Friday, November 30, 2007

Browsing in the Harlan Wolfe's Music record store in Conway, New Hampshire, I heard a comment from a shopper who walked in and confronted all the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's vinyl records and said, "Too much past all at once."
It was a feeling I often have when looking through vinyl record accumulations to buy. It clouds the mind, this rush of visual and audio references from long ago.
And it was a feeling that came up while listening to a record that arrived in a recently acquired collection. The record label says, "Office of Civil Defense, 'Stars for Defense,' with Vaughn Monroe, Jay Jackson and Ray Bloch and his Orchestra, Program No. 332, Do not play before Feb. 10, 1963."
Since it is well after that date, I did not think I would be prosecuted for playing this record. Typically, a product like this would be supplied to radio station turntables for the weekly 15-minute program in which listeners could learn what a good job the Office of Civil Defense was doing. Much of their task was to make Americans comfortable with buying canned and dry goods, and rotating them in and out of their fallout shelters.
Never heard of a fallout shelter?
That was the homeland security bonanza of the 1950s and 1960s, which we would construct in our suburban cellars and schools, and where we were all supposed to go in the event of an "irrational attack" or "enemy miscalculation." Those are the phrases used on the recording.
There is no mention on the vinyl of who the supposed enemy might be, but the context of the Cold War made it perfectly clear.
And what constituted an "irrational attack," or "enemy miscalculation," was not left to chance. The words "Hiroshima" or "Nagasaki" are not mentioned. But, the general idea of buying canned goods, radiometers, and geiger counters, was to survive in your own, or the community's, fallout shelter, while the holocaust of a nuclear blast played itself out on the erstwhile homeland.
The kernel of our patriotic duty in a time of nuclear tragedy, circa Feb. 10, 1963, was apparently to die slowly, underground, surrounded by empty cans and water jugs.
This is where our well-meaning (I guess) government was leading us on the preparation front.
In this unsteady light-- as I mentioned above, "too much past all at once" can cloud your thinking-- I will quote the lyrics of the song Vaughn Monroe proceeds to warble on this record, in the holiday spirit of the month that begins tomorrow:

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful,
and since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow.
Oh it doesn't show signs of stopping, and I've got some corn for popping,
and the lights are turned way down low, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
When we finally kiss goodnight, how I hate going out in the storm,
But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I'll be warm.
The fire is slowly dying, and my dear, we're still goodbying,
But as long as you love me so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Surely no irony was intended. I was also struck by the seeming influence of Vaughn Monroe on
Leon Redbone.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not that long ago I had the privilege of seeing a performance by Alfred J. Gallodoro at the Sego Cafe in Oneonta, New York. He is a 94-year old saxophone and clarinet virtuoso, once the widely acknowledged master of double- and triple- tonguing, who still sells off the bandstand a CD transcription of his 1951 Columbia album Saxophone Contrasts.
His improvising is pre-bebop-- even pre-jazz, and he has been acknowledged as a master of the instrument by Paquito D'Rivera, Benny Golson, Buddy DeFranco and Eddie Daniels. Jimmy Dorsey called him "the greatest saxophone player that ever lived."
So you say, "I never heard of him." Accomplishments of many woodwind artists in the past half century have virtually wiped his name off the map. And, in reality, as a studio sideman mainstay he virtually assured himself a decent living at the expense of fame.
Yet it causes one to reflect at what price the preservation of tradition sincerely felt. (As opposed to the 'dixieland' style of slogging away ignorantly at a stylized gig).
Bringing to mind a jazz singer I once met, who left her home town of New Orleans, got some lucky breaks, and was soon playing Carnegie Hall and all the great New York jazz rooms.
At first, people readily accepted that she preferred to sing the old standards-- All The Things You Are by Jerome Kern, I love you by Cole Porter, Someone to Watch Over Me, by Gershwin.
After awhile, praise grew less, and faults were found: she doesn't compose her own songs, she sticks to much to the older stuff, depending too much on them.
Still she kept singing You'd be so nice to come home to, Lush Life, You do something to me. Every now then a newer tune perhaps-- What a Wonderful World, One Note Samba, something from a musical or a movie on the hit parade.
The critics and audiences loved her as long as she seemed new. But eventually, in every place where the economic ecosystem worships new ideas, new songs, and fresh faces, her star faded. She knew in her heart that her style would not help her career.
Her gigs became less desirable. Smaller rooms, less pay, noisier audiences. Still, she kept singing the same old songs.
Finally the jazz singer was lucky enough to get a gig playing a show in Las Vegas. It was steady work, six nights a week, to the tinkle of slot machines and the chatter of gamblers. She was considered a musician's musician, and many of her famous friends thought her time would come again. But there was no mistaking the fact that she had fallen far. Once a critic's darling, playing the very best of showcases, considered to be an up-and-coming star. Now, barely a has-been. One of her admirers, a famous musician in his own right, took her aside once and said as gently as he could, "You passed up your chance to be a popular success. You have spent too much time singing the songs made famous by others."
"I know," she replied. "People think I threw away my career, just for the sake of some old songs. It probably seems as though I've spent too much time with too few melodies. Perhaps I should have moved beyond these songs many years ago. But I am perfectly content. These are the songs I sing for one reason and one reason only: so I won't forget them."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Now that I've received invitations to join "LinkedIn" by several mailing lists (I almost said "people" but it's their email lists which really issue the invitation) it's cause to meditate on that thing I'm terrible at: networking.

