Thursday, February 26, 2009

RIP Wendy Richard

I'm a fan of the long running British sitcom "Are You Being Served?" so I'm sad to hear that Wendy Richard passed away. She played Miss Brahms during the whole run of the show from 1973-1985. She also played in the sequel called "Are you Being Served Again? (US Title) for two more years.

She was in the British soap opera "East Enders" for many years.

But I knew her as the Cockneyed Miss Brahms. She was the frequent victim of sexual harassment by Mr. Lucas and Captain Peacock when she was younger. Being that it was the 70's, it was considered okay. Her accent was the punchline and set up to many jokes.

She was only 65, which makes her younger than some of the cast of "Being Served" was when the show aired.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Karaoke with a Guest....

So it's Tuesday and I make my way to Mad Hatter's to do my normal karaoke routine. The place was not as crowded as I would have expected on Fat Tuesday.

That's right, "Fat Tuesday," I'm an American damn it!!

I get there and one of the regulars was there and I sat next to him. I had a hard time deciding whether or not I should sing "Wishing Well" by Terence Trent D'Arby. I saw a facebook buddy post the old video and thought I'd give it a try. It went pretty well and was looking forward to challenge myself further.

An alternate clip of the song.

Now, facebook is an addiction I have to admit to. I live by myself, it's cold so I spend a lot of time getting updates from people who I haven't seen in a very long time. One guy, Don I haven't seen or talked to for nearly 24 years!

He left messages wanting to hang out at Mad Hatter's and told me he would stop by one of these days. I thought that on a Tuesday night and living about an hour away I didn't expect to see him. I had my eye on the front entrance as I always do. I spotted Don when he walked in, it took me a second to put the updated picture on Facebook to the skinny kid I knew in art class back in the 80's.

I called him over and we got caught up on what has gone on in our lives the last two decades. Both of us are unmarried, no kids. Both of us were engaged twice, both of us moved long distances to be with one of them. This was funny to me that two guys who had not seen each other in 24 years would have that in common.

Anyway, I usually don't have stage fright doing karaoke. I do in one instance over any other. that's when I do it in front of people who I know through other means than karaoke. Like a girl I was trying to impress from my job at Ruth's Chris a few years ago. I talk about my silly interest to co-workers sometimes to the point of turn off.

Anyway after a little chit chat I proceeded to sing my second song. "Cruel to Be Kind" is my "go to" song. A safe choice that I sang flat, I didn't ask "How was it?" because I can't handle the truth sometimes. I'm too sensitive.

Here's a clip of the song.

I decided the next song I would do would be "A Little Less Conversation" by Elvis. Not too hard of a song but it can suffer from being boring and sometimes I trip over the words. I did both. Flat and flabbergasted.

Here's the clip.

Catching up some more with our lives made my voice get scratchy. I went to a "show off" song. This is a song that is challenging that many people do to impress the crowd without being a perfect singer. A prime example would be "End Of the World" by REM, with its fast reading of nonsensical non-sequitors. One of the songs I do is "Hair" from the musical "Hair". I love the Cowsills version and have done it quite well in the past. I like to do it when I have the crazy hair and beard thing going. Anyway the version I chose was from the musical or at least the one from the movie which was different enough from the one I've done many a time to throw me off bad enough that I got gonged!

Yes, gonged! A first for me. Usually it's done to people who really suck, but sometimes only when the song is offensive to the person holding the hammer. I think it was a little of column A and a little of column B.

Anyway, here's the version I did from the movie "Hair"

and the preferred version from the Cowsills that is one of the freakiest clips I have ever seen.

So I continue to talk and talk and talk with Don and my voice is going. I went to another "go to" song, "Sour Girl" by Stone Temple Pilots. My voice was gone to the point where I couldn't hit the high notes.


I hung out at Mad Hatter's after the scene was over and most of the folks left. It was great to see Don and catch up. He went out of the way to be there and I appreciate it. Every week I get to see an old friend these days. I hope it continues.

One last thing. I have got to stop pretending I'm cool. I don't like to bundle up. I'm not outside long when it's cold. I don't like to put extra thought of what I'm gonna wear when I go out. I rationalize by saying to myself that I'm just gonna be outdoors briefly. So, when I'm talking to people outdoors and it's cold and I'm only wearing a three thin layers, I look like a moron.

The lesson I learned? I should live in San Diego.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Cartoon

I'm sorry for the quality of the image. I continue to find even more obstacles in my pursuit to get my computer as normal as possible. I lost the use of Photoshop7 on my computer because I have the latest Mac OS Leopard computer. So I had to find a weaker alternative.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Invasion....

