The Bad Plus

I meant to post this two weeks ago and as usual, the sheer load of stuff I need to do got in the way. I’m in the final two weeks of getting a project out and… well, nevermind, I don’t wanna talk about work. Let’s just say, busy with a side of busy. Anyway, I’m […]

I meant to post this two weeks ago and as usual, the sheer load of stuff I need to do got in the way. I’m in the final two weeks of getting a project out and… well, nevermind, I don’t wanna talk about work. Let’s just say, busy with a side of busy.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about music.

My current big band obssion is The Bad Plus.

I blogged about them not long ago; but since then I’ve seen them play live since.

I discovered this band sort of by accident; my friend Chris (also known as Papa by my kids, Christo von Paisley back in the Jailbait Babysitters days), and as Papa Christo by a whole lot of our friends, mixing the two nicknames together) handed me These are the Vistas one day a couple years ago, saying, you like jazz, you should check these guys out. , and I liked them instantly.

If you have not listened to them, it’s impossible to convey in one or two song samples, and it’s difficult to describe. They are a basic jazz piano trio (piano, stand up bass, drums). However, they have a way of playing with a rock sensibility, even while very much being a jazz group. They are not really fusion, certainly not what I think of as fusion (chick corea, john mclaughlin, herbie hancock, joe zawinul). Sonically, they’re pure jazz. Yet they manage to feel more purely like a fusion than any of those bands did, at least back in fusion’s heyday in the 70s and 80s; no electric instruments, no funk bass, no distortion, but instead the rock coming from driving beats and a rock-infused melodic sense.

They play covers from Bacharach to Rush, Tears for Fears to Queen, Interpol to Black Sabbath. Yet it’s their originals I find most inspired (and you’ll find two examples below); these guys are all three accomplished composers, with distinctly different styles.

A few months ago, when I saw Richard Thompson play in Saratoga, CA, I noticed The Bad Plus listed on a bill of upcoming acts. So I was watching for tickets to go on sale.

When then did, I was nearly first in virtual line, snapping up front row seats in what has to be one of the south bay’s best small venues, the Villa Montalvo carriage house theater.

I wasn’t sure who would be going wth me, but I picked up three tickets; Chris, I was sure, would want one, but Kenny or one of my other jazz musician friends would be interested; a good seat is almost always easy to give away.

Cut to a month ago, when I posted this entry; my nine-year-old daughter Ruby, who’d always responded stringly to jazz (from the time she was an infant, if I had jazz on, she calm down and listen), developed an un-expected love for The Bad Plus.

She impressed the hell out of me. TBP are, to say the least, somewhat challenging; they play weird songs, weird time signatures, bizarre improvisational sections. They’re not user friendly jazz. Ruby got them, and loved them. She kept seeking them out in my iPod, asked me to load them onto hers. When I told her I had an extra ticket, she enthusiastically said yet, I want to go!

When the night of the show came, Ruby was excited to the point of speechlessness. Se’s funny like that, her sister gets twitchy and talks non-stop when excited, chatters so fast you wonder when she has time to breathe. Not Ruby; she goes near-catatonic. Like so much sensory input sends her into a fugue state. That’s how they were when we were seeing Wicked; Olivia vibrating and ruby absolutely still, wide-eyed and stone faced. Both in a state of rapture, but with polar opposite appearances.

Read more “The Bad Plus”

Bad+

I got in the car this morning to drive my 9 year old daughter, Ruby, to school. I jacked my iPhone into the stereo and handed it to her as I pulled out of the driveway. Pick something, I said. She spent several minutes scrolling around through my collection and chose something. She chose this. […]

I got in the car this morning to drive my 9 year old daughter, Ruby, to school.

I jacked my iPhone into the stereo and handed it to her as I pulled out of the driveway. Pick something, I said.

She spent several minutes scrolling around through my collection and chose something.

She chose this.

I listened for a moment to the quiet opening, puzzled.

What is this? I asked her.

The Bad Plus, she answered.

