February Ramblin’

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Roger Ebert’s Last Words, con’t, commenting on the Esquire article (linked) and photo of him. “Resentment is allowing someone to live rent-free in a room in your head.”

How the Somaly Mam Foundation is trying to help end human trafficking

Wayne John tells about the time when a Burger King employee threw a double cheeseburger at him. Lousy aim, too.

Gordon reveals Dymowski and DeNiro – together.

Lady Gaga or Johnny Weir? “Can you tell the difference between the pop princess’ outrageous outfits and the Olympic skating star’s flamboyant costumes without seeing their poker faces?” You Olympics watchers who see figure skating only once every four years have no idea…

Springsteen covers.

And SamuraiFrog has three recent pieces worthy of mention, about Kermit the Frog and friend,Christina Hendricks – no, I’ve never seen Mad Men, either – and a particular Super Bowl ad which also annoyed me. (Should note that, on the latter two pieces, his language is coarser than mine.)

This next section is graphic.

Western New York Legacy web site, www.wnylegacy.org, is freely available online, and contains thousands of digital images, documents, letters, maps, books, slides, and other items reflecting the rich cultural heritage of Western New York

Print & Photographs (P&P) online catalog: Some photos copyright free (and some not).

Rose DesRochers – World Outside my Window: Free Cartoons for Your Blog, two examples of which appear in this very post.

Courtesy of Past Expiry Cartoon


Kennedy Center Honors

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. This is the 32nd year, and I’ve been following them since practically the beginning. The difference is that in the early days, the performers were sometimes names I knew, though often not, and even the people I recognized, I had not really sampled their works.

This year, as last four out of the five awardees are rather familiar to me.

Writer, composer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks

I have always HEARD of Mel Brooks, from the early days of television, from Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, which started before I was born, to creating the series Get Smart in the mid-1960s and the Robin Hood spoof When Things Were Rotten in the mid-1970s.

But it is his writing/producing/directing movies for which I know him.
The Producers (1968) -long before the musical, or the movie of the musical, there was the movie about making money by seemingly losing money. One of the funniest things I ever saw is when the audience is slackjawed after hearing “Springtime for Hitler”, which Brooks not only wrote but sang. There was a 2001 interview on 60 Minutes, which I saw at the time, where he describes his feelings about Hitler:
Hitler was part of this incredible idea that you could put Jews in concentration camps and kill them. And how do you get even? How do you get even with the man? How do you get even with him? There’s only one way to get even. You have to bring him down with ridicule. Because if you stand on a soapbox and you match him with rhetoric, you’re just as bad as he is. But if you can make people laugh at him, then you’re one up on him. And it’s been one of my lifelong jobs has been to make the
world laugh at Adolf Hitler.

That he succeeded is a great understatement.
Blazing Saddles (1974): it’s pretty funny, though it has no suitable ending.
Young Frankenstein (1974): one of the funniest films ever made. I literally fell out of my seat when I saw this in the movie theater; good thing I had an aisle seat.
Silent Movie (1976); High Anxiety (1977) – both funnier in concept than in execution
History of the World: Part I (1981) – few movies I’ve enjoyed less than this. The chief redeeming quality, and it comes near the end: Hitler on ice skates.
Other items of his I saw: My Favorite Year (1982), which he executive produced, and the TV show Mad About You in the late 1990s, where he played Uncle Phil.
Sommeday, I’ll see The Producers on stage.

Pianist and composer Dave Brubeck.

The only CD I own is Time Out (1960), but I have some Brubeck on vinyl. I know I have Time Further Out (1961), which has music in just about every time signature imaginable. I have My Favorite Things (1966). I’ve given out his greatest hits album to people who don’t know him, saying, “You need to know this guy.”
He turned 89 this month and is STILL playing on tour. I was playing Time Out earlier this month and someone visiting my house said, “What’s the name of that song?” It was Take Five. Coincidentally, my buddy Steve Bissette linked to it this month.

Opera singer Grace Bumbry

OK, here’s the hole in my wisdom. I’d heard the name, but I just don’t know opera.

Actor, director, and producer Robert De Niro

I need to go back and see some of his performances from the 1970s; actually a whole bunch of his films, now that I look at the list. But these I definitely did see:
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
Goodfellas (1990)
Stanley & Iris (1990)
Awakenings (1990)
Cape Fear (1991)
Wag the Dog (1997)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Analyze This (1999)
Meet the Parents (2000)
But it’s his work with the Tribeca Film Festival which may be his lasting legacy.
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff in a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the TriBeCa neighborhood in Manhattan.

The mission of the film festival is “to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience.” The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.

Singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen.

I had this office mate around whom one was not allowed to play Bruce Springsteen music; apparently, it had to do with a broken relationship. Conversely, I had an old girlfriend who was pretty much obsessed with “the Boss.” Which reminds me of that joke on Saturday Night Live a couple weeks ago, about Obama being the President, but
Springsteen being the Boss; so Springsteen ordered all the troops home from Afghanistan.

I noted here my Springsteen discography. Add the 2009 Working On A Dream CD to that and the er, unauthorized recordings someone sent me.

Plus he shows up as songwriter/producer for many other artists’ music I own such as Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes, not to mention his rendition of Merry Christmas Baby on the very first A Very Special Christmas.

Oh, and I got to see him this year, for the very first time.

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions [were] presented on Saturday, December 5, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton…The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 32nd consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Tuesday, December 29 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).


Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

May 14, 2009, Times Union Center, Albany, NY

Maybe it was that I was tired from coming back from a conference, then got to see wife and child for only 20 minutes after three days away. Perhaps it was near-vertigo from climbing those Times Union Center steps to the very top row. More likely though, it was the 45-minute wait from the scheduled 7:30 start time to the actual commencement of the performance. But I was not ready to be just swept away by Bruce and the band playing “Badlands” as their first number; it was too obvious to me. Later in the show, maybe, as he did on a Barcelona performance that played on WMHT public television a couple months ago. I later discover that Badlands was the opening song on every performance on this tour so far, save for the first one.

But wait …that drummer is GREAT! Who the heck IS he? He’s a good 30 years younger than Springsteen. With the energy he’s playing, will he be burned out by the end of the second song, Radio Nowhere?

And Bruce finally captured me with that third tune, Outlaw Pete, which my friend the Hoffinator said was “ten times, 25 times better” than the studio recording on the current album. From then on, I was with the program; in other words, by “No Surrender” – where did those great backup singers come from? – I had. On “Out in the Street”, he faced those of us seated behind him and used his now shared standard bit of letting most of the band have a line. In “Working on a Dream” he preached, they doo wopped. “Johnny 99” was a magnificent rocking reimagining of the song from the stark Nebraska album.

Astonishing guitar work by Nils Lofgrin on “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was captured on a guitar cam. During “Raise Your Hand”, it seems that the people on the floor of the TU Center raised their signs, with Bruce musing over which ones to collect; this, I’m told, is a tradition that began during the latter stages of the band’s previous tour. “Thunder Road” and “Mony Mony”, the latter the Tommy James and the Shondells hit, were the first two requests played.

Some people complain when the artist leaves it to the audience to sing parts of the song. In this case, they were singly loudly already even when the E Streeters were as well; it was certainly true on the solidly performed “Promised Land” and the requested “Backstreets”.

“Kingdom of Days” was dedicated to Springsteen’s wife, Patty Scialfa, who is recovering from a horse-ring injury. I thought it was uncharacteristically flat; not so much emotionally but pitch-wise. But he ended strong with “The Rising” and that song generally abbreviated B2R.

The encore started with incredible shared vocals on Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times”, which was preceded by a pitch for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

The best drawing from my vantage point that I saw and Bruce picked to sing was “Kitty’s Back”, a live staple for decades; the jazzy tune featured several tasty solos. It’s from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle album, which I only have on vinyl and need to fix that. I was recently listening to a bootl an unauthorized recording of that tune from c. 1976.

The group looked like they were finishing with American Land, but then launched into the obligatory song from Born in the USA album, “Glory Days”, complete with the banter between Bruce and Little Steven reminiscent of the Super Bowl appearance.

Oh, and that drummer? He was 18-year-old Jay Weinberg, son of Max. The elder Weinberg, the usual drummer, is also Conan O’Brien’s bandleader and had to be in California while Springsteen was on tour. Bruce said, “This is the first time in 35 years” that someone other than Max sat at the drums. As you can tell from Michael Eck’s review in the Times Union, he more than kept the seat warm for dad.


Springsteen and Powell

In anticipation of seeing Bruce Springsteen tonight in Albany, I have, of course, been listening to a lot of his music. And I HAVE a lot off his music:
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. 1973 LP, CD
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle 1974 LP
Born To Run 1975 LP, CD
Darkness on the Edge of Town 1978 LP, CD
The River 1980 CD
Nebraska 1982 LP, burned CD
Born in the U.S.A. 1984 LP, CD
Live 1975/85 1986 LPs
Tunnel of Love 1987 LP
Human Touch 1992 CD
Lucky Town 1992 CD
Greatest Hits 1995 CD
The Ghost of Tom Joad 1995 CD
The Rising 2002 CD
We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions American Land Edition 2006
Live In Dublin 2007 CD
Magic 2007 CD

What occurred to me is that all of the albums that I have in vinyl and compact disc I got from one source, my brother-in-law John, who was a big advocate for my relationship with his sister Carol, even during the time we were apart.

One December, he asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I gave him a list of Springsteen albums I had on vinyl but not on CD, plus The River, which, for some reason, I had never owned. So John, who was by then living in New Jersey, incidentally, gave me ALL of them; I was angling for maybe two or three.

John died of colon cancer on Lincoln’s Birthday 2002. It seems somehow appropriate to go see The Boss for the first time on what would have been John Powell’s 49th birthday.
Oh, and here are some great Springsteen covers.


BRUCE, T-minus 2

A couple months, I was talking to one of my colleagues about the fact that I would be seeing Bruce Springsteen in May. He, who has seen Bruce a double digit number of times but cannot on this tour, sent me three discs of Springsteen bootl unauthorized recordings. Two discs were from 1979.

It was the third disc, though, was the most intriguing. I put it into my iTunes and lo, iTunes recognized it. It turned out to be the second disc of something called You Can Trust Your Car to the Man Who Wears the Star, a 1975 performance that fits chronologically between Springsteen’s second and third albums.

If one Googles the title and Springsteen, one gets over 11,000 hits, so it is not an obscure recording, but rather a legendary one. And now, only 34 years after that recording, I’m going to see Springsteen live myself.

But what’s with the album title? I’m old enough to recognize the original reference – think fossil fuel – but WHY use it? Anyone know?