Saturday, August 06, 2005

Good word

"Artists are bizarre."

--Stephen Sondheim
Madison originals

Just back from Atwood Summerfest and the noon set by Lou and Peter Berryman, my favorite Madison songwriters--and my favorite Madison accordion act. I love their music so much, and Lou was most gracious when, a while back, I phoned her out of the blue to get tips for buying an accordion.

The set was short (a ton of bands are playing today), and part of me didn't want to make the five-minute bike trip down the bike path that leads, virtually, from my front door to, virtually, the stage the Berrymans played on. After all, it's a pretty ride, and the weather is gorgeous--why would I want to be out in that, when all it would get me is free music?

But I went, and I'm glad I did. The Berrymans' appearance today was not quite as satisfying as their Folk At One show earlier this summer, in part because the set was so short, and in part because it was a little hard to hear their quietly amusing tunes over the din of the food vendors' generators and the rock stage down the block. But their smiling presence was winning, as always.

They closed with my favorite Berryman song, "Odd Man Out." I find this ditty weirdly moving; I'm pasting the lyrics below. You really ought to see Lou and Peter Berryman, any chance you get. A+++++

Odd Man Out

If your lover won't come over
And when you call they're 'bout as warm as an ice cube
And your deck of cards is lost and it's raining
And there's nothing good on the boob tube
Here's a game you play alone
And you never have to leave the warmth of your armchair
It's your job to try and figure out
Which word in each grouping doesn't belong there:

Harpo, Ringo, Zorro, Julio,
Zeppo, Chico, STUCCO, Mario, Groucho
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter,
Saturn, Neptune, PET WORLD, Uranus, Pluto
One pair, two pair, MAYONNAISE, three of a kind,
Straight, flush, full house, 4 of a kind, straight flush
Car theft, robbery, mugging, burglary,
ROMANCE, hijack, arson, larceny, HAIRBRUSH

Alpha, beta, gamma, epsilon,
Delta, zeta, theta, DRACULA, sigma
Aries, Virgo, Leo, Gemini,
Cancer, Taurus, NISSAN, Capricorn, Libra
Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Salvador
Dali, SNEEZEY, Cezanne, Delacroix, Renoir
Earthquake, typhoon, mudslide, hurricane,
ROMANCE, blizzard, firestorm, tidal wave, NUT BAR

Sister, brother, father, son-in-law,
Uncle, cousin, nephew, DOUBLE-U, daughter
Whisky, vodka, champagne, creme de menthe,
Brandy, ouzo, Pernod, muscatel, WATER
Southeast, northwest, northeast, north by northwest,
Due north, due east, DREW BARRYMORE, due south
Headache, earache, heartburn, stomach flu,
ROMANCE, toothache, sore throat, muscle ache, BIG MOUTH

Freon, Neon, Xenon, OREGON, Cotton, Rayon, Orlon, ALANON
Phone-ring earring gold-ring SLOBBERING, Hardee's Wendy's RABIES Burger-King

Toaster, freezer, washer, opener,
Blender, mixer, ANGER, vegetable steamer
Hipbone, heel bone, tailbone, fibula,
Cheekbone, jawbone,TROMBONE, scapula, femur
Desk lamp, flashlight, lantern, photoflood,
Headlight, dome light, night light, CELLULITE, sun lamp
Puzzler, baffler, cypher, cryptogram,
ROMANCE, riddle, mystery, question mark, OFF RAMP

Puzzler, baffler, cypher, cryptogram,
ROMANCE, riddle, mystery, question mark, OFF RAMP

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bon appetit

In this week's Isthmus I reviewed the new chili parlor Real Chili, and you can read my comments here.

Today is the 49th birthday of Maureen McCormick, best known as TV's Marcia Brady. In the late 1970s I loved watching her performances in "Brady Bunch" reruns, and also in network airings of "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island." (According to the Internet Movie Database, she appeared on "The Love Boat" five times, on "Fantasy Island" six.) It was fascinating to my eight-year-old mind that she could be in all of these things at once, and be all different ages at the same time.

Marcia Marcia Marcia!
Good word

"Seems like the squares are taking over everything."