You like this?

Yeah, we played it last time you drove to school.

My little girl. This is added on to her taste that already ranges from High School Musical to the Beach Boys to Garbage. Eclectic, one might say.

Art for Arts’s Sake

Thirty-four student artists from public schools throughout the county were honored when their work was accepted for display at the COE. Their work—selected from 280 submissions—now will hang alongside more than 600 other pieces that have been collected in the past 12 years.

The Santa Clara County Office of Education has been, for the past twelve years, been building an impressive collection of children’s artwork. I wasn’t aware of this until recently though.

From the SCCOE web site:

Thirty-four student artists from public schools throughout the county were honored when their work was accepted for display at the COE (County Office of Education). Their work—selected from 280 submissions—now will hang alongside more than 600 other pieces that have been collected in the past 12 years. We welcome visitors who want to stroll through our hallways and view the creations of our talented students.

My daughter Olivia was one of those selected this year. A month ago, we attended an unexpectedly moving awards ceremony, at which educators and major Bay Area arts figures spoke about the importance of art in both education, and life.

This year’s winners are here, and below is Olivia’s piece, which now hangs in the main hallway in the SCCOE building (click to see larger).

Yeah. Dad’s proud.

Dad Points on Ice

There are certain things a man does for no other reason than to win the approval of women. This can include gifts, certainly. But it can be as simple as lawn-mowing, or putting the seat down, or getting one’s fucking feet off the table. Little else, though, has quite the innocent payoff of pleasing adolescent […]

There are certain things a man does for no other reason than to win the approval of women.

This can include gifts, certainly. But it can be as simple as lawn-mowing, or putting the seat down, or getting one’s fucking feet off the table.

Little else, though, has quite the innocent payoff of pleasing adolescent girls.

Hence, I accompanied my nine year old daughter Ruby to “Disney’s High School Musical on Ice” at what was once called the Oakland Coliseum (though it now seems to be named after some over-monied high-tech database giant).

It was a bit odd being in that building again. It’s been a while. I’ve lost count of how many concerts I saw there through the seventies and eighties. They seem to have re-modeled the place heavily, or the drugs I was on back in those days did worse to my memory than I was aware.

But that night, it wasn’t stoner boys in down coats and waffle-stomper boots, sporting Yes and Genesis and Pink Floyd t-shirts. Tonight, the smell of shampoo and lip-glass and adolescent excitement was in the air.

There’s a sound – unlike any other sound, anywhere. This is what Beatlemania must have sounded like in person. This is the sound five thousand adolescent girls screaming as one, at the top of every tiny set of lungs, when an skater dressed and made up and wigged to vaguely resmble Zac Efron takes of his shirt and does a bit of fancy footwork across the ice.

I have to admit, such excitement is infectious.

Now, if you have adolescent girls at home, or know someone who does, you are all too aware of the whole High School Musical phenomenon. I won’t bother to describe, or try to explain, why this low-budget Disney Channel made-for-television movie has become such a massive hit. What I’ll say, though, is that it’s cute, silly, has pretty good songs, and likable stars (and as we know from the gossip pages, Vanessa Anne Hudgens is pretty tasty indeed in her birthday suit.)

But one has to be at least a bit afraid at the idea of – well, anything on ice that isn’t either olympic, or a comestible.

Ok, maybe it was just the screaming girls. Maybe it was the fantastic seats I had (I could reach the ice from my seats, which means I was close enough to see the skaters sweat, and see the expressions on their faces when they would occasionally drop character). Or maybe it’s that I genuinely love figure skating. But I admit it – I liked it. It was, possibly, the most soulless piece of live performance I’ve ever seen, and yet I enjoyed it.

Yeah, I’m blaming the little girls. It’s hard to be jaded and cynical when you’re sitting behind a ten year old who looks like she’s seeing god every time a favorite character skates by

Ruby was absolutely paralyzed with excitement. I thought she was unhappy halfway through the first act, and then realized, she was utterly overwhelmed into a fugue state. She wasn’t even able to applaud at first. I’m not entirely sure she was even breathing. When we got home, she had a sobbing breakdown, a combination of exaustion (WAY past her bedtime) and thrill over-load.

