Saturday, October 02, 2004

Mighty nature

The news that Mount St. Helens is active again takes me right back to May 1980, when the volcano's catastrophic eruption made a big impression on nine-year-old me. There was a big feature about the eruption in Life magazine, and I remember thinking that the pictures of the exploding mountain looked a lot like hell. But I was confused by all the greyness and dust and ash: where was the red hot lava? Lava fascinated me. But Mount St. Helens wasn't that kind of volcano.

That summer my family visited friends in Centralia, Wash. My brother and I were delighted to see that their yard was coated with volcanic ash, and we scooped up as much as we could for a souvenir. We kept it in a margarine tub. What do you with volcanic ash? A couple of years later, I tried bagging the stuff and selling it a garage sale, but there were no takers.

Friday, October 01, 2004

On Chicago

I enjoyed this Doug Moe column in The Capital Times about the words to UW-Madison's fight song, "On Wisconsin." I've loved the song since I moved here five years ago, and I have been known to sing it while busking downtown on a football Saturday.

But I flinched at this passage about an early version of the song, which was written by William T. Purdy:

The original Purdy lyrics . . . urge the fellows to run the ball "clear 'round Chicago," though now, of course, the University of Chicago no longer has a football team.

Let it be known: the University of Chicago, my beloved alma mater, has a football team, the Maroons, a Division III squad since 1969. President Robert Maynard Hutchins indeed disbanded the original Big Ten Maroon team in 1939, but there is football at Chicago.

I seem to recall an episode of "King of the Hill" in which Hank disparages the University of Chicago for not having a football team.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Who's the wise guy

But what about this headline from a Sept. 7 article in The Capital Times:

Size matters

This morning my editor and I had an amusing exchange about a line he singled out for praise in a theater review I filed. I told him I had cut the line, then reinstated it, but I did not do this out of any great aesthetic committment. I just wanted the piece to be the right length.

This took me straight back to graduate school, when I was always in awe of people who turned in papers far longer than the assigned length. For these folks--and sometimes it seemed that everyone did this but me--a ten-page assignment meant a 25-page paper. For me, a ten-page paper was a ten-page paper, which usually meant that I wrote (at most) twelve pages of utter crap, then began revising.

What can I say? I'm stingy with my ideas.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Music makes the people come together

Jeez louise, it has been a long time since I posted! Apologies for the silence, and I vow not to let that happen again.

I've been a busy boy. Since last I blogged, on Wednesday, I have played four gigs: a solo acoustic show at Maduro Wednesday night, a World's Greatest Lovers gig at Babe's on Thursday, an appearance with Amelia Royko at Overture Center on Saturday, and--most gloriously--last night with the White Mule Country Blues Band, in an opening slot for Sleepy LaBeef at the Crystal Corner.

Sleepy's show was everything I hoped for. What an amazing performer! Like a Grateful Dead completist, I took notes during the first set. I'm looking them over now, and I'm stunned. What can we say of a 69-year-old man who, in the course of an hour-long club set, covers Ray Price, the Surfaris, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, Tammy Wynette, Nancy Sinatra, Patti Page, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Dave Dudley, Elvis Presley, Ernest Tubb and John Lee Hooker? All that, plus a medley of "Don't Mess With My Toot Toot" and "Elvira." The man is a genius.

But the real treat came in the second set, when Sleepy invited me, Joe and Travis from White Mule and, later, Caitlin of the Kissers up to rock with the band. I sang "She Thinks I Still Care," strummed along to songs like "Boppin' the Blues" and "I Still Miss Someone," and had an out-of-body experience. Me, playing with Sleepy LaBeef!

After the show I watched Sleepy work the entire room. He greeted people, shook hands and posed for pictures. He's really adept at making people feel special, fans and musicians alike. I took note.

For your delectation, here are some fabulous pictures Ereck took of the event. The last two are of Sleepy's transportation, a bitchin' custom van.

All hail Sleepy LaBeef!