Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Never feel alone -- you're really not alone.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Musings & everything else' category


Wednesday, 5 November 2003

A little behind

After reading today’s FoxTrot, I see that Jason isn’t quite the geek I thought he was. He’s still using deprecated markup (when clearly he should have used <em> or <strong>), he’s not closing his paragraph tags and he’s definitely not using CSS.

CSS is still fairly unpredictable across browsers, but Jason could have at least avoided the bold tag. No, I’m not trying to out-geek the geek, but today’s comic makes me feel sort of better about not being up on the latest XHTML.


Saturday, 1 November 2003

Goodbye to an old friend

Last night, for the first time in a while, I tuned in to the KNX Drama Hour, which has been on the air here on KNX 1070 AM since the 1970s, I believe.

I "found" it when I was about 12 years old, and it was a huge part of my life during my adolescence, during the height of my old-time radio show fandom/collection sensibility. It went hand-in-hand with my then-fledgling interest in films from the 1930s-’50s, and my fascination for the media culture of that period definitely made it hard to share interests with my peers. It was difficult finding anyone my age who had heard of Orson Welles, Jack Benny, Frank Lovejoy or Norman Corwin, let alone appreciate them or the dramas in which they were involved. For me, Alad Ladd will always be Dan Holiday from the radio show Box 13 before he is Shane. William Conrad will always be Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke. June Foray, famous for (among other things) Natasha on Rocky and Bullwinkle, will always be a Stan Freberg character first (Miss Jupiter…Edna St. Louis Missouri…Lucretia). Admittedly, when I think of Orson Welles now, I tend to think of Citizen Kane before anything else, but for the longest time, he was always first Harry Lime from the radio show version of The Third Man; he was the spooky narrator from The Black Museum; he was the brains behind The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio theatre group. Needless to say, old-time radio (OTR) was a huge part of my life, and KNX was the station that introduced me to it, and provided one or two OTR shows every night at 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Anyway, I tuned in to KNX last night, and was not surprised that the regular Friday shows had been pre-empted by the annual Halloween broadcast of Orson Welles & The Mercury Theatre group’s infamous 1938 production of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. What did surprise me, however, was the canned announcement at the beginning of the show, saying that it would be the final installment of the KNX Drama Hour. Final, based on the need for news recently: the SoCal fires, strikes, recall election, continuing war in Iraq…

It’s true, KNX skipped the Drama Hour during the first Bush/Iraq war, but it came back. It came back after September 11th. So perhaps this isn’t the true end? Perhaps they will bring it back? Unless another factor was a lagging listenership over the past few years.

So many years, so many shows. I feel old, and like I just lost a friend. A constant, true friend that’s no longer there. No Jack Benny on Saturday nights at 9. Unbelievable. It’s been a part of my life for 15 years.

It means absolutely nothing to the people who have lost friends and family and homes in recent days…maybe it means nothing in the grand scheme of the world. But it’s still sad to see what had been a true staple — a rare hour of old, historic drama, on a major CBS radio affiliate — disappear.

Thankfully, today being Saturday, I tuned in to Anne Litt and Weekend Becomes Eclectic on KCRW and it helped me remember to be grateful for what’s still here in terms of radio media and culture. I hope, hope, hope that her show (and NPR and KCRW for that matter) will be around for a long time to come.


Tuesday, 21 October 2003

Hoping wishers never lose

Dum spiro, spero. So, here are just a few of my goals, wishes and pipe dreams:

  • My music getting airplay on KCRW (if it’s airplay on Weekend Becomes Eclectic…please, someone catch me as I tumble to the ground).
  • Guest DJ on KCRW.
  • Be interviewed by Nic Harcourt.
  • Be interviewed on an NPR newsmagazine.
  • Get published in the New Yorker.
  • Try not to mess up the lives of those around me.

Okay, the following aren’t so far up in the clouds as the rest:

  • Finally release a full-length album with all of my arrangements realized.
  • Publish a book of fiction.
  • Write a screenplay.
  • Write a radio play.
  • Take a really long vacation.
    » Visit all my faraway friends and their environments: DC, Houston TX, New Haven CT, A² MI, Boston/Cambridge MA, Philadelphia PA, Olean NY, Hong Kong.
    » Return to England, and see the rest of Britain, as well as Eire.
  • Treat my family to a long vacation.
  • Attend a "Says You" taping.
  • Publish a photo exhibit.