So, it comes to the time to go out to my karaoke bar Tuesday night. Except that it was taken over by another group of people that I didn't know. Took over half the bar and half the playlist. Some of them were okay at singing, most of them not.

Anyway, this only gave me an opportunity to sing three times. That's actually what I feel the perfect amount of times to sing. you get to sing enough to establish a trend but you don't wear out your welcome "Oh, HIM again!" It was a good night for my singing but I kept thinking how fat I felt.

Don't ask.

So, like any karaoke junkie, I had a few slips with songs in my wallet. I do this so I don't waste time looking for the "perfect" song.

One slip had an obscure Steely Dan song I had never sung before and certainly never heard anyone else sing it. The song "Midnight Cruiser" is one of the few songs by Steely Dan not sung by Donald Fagen. It's not as jazzy as later Steely Dan, but it's a nice little number. I fumbled a little when the first verse blended into the chorus. Anyway, I have two versions of the song. The original using stills and a version they did in concert in the 90's with Walter Becker on vocals. He was not the singer on the original, which should be apparent. I did batter than this version. That ain't saying much though.

Sorry about the lame links. For some reason the picture doesn't want to go on my blog the way it used to. I though it was because I was in Firefox 2. I'm back in Firefox 3, same problem.


live 96

The second song I did is one I should do more often. I'm strong on Rolling Stones songs and one of the better one is "Miss You" from 1978. It's hard to believe it's been 30 plus years since this "late" period Stones song came out. I love the song, it's raunchy in that 70's New York City way. Great groove. The crowd was into the song and I did it well. The highlight of my evening. The video clip is one the Stones did in those days. Simple soundstage, the band milling about miming to the music but I believe Mick is singing live.

Here it is

The third and final song was a two fer. It doesn't mention Harlem like the other two, which would have giving me a theme. Instead it's about sugar, coffee, and mother nature with a makeover. I'm talking about the Guess Who's "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature". It's has a good build up to a mid tempo chorus. It shifts into a new song that makes the song seem epic but then combines the two at the end. I did it only once before and flubbed it, This time I did it quite well, but no one cared, except for the old guy. I guess I need to do some Jonas Brothers to get the girls.

Here's a video from the 80's

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Pipe Dreams Cartoon!!!!!

Top Ten Comedians Who Are Not Funny

1.Jay Mohr-How this guy continues to get jobs is beyond me. I want his agent.

2.Sarah Silverman-She didn't get any skits on SNL during the Adam Sandler/David Spade days, That says it all.

3.Adam Sandler-He was the go to guy during SNL's comedy nadir. That stench goes for nearly 2 hours in his movies.

4.Janine Garofalo- Snarky, without the humor. She almost makes me want to be a Republican. She was replaced on Air America by the funnier Ron Reagan, that's right, Ron Reagan.

5.Joe Rogan- The second weakest link on NewsRadio next to Khandi Alexander, who's not a comedian. His goal these days is to make people eat leeches, Call Dennis Leary a Bill Hicks rip off, and to pretend he's not losing his hair.

6.David Spade-Never funny, even before he helped SNL become the place to see music acts. They would perform THREE songs in those days.

7.David Steinberg-One of those guys from the late 60's and 70's that would explain how comedy works except he was unable to do it, Like Rush Limbaugh with politics.

8.Michael Ian Black-Snarky guy who thinks he's too cool to work on being funny. He helped create the VH1 "I Love The.." series, and kills the show's momentum when it's his turn to chime in. He killed any chance for me to enjoy the Show Ed.

9.Mo Rocca- He's barely 40 and is now doing "comedy" bits on CBS's Sunday Morning, a favorite of the 55+ crowd. Look for him to travel across America in a Winnebago to snark on America's quirkiness.

10.Kenan Thompsaon- He was "kid funny" on Kenan and Kel, but since he's been an adult, he's been a second rate Tracy Morgan, who's a third rate Chris Rock, who's a second rate Eddie Murphy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

RIP Blossum Dearie

Blossom Dearie passed away. Who is she? She was a jazz singer during the 50' and 60's. Still, she is probably best known for people of my generation for singing some Schoolhouse Rock songs. My favorite being "Unpack The Adjectives" Here's the clip.

Sad to hear another part of my childhood is gone. She was 82.

It's Almost Back.