I can’t say I want to go back and see HSMonI again right away. But I also don’t at all mind the time and money. Well, well worth it. And damn, are those good Dad Points.

Saturday, Ruby goes with me to her first hockey game; thus, she gets to see what ice should look like, ie, with blood on it.

Update: I just read a review of this show by SFGate’s Peter Hartlaub. He captures it perfectly.

Shopping List

I find this hand-written list:

Need Kinda
Portable Bathroom Wizard and Pirate Haloween
Outfits
Nun Shepard
Jousting Equipment Sheep
w/Lambs
Female Pirate Rock Landscape, Small
Fairys Waterfall Lit Fireplace w/ accessories
Chopper Motorcycle Guinea pigs
Black and White Ghost Costumes Goose girl
Girl with rabbit
Dragon and Tiger Costumes
Cave w/ vulture

And I’m thinking, I wanna go to this party. Sounds like some kinds kinky soiree.

And then I realize it’s a shopping list of Playmobil toys that my kids wrote up.

Hmm. Not quite what I was picturing…

(Edit: Note that I’ve added more items — I missed the WHOLE OTHER SIDE of the list!)

 

 

 

Holidays I don’t get

All in dreams, I can dream now oh how I I wanna live where it’s like today I wanna live where it’s always this way I wanna live where it’s always Saturday      -Guadalcanal Diary, Always Saturday This is one of the things that brings out the petty peevishness in me. Holidays that only some […]

All in dreams, I can dream now oh how I
I wanna live where it’s like today
I wanna live where it’s always this way
I wanna live where it’s always Saturday

     -Guadalcanal Diary, Always Saturday

This is one of the things that brings out the petty peevishness in me.

Holidays that only some people get. What’s with that?

Presidents fucking day. Nevermind the fact that we don’t have a president right now, since that monkey in the white house never got elected. Nevermind that. The point is, why do my kids get that off when I don’t? Why does my mail man get that off? Why does my bank get that off?

Martin Luther King day. Huh? What? Postman? Yeah, he’s sleepin’. Banks? Stock Markets? All shut down.

What’s the matter with this country? Look at europe; they get every fucking holiday off. They get months of vacation to our weeks. They get to take a siesta, some places, in the middle of the fucking day.

I get up this morning and it feels like saturday, kids playing and all. I poke around and make coffee and don’t much get moving and then suddenly I realize, fuck, it’s a work day, I’m acting like it’s a day off because it’s a day off for my kids.

Dammit, I want my day off. I have stuff to do. I have housework, I have motorcycle rides on a beautiful, mild January day. I have writing I’d like to do, I have cooking I could do with that big tub full of chicken stock. I could go see a movie with my kids. I could do nothing.

But I go to work, where we’re all looking around going, fuck, why are we here? It’s not like most of us are getting any work done.

Sigh.

Life needs more saturdays and fewer mondays. Something’s gotta be done about that.

Pajama Party

So it wasn’t quite the Hef sort of pajama party, with love in the grotto and bunnies and a cast of thousands. It wasn’t even rated pg-13. But I had a damned good time New Year’s Eve. We started with the concept of a dress-up cocktail party, classic hors douvres (Hell, I’m never sure if […]

So it wasn’t quite the Hef sort of pajama party, with love in the grotto and bunnies and a cast of thousands. It wasn’t even rated pg-13. But I had a damned good time New Year’s Eve.

We started with the concept of a dress-up cocktail party, classic hors douvres (Hell, I’m never sure if I’m spelling that right), martinis, classic cocktails, you get the idea.

But several people bagged out, we had kids in tow, and our holiday week wound up busier than expected; we all wanted to hang, but couldn’t quite manage the full party we’d visualized.

So someone called an audible at the line of scrimmage, and full-dress cocktail party became pajama party.

