Reality Check

Posted in Golden (State) Years on December 17th, 2014 by bill

There are at least 4 things I love about this photo.

I have been superstitiously avoiding writing about the Warriors, because they have been on a crazy run unlike anything I have ever experienced as a basketball fan. After I last wrote about them on November 10, they lost the next game (to the San Antonio Spurs) and then did not lose again until last night (to the Memphis Grizzlies). In between, they ticked off 16 straight wins, raising their record to a surreal 21-2 (now 21-3).

It’s hard to know what to say. This team is very, very good at what they do. They score, they defend, they rebound, they pass. They play with supreme swagger that has not (yet) turned the corner into arrogance. They post fun videos on YouTube and Instagram. It’s a sweet time to be a Warriors fan.

The only sour note is that Andrew Bogut’s knee is acting up, and aside from Steph Curry, Bogut is the one player the W’s cannot afford to lose. He is the defensive anchor and a key cog in the offensive scheme. So now I have something to worry about, which is a much more familiar position to be in. That head-in-the-clouds, it’s-impossible-for-us-to-lose stuff is great, but weird. Reality may set in now; but then again, reality still has the chance to be pretty damn spectacular. So no complaints from this quarter.

Nothing Has Changed – Part 1 (Disc 2)

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on December 8th, 2014 by bill

Funk to funky

I resisted buying the new David Bowie 3-CD anthology, Nothing Has Changed, for the better part of 20 minutes. I already have most of those songs, I tried to convince myself, and it’s unlikely there will be any real revelations among the outtakes and rarities. I had already heard the new single, “Sue (or a Season of Crime)” and decided I didn’t care for it.

But I am weak, and it was not that expensive, so my resistance did not last. And although everything I told myself is true, I can’t say I regret the purchase; the opportunity to hear new Bowie songs, or old Bowie songs in a new context, is always welcome.

The gimmick in this set is that it is sequenced in reverse chronological order, which definitely changes the narrative, turning Bowie into an artist who starts off experimental and abstract but self-assured, goes through a long shaky period, and emerges from it as a mind-blowing rock’n’roll superman, before petering out in a series of derivative, underdeveloped, but not charmless singles.

I actually cheated a little bit and listened to discs 2 and 3 first, because I was on a car trip with two teenage girls in the back seat and I didn’t think they’d sit still for a full disc of late-period Bowie. Even so, we all got a little restless during “Buddha of Suburbia” and “Jump They Say,” but to the rescue, surprisingly, came “Time Will Crawl” — a refugee from the abysmal Never Let Me Down, but in this context it sounded great. (The version included here, the “MM Remix,” may be better than the original, which I haven’t heard for a while.)
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Tuesday Night in A-Town

Posted in Dancing about architecture on December 3rd, 2014 by bill

A not-so-great picture of Sallie Ford and her band.

Last night is one that I’d like to remember. It started off shaky but ended up great, and some lessons were learned along the way.

Lesson #1: I really don’t like jazz all that much. Or certain kinds of jazz, at least. As part of a general program to try to shake off old biases and enjoy as many kinds of music as possible, of late I’ve relaxed my strict “no jazz” policy and tried to find a way to enjoy what is, after all, a huge and diverse genre. And I’ve made some progress, discovering a fondness for Miles Davis especially.

So when I saw that the Bad Plus was included in our subscription to the Center Arts season, I was mildly optimistic. They have a reputation as jazz mavericks and have covered songs by the Pixies, Nirvana, and Radiohead. While I haven’t dug deep into their oeuvre, I have heard a few things I enjoyed, and hoped that in a live setting they would do some crowd-pleasing.
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One more time to the well

Posted in Golden (State) Years on November 10th, 2014 by bill

The Warriors lost their first game of the season last night, putting an end to this little flurry of giddy intoxication. I think they will still be great this year, just not perfect. Which is fine.

On the bright side, Draymond Green had a career-high four blocks, which gives me a convenient excuse to use my favorite phrase of the week one more time:

Quoth the Draymond: Nevermore!

Quoth the Draymond

Posted in Golden (State) Years on November 9th, 2014 by bill

Noted philosopher Draymond Green

“Obviously, we’re not looking at it and thinking we’re the best thing since sliced bread. It’s a long season. We’re five games in, but winning is fun.”

Golden State of Mind

Posted in Golden (State) Years on November 6th, 2014 by bill

They make a grown man cry.

On the one hand, I don’t want to talk about the Warriors – that’s the Golden State Basketball Warriors, the only sports team I allow myself to really care about anymore – because they are playing so incredibly well right now, it seems foolish to do anything but sit quietly and enjoy, On the other hand, I don’t want to talk about anything else.

