Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Ten

Ten Jazz CDs I Own

1.  Mingus Ah Um - Charles Mingus (upright bass)

2.  Basie Meets Bond - Count Basie (piano) and His Orchestra

3.  The Definitive Cannonball Adderley (alto and soprano saxophones)

4.  Giant Steps - John Coltrane (tenor saxophone)

5.  Birth of the Cool - Miles Davis (trumpet)

6.  Bitches Brew - Miles Davis (trumpet)

7.  Sketches of Spain - Miles Davis (trumpet and flugelhorn)

8.  The Definitive Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet)

9.  Body and Soul - Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophone)

10.  Saxophone Colossus - Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone)

One might notice that there is no Thelonious Monk CD on this list.  I owned Straight, No Chaser, but it got damaged on the journey of life. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

If I Was Having Coffee with...

If I was having coffee with...

Salma Hayek:

It would be after catching Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot.  We'd enjoy a couple adult beverages during the show - rum and Coke for me, ouzo for her - but just a couple. Then we'd find an all-night diner that has an 'A' rating from the health department.

I'd avoid the obvious topics - From Dusk Til Dawn, Desperado, the elevator scene from Ugly Betty.  Instead, I'd wow her with an astute remark about Frida Kahlo or Rafael Trujillo.  The intensity of the coffee would prompt me to say:

You sure know how to keep a guy up all night.

Our banter would flow freely, like the wine at an open bar.  But then we'd hear Deb Harry singing "Call Me".  I'd grab my cell phone*, wondering who could be calling at such a late hour.  I mean - I know what the lyrics say, but who takes them so literally?

Help me, E Man.  You're my only hope.

Dang.  She even sounds like a redhead over the phone.

J Mo**, darling.  You know I think you're top shelf. But my masculinity cannot be contained by one woman.

But I won an Oscar. What do I need to do to impress you?

There, there. I say in my soothing, pat-on-the-top-of-the-head voice.  I can make time for you tomorrow night.   

With that taken care of, I turn my attention back to Salma, who has been pretending to concentrate on her pastrami on rye.  We finish our coffee and munchies, discussing the usual date topics between bites: politics, religion, the stock market.  When the waitress saunters over with our bill, I notice something amiss.  She senses my chagrin and asks if anything is wrong.

Your name tag says Ellen, but you don't seem like an Ellen.

How observant of you, the waitress replies, visibly amazed.  I mistakenly left my name tag at home, so I'm using a co-worker's tonight. 

I have a car in this story, so I drive Salma home.  I hit the brakes and put my Edsel in 'Park' in the street near her apartment building.  She seems perplexed when I exit the vehicle and just leave it there.  But I approach a nondescript van parked in front of her building and tap on the driver's window.

I know you're cops on a stake-out.  So why don't you leave me the parking space and come back when you're capable of not being so obvious?  

They do as they're told.  Then I swing the Edsel into the now-vacant spot.  I give Salma my 'maybe I'll call you eventually' look.  But she's a spicy Latina, so she leans over and whispers in my ear:***

Why don't you come up and look at my stamp collection?

I don't know why she wants to show me her stamp collection at 2:30 AM.  But I'm a gentleman, so I accept her invitation.

Wow. You have an Inverted Jenny.  This is easily the rarest stamp I have ever seen. 

Unfortunately, even the best dates have to end.  So this one does.  When I finally make it home, I'm cleaning out my pockets, and I notice the receipt from the diner.  It seems the waitress jotted a personal note on the back:

Laura 212 524 6822  I have Netflix.       

I add the receipt to the stack, then go to bed.  

* -  Yes. I have a cell phone in this story.  Now you know it's fiction. 

** -  It was J Dawg, but she thought it sounded like J Dog.  Then it was J Drizzle, but she thought it sounded like a satirical rapper name.  Then it was J Moo, but she thought it implied she was a cow.  Now it's J Mo.

*** -  How close was she when she whispered?  Let's just say I got a good whiff of her pastrami sandwich.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Gorge: Pure Slush Vol. 4 - A Review

Gorge: Pure Slush Vol. 4

I like the concept, even if the execution is a bit rough in spots. There's a good mix of introducing new characters and developing familiar characters from chapter to chapter. Some of the stories work well as stand-alone pieces, others merely function to move the larger story along. Sexy in places, humorous in others, and sad as well.

I think it would have worked better with half the stories / authors and double the length of each story. As it is, it seemed too many times the author was going for shock value - like he /she had to make an impact in only a few pages. I also think some of the characters are superfluous and I would have preferred reading more about certain characters instead.

