Friday, March 30, 2007

YouTube - Doctor Who and the Beatles

(from Boing Boing)

The Beatles make an appearance on Dr. Who in 1965, during the William Hartnell era (Hartnell was the first of the ten actors in the lead role over the show's three and a half decade run)

In seventh grade, I wouldn't ever have had a chance to see a William Hartnell episode, but if I'd known about the Beatles/Dr. Who crossover, it would have blown my twelve year old mind.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I Can't Think of A Caption For This

White House Senior Advisor Karl Rove (left) performs a rap dance with comedian Colin Mochrie during the entertainment section of the annual Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner. Reuters photo by Jason Reed

[Mochrie is a cast regular on "Whose Line Is It.." He also plays one of the Keebler elves.]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

WashPo: Heated Words from Mr. Global Warming

A theatrical summary of Al Gore's latest testimony on Capitol Hill.

(Who's going to play Al Gore in the biopic twenty years from now? Will Alec Baldwin be too old?)

NYT: The Year Without Toilet Paper

Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. ... Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.

[At right: Carbon-free commute on a scooter through the snow.]

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pop Songs and Kyries

The second time I heard Blake Jones play live, I didn't have to listen through the door. I could actually see him play. This was at the 2005 Rogue Festival, where once again he was my venue manager. This time, with his "Ill Advised Solo Show," Blake sang and accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, and playing tunes on the subject of politics and religion. Songs like Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In," and a lot of originals, like "Don't You Be Stealin' My Jesus," a lament from a liberal Christian who finds the political influence of the religious right maddening.

Upbeat songs, mostly. A warm and welcoming stage presence.

But no theremin. None of the toy pianos and lush wall of sound his friends, fellow musicians, and reviewers adore him for. His one gig in San Francisco this year was when I was out of town.

Third time's a charm: Finally, this year in Fresno, Blake was fronting "Send the Trike Shop to Liverpool," a concept concert which was nominally a fundraiser to pay off the Visa card debt that accompanied their recent booking of upcoming gigs in Liverpool. A ha! Now I could hear it! Bookended between pitch perfect covers of "Strawberry Fields" and "I Am the Walrus," the Trike Shop brought Blake's songs to gorgeous life. Now I understood the comparisons to Brian Wilson. This wasn't just infectious nod pop, it was toe-tappingly fun retro DIY avant-goodness. (It was also the loudest thing I've heard in the past decade, but it was my choice to sit in the second row in the nightclub directly in front of the six foot high wall of speakers).

The Trike Shop's Myspace page prominently features their Frank Zappa tribute. If you're like me, and not familiar with the Mothers of Invention and their charms, it's hard to see Blake's pop roots here.

Their Garageband page has just two songs, but they're pop heaven. "Snapshots" calls to mind Nilsson and the Beach Boys. "Clever Things" evokes Ray Davies by way of Jonathan Richman. Both seem like they came out the same era as the Beatles' Rubber Soul and Revolver.

And, if you'd like to hear Blake's theremin, check out his CDBaby page (last track).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Theremin Killed the Radio Star

The first time I saw a theremin was at a science museum. Can't remember if it was in Boston, or San Francisco, or Chicago. You could play with it, but the sound was annoying, and a visit to a science museum, with its multitudes of attractions, wasn't the best place to focus long enough to coax any music out of it.

The first time I saw a theremin in live performance was at my office Christmas party (which features as a longstanding tradition, a talent show). Dan Bluestein sang "Witchta Lineman," accompanying himself on guitar and theremin (quite a feat, that)-- the theremin he had built himself. I seem to recall it involved a battery and two crescent wrenches, one of which he operated with his foot.

In 2005, at the Rogue Festival in Fresno, my stage manager Blake Jones informed me that he'd miss one of my shows, as his own Big Loud Pop Show he'd organized for the Festival would conflict. By the time I'd finished my show and got to the venue, it had long since started, and sold out, so I stood out on the sidewalk and listened through the door. A local Western Swing band, the They Can't Hardly Playboys, was ripping through "Hot Rod Lincoln," and after that, there was, unexpectedly, a samba, with an otherworldy tone taking the lead, sliding up and down the melody of Ary Barroso/S.K. Russell's "Brazil." I asked a couple of folks also outside the door: "What is that sound?"
"Pedal steel?" one suggested, and this didn't seem too farfetched, given the previous song.
Later, Blake confessed that indeed, it was a theremin, and that he himself had played it.

A year later San Francisco musician pc muñoz, who I went to high school with, would hire Blake to play theremin on his new recording project, and casually mentioned he was seeking a spoken word artist. Blake suggested a storyteller from Berkeley that he'd seen in Fresno recently, namely me... which is how I ended up on a CD with some of the East Bay's best jazz musicians.

This year I finally got to see Blake play the theremin live, as he covered "Harlem Nocturne," with his band, The Trike Shop.

Watching a theremin performance is fascinating, because the performer never touches the instrument. It's also not visually stimulating, because the slightest movement on the part of the performer produces a great variance in tone, so tackling an actual melody involves a limited range of movement.

So here from YouTube is a video introduction to the theremin by Jon Bernhardt, who not only tells what a theremin is, but tackles a pop hit from the 80s. And while this is wrong on so many levels (especially his jacket), I have to say, the novelty of the theremin fits the novelty of the song. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What is the Rogue?

(via The Fresno Bee)

Multimedia feature on Fresno's Rogue Festival, posted on YouTube, with footage from the first weekend, including a bit of my show (I saw the video camera outside the theatre... didn't know he came inside).

Monday, March 12, 2007

Gummy Bear Chandelier

Artist Ya Ya Chou even says, "remains fresh even after two years after it's made!"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dylan Hears A Who!

Seven classic Dr. Seuss stories done up as 60s Dylan-gone-rock-and-roll.

"Green Eggs and Ham" as "Bob Dylan's Dream #115"
"Oh, The Thinks You Can Think" a là "Like a Rolling Stone" (wait; that's not what I meant. my brain's seizing up. i'll correct this reference and get back to you)

Complete with faux vintage album art and vinyl surface noise.