April 28, 2010

The end of Michael Scott??

It's Prison Mike!

Nooooooooooooo!!!! Oh well, all good things must come to an end, I suppose (he said, bitterly). It is being reported that Steve Carell has officially stated the next season of The Office will be his last. I have some mixed feelings about this. For one thing, at some point for me, the show clearly jumped the shark. I've not dwelled on it enough to pinpoint precisely when. Maybe it was when Pam stopped being the receptionist and became a salesperson. It may have been near the beginning of this season on the third episode, "The Promotion", when Michael Scott (Carell's wonderful character) and Jim became co-bosses at Dunder Mifflin.

Michael Klump

Certainly when Dunder Mifflin became Dunder Mifflin Sabre, it was clear something had been lost. That delicate mix, the precarious balance which had up until then made the show so special had been overly tinkered with. Perhaps the writers were trying too hard, running out of ideas, and all they could think to do was to put the Fonz on that motorcycle.

Date Mike

My absolute fanaticism for the show seemed to change a bit during last season, so maybe it was then. Also, I felt quite a disturbance in the Force when I began to see it being repeated on TBS. It somehow started to seem less special, more mundane. It had been something I felt ownership of, and it was now being shared with "the masses" (on TBS). With Carell leaving (sob, sniff, sniff), as one commenter at A.V. Club says:

"if he goes, i go.

no interest in the jim/pam baby show."

Amen to that, brother. If Carell leaves, it's pretty much over for me. But there are the season DVDs (all of which I own), there's Hulu, as well as the aforementioned TBS repeats, so the show will never die. Still...I can't help but feel a little bit sad at the potential (there's a theory Carell is angling for a Seinfeld-like salary increase) loss, that it may all be coming to an end. It's been a great ride, lots of laughs (many times to the point of tears and not being able to breathe), and many, many hours of enjoyment.....That's what she said:

Plaza Theater, Wharton

plaza theater lighting up wharton downtown square
W5RAN featured my little homage to Texas (Wharton) boy Horton Foote on their front page last night. I just so happened to be in Wharton the night the local theater troupe was wrapping up its performance run of Foote's Academy Award winning screenplay to Harper Lee's one and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Being on the Wharton main square that cold, February evening (though the story is set in the fictitious Alabama town of Maycomb), I could easily imagine Scout, Jem and Dill running out of their hiding place in order to go and protect Atticus from the lynch mob.

April 27, 2010


Once upon a time, my sole aspiration and life goal was to be a "rock star." Correction. Once upon a time, my sole aspiration and life goal was to be one of The Beatles. Strangely enough, that didn't work out as planned. But from the time I was around thirteen to about forty-three twenty-five, it's all I thought about doing. The problem was, unlike The Beatles, I didn't have all that much talent or ambition. I think it was all about the screaming girls. Despite this, I loved music, especially recording music. In hindsite, I was probably more of a frustrated producer/engineer wannabe than an actual musician.

Pete Townshend recording at home in 1971

Like two of my biggest musical heroes (other than the Fab Four) as a kid, Pete Townshend and Prince, I liked home recording, trying to play every instrument myself. Of course, Prince would release entire albums where basically he was the only person on them. I thought that was so cool. Using a four-track recorder, not too much unlike the one Bruce Springsteen used to record the classic Nebraska album, I spent much time, imagining I was in my own little Paisley Park, creating, if truth be known, total crap. But I had fun. I recently stumbled across something I recorded way back in the summer of 1987 that didn't make me cringe too badly when I listened to it again. Actually, my first thought was I almost pulled off playing the drums on this one. Here I am doing one of the few Prince songs an unskilled white boy could even come close to pulling off, one of my favorites, "Christopher Tracy's Parade." Forgive me in advance for the pain this may cause, but I just had to unleash it upon an unwitting blogosphere:

April 24, 2010

Gulf Coast Deco XI

A few posts ago was Gulf Coast Deco X & 1/4, so-named because I had only a few Art Deco structures to share. I've since gone back to Houston and found a couple of other things, so I decided to combine it all together into a whole Gulf Coast Deco post.

Let me begin with the Houston Municipal Airport Terminal. It was built in 1940 and designed by Joseph Finger.

houston municipal airport terminal

April 21, 2010

"The Long and Winding Road"

Some days you just want to grow out your beard and sing really sad songs, like "The Long and Winding Road," for example. The version the Fabs do in the video below is the live, in studio version from the film Let It Be and the way Paul intended for it to be done. Yet I, having heard if for the first time the way it was done after Phil Spector got his hands on it, will always prefer the lushly orchestrated version with the angelic choir (which Paul hated in particular). McCartney cited Spector's production on "The Long and Winding Road" as one of six reasons for the legal dissolution of The Beatles. He originally wrote the song at his farm in Scotland and was inspired by the growing tension among the group. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeaaahhh.....