I define it here as a concentrated activity geared solely toward increasing your connections. Some people do this naturally, others have to work at it. In some recently published audio interviews, Kurt Vonnegut called it "making friends." And, I really think he intended no irony.

Connections are important to people, and important connections are even more important. Growing up Catholic, one became aware of the Ascension of Christ, as he was drawn up into heaven when His post-Resurrection networking days were over. Needless to say, fortunes have been built and wars have been fought over this one proto-important networking event.

Then there are the fringe exploitations of connections, tied into the pathologies of relationships. Crime which occurs in immediate families. Stalking famous people. Being drawn to absolute strangers. Celebrity sightings.

The student-run newspaper of the University of New Hampshire reports a celebrity visitor to the UNH vs. Boston College hockey game on Nov. 10. "Game-goers who saw McCain reported that he was seated on the side of the Whittemore Arena and up in the box seats, high above the stands. 'He was right over there on the side. I saw him. It was pretty cool,' said Allyson Bergendahl, a UNH pep band sousaphone player."

Pretty cool, seeing a political opportunist from a distance. For more on this type of phenomenon, read Verlyn Klingenborg's column in the Nov. 28 New York Times.

There used to be (and probably still is) a fringe network of people who think they are related to Elvis, Jesus, or Robert E. Lee. Is Obama a distant relation of Cheney? Are there six degrees of separation between everyone, or just between you and Kevin Bacon?

Other than relationships with family, people attach a high value to the structured connections of work. Business is a predominant force in any society because it regulates the economic life of that society. Business can also be full of bad relationships. In forming relationships for material purposes (networking?), it's easy to make that a surrogate for a relationship with mankind in general ("I love mankind, it's people I can't stand"), loving one another and trying to bring goodness into the world (most religions), helping to maintain the essential goodness of nature. It's no wonder we often feel unloved in the process of business networking and conducting business. Your value is based on enterprise.

Much of our work is demeaned by the rule of authority, by stripping individuals of power to affect their destiny. To preserve the general populace when relationships go awry, we have the rule of law, which kicks in when relationships break down. In my rental business, I tell tenants when they sign the lease that if things go well, we will never again have to look at this lease.

It's little wonder then, that law and authority produce alienation in the process of trying to alleviate its bad affects. So we seek more connections hoping against hope the next one will be the ticket to something. What looked like a global village from a distance becomes a chance to feel alone in the universe.

In the Landesmuseum in Trier, Germany, I saw an interesting 1545 painting by Peter van Alst, called "Ascension of Christ." The bottom of the painting shows people reaching their arms into the sky. The top half of the painting shows two feet and the hem of a robe sticking out of the clouds. In the middle is open sky. It reminded me of the scene in Wizard of Oz where the balloon heads back to Kansas with Dorothy in it. "I can't stop, I can't stop," yells the Wizard as the munchkins wave their arms in the air.

As I look back at this verbal ramble, I am struck by the number of visual images that come to mind when discussing networking. Relationships are defined by the space between them and America is a big country. If you sleep with 20 other people in the same room or even on the same floor, I doubt that the issue of networking comes up. But without this basic human desire, would there be a YouTube?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's never really happened before-- here at moneyblows books & music, Christmas music stampeding out the door to customers all over the world. In recognition of the season, here are links to some of the items we still have left...!