The Dubs have played only four games, but they have won them all. And last night they shellacked the LA Clippers, the team that bounced them out of the playoffs last year, in a way that can only be called ruthless. The Clips looked shocked, Chris Paul looked like he wanted to run and hide, Doc Rivers looked like he wanted to pull his hair out except his hair is about three micrometers long and that’s not possible.

Yes, it’s a little early to gloat. I know this. But when am I going to gloat if not now? The best part was watching Clips power forward Blake Griffin – a big, strong, talented guy who is also a total crybaby – suffer at the hands of the Warriors’ Draymond Green, who played phenomenal defense and hit four three-pointers. Here is Draymond running back down the court after one of them:

Out of context that looks a little dickish, but trust me, in the moment it was entirely appropriate.

I could go on and on about Steph Curry, who was his usual baby-faced-assassin self; Klay Thompson, who battled through a tough shooting night and hounded CP3 on D; and Andrew Bogut, who showed the Clips what a real tough guy looks like. But I have stuff to do.

All this giddiness won’t last forever, of course. It could end as soon as Saturday, when the W’s play the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are playing great too and haven’t lost a game either. So I’m going to savor this feeling while it lasts, like a fine wine with a long, slow finish.

End of an Era

Posted in Whatever Else on November 4th, 2014 by bill

Tom and Ray, laughing as always

Because I sometimes have a morbid mindset, every so often while listening “Car Talk” I would think, “Someday one of these guys is going to die, and that’s going to be a real bummer.”

Well, here we are. Tom Magliozzi, longtime co-host of “Car Talk” on NPR with his brother Ray, passed away yesterday at the age of 77. One of the comments on the NPR web site says “I never felt so sad over the loss of someone I had never met,” and that about sums it up.

How many hundreds of hours have I spent over the years listening to those two guys giggle? If laughter has any medical value, Tom and Ray have extended many of our lives considerably. It was always a pleasure to hear two people take such joy in entertaining themselves, each other, and incidentally whoever happened to be listening.

And of course we will continue to hear them, as NPR has a gazillion shows in the can. But it makes the world a little drabber to know that Tom and Ray will never crack each other up again. Well, that’s life. Give somebody you love a hug why dontcha.

The Redness and the Horror

Posted in Audio transmissions, Read it in books on October 31st, 2014 by bill

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” has never been more resonant than it is now, in the year of Ebola hysteria.

Blood was its Avatar and its seal –the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men.

So this being All Hallows’ Eve, why not give it a read, or better yet a listen. I’ll give you two versions to choose from. Either the classic, classy British-accent version by Basil Rathbone:

Or the extra-twisted version read by old Uncle Bill:

Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 2)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on October 3rd, 2014 by bill

This picture is almost as blurry as my memory.

This one is a little tricky, because my memories of the show in question are very vague. You might ask, as my friend TV did, why I want to write about a show I barely remember. It’s a good question, and the answer is that I have fond feelings for the band, the time period, and the people involved, and enjoy thinking about all of them.

The band was Shriekback, the venue The Stone in San Francisco, the time late 1985. I was attending UC Santa Cruz at the time, and had gotten into the habit of reading the SF Chronicle’s Sunday arts and entertainment section (known to all Bay Areans as the Pink Section). When I saw that Shriekback — one of my favorite bands then and now, and one rarely seen on U.S. soil — was playing in S.F., I was determined to be there. I convinced a group of friends to make the trek, and for transportation we enlisted a hallmate who was not a favorite person of ours but had a car. It was not a proud moment, but sometimes you do what you have to do.
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Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 1)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on September 17th, 2014 by bill

Updating the Bands I’ve Seen list lately got me to thinking about Times of Olde, and I realized I’ve never written much about many of the great shows. And I might as well do that, because my memory is not getting any better. In general, I probably remember a show that happened 20 or 25 years ago better than one that happened in 2008, but the brain damage is selective and unpredictable.

My first real concert (seeing the Hooters in a shopping mall doesn’t count) was Devo at the Tower Theater in suburban Philadelphia. If the internet is to be believed, this event took place on November 13, 1982, which means I would have just turned 15.

To say that from 1981 to 1984 I listened to Devo and nothing but Devo would be an exaggeration, but only a slight one (the Cars were in there too). To a kid of my age, gender, class, IQ, and general orientation toward reality, they were the only band that mattered. As I wrote previously (in a piece about how much they’ve betrayed me in later years), their message was one that I found irresistible:

They and I and those like us were not weirdos but superior mutants, and the future belonged to us.

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