Now, normally, I don’t do PJ’s. I don’t even own pajamas. But I kept thinking Hef. So I agreed. Though the best we could do at Target at the last minute was some too-long black silk pajama bottoms with a black thermal shirt. But it worked; and oh, does silk feel good against a shorn scrotum.

So it may not have been Hef, but I still had the world’s most fabulous babes:

And a good time was had by all. Silk, you know! Plus look who I’m cuddled against.

Chibi

RIP Chibi. We expected the last one, Addison, to go. This was a shock. Chibi seemed fine two or three days ago. Addison was old; Chibi was barely a year. We found her cold and struggling to breath, and it was like a re-play. But once she was warm, Chibi started to move around and […]

RIP Chibi.

We expected the last one, Addison, to go. This was a shock. Chibi seemed fine two or three days ago. Addison was old; Chibi was barely a year.

We found her cold and struggling to breath, and it was like a re-play. But once she was warm, Chibi started to move around and I thought it would be ok. Weak, sick, but I thought we could save her. Olivia and I bundled her in a tee-shirt of mine and raced across town to the emergency vet.

We handed her to the woman at the desk, who said “Oh, guys, I think it might be too late.”

Chibi had died on the way there, warm and bundled on Olivia’s shoulder. She left our life as she entered it, in a car, kept warm under Olivia’s chin.

Read more “Chibi”

Elvis Lives

Final chapter in the skull ring story. I wrote recently about Tony Creed. Today, after being assured that I wasn’t going to get a ring for xmas, this showed up in a small black box under my tree: Tony Creed rules. Take a look at what it says under the eye sockets in the skull. […]

Final chapter in the skull ring story.

I wrote recently about Tony Creed.

Today, after being assured that I wasn’t going to get a ring for xmas, this showed up in a small black box under my tree:

Skullfist-5

Tony Creed rules. Take a look at what it says under the eye sockets in the skull. That’s right, Elvis Lives. Tony did that because he wanted to, because he liked my name and wanted to make a ring that said “Elvis”. We didn’t know that’s what we were getting; we just ordered the 13.

I’d buy more jewelry from Tony in a minute. The dude’s just cool. The ring is beautiful. Exactly what I wanted.

Read more “Elvis Lives”

One christmas, please hold the christ.

So let’s make this really clear up front. I’m not a christian. I wasn’t raised a christian.

I was raised an atheist. Mother and father were both from southern protestant/baptist families (something like that, I’m not sure exactly), but but they were both intellectual liberals who grew up in souther California. Dad was, as I’ve said, a science and logic guy, and empiricist who would never open his mind to anything science could not prove.

So have no religion. I have no spirituality, per se.

However, I find the idea of atheism to be as — I want to say wrong-headed but that sounds much stronger than I really mean, so let’s say intellectually closed — as theism. Because just as Satanists must then accept a concept of God, in order to worship God’s counterpart. Atheists, by absolutely denying the existence of any deity, thus close the mind to things without any proof.

So if required to label myself, I’d use the word agnostic. It is, to me, the ultimate rational position of mankind in an unknowable universe. We do not an can not ever know.

I’ll put of a rant on organized religion for another day. Because that’s not what I want to talk about here.

What I want to talk about is christmas. Because I love christmas. I love it, not as a festival celebrating the birth of someone who probably existed, but most likely was simply a minor philosopher with really great PR; because we all know he wasn’t born December 25th, and most likely never even lay in a manger. Nor do I love it as a celebration of the solstice, which is far closer to what it is and how it’s celebrated. I love it, instead, as a cultural tradition. Which means that I can love images of Santa Claus just as much as I love a holiday creche; I can love a menorah as much as I love stars and angels and trees.

It’s not about the religion that have tried to co-opt an older tradition; it’s not even about the older tradition. It’s about how my culture, modern America in the 20th century, celebrated the end of the year.