--Jim Jarmusch

Thursday, August 04, 2005

From the archive

In my diary I just ran across an entry, dated Nov. 12, 1995, which I recorded after I saw Monet 1840-1926, a blockbuster exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. There was a long wait to get in, and I noted utterances I overheard in the line, which snaked through much of the permanent collection. I also jotted down a few things I heard people say in the exhibit.

Aren't blockbuster art shows fun?


In the line:

"Well, we weren't doing anything today, anyway."
"We should have gotten up earlier."
"Does Chicago still have a stock exchange?"
"It's just like at Disney World."
"The lines were like this at Expo '67."
"Is this the line for members?"
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"All this standing is bad for people with bad backs."
"I'm seeing a chiropractor."
"Look at that famous Mary Cassatt."
"Is that impasto?"
"Isn't it wonderful how many artists there have been? They're so creative."
"That needs to be dusted."
"Old paintings let you see how people used to live."
"Americans have one thing on Europeans: they know how to stand in line."
"Will we make it to Miss Saigon by 3:00?"
"How much longer do we have to wait?"

In the exhibit:

"It's so beautiful."
"I have a poster of that."
[Looking at The Reader (Springtime) (1872)]: "1872--wasn't that during our Civil War?"
"That's so beautiful. Ooh!"

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How dry I am

As of today it has been four years since any potable stronger than coffee touched these lips. So thank you coffee, and thank you all.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


After a year and a half of delay (things happen slowly in this house), I finally gave in and decided to install a little shelf to put my record player on. I've had problems with the device, which seemed like such a good deal when I bought it--OK, it was ridiculously inexpensive, and not a good choice. Why do I always buy cheap crap? Why? Why? Oh yeah, because I'm cheap.

Anyway, the turntable skipped when you walked across the room and fed back horribly at any volume over 2. So I went to Home Depot and bought some wood and a little bracket thingy, drilled some holes and voila: a satisfying record player situation. This has made me rediscover my record collection which, as those of you who have been to the crib know, is extensive: I have thousands of records. Thus far my spins have tended to stuff I liked when I was a teen in the 1980s--early R.E.M. albums, especially.

And also, you might be surprised to hear, The Golden Age of Wireless, Thomas Dolby's first release. I bought this in sixth grade (yes, I still have my LPs from sixth grade; I still have my LPs from second grade) on the strength of "She Blinded Me With Science," which is indeed a great single. But the record didn't leap out at me at first, and for years I ignored it.

But then, late in junior high, I threw it on again and discovered what I confirmed with this most recent listening: The Golden Age of Wireless is dense, literate pop music--three-minute, synth-laden ditties that touch on nebulously articulated themes of dystopia and the futurism of yesterday (viz. the LP's very title), as well as anxiety, paranoia and despair. It's sort of like the songwriting of Rush, but hookier and less expansive. There's not a love song in the bunch--save that great novelty hit single, which ought to have won a special Grammy for successfully grafting science class onto sex.

Dolby's other albums weren't nearly as good as that first one, and I seem to recall reading in a musician rag that he has given up composing pop songs altogether. But what a debut!
That too

Charles comments below that he habitually sings to himself. Me too! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. I remember classmates in grammar school commenting on this habit of mine, and not always in friendly ways.

A common critique of musicals goes something like, "That's not natural. People don't just break out into song." But I'm here to tell you: they do. At least Charles and I do.

It's a bad habit for the office. I keep having to stifle myself when the urge to croon hits me. I once shared an office with a Bulgarian who, seemingly unconsciously, whistled all the livelong day. His repertoire was mildly entertaining--"La Isla Bonita" regularly made the rotation, as did Toto's "Rosanna"--but I don't want to be that guy to my neighbors in cubicle land.

So Charles does this; I do this. Do all singers do this? Does Martin Price do this? What about Joy Dragland? Carl Johns? Aaron Scholz?

Monday, August 01, 2005

To the guy who passed me on the bike path

Yes, I was talking to myself. No, I wasn't on the phone. I was just talking to myself. On my bike. Loudly. But I'm not crazy.