regardless how loud I have it playing at first, I am always moved to increase the volume when playing it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Remembering Jamie Lembeck

It was a sad surprise when word came down a couple of days ago that Jamie Lembeck, a long time activist and supporter of the local arts and music communities, had died in the early morning of June 25.
Jamie could be seen in his wheelchair at local museums, clubs and concert halls for art openings, exhibits and concerts, and served as a member of the board of directors at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center for 10 years (Val and I are members).
Whether at art exhibitions or concerts, Jamie loved a good discussion of arts, music, politics and life in general, and you had better bring your facts and knowledge if you were going to talk to Jamie for more than a minute. He had a sharp mind and sharp sense of humor, as well as the quality of not suffering fools gladly, and he never hesitated to express or use any of these. Jamie and I, along with others present, had numerous discussions of the Buffalo original music community now and 25-30 years ago, and his friends were legion in those communities due to his honesty and taste.
Hallwalls, the arts and music communities and Buffalo were richer for Jamie's life and will be poorer in his absence.

Please Waste Your Money on Me..... (Again)

In the last four days, the mailman has brought not one, but two missives from John McCain for President, seeking my financial and other support.
The first one started with: "The Choice America will face in November is very clear. It will be a choice between one of the most liberal administrations in modern history, or a Presidency dedicated to upholding long-held conservative principles of limited government, strong national defense and individual freedom." Yes, I know, a truck full of bullshit. The second mailing begins: "I am 100% committed to leading our Party to victory in this November's elections all across the country, and I need RNC members like you, men and women who have done so much to help our Party in the past, working alongside me."
I remain flummoxed as to where John McCain for President or the previous Republican presidential campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney got the idea that I am a Republican or a member of the Republican National Committee, as I am still not only a registered and liberal Democrat, but I have been a Democratic committeeman here in Buffalo's West Side for almost four years.
It appears that the Republicans' mailing efforts are as misguided as their policies and actions.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead ... Maybe

My nod to Warren Zevon lyrics doesn't hide my upcoming exhaustion; I haven't been to bed yet due to the thunder and lightning, which, as I've mentioed before, drives Walker Evans crazy with barking, crying and, if we don't have him on a leash of some sort, running through the house.
I actually have Walker with me in the media room upstairs, while giving Val a chance to sleep and not have to worry about the pup, who will never greet this weather without at least hyperventilating. I'm hoping to get to bed by 5 a.m., if the thunder stops.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Somehow, I Made It

Yes, the drama of the coffeeless/fasting ordeal to have blood work done has passed, and I am still here, only the more tired for the wear.
My appointment was at 3:10 p.m. yesterday, so I got there at about 3 p.m.; the waiting room was overly crowded and loud, and it turns out that one of the two workers had to go home early, so only one person was handling things. People and their appointments got behind, too many not only used their cell phones but talked loudly and freely about medical issues and other topics I had no interest in, and when I got in, the person looked at me wearily and asked, "Do you have your medical insurance card ... I hope?" Her eyes lit up when I said yes, and she was thrilled I was able to actually read the card and give her the numbers on it. I finally got in and out for my five-minute appointment at 4:23 p.m.
What was the first thing I did? I went right to SPoT Coffee on Elmwood Avenue and got a grande caramel macchiatto and consumed it rather fast.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You May Not Want to Talk to Me Tomorrow

Or at least not before late afternoon; I have to go for a complete, routine body chemistry make up/check up (I know there is a better word, but it escapes me at the moment) at 3:10 p.m. Wednesday, and I have to fast for 12 hours before that.
So, I will be operating on no coffee and no food throughout my waking hours and work day; if I seem surly, bitter or unpleasant (OK, more than usual), you will know why.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Am Incredibly Fortunate

There may not be much more blogging here for the next 24 hours or so; as of midnight June 23, 2002, Val and I will have been married for six great years. We both have to work on our anniversary, but we will get to go out to dinner, and probably fall asleep early.

Linda McRae Concert a Fantastic Success

The Linda McRae house concert at the home of Marty Boratin and Susan Tanner in Hamburg was a great time full of great music and friends, and everyone had a wonderful time. Since we just got home a couple of minutes ago, I will cover it more in depth in the next few days here and at our web site,

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm Driving in My (Our) Car ...