A few of my favorite pieces:

"Key Meeting" - Matt Potter
"The Arrival" - Jennifer Donnell
"Prestidigitation" - Sally Reno
"Death In the Afternoon" - Michael Webb
"Vanishing Act" - Matthew Brennan

Cookie baking is for people with grandchildren and time on their hands. - Sally Reno

"Oh," said Katrin. "Is Boston known for its good food?"
"No," said Bruce. "But it thinks it is." - Maude Larke

"I don't like fish that tastes like fish." - Vanessa Weibler Paris

"Mutts are the strongest dogs. To call a dog a mutt is to call it a survivor, to say it's not an inbred showpiece." - Jen Knox

Rating: 4 stars of 5.

(originally posted on Goodreads, in March 2015)  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Conversation

Me:  That's what she said.

Her:  I didn't say anything.

Me:  I know.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Miracle of Small Things: A Review

  The Miracle of Small Things

I enjoyed this. The novel-in-stories format and Castillo-Oriard's writing style made it easy to progress through the book. The blurbs about Curacao were a nice touch, without detracting from the main narrative. I took a break from my usual routine to read the last 30 or so pages, which I suppose speaks for itself.

If there's a drawback, it's that it could have been a bit longer. If the characters had been portrayed more deeply, the reader might feel more connected to them.

I look forward to the author's next offering.

Note: To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit - multiply by 9, divide by 5, and add 32. 

Rating: 4 of 5 stars.

(originally posted on Goodreads, in September 2015)  

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Yellow House on the Corner - A Review

  The Yellow House on the Corner

The Yellow House on the Corner - Rita Dove

Ms. Dove's debut collection, and it seems like it. Her accessible language / writing style, her humanity, her ability to write as a black person without excluding white people - all these positive attributes are present. But it's also a somewhat boring collection. I can see how her potential had yet to be fully realized.

The best of the collection:

"Notes from a Tunisian Journal"
"The Sahara Bus Trip"
"His Shirt"

All three pieces are from the fifth and final section, whatever that means.

Moments slip by like worms. - "Upon Meeting Don L. Lee, In a Dream"

Rating: 3 1/2 stars of 5

(originally posted in February 2015, on Goodreads)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

If I Was Having Coffee With...

I have been inspired with a new idea for a post series.  By "inspired", I mean that I'm stealing somebody else's idea.  Anyhoo...


If I was having coffee with...   Ericka, I'd ask her where are these mosaics that I keep hearing about.  She'd respond with a snarky comment.  Something like: I'm stashing them where it's acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition.

I'd sip my coffee while she ogles me over her Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper.  My eyes are up here, young lady.

I'd try to put on a happy face, but she would sense my despair.  Why so glum, E Man?

I've been in Kentucky for three hours and I have yet to hear that Neil Diamond song.

She would sigh a teacherly sigh.  Is that all?

I guess.

So how's the coffee?

It's good. Just, you know - Brittania's coffee is better.  

Humph!  Ericka would turn in a huff and pretend to gaze at the surrounding scenery.  I had planned to get you into Ashley Judd's yoga class, but if you can't be a well-behaved guest we'll just have to stay home and listen to Bon Jovi.  


Ericka's blog:


That Neil Diamond song:

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Conversation

Me:  Are you selling cocaine?  Why are you being so obvious about it?

Her:  I work for a phone company, sir. Have a nice day.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Room with a View - A Review

A Room with a View

A Room with a View - E.M. Forster

Slow-moving. A bit boring. It doesn't surprise me that other readers gave up on it. Though it does pick up a bit if you can make it through the first two thirds. There's a cute twist at the end.

Forster's writing is good for an occasional chuckle. Though he fails to establish justification for Lucy marrying either suitor. She clearly doesn't know either man very well. So she can't love either man. 

Rating: 2 1/2 of 5 stars.  

(originally posted in July 2014, on Goodreads)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Me Talk Pretty One Day - A Review

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris

Funny stuff. Sedaris has a writing style that keeps things from getting boring. Topics covered include: his father, his sisters, his brother, living in Raleigh and New York city, taking guitar lessons from a midget, various pets (mostly dogs), jobs as a writing teacher and a mover, drugs, art, learning to speak French, and his relationship with his boyfriend.

Occasionally, he would make contradictory statements. Like he'd make a broad generalization, then talk about something that doesn't fit the generalization, as though he never made the generalization. I also think he wrote a bit too much about learning French. The 27 chapters are separated into two sections, and I found the first section to be better: funnier, more interesting.

His living room contained nothing but an enormous nest made of human hair.

That was the scary part, that someone understood me.

Use the word "y'all", and before you knew it, you'd find yourself in a haystack, French-kissing an underage goat.