Ten years ago I no doubt would have written "produce a film" or or "win an Academy Award." Odd how they’re not even on the list.

Posted at 12:39 am | Filed under Favorite posts, Musings & everything else |  

Friday, 23 May 2003

Someone is listening…

Late Wednesday night, I found myself wanting to listen to some upbeat music. I listened to a few things but then thought, "David Gray. I think what I need right now is White Ladder" — so I rummaged around and found pretty much every other one of my DG discs except for that one. It had been at least five or six months since I’d listened to the album, so it wasn’t in my room but in some other place (the living room somewhere?) probably. But when I couldn’t find the CD right away, I just thought "Never mind" and went without that particular DG. It was getting late anyway, so I just ended up going to sleep.

The next morning (yesterday), I remembered to make a mental note to find my DG disc. Then as I was making breakfast, I suddenly began humming/singing Peggy Lee & Dave Barbour‘s song, "It’s a Good Day." I’d listened to the original tune from the 1940s many times — but not recently — and I think that may have been the first time it popped into my head spontaneously somehow, and the first time I actually sang it on my own like that.

That was breakfast, and I didn’t think any more of it all…until later that afternoon. I finally persuaded myself to go grocery shopping, and just a few minutes after I stepped into Trader Joe’s, guess whose voice came over the speakers? David Gray. And singing "Babylon" from White Ladder, no less. What a weird coincidence…but still, it’s probably his most popular song, so it wasn’t completely unprecedented.

About a half hour or so later, I was about ready to go to checkout when I heard a very familiar opening electric guitar arpeggio introduce a song. My reaction: "What the heck? Am I really hearing this?"

A few measures later, Peggy Lee started singing "It’s a Good Day" as Dave Barbour continued to accompany her on guitar.

Now, I’ve always loved the eclectic music played at Trader Joe’s…I’ve heard a bunch of tunes from my own collection played while I shopped, as well as some nifty titles I’d never heard before. But those two instances of DG and "It’s a Good Day" (the original version, too!) on this visit…it was just spooky.

Posted at 3:21 pm | Filed under Music, Musings & everything else |  

Tuesday, 22 April 2003

Musically inclined

On KCRW, Anne Litt subbed for Nic Harcourt on Morning Becomes Eclectic yesterday, but unfortunately I only heard the last, oh ten minutes. Guess I’ll have to catch it in the archives.

BTW Litt was away both days last last weekend (Cathy Tamkin and Kevin Lincoln filled in), but was back this past weekend. In the few minutes that I was able to listen two weeks ago, I tuned in right before Lincoln played a Kathleen Edwards tune — I’d never heard her on WBE before, so that was neat. Edwards was Richard Buckner‘s opening act for a long stretch of his last U.S. tour (he’s playing Europe right now), so I saw her perform solo when they stopped locally last December, and talked to her for a bit after the show. She was back in L.A. a few days ago but I didn’t get to see her this time around.

Other NPR shows: On the last Wha’dya Know, one of the audience quiz contestants turned out to be a well-travelled folky singer/songwriter called Lis Harvey, with whom I wasn’t familiar. She apparently was just a big fan of the show, and didn’t resort to any self-promotion on the air, which was refreshingly odd. When I visited the notmuch.com site, her name was linked to her site — that’s really the only reason why I even knew about her site. Haven’t listened to any of her music yet.

And although I’ve mentioned Says You pretty often here, I don’t think I’ve ever commented specifically about the music on that show. Simply put: fabulous. I love pretty much every single group that’s been on the show: the Dactyls (all the incarnations of the Dactyls — including the Neo Dactyls and the Mighty Dactyls), Tom Eaton & Pick 3 (sp?) and Plu Perfect & the Past Participles. They all have their own styles and repertoires and they’re all acoustic. Personally I miss Plu’s many homages to music from the Roaring Twenties, but I’ve noticed that theme recently now and again.

BTW, for all Says You fans (hi madbard), here’s an article about the show (and its Boston University alumni) that you may find of interest.