April 18, 2010

Saturday mornings memory

The most recent episode of South Park has a subplot involving the return of the SuperBestFriends, which included a parody of the opening sequence to the Saturday morning cartoon the SuperFriends.

This was probably the best (most exciting!) part of the cartoon, which I never failed to watch on Saturday mornings for a couple of years as a wee lad:

The South Park parody/homage:

April 16, 2010

First the Auschwitz sign, now this?

What's a person to make of our times? The famed Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World (oh, by the way), was vandalized last week:

The Christ the Redeemer statue appears surrounded by scaffoldings for a cleaning operation, on March 8 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazilian officials were Friday cleaning up graffiti on the famed Christ statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, which was vandalized after access was cut off in the wake of devastating rains. (AFP/File/Antonio Scorza)

Ray Anthony

April 7, 2010

"Ten Cents a Dance"

Taxi dancers waiting for a customer; gosh, they look so friendly and welcoming...

I am currently playing through Bioshock 2 and loving it almost as much as the first game. For one thing, the soundtrack is just as great as the original's (the licensed tracks). There is some seriously good (if not old) music on both games, and it usually is used quite effectively to establish (or reinforce) the creepy mood of the game. I would probably have never discovered The Ink Spots or heard Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" (God bless her soul for it) had it not been for Bioshock. I think my current favorite on the sequel is "Ten Cents a Dance," as popularized by Ruth Etting.

Ruth Etting in her prime

Rising to fame in the twenties and early thirties, Ruth Etting was renowned for her great beauty, her gorgeous voice and her tragic life. She starred on Broadway, made movies in Hollywood, married a mobster, had numerous hit-records, fell in love and was known as America's Sweetheart of Song.

(From her official site, maintained by a granddaughter of one of her cousins.)

Yikes - the blondes must have been overworked or something

More on taxi dancers.

April 5, 2010

Preppy Handbook redux in 3-D?

Via Gawker comes this news that the editor and co-author of The Official Preppy Handbook is set to release a sequel, called True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World, in September 2010. The original came out in 1980 and sold around 1.3 million copies. One of those copies belonged to me, and I treated it as if it were The Bible. Suffice it to say, I took that sh*t fairly seriously.

For the uninitiated or unfamiliar, here's the Wikipedia entry:

The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) is a tongue-in-cheek humor reference guide co-written and edited by Lisa Birnbach. It describes an aspect of North American culture she styles as prepdom. In addition to insights on prep school and university life at socially acceptable schools, it illuminates many aspects of upper-class, old money WASP society. Topics range from appropriate clothing for various social events to how to choose the correct college and major. While the book addresses "preppy" life from birth to old age, its coverage is in the greatest depth for the school, college, and young-adult years; coverage becomes thinner for subsequent stages of life.

It may have been considered "tongue-in-cheek," but I knew people like the ones parodied on the pages of The Official Preppy Handbook. I had a good friend who was from Massachusetts (Boston), my best friend ended up being sent to Phillips Exeter Academy (like Holden and J.D. Salinger), and two buddies went to Harvard (others to Rice, Cornell, and U.V.A.). I ended up at U.T., pledging the Animal House frat my first semseter (Fall '85). I knew guys who wore clothes like this:

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

EBiN on floor in the center, yellow tie, probably a little bit drunk, mid-'80s

How interesting it is a sequel to The Official Preppy Handbook is set to be released the exact same year of J.D. Salinger's death - I have both of them sort of intertwined in my mind. Holden Caufield was the ideal "prep," a fact I seem to remember him being mentioned on at least one of the pages in Handbook. And I might not have been so keen to read The Catcher in the Rye at all had it not been mentioned so frequently (as far as my memory recalls) on the pages of The Official Preppy Handbook. So I can at least say that about it. I read the book for the first time that 8th grade school year, at a very impressionable time. In fact, the Handbook and the movie Animal House were the basis for my world view for a long, long, long, long time. Longer than I care to admit, publicly. Long. Not now though. Not too much. Well, maybe a little bit.

Changing gateways

art deco entrance to sfasu
From The Daily Sentinel, Saturday, April 3, 2010 2:00 am

by Trent Jacobs

The gateway to Stephen F. Austin State University is set for a makeover.

Just before spring break, the university cut down several trees in the first step of modernizing the entire front entrance along the double-tongued intersection of Vista Drive, Griffith Blvd., and North Street.

This week, the bidding process for the construction of the new entrance ended and SFA officials will be pouring over the bids for an unspecified time.

SFA is looking to enhance the entrance, which is often the first thing prospective students see when they visit the campus, and to make the intersection safer for drivers and pedestrians.