...My voice that is, but it doesn't mean I did any better when I went to Mad Hatters Tuesday night. It wasn't that interesting. sometimes it's dull. My weird pals were there, and the eye candy was alright but they were a bit on the young side. My song selection wasn't very inspired other than the fact I had a textbook way of doing the songs Tuesday.

The first song I did was one I had not done before. It's getting harder to do that these days without resorting to songs that I have no business doing. But there is a song by the Screaming Trees that pops up on my Ipod and I wondered if it was possible that my man had it in his karaoke book. Sure enough, the song "All I Know" from the album Dust was there. Now, I'm a baritone and Mark Lenegan, lead singer is a baritone but his is damn close to a bass. I can't do bass, so my interpretation was lacking, weak, definitely boring. Still, I like throwing out the songs that would never get done otherwise. The clip is from some show, some where, I know not where, but it's cooler than the official video and features Josh Homme. Yet another of the Seattle bands that was almost a plague in the early 90's.

The second song continues my goal to do 80's songs which I avoid because the decade wasn't my cup of tea for music. I chose a song that borders on being a novelty. Wall Of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" was a funny song from 1982. Funny lyrics along with an eccentric approach to the vocals made it fun to do even though it doesn't show off my skills. I still can't do the BBBBBBBBBBBBB part. Another problem is that the crowd was too young to appreciate the song. I love the video.

The third song was one I've sang a few times. I wanted to see how recovered my voice was when I did "Hold Your Head Up" by Argent. A song that sounds nothing like a former member of the Zombies would put out. I was almost able to to hit the tenor highs. It's another song the crowd didn't know but the crowd are too 80's and 90's pop oriented to appreciate classic rock, oh well. Two clips I present are interesting to me. The first one is Argent on the Midnight Special in 1973. It's fun to see John Denver introduce them. The second video clip is a bunch of images of the band Mother Love Band (AKA 40% of Pearl Jam). The lead singer Andrew Wood was slated to be a big star when he died of a heroin overdose in 1990. There's a lot of Mother Love Bone material out there including a cover of "Hold Your Head Up." The video is a bunch of stills that makes me nostalgic for the days when Seattle mattered. It does a good job doing the Seattle Scene Tree connecting Andrew Wood with everyone.

It was getting crowded so when it came time to sing again it was "Go To Song" time. That means T-Rex, and that means "20th Century Boy." That means it wasn't an exciting night, it means I needed a Windmill burger, it means good night.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Favorite Albums That Changed MY Life

I was on the Facebook when one of my friends had his list of 15 albums that had the most impact on his life. I thought I'd chime in but without the requirement of tagging/linking other people to the list. I'm not a fan of the chain letter like approach. My list with explanations...

1.Beatles-Yellow Submarine-Merely because it was my first album. It was cheap and I found out why. The second side was instrumentals and I wasn't into instrumantals at the time.

2.AC/DC-Back In Black- This was the first album of my teenage years. I was awkward and afraid of this album when it first came out. I wasn't ready to get drunk and stoned but man this album is still great. Of the albums on my list, it's the one I go back to more than any other.

3.The Doors-The Doors- The book "No One Here Gets Out Alive" had come out which piqued my interest in Jim Morrison and the Doors. I buy the album and am blown away and wished I had been a teenager in the 60's.

4.Led Zeppelin-Physical Graffiti- An old friend had wanted to get rid of all his Zeppelin albums and I bought them at a discount. The one that stood out was Physical Graffiti. The album is phenomenal with the songs Kasmir, Trampled Under Foot, and Custard Pie leading the charge on the first record, and Down By The Seaside, Boogie With Stu, Ten Years Gone keeping your interest years down the road on the second record.

5.U2-Joshua Tree-Widely regarded as U2's best album. It was huge in 1987-1988. Some of their strongest songs are on the album and is a good representation of good 80's music that is still a part of people's lives.

6.Guns and Roses-Appetite For Destruction-Let's face it, with very few exceptions, metal/hard rock in the 80's was lame. The hair bands were boring, cold, and dorky. Then came Guns and Roses. they brought back danger, they gave us kick ass guitar hooks, superior lyrics, and excellent rhythm. It was as good or even better than some of the best the 70's had to offer.

7.The Cure-Disintegration-The ultimate Cure album for those who don't like the Cure.I lived next door to some one who listened to the Cure constantly and I gre to hate them like anything I'm forced to listen to constantly. This album came out around my senior year at SVA. It was even darker than previous Cure albums. Spooky even, maybe that's why I've grooved on it. Lullaby and Fascination Street are standouts. If It's good enough for Beavis and Butthead...