Yet another Gilmore Girls reference: I was watching a tape of season 3 episodes and noticed (for the first time) that in the dance marathon ep from last fall, one of the classic tunes that got played happened to be "These Foolish Things" — which is one of my favorites. Too bad it was an all-instrumental dance. It would’ve been nice if a singer had crooned along on some of the songs, e.g. "These Foolish Things." Why not be even more authentic to the swing dance band era?

Closer to home: I finally updated the "What’s in my CD player" list, after a five-month hiatus. There’s no review for the Peggy Lee/Benny Goodman album yet, but when I do add some notes I’ll post an update here.


Monday, 14 April 2003

A friendly reminder

This time last year, my primary hard disk decided to fail. As in, not just your typical "crash," but it physically just wouldn’t initialize at all. I’d never had that sort of failure before, and I hadn’t archived my data in a long time, so I ended up losing everything that had been on that HD. What I miss most is the irreplaceable e-mails from friends and family, for their sentimental value. I mean, not the typical short messages like "Are we meeting at 7?" but the true letters. Correspondence that cheered me up immensely.

But losing my primary disk and having to rebuild wasn’t a thrill either. So, just remember to back up your data on something pretty reliable (I would not recommend Zip disks or other removeable disks of that ilk) and make more than one copy, for safekeeping at different locations. If you don’t archive that often (every day/week/month), then at least do it every time you modify or add an important project or document. It’s cheap insurance.

Posted at 11:43 pm | Filed under Musings & everything else, Tech/geek |  

Thursday, 10 April 2003

My favorite things

Here are just a few things that cheer me up, in no particular order. I plan to continue adding more to this list in future blogs and then compile them into a more complete document as time goes by.

  1. Sitting outside and looking at the night sky and its faraway inhabitants
  2. Playing guitar
  3. Jamming with other musicians
  4. A hug from a loved one
  5. The Pacific Ocean breeze sweeping o’er us
  6. A postcard from a friend
  7. Someone laughing at my jokes
  8. Weekend Becomes Eclectic on KCRW
  9. A really good episode of Gilmore Girls
  10. A really fun episode of Says You
  11. Trader Joe’s Vanilla Bean Cream Soda
  12. Finding a long-lost friend
  13. Kindness
  14. Feeling safe

Quote for the time being:

We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship.

E. M. Forster, "The Tercentenary of the ‘Areopagitica’," Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)


Tuesday, 18 March 2003

Humor to help keep me sane

Laugh of the day: Bill Amend‘s Fox Trot comic strip (link expires in 14 days).

If you have time, also try checking out Bill Amend’s personal home page. I only recently started reading FT, after a very long hiatus, and it’s as funny as ever.

For single panels, I love Bizarro by Dan Piraro (be sure to check out the comic from March 2, 2003!) and Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller — I’ve read them fairly regularly for quite a while now. BTW, if you haven’t seen it already, there’s a fun feature on monkey‘s site (listed in the Links to the left) where monkey learns how to make a cartoon with Dan Piraro.

Posted at 12:24 am | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Thursday, 16 January 2003

The stuff of which dreams are made

Earlier in the week, when I talked about sitting outside under the stars at night, I mentioned how I’d forgotten so many of the stars (and couldn’t identify many of them). I’d read about some basic astronomy a couple of years ago, but it’s true, I’m still very much a night sky newbie.

Well, I dug up my spiral-bound copy of Terence Dickinson’s excellent book Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe and refreshed my memory a bit. I went back out a couple of hours ago with binoculars, a chair, notepad and pen and spent a good chunk of time identifying stars and trying to remember their characteristics so I wouldn’t forget so easily.

Orion stood high and proud in the SW, and it was easy to spot Castor and the slightly pinker Pollux, as well as Procyon, Sirius and Regulus. Turning around and facing NE, it was hard to avoid seeing Ursa Major. I noticed two very visible planets: one was extremely bright, which I guessed to be Jupiter. Looking south, it was between the Leo constellation and Procyon, almost a straight line out from Bellatrix to Betelgeuse onward. The not-nearly-as-bright second planet, between the moon and Aldebaran, had almost a yellowish tint. After I came back inside, I fired up Adastra Freestar (highly recommended if you don’t already have it!) and ID’d the second planet as Saturn and confirmed the first as Jupiter. (Thanks to my brother for letting me know about Adastra in the first place.)