Catching up with last weekend, and always welcoming an excuse to quote a Bruce Springsteen lyric above, we had an interesting encounter on the roads Sunday.
As Val and I drove on Delaware Avenue to have breakfast at Bagel Jay's in North Buffalo before going grocery shopping at Wegmans, we stopped at the red light in the left lane heading north at Delaware and Amherst.
A truck was driving on Amherst Street and turning left to drive right past us onto Delaware Avenue; I looked at the driver and passenger and said to Val, "Hey, that's Jenn and Mark." I then waved, honked my horn and said "Hi, Jenn," out of my window.
I'll never know if Jenn saw or heard me or knew who I was; she had a look of terror on her face and a death grip on the steering wheel as she drove by, making me wonder if Mark was giving her a driving lesson in his truck

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Like Father, Like Son

While it has certainly been noted elsewhere, Val and I are very impressed by the class, intelligence, dignity and sense of humor shown by Luke Russert during the memorial and funeral services recently held for his father, South Buffalo native, Meet the Press moderator and NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Timothy Russert.
I know what it is like for my father to unexpectedly die, and I was in my early 40s when it happened, so for a young adult in his or her early 20s to conduct himself or herself like Luke Russert has is beyond commendable. Luke also appears to have his father's Irish twinkle in his eye.

Been Writing

Sorry for the absence/delay since the weekend, but I've been working on some things, writing wise, as I try to make up for ignoring a few areas these past several months.
I have an interview with Canadian singer/songwriter Linda McRae posted online at our web site, BuffaloRoots, and a few other things in progress/about to appear. As I've written about below, Linda will perform a house concert with Jim Whitford at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at the home of Marty Boratin and Susan Tanner in Hamburg for $10. If you need directions, please post in comments.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Linda McRae - Carve It to the Heart CD

Canadian (and apparently American by marriage now) singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Linda McRae has released her most recent solo CD, "Carve It to the Heart," on Black Hen Music, with a more traditional country sound coming through her twangy style, and it is her best solo recording.
The CD begins wiht the haunting "This Winding Road," describing travels up the East Coast of Canada and America by musicians (mainly country) and the events and stories they brought, and of McRae continuing the tradition in a mid-tempo, twangy but somehow upbeat song. McRae's banjo and the accordion of Nova Devonie provide a nice intro to "Carve It to the Heart," where McRae tells a lover that their relationshp cannot last when he doesn't trust her and apparently cheats himself. McRae's banjo helps color her anguish of lost innocence on "How Can I Bring Her Back," and the sadness of loss of home strikes on "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore," a moody, bluesy song marking the closing of the coal mine her dad worked at as well as the trains no longer stopping at her hometown and life kind of leaving the place. "Before the Hereafter" is very old-timey country, with accordion and soft, shuffling guitar and rhythm section leading McCrae to happily sing that she finally found the man who would love her and treat her good (assumedly her new husband). "Living in the Past" is also very old sounding, as McRae recalls simpler times and compares it to her musical life and times, while "Really & Truly" is a lovely little waltz but a sad song on a couple parting for good, with McRae's banjo and Devonie's accordion again the stand out instruments.
As mentioned a few days ago here, McRae will perform with Jim Whitford at a house concert at the home of Marty Boratin and Susan Tanner at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at 7341 Nelson Drive in Hamburg, with Dee Adams opening. Admission will be a mere $10.

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

Like many other people, I was shocked to hear of the untimely and too-soon death of NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert of South Buffalo yesterday afternoon. The news spread quickly through our office, and indeed, we had to act fast to get a release out on the topic.
Like him or dislike him, it is hard to say that Timothy Russert was not influential in politics, both through his media career and previous career serving on the staffs of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and the late former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, eventually as chief of staff for the latter. Presidential election and primary coverage will not be the same without him.
While he may be criticized for asking less than pointed questions and followups at times, Russert deserves credit for bringing "Meet the Press" out of its doldrums and wonk-only audience period to a new level of relevancy, and at times his questions and style of questions were quite like cross-examination, no doubt from his law training.
But Russert may be best known and remembered here as an untiring, strong and sincere booster of Buffalo and of his family, particularly from his best-selling book, "Big Russ and Me." His pride in his Irish Catholic Buffalo upbringing and never forgetting what got him where he was (hard work, blue-collar values, family) are things that let him not only keep his humanity, but make many friends and more admirers. Val voiced it and we both noticed it during MSNBC's coverage last night: Is there any photo in which Russert does not show off that Irish twinkle in his eyes? It is fitting that City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown chose to have the city lowered its flags to half-staff.
He died too soon at age 58, and dying on the start of Father's Day weekend and surviving his dad (Russert has a son, Luke) adds some extra sadness, a thing I know as I continue to adjust to the death of my Irish Catholic father, Edward, four years ago, and the death of Val's Irish Catholic father, Edward Patrick Dunne, almost five years ago.
My first contact with Russert came on Buffalo State College's graduation day in 1985, as he served as the commencement speaker. It was considered to have been a major coup to have gotten him to speak mainly because of his political work; little did we know what kind of media giant he would become.
Rest in peace, Tim.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Linda McRae to Perform Here June 22