"This is a comprehensive project that includes street and traffic signal reconfiguration and a new entrance and sign," said Bob Wright, executive director of marketing and public affairs at SFA. "The project is a collaborative effort between the university, the City of Nacogdoches and the Texas Department of Transportation that will make entry to the university safer and reduce traffic conflicts in that area."

Wright said that out of the 13 large pines that were removed, only two were able to be relocated elsewhere on campus due to the extreme age of the larger trees.

"Although it is a hardship to lose any trees, during the past several months, seven campus tree-planting events involving 275 volunteers resulted in the planting of 325 trees," he said. "SFA will always be known for its heavily forested landscape, and maintaining the beauty of the campus will continue to be a high priority."

Other grounds enhancement projects have been taking place around the campus since last year, most notably the corner park on North and College Streets that now includes a concrete sign boasting the university's name.

And on the wishes of SFA President Dr. Baker Pattillo, the existing art deco sign that has been serving as the university's entryway centerpiece for decades will be dismantled, stored and saved for posterity until a decision is made on where it can be relocated.

The redesign of the traffic lights and flow of traffic into the university will be handled by TxDOT, which has been responsible for the intersection since 1991, along with other outside consultants.

"Given the configuration and traffic circulation within the SFA campus, the location has presented safety and operational issues from time to time," said Herbert Bickley. regional TxDOT director of transportation operations. "By eliminating the center drive, operation should improve along with increasing the overall safety of the intersection."

art deco entrance to sfasu

April 3, 2010

Sinatra: Best of the Columbia Era

Bobby soxers gone wild -
"Fans wait for a glimpse of Frank Sinatra, Los Angeles, 1944."

(The New York Times)

The skinny boy singer in 1944, disappearing behind the microphone stand.

Using Sinatra 101: 101 Best Recordings and the Stories Behind Them as a guide, here are the songs which are considered to be the best of the best among the ones Frank Sinatra recorded during his time with Columbia Records. My favorites are asterisked** below.

  • **"All the Things You Are" - recorded on January 29, 1945, in Hollywood. Sinatra nails the uncharacteristically high note at the end!

    When they composed "All the Things You Are," Hammerstein and Kern were at the apex of their songwriting brilliance. "The dearest things I know a what you are" is one of the greatest romantic lines ever written.
    (Sinatra 101: 101 Best Recordings and the Stories Behind Them, page 11)

  • "Embraceable You" - December 19, 1944

  • "She's Funny That Way" - December 19, 1944

  • "If I Loved You" - May 1, 1945

  • **"These Foolish Things" - July 30, 1945

  • "The Song Is You" - March 10, 1946

  • **"Time After Time" - an absolute favorite, perhaps my favorite of Sinatra's Columbia period. It's just so lovely.

    A warmly passionate reading by Sinatra and a virtually flawless vocal performance. Axel Stordahl's orchestration perfectly complements the marvelous breath control and impeccable phrasing of the singer.

    A high point in the collaborative work of Styne and Cahn, this ballad was written for the film It Happened in Brooklyn, starring Frank Sinatra.

    (Sinatra 101: 101 Best Recordings and the Stories Behind Them, page 19)

    It Happened in Brooklyn, 1947

  • "Always" - January 9, 1947

  • **"But Beautiful" - August 17, 1947

  • "Night and Day" - October 22, 1947

  • "Fools Rush In" - October 31, 1947

  • **"Body and Soul" - November 9, 1947

  • "Lover" - April 14, 1950, this is an early appearance of the swingin' tempo Sinatra would use so effectively at Capitol Records during the 1950s.

  • "Nevertheless" - October 9, 1950

  • "I'm a Fool to Want You" - March 27, 1951, the "Ava Gardner song." Supposedly, after this take, Sinatra walked out of the studio, exhausted, spent, done for the recording session.

  • "The Birth of the Blues" - June 3, 1952, though still a Columbia Records recording, this is the beginning of Sinatra Phase II:

    "The Birth of the Blues" may be the first great recording of the mature Sinatra. Certainly a harbinger of things to come. On this track, Sinatra employs a rough guttural sound that he would call upon in the 1950s to "punch up" his swing tunes. This technique would serve Sinatra well for more than four decades.
    (Sinatra 101: 101 Best Recordings and the Stories Behind Them, page 34)

  • **"Why Try to Change Me Now?" - September 17, 1952, Sinatra's last recording for Columbia Records-

    -and an appropriate song in the context of his life. Gone was the innocent, naive singer of the previous decade. Burned by love, the singer is able to convey the darkness, the sadness, and the cynicism that would characterize much of his work in the years to come.
    (Sinatra 101: 101 Best Recordings and the Stories Behind Them, page 35)