It’s a fantastic night for stargazing. The sky was clear, and even with the moon overhead, hovering just “above” Capella, I could see very clearly. One of these days I would love to get out of the city for a while…take a camera (or two) and binoculars and get away from the light pollution, to really see what the night sky can look like.

Posted at 1:18 am | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Monday, 13 January 2003

Midnight, the stars, and you

I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that over the past weekend, something came up and I became extremely upset. It was Friday night, well okay Saturday morning, at around 2 o’clock…and I needed to get some air. Usually when I’m upset I pick up my guitar and just play, or listen to some music, or write…but this time it was different. I had already tried writing and listening to music…I needed to get outside. For a few seconds I imagined myself hopping into the car and just driving somewhere, anywhere, with the windows down and the wind against my face. This wasn’t something I ever did to remedy negative feelings, though, plus it’s not exactly a safe idea, and I didn’t want to wake up anyone. But I had to get outside. So I resorted to doing something else.

For the past couple of years in late fall/early winter, I’ve set up a tripod and folding chair in the backyard, taking a camera and trying to capture some Leonids on film. This time, I grabbed a pair of binoculars instead of the camera, and sat outside, leaning back in the chair and occasionally looking through the lenses into the night sky. It was pretty bright out, thanks to the moon, and the brighter stars were still very visible. Though there was cloud cover, it moved fairly quickly, passing over my head and heading south/southeast.

I tried to identify the stars and the planets, but couldn’t be sure of most of them. After a few minutes I even spotted a falling meteor — no matter how many times I see one, I’m always awestruck. I sat there for half an hour, listening to the faint sounds of the city: of the whoosh of passing cars on the nearby streets, of the fallen leaves wrestling gently against the breeze…and feeling the briskness of the air in my lungs. For those of you in “real” winter climates, you might wonder “sitting outside in January? Are you nuts?” — but remember, this is in Southern California, where the low for that night did not dip below 45 degrees F.

Just sitting there calmed me down considerably, and it probably was more effective than a drive would have been. Watching the large fields of cumulus clouds hovering by, obscuring my view of the stars every so often, helped put my own mind clouds in perspective. I was just a person, one of countless others, underneath passing cloud formations, sitting still on a rotating planet, gliding around the sun, through space, one planet in a neighborhood of many, a few of which I could see. “God,” I thought in a sort of opening prayer, “I am glad to be a part of this.”

So after a half hour or so, I gathered everything and went back inside. And I picked up my guitar, and very quietly, began playing — mostly Richard Buckner songs — and felt my tension ease away even more with every note.

Posted at 7:28 pm | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Sunday, 15 September 2002

New Buckner CDs; tough road for Dodgers

Last week I wrote about pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii suffering a concussion and skull fracture. It’s good to write that he’s been released from the hospital after surgery, and is doing well. He’s out for the rest of the season, obviously, but in one article I read yesterday, the Dodgers management, coaches and trainers are going to work with him before spring training and provide counseling. They’re even considering some sort of protective armor or shell that will fit underneath a cap. I know this is all preliminary, but I am so glad that these ideas are on the table.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers themselves are fading fast in the NL Wild Card and Division races. They need to command the series at home with the Giants. Their starting and middle-relief pitching hasn’t been as effective lately, save Odalis Perez and Hideo Nomo, and with the lack of run production (which has been the case all year), that’s not a good sign. The team just hasn’t been playing well the last few weeks, and meanwhile the Giants are winning most of their games. If the offense doesn’t put up big numbers every day, the outlook looks rather grim. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though. They’ve come up with some clutch wins, and they need to be a clutch team now.

Buckner and more Buckner: Richard Buckner‘s new CDs are available now! Go get ’em. They’re called "Impasse-ette" (EP — some places may still have the older title "Born Into") and "Impasse" (full original album). Check out more details from Overcoat Records. "Impasse" is set for release in a few weeks officially, but you can get a copy (legitimately) from Village Records. And yeah, I don’t have either yet but I’m sure they’ll be sitting in my CD player soon.

And a note: I know 11 Sept. has come and gone, but I purposely avoided writing about it here on Wednesday. Just thinking of posting something about it here gave me flashbacks to that day a year ago, when I was so overwhelmed by confusion and shock and tried to write something coherent and cohesive here. All I’ll say now is that I hope people are doing better.