Canadian country/ singer and songwriter Linda McRae and local singer/songwriter Jim Whitford (Pine Dogs, etc.) will perform a house concert starting at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at the home of Marty Boratin and Susan Tanner, 7341 Nelson Drive, Hamburg.
The cost for the show will be a ridiculously low $10 for McRae and Whitford, with Dee Adams opening. McRae is best known for her time as a member of Spirit of the West and for her three solo CDs, the most recent, "Carve It to the Heart," being released in 2007. On it, McRae goes for even more traditional sounds (she plays a lot more banjo and plays darn good), and "Carve It to the Heart" made it to my best music of 2007 list. The title song, along with "This Winding Road" and "How Can I Bring Her Back" serious standout songs. McRae is also a very engaging live performer.
I hope to have more on this in a few days.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just a Wee Bit Late, Airline Style

Val's flight from JFK in New York City back to Buffalo, which was supposed to take off at 10:55 p.m. Sunday, actually left NYC at about 1:50 a.m. Monday and got back here at about 3:30 a.m. Monday.
So we didn't get back home until after 4 a.m., and yes, we tried to sleep as best we could with the crappy, hot and muggy weather, but we are still tired and out of it, although Val had a great time presenting her photography/art and taking photos in the Big Apple.
Since last night's thunder and lightning affecting Walker Evans didn't help things much, I bet we'll both sleep like logs tonight, especially since Val has a Buffalo Arts Studio Board of Directors meeting and I have political stuff early tonight.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Delays, Delays (In a Martian Voice)

I just got a call from Val; she's at JFK Airport in New York with her group of artists from Buffalo there on the New York Foundation for the Arts grant I previously mentioned.
Her flight home as supposed to leave JFK at 10:55 p.m. and get here at 12:26 a.m. Monday. Now, the flight is not supposed to leave JFK until about 12:30 a.m. and get here a bit after 2 a.m. The reason she was given? The weather in the Buffalo area, which, as I sit here, is calm, with no rain, thunder or lightning. It may be predicted, but it isn't happening so far.

They Didn't Need Me

I got a call at 4:38 p.m. today from Goldhaber Research; I am always willing to answer surveys, both to contribute information and because I remember conducting surveys as part of an upper-level criminal justice course I had to take at Buffalo State College.
After I said I would take part, the questioner asked me who my television provider was; "Time Warner Cable," I responded. "Oh, sorry; we are only seeking to talk to people who don't use Time Warner Cable today," the man replied. "Thanks for your time and have a good day."
I'd love to know what they are asking non-Time Warner customers.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Music That You Can Shop or Eat To

When I was able to get out of the house and function these past two days (I took a day off of work Friday), I encountered some musical high and low points.
I took my mother Sheila to dinner tonight; we ate at her favorite Italian restaurant (La Castelana), a pretty good place, and we had a very nice meal. During our meal, the restaurant was playing a tape or CD of contemporary Italian music, starting with some opera and moving into some cheesy pop music that sounded like bad versions of the U.S. pop/dance market from 10-15 years ago. When I thought it couldn't get worse, I heard a synthed-up song that sounded familiar, but I laughed and hoped that it wasn't so. Indeed, I was right; the song turned out to be an Italian version of "Gloria," sung by a man.
I stopped at the Walden Galleria Mall Friday, mainly to check out iPod prices (Val has one, I do not), and except for the iPod Shuffle, which I do not want, they are priced higher than my need warrants. But I did end up buying a couple of sale dress shirts and a pair of pants. My surprise came when I walked by the Old Navy store; I heard a song that was very good and one I knew, and it came to me: Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles' "The Day We Met," from their great "Diamonds in the Dark" CD which made my best music of 2007 list (yeah, I was supposed to post that here).
And the vinyl interest continues; I saw Mark Wisz while doing some political stuff, and we talked for a while about it, as I mentioned here a few days ago. Mark has played and appreciated vinyl for years, including but not limited to his DJing. Friday, I went over to my mother's house to do some yard work and put up some curtains for her, and I stopped by the album cabinet of mine downstairs (part of my way more than 1,000-album collection). Indeed, I picked up some choice slabs of vinyl (Miles Davis, King Crimson), but figuring out where I will store them remains a question.