8.Jane's Addiction-Ritual de lo Habitual-The 80's were over and the 90's had arrived. What would be the sound of the 90's? Well, Jane's Addiction came out with this album late in 1990. It's hardcore mixed with funk and punk. It features Dave Navarro before he became a reality show darling. This was a good sign the 90's would rock. It wouldn't be dumb and it wouldn't be cold. Been Caught Stealing was a stand out.

9.John Coltrane-Giant Steps-I was in Tower Records back in the early 90s right before I moved to Seattle. I went upstairs in the Jazz section, avoiding running into an unpleasant individual I knew back in school. They were playing Giant Steps. I loved what I was hearing, I've listened to Jazz as background music. They say music without words is better for doing artwork. And this album inspires a city vibe in my cartooning work. It takes me back to a New York that had a middle class, a New York that was creative, alive and classy. It's great for Saturday night loving.

10.Nirvana-Nevermind- The album that changed it all. I was looking for some truth in 1991 and found it in Seattle. I had been living there for two months when Nevermind came out. It was the first album for Gen X. we were getting tired of the baby boomers and the British. It was the time for good ol' American angst of our generation. The impact of this album can not be overstated. Many a career was made and destroyed by this album. Detractors like Motley Crue and Lita Ford like to them but they just seem to be a bit jealous.

11.Smashing Pumpkins-Gish- This album came out before Nevermind but I bought it in 1992. It was done before Billy Corgan became insufferable. It creates a great mood. I still have great memories of when I first heard this album. It was when I had the best sex of my life in a short relationship. Life was good and this album was too, especially the song Rhinoceros.

12.Alice In Chains-Dirt- Another dark album. It starts off with a bang with the song Them Bones, and gets alternately heavy and moody throughout. a hard rock classic. It's one of the rare post 70's album that demands you listen to it straight through. If not, enjoy the tracks Rooster, Would?, and Sickman. A great "headphones" album.

13.Pearl Jam-Vs.- The Seattle Scene was rolling along for a few years. Pearl Jam was getting bigger than Nirvana when they came out with the follow up to 10. 10 had the better songs but on the whole Vs. is a better album. With this album Pearl Jam stopped making videos so the songs had to be enjoyed on your own. It said to the would the Seattle scene was strong and getting stronger.

14.The Beach Boys-Good Vibrations(Box Set) So, it's 1994, Kurt Cobain blows his brains out, I got fired and moved to a rather dreary town of Federal Way, WA with my girlfriend. I was not a happy person despite the relationship. She tried to cheer me up by taking me to the rather decent libraries that were in town. They had this box set available to borrow. Like many people I've dismissed them as a surf band that had its hey day from 1963-1966. After that, Brian Wilson suffered mental illness, and the rest of the band suffered from poor record sales. This box set enlightened me on some really excellent songs that were released from 1968-1974. songs like Until I Die, Sail On Sailor, and Long Promised Road moved me beyond emotion. It made me become a Beach Boys fanatic and for the most part made me not follow any contemporary music until well in the next decade.

15.The White Stripes-Elephant-The last CD album I ever bought. I went digital after this. I pretty much ignored any new music that came out after 1994. I wasn't worried about being hip because I was in my 30s. A lot of crap came out in the boy band and hip hop genres. I ignored any other sub genre that came out in the late 90s and early 2000s. But some one turned me on to the white Stripes. I bought two of their albums before Elephant came out.Elephant blew me away though. It is the White Stripes at their best. Stand outs include Seven Nation Army.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Snow Don't Stop Me Now!

So, it was Tuesday. My only day of the week I look forward to on a consistent basis. My night out on another town. But the snow was still falling, the roads were still covered, and it was getting colder. No, I'm not going out. Not worth it. So, it's 10pm and I don't know where my children are because if I have them I am unaware of their existence. Anyway, I'm chilling thinking I made the right decision but I was obsessed with the idea that I was missing out on something by not going out to the Mad Hatter. So at 10 thirty I went out.

The roads were somewhat dicey but not so bad that it didn't stop SUVs from tailgating me. I figured the Mad Hatter would not be too crowded but I had parked farther away than at any other time.

It wasn't too crowded, some of my buddies were there so I was enjoying myself, but my voice is still raspy, going on 6 weeks now.

I gave it a shot. First song was ELO's "Evil Woman" I have only done it once before because the version I did wasn't complete and the music for the disk wasn't good. This one was good, so it went well except for the falsettos that was embedded in the verses. The chorus I had no problem with though. Anyway, the video I have attached is primo, vintage ELO.