It was my understanding that communists preferred beefy, corn-fed girls with thick ankles and strong backs, all the better for threshing wheat and lugging heavy sacks of rice.

A transfer student, by the end of her first day she'd raised her hand so many times that her shoulder had given out. Now she just leaned back and shouted out the answers, her bronzed arms folded across her chest like some great grammar genie.

Follow seven beers with a couple of scotches and a thimble of good marijuana, and it's funny how sleep just sort of comes on its own.

In imagining myself as modest, mysterious, and fiercely intelligent, I'm forced to realize that, in real life, I have none of these qualities.

Rating: 4 stars of 5. 

(originally posted in May 2016, on Goodreads)  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sylvia Plath: Poems - A Review

 Sylvia Plath: Poems

Sylvia Plath: Poems

Poems selected by Ted Hughes, who was Plath's husband but also was England's Poet Laureate from 1984 to his death in 1998. It is the norm in this series for the selecting poet to provide an intro, which he did not. I wonder if this is coincidental or if it has something to do with how he was treated after her suicide. I also wonder if his relationship with Plath affected his choices. Finally, and this is my fault, because I knew it but didn't think of it when making my purchase: Hughes liked to write nature poetry. So when reading this collection, with plentiful references to trees, flowers, moon, and ocean, etc. - I wonder if it's indicative of Plath's writing or Hughes's topical preference.

Anyway, all that aside, these are the pieces that stood out to me:

"Suicide off Egg Rock"
"Birthday Present"

This is the city of spare parts. - "The Stones"

Vague as fog and looked for like mail. - "You're"

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets. - "Elm"

Rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars. 

(originally published in February 2015, on Goodreads.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Paris France - A Review

Paris France

Paris France - Gertrude Stein

It's a decent read; nothing special.

She talks about growing up in San Francisco, and about fashion, war, civilization, food, logic, art, family, money, and how those topics pertain to France pre-World War II. I say 'talks', and there is a chatty vibe to her writing. I mean that in a good way. There are also a lot of generalizations, trivialities, and silliness. For a book that's titled, Paris France, a lot of the focus is on country life.

Foreigners should be foreigners and it is nice that foreigners are foreigners and that they inevitably are in Paris and in France.

In light of recent events, her words are tragically naïve. Immigration without assimilation gets innocent people killed. (See how I generalized?)

From Bismarck to Hitler, any one can see that since 1870 and to 1939 Germany has had no art.

So we're just supposed to ignore Kirchner and Die Brucke? (rolling my eyes)

Anyway, in spite of my criticisms, she does have some interesting observations. It's barely over a hundred pages, so it's not a chore to read. Just not the classic I was expecting it to be. 

(originally posted in January 2015, on Goodreads)  

Friday, June 3, 2016

Junky: A Review

Junky - William S. Burroughs

A loosely autobiographical novel - pre-Naked Lunch, pre- cut-up technique. Scoring and tripping in NYC, New Orleans, and Mexico City. Detours in a Lexington hospital and the Rio Grande Valley.

As Rechy did with City of Night, Burroughs introduces us to a world most of us will never experience. He is both tour guide and historian. But he only shows us what he wants us to see, he only teaches us what he wants us to learn. His wife all but disappears from the narrative. His narrow focus gives the impression that his life was more one-dimensional than it was. Obviously, he wanted to focus on the drug scene, but still...

Something that stood out to me was his gun collection. He mentions several different ones. For somebody who was often under the influence of alcohol and other various drugs, this doesn't seem like a good situation. He describes an incident in which he threatens people (including a police officer) with a gun while very drunk. (He killed his wife by shooting her while drunk.)

His face wasn't blank or expressionless. It simply wasn't there.

Ike brought me cocaine when he could score for it. C is hard to find in Mexico.
- He's referring to Mexico in the early 1950's.

I found that their interests were very limited.
- He's referring to younger junkies. As I mentioned earlier, however, he chose to drastically limit the scope of his story, so there's a 'pot-kettle' vibe here. He spends the whole novel on drugs and drug-related topics, but those other people have limited interests.

Maybe I will find in yage what I was looking for in junk and weed and coke. Yage may be the final fix.
- That is how Junky closes. He spent several months wandering South America in search of yage, which was rumored to give the user telepathic abilities.

The version I read (Grove Press, 2003), includes a 29-page Introduction by Oliver Harris, as well as seven Appendices. These include a chapter that didn't make it into the finished novel, a letter from Burroughs to a publisher, and two pieces each by Carl Solomon (the original publisher) and Allen Ginsberg, who essentially served as an amateur literary agent.

Rating: Soft 4 out of 5 stars.