Alone Again, Naturally

With Val leaving early yesterday morning for New York City (she returns very late Sunday night/early Monday morning after presenting her art along with several other Buffalo artists to museum curators and directors in NYC as part of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant she earned), I have been on my own, or at least human wise, at home, with Walker Evans joining me.
Quite frankly, I miss Val a lot so far, and despite my having lived on my own for years and so on, I am at times wondering what to do and when to do it, and I have slipped back into some kind of bad, if harmless, habits. I have both gotten a lot of things done and I am at times laying around with little motivation or concern (don't worry, I have eaten, showered and changed clothing).
But the little things, like sleeping, eating meals and just having Val here to hold, talk to and spend time with, are very strange and palpable in their absence. Being able to play music late into the night/early into the morning is little solace for the emptiness that otherwise is here; yeah, we all need some time to ourselves, but that seems best measured in hours, not days.
Oh, and these past not even 48 hours so far has pointed out one flaming drawback or inadequacy of mine, being technologically deficient. Val is very savvy as per computers and related technology, as well as pertaining to electronics, photography, cable television and other areas; me, not so much, so I have fallen into the habit of depending on Val to handle such things.
This sometimes frustrates Val and indeed, I do use it as a crutch, and it came back to bite me on the posterior today. After breakfast, I stopped at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Central branch downtown to pick up a few DVDs; of course, the trip turned into two DVDs and four CDs. The DVDs I took out were "Night and Fog" and "White Light Black Rain," both documentaries. Well, you guessed it; when I got home, I could not and still have not figured out how to get the DVD player to work.
I was hoping Val would call today/tonight like she did last night to ask her for help, but she is apparently enjoying the Big Apple, like she should.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In a Land Far, Far Away ...

How many of you readers remember when gas stations (yeah, how many even remember that term?) gave away glasses, including Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills and other sports teams glasses, along with other items when you bought gasoline?
I can't remember if Buffalo Braves' glasses were given away, but geez, talk about a change in direction. Of course, some people might be throwing the glasses back at the gas station when they see the prices; yes, yesterday was the first day I had to get gasoline since the price went above $4 a gallon.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Stanley Cup Similarities?

While I am happy that Pittsburgh beat Detroit in triple overtime early this morning, 4-3, leaving the Red Wings with a 3-2 games lead in the Stanley Cup finals heading back to Pittsburgh, recent history may not point to a seven-game series.
Remember, Detroit lost to Dallas in game 5 of their series May 17, 2-1, putting that series at 3 games to 2 in favor of Detroit and the series heading to Dallas. The Red Wings got down to business and defeated the Stars, 4-1, to win that series, 4 games to 2.

Penguins Stay Alive

The Pittsburgh Penguins stayed alive with a come-from-behind, 4-3 triple-overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals last night, er, this morning.
I was actually awake to see Petr Sykora score the game winning goal, but I did doze off a few times during the game, and I can't remember any of the intermissions after the second one. And how about Penguins' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury making 55 of 58 saves? Damn, that was clutch goal tending.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Vinyl Heaven

While doing the laundry and now blogging, I was in the mood to listen to music I hadn't had a chance to hear recently, so I figured it would be a vinyl night (kudos to Mark Wisz for helping keep vinyl relevant in my mind).
So far, I have been having a riot listening to the 1970s vinyl versions of Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity" and "Autobahn," which I was fortunate to receive as a gift from a former journalism colleague, Barbara Cattrall, who bought them either before or while she served in the military (U.S. Army, I believe) in Europe. I decided to Google her, and found out that she lives in Buffalo and has a Facebook page. I checked it through Val's Facebook account (I am neither on Facebook nor My Space), and found out that she is an official at North Park Presbyterian Church and a technical writer.
I hope she is doing well and it is always a kick to see that there is life after parting for some of us who worked together at our newspaper years ago, some of us a bit too long.

No Woofs for You

Walker Evans and I went to the Lasalle Park dog park a little bit later than usual today, getting there at about 4:50 p.m. We were the only person and dog there, the first time this happened to us. Walker still ran around, sniffed, peed and pooped, but he seemed to be missing some fun.
Finally, about 15 minutes later, another person came in with his dog, a golden retriever. I thought the person looked familiar, and indeed, it was Buffalo Board of Education member Christopher Jacobs. We engaged in some small talk, but I figured it was not the time or place for school board discussions.
A third person and his dog joined us about five minutes later, but Jacobs soon left, and then Walker Evans got tired and we left, with a new dog and dog owner, er cohabitant, arriving at the same time.