We all know, those of us who think and read, that these are all variants on solstice festivals; something that has existed, I would guess, since man first learned to count the days of the year and predict the long nights and short days of the year’s end. I suspect every culture since has celebrated the solstice in some way, with feast or sacrifice, solemn prayer or wild orgy, drink and plenty or fear. If I were to choose a thing to celebrate, it would be that, since that pre-dates any of our absurd modern ideas.

But to me, christmas, or hanukkah, or kwanza, or whatever else people celebrate here in this season, isn’t about any of that. And it’s not about the commercial nonsense either, about the getting and they buying, though try telling that to any kid you know and watch them laugh.

Christmas is about love. It’s about recognition of the people you care about. It’s about gestures and symbols and celebrations. It’s about remembering to say thank you and I love you and I’m glad you’re in my life to people. Gifts are lovely; and the tradition of gift-giving is a delight, even though I’m terrible at choosing gifts for people and often get myself stressed because I can’t figure out what to get for someone I care about. But the gift-giving tradition isn’t about things, it’s about symbols. It’s about a physical representation of love and caring, the act of giving symbolic of intimate connection.

Christmas is about being with people you care about. It’s about music and drink and food and celebration of each other, of people so see every day and may not always remember to honor and celebrate, of people far away or seldom seen.

Oddly, christmas isn’t about family, to me, in the traditional extended family sense. That may be because I never had extended family; it was always the four of us, mom, dad, kids, dogs and cats, maybe a friend or two. We had no great clan, everyone else from both sides are far away, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, the east coast. It was just us. Later, it was us and friends, but never, apart from a few years with my grandfather, was it ever about generation-spanning family gatherings.

No, it’s about my tribe, not my relatives. It’s about the connections forged not by blood, but by love. It’s about my core family, and the people I care enough about to invite into my family, near or far.

My choice of celebration, my ideal, is not always what I manage. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that my simple view of inner-circle of family and friends is at odds with my extended tribe of in-laws, who have a vast and complicated christmas ritual spanning two or three days of planned events. But more, in my ideal of what christmas is, there’s also a celebration of love in a carnal sense.

Our culture keeps the ideas of love and lust so vastly separate; I do not see that divide as rational or sane. Chaste, romantic love makes no sense to me. Thus I wish, when the nights grow long, the year grows old, and we gather to celebrate, that we could celebrate in an older, more primitive way, with feast and orgy as might our ancestors. Drink and food, and physical love. There are so many things that are easy to say with touch that are hard to say in words, so many things that are easier to say when one is naked and covered with someone else’s sweat and bodily fluids. I wish that were possible in our culture, or rather, less difficult. I’m not talking about fucking a room full of strangers; I’m talking simply about sharing that love with people, celebrating love’s other characteristics.

So to me, this season is not about the birth of a messiah or a miracle of lights, or about shopping. It’s about music, songs of my youth, songs of different cultures with religious words but cultural meaning. It’s about cooking with people you love, eating and drinking with people you love. It’s about remembering who’s important in your life, and showing them you’re thinking of them. It might be about carnal love, it might be about friendship, respect. remembrance, but it is about love.

Friends, family, loved ones who read this space; I do not always show all the love I have, all the respect I have, all the caring and commitment I have. I do not always remember to treat you as well as you deserve. I can be a thoughtless churl, I can be impatient and short-tempered and arrogant and condescending. I can be demanding and forgetful and take you for granted. But I love you; and as always, I strive to be better.

Drink up my friends. It’s been a long year, yet over too soon. Celebrate love in all ways you can think of.

Christmas is about love. Not about jesus or gifts or religion. It’s about love.

So let’s make this really clear up front. I’m not a christian. I wasn’t raised a christian.

I was raised an atheist. Mother and father were both from southern protestant/baptist families (something like that, I’m not sure exactly), but they were both intellectual liberals who grew up in southern California. Dad was, as I’ve said, a science and logic guy, an empiricist who would never open his mind to anything science could not prove.

So have no religion. I have no spirituality, per se.

Read more “One christmas, please hold the christ.”