The second song was one I used to do a lot in Seattle. I'm a big Wings fan. I know, lame ass Paul McCartney. Yet he rocked on many a song and one of the best was "Junior's Farm". It has kick ass guitar work courtesy of the late Jimmy McCullough. My voice handled most of the song well except for the ending wail like vocals. One video is cool vintage with a raw version, the other one is from some variety show.

So, it was time to do a song I haven't done before. I like Pete Townsend's solo songs but hardly any are available in karaoke. I really would have like to have done "Rough Boys" because of the gay overtones, plus it rocks. Instead I did "Let My Love Open The Door" from the same album Empty Glasses. Even though Roger Daltry was a better singer, I have a harder time doing Pete Townsend sung songs. He's got a weird nasal tenor quality to his vocals. So, it wasn't as good as I would hope. Anyway, here's the vintage clip from 1981 featuring the bass player from Big Country.

So, it's 1990-91, and there was a bit of a lull in the POP-u-lar music scene. It looked like that the Manchester scene was going to be the third British Invasion. Bands like the Stone Roses, Soup Dragons, Happy Mondays looked like they were ready.I love these songs from the Manchester scene. Just enough psychedelia mixed with new wave to make it seem new. The alternative stations were playing them but when Nirvana and the Seattle scene arrived and not much came of the Manchester scene outside of England. Before they became foils for Oasis, Blur had a minor hit in 1991 with "There's No Other Way". I do the song alright, most people don't know it but I don't care. They have two videos that give a different interpretation and look. I like the one at the kitchen table with the early Byrds like haircuts.

I got one more chance to sing and it was the Pretenders. I love the Pretenders but there isn't many of their kick ass early songs on karaoke. "Brass In The Pocket" is lame enough for Chrissie Hynde to all but disown it. My favorite song from the Pete Farndon, James Honeyman-Scott days is "Message Of Love". the version that was available was not very good though. It's guitar didn't ring with a twang sound that is in the original. I was disappointed in my performance. My voice was nearly gone. But I'm more disappointed that I couldn't find the official video. Still, this clip is from the era and it has Chrissie without the guitar in her way. I thought she was sexy in the day.

Oh, sorry that I had to do links but my computer still has issues. Maybe next week.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Funeral For A Matriarch

I spent the day Monday going to a funeral for my father's cousin. She's the mother of one of my favorite families. She had just passed right before the past weekend. My father and my aunt were close. My father had lived with her family for some time after his mother's death when he was a child.

I didn't get to see my second cousind as much as I would like, as a matter of fact, I have only attended half of their weddings. Although I regret my possible rudeness in attending, I more regret it more because the weddings I did go to were a blast.

Mary Ellen had moved to Baltimore with her husband to raise their family. It is a hike to go to Bowie(pronounced Boo-eee), Maryland. I thought it would take 3 hours to get there and gave myself 4 hours to get there. I avoided the NJ Turnpike to in order to not pay tolls but really all I avoided was a few bucks because of the Delaware toll scam of charging $4 merely to travel 20 miles, a $3 Maryland toll and a $2 toll for the Harbor Tunnel.

I don't have EZ-Pass. Ca-Ching!

Anyway, true to form, toll roads tend to be slower with traffic and I started to realize I was running late. The funeral started at 10am. I finally got there at a few minutes after. 4+ hours and I still was a little late.

It was a moving ceremony. You don't get me in a church too often but I still enjoy the ceremony of a Catholic mass. Her children did an admirable job recounting their mother's life. I regret that for obvious reasons I would not see her at her own ceremony.

After the cemetery site ceremony and the reception back in the church hall. I was invited back to her grieving husband's place where the whole of the family was present.
I reconnected with the family. I was introduced to children Io have never met. I don't see the family often enough. The kids were great and the older ones are making their way through life in extraordinary ways. I hadn't seen them since they were small children. Living in Seattle made me miss out on much of their lives.

I stayed until after 8:30 pm. I couldn't gracefully leave until the last of my second cousins left. Somehow it still took me more than 4 hours to get home even without the traffic. I got gas twice, once to put enough to get me back to NJ and its cheap gas. The tolls were even higher to get back.

Mary Ellen lived an very full life in her 72 years. She raised four wonderful children and they in turn had blessed her with 11 grandchildren. she had gotten her symptoms on Christmas Day. She returned to her home to spend her last days in her own home. The Christmas tree and its splendid decorations she put up was still set up for her to enjoy in her last days.

I'll miss her. She was the first of the "Bronx" generation of my family tree to pass. She'll be missed by many.