We also have plenty of delightful, collectible Christmas-related gift books, so stop by Moneyblows Books & Music for a look.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder, but it is definitely a two-way street. There was a prominent plastic surgeon on the West Coast who only worked on actors and other professionals, and spent the rest of his time on burn victims. His ex-wife Bea told me he had to guarantee anonymity to his actor patients, so not even she would know who he worked on in the image factory part of his life. But, they talked about the burn victims.
While he was working on a famous burn case, he was sleeping at the hospital while doing 22 reconstructive surgeries on a woman's face. His wife told him, "this case is ruining our marriage, can't you finish it or pass it along to someone else?"
Her husband replied, "why don't you go down to the hospital and have a look at her? Just make sure you don't change your expression when you first see her."
So the woman went down to the hospital and saw the victim, who looked horrifying. She went up to her bed and said,
"Mrs. Durbin, my husband was absolutely right. He said when I saw you I would be looking at two of the most enormous and beautiful blue eyes that the earth has ever seen."
The burn victim's eyes widened even more.
"You mean the doctor said that about me?"
The next time Bea saw Mrs. Durbin she was even more stunning than her eyes had suggested. It was at a glamorous party and there was no sign of the woman's horrible burn accident, on her skin anyway.
The plastic surgeon had more than just a knife to work with. He had the eyes of beholders.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Many people have firmly developed tastes in music, matured over a long time listening. But there's something else getting lots of listening time and it's an evolving medium where the standards are anything but set. They're called audio books-- they can be just one person reading a book on a set of CDs-- such as President Bill Clinton's autobiographical memoir a few years back-- or they can be elaborate fictional productions such as the Pigalle Soundwalk, or entertaining seminars such as A History of The English Language by Michael D.C. Drout. Once you enter the world of audiobooks, you'll find everything from totally amateurish, boorish productions to amazing sound tricks wonderful enough to make a blind person see. (Reading for the blind was undoubtedly an early influence on this medium).
As a judge of the Audies competitions-- the national industry awards for audiobooks-- I've always been impressed by the criteria for excellence, well thought out and designed to bring out the best in this medium's producers. I will list some of these criteria, which are easy to apply when you are doing critical listening. I should also mention that audiobooks are easy to obtain through our audio book store.

  1. Suitability-- if it was an adaptation, such as a printed book, now produced to be listened to rather than read-- was the original suitable for adapting? Some books are better to skim or read out of order and audiobooks are clumsier for this purpose than a print version.
  2. Performance-- there are all kinds of voices doing audiobooks, and as many tastes for listening. Still, you will know when you hear professionalism at work. Beyond sounding professional, a narrator can enhance the listener's experience by being appropriately chosen for the work; by using their vocal tools as a musician might use their instrument, varying pitch, timbre, tempo, rhythm, dialect, tone and inflection; and conveying the human touch we call emotion, inspiration, or passion.
  3. Direction-- Like a movie, audiobooks are directed and one can often hear the results of the director's silent work. Is the pacing holding your attention? Is the use of music and sound effects appropriate, entertaining, and do they enhance the setting? Habitual audiobook listeners also want an easy transition among chapters, or sequence of CDs, etc.
  4. Script--Many audiobooks are not based on previously structured productions such as printed books. More and more, production are being designed as original audiobooks. If so, issues of length, narrative flow, content and expression come into play. The palette of tools available to the audio producer can easily become a distraction to the story being told.
  5. Engineering-- The audiobook has evolved very quickly as a full fledged member of the pop culture industry, the education industry, and the information industry. Nevertheless, there are still quality issues in engineering such as consistency, signal levels, relative sound mixing between words and music/effects, and overall mix. Some publishers are better than others at ensuring consistent audio mixes from product to product.
  6. Listenability-- Finally, an audiobook should compel you to listen. If you don't like what you are hearing, don't blame all audiobooks. They are different as night and day. The flawless, complete integration of voice, direction, sound design and script is still a holy grail for producers and publishers, always sought and often falling short. Nevertheless, there's nothing like a good story well told.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Got leftovers? Us too.

From 1976: Locking Horns, a reissue of late 1950s sideman dates with John Coltrane, Ray Draper, Joe Newman and others. A two-record set, Roulette RE 128.

From 1960: Sketches of Spain, Miles Davis, Gil Evans. A near-mint Columbia CS 8271-- beautiful original.

From 1974: Genesis Live, building their long career started in 1967, on Charisma 1666.

From 1968: The Brazilian legend Luiz Gonzaga, on RCA Camden with Os Grandes Sucessos De Luiz Gonzaga, a collection reissued during a period of huge musical ferment in Brazil.

From 1995: The Grand Ole Opry History of Country Music. This first printing is from the collection of Governor Jimmie Davis, with a gift inscription to Governor Davis from a friend. Of course the book includes the "Singing Governor."

From 1983, the rare UK Krazy Kat recording by Archibald, Ballin' with Archie. A seminal and underappreciated artist from the New Orleans scene, with music circa 1950-1952.

From 1985: live at the San Franciso Blues Festival, Clifton Chenier with his red hot Louisiana Band, an as-new Arhoolie issue.

We didn't just cook up these leftovers yesterday. They are all (except for the book) vinyl records, accidents of the music distribution industry, which forgot to make a disposable product and has since learned to make their product "self destruct" with the commencement of its digital license. When they were pressing this stuff from vinyl, nobody but collectors thought it would still be around today. Since it's Thanksgiving, here's a big thank you to record collectors who make the leftovers even better in the next century. Marinate on!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On May 30, 1984, I was standing with three students on the floor of a training rig at Lafayette, Louisiana. They were vocational education students, learning how to engage the kelly and do whatever is done on oil rigs, most of it dangerous. They were the sons and grandsons of career roughnecks and knew a little about unemployment. At the time, it was synonymous with being in the oil business.
Practicing to drill a hole in the ground, everybody was occupied with something else on this day. One of the students popped the lens out of a welder's safety helmet he had brought from the shop. He held it up to the sun and looked through it. He passed it around among the small group on the training rig. Each student took a turn looking through the glass. The sun and the moon were lining up for an event that only happens every 24 years. It's noontime but twilight comes quick, a cataclysmic astronomical event that's briefer than a coffee break. A total eclipse of the sun.
Are we due for another total eclipse next year? It might come and go real fast, but the oil business takes its sweet old cyclical time. Almost a quarter century after the roughnecks were training for jobs that might never come, fuel oil is in another phase of its demand. As in, almost $100 per barrel of crude. Stocks in offshore drilling companies are soaring, along with the price of automobile fuel and heating oil.
Back then in Mississippi, a petroleum geologist was working on his back-up career-- writing. Another career that rises and falls. Now he is known as a writer and we have Oil Notes by Rick Bass in our store, a scarce copy autographed by its author.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A.O. Scott, the New York Times reviewer, was positively bolluxed in his praise for Todd Haynes' new movie "I'm Not There" which apparently has several actors playing Bob Dylan, including Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchette, and some others. Like reality TV, this should spawn any number of imitative concepts, such as six actors each playing a version of Bruce Springsteen, or Hillary Clinton, or Bill Gates. In the meantime, it never hurts to become yet again confused by Dylan.

I will never forget my first Dylan spotting. It was the mid-1970s, perhaps 1975 or 1976, and Dylan's tour was called the Rolling Thunder Revue, appearing at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas. I was playing that weekend as I always did at the New Bluebird Night Club on Wellesley St., with Robert Ealey and the Drifting Heartbreaks. T-Bone Burnett was on tour with Dylan, and had also produced Robert live at the Bluebird, so he was going to bring Dylan around to the blues club. Surely enough a limo pulled up around midnight or so and out stepped two important people, both in big hats. One was Dylan and the one with the floppy hat was Joni Mitchell I think. I suppose it could have been a hoax but we let them be when they sat at a booth in the corner and it sure looked like them. They stayed quite a while. The motto of the club was "Everybody is somebody at the Bluebird" and the locals would have noticed B.B. King or T-Bone Walker before they would have noticed Dylan. So, the celebrity visitors had a nice unhurried time of the blues, hosted by T-Bone (John Henry Burnett). Nothing changed on the bandstand but I may have drank more beer than usual out of nervousness. The next time I saw him was on his baseball diamond tour in Pawtucket, R.I., and on that bill was a gal blues singer from those Bluebird days who may have been singing with us that long-ago night, Lou Ann Barton. Thanks Bob for keeping your Fort Worth ties!

In our store at moneyblows books and music, we have some Dylan items of interest:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When you buy shares of a company and watch the company's performance, it's called investment. When you buy stock and watch it go up and down, it's called speculation. That's the distinction made by Benjamin Graham in his book The Intelligent Investor, which is kind of a layman's version of the greatest investment book of all time, Security Analysis: Principles and Technique, by Graham and David Dodd. If you've been successful in the stock market you may not need this book, but you might be able to afford this First Edition which is in moneyblows books and music. Or this Fourth Edition which was revised in response to market conditions in 1960-61. Also, click to our business books page and find out about some of the other business literature that's dying to be heeded! In particular, take note of our new amazon business books store.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Moneyblows Books and Music has customers all over the world because of the value placed on used books and records that come from America. After 9/11 one of our customers wrote from Greece, "I'm very sorry for the death of so many of your citizens. I'm also sorry that the hit was before my sending your payment. I hope it won't take ages to reach you. This is the payment for the second lot. Take care and don't let vengeance blind you or hurt your democracy." As exporters of vintage vinyl, we appreciate the establishment of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. It acknowledges that physical specimens of historic recordings do not last forever. Follow this link to our music category page, where we list many of the items in the registry. From this same page you can browse our search our collection of vintage vinyl recordings, books, magazines, record needles and other interesting artifacts.