I have been thinking about recording methods from the past as we set up our new Scarlett 2i4 interface. The first records we made were well rehearsed songs, banged out live in a studio. The early eighties brought in all this technology – electronic keyboards, midi and the ability to trigger prerecorded samples for a so-called “big sound.” Then in reaction to that we got caught up in the DIY movement. In 1986, with a gig playing three months of weekends in the Rochester Planetarium, we were tasked with syncing our music to a laser light show. We bought an Atari ST at Leon’s Typewriter on Clinton Avenue (there were no Best Buy’s or Apple Stores at the time) and an EMU SP12. We collectively wrote (Fournier, Dodd, Martin, Edic) songs based on improvisations, sequenced the basic tracks and then performed live, playing additional instruments and singing on top of those tracks. We put two of the songs from the Planetarium Show on the Personal Effects cd compilation released in 2008.
At the Colorblind show this weekend Chris Schepp told us he played a song of ours on his WAYO show and someone Shazamed it but didn’t get any result so they called the station. The song, “Melting Pot,” was one of those Planetarium songs that were only released on cassette. I put it online this morning.
One day away from February and we finally got a proper ski in thanks to the lake effect. It was a little sticky in the lowlands but we made it up to the lake.
Of course we listened to Marquee Moon when we heard that Tom Verlaine had died. We had just played it a few months back and we always have the same reaction. This still sounds fresh! The melodic interplay of the two guitars and Billy Ficca’s drumming remains timeless, beyond genre and unlike Tom, it will live forever.
In Netflix’s extras for the new Pinocchio, Guillermo del Toro’s shows us some of the puppets used in the making of his retelling. Many are at different scales to suit the character that Pinocchio is being stop-motion-filmed with, but there are dozens at the same scale, each with a different facial expression. Del Toro says the models were printed so I assume they are plastic. I had a Pinocchio mask when I was young that I wore on Halloween. I loved the Disney version, the trip to the bad boy island especially, and I am almost afraid to watch it again. I’m quite certain del Toro’s is much richer, no matter what your age.
The Colorblind James band, the classic lineup without its leader, performed again at Abilene. There are no new songs in these performances as there was in the heyday, when Chuck was consistently churning out classics, but these songs have a whole lot of life left. They transcend Chuck’s self-described “circus rock” genre. I took that as classic, old world aspirations. Chuck was a troubadour and his poetic lyrics transcend time. His songs, performed by his band, sturdy musicians who have only gotten better over time, continue to touch your soul. Chuck’s songbook is in the most capable hands of his son, Mark. Mark is a better singer than his father. Chuck would love that! He handles the material respectfully and the same sly, wry humor shines. Long live Colorblind!
I’m quite sure that early on the shutters on either side of a window could be closed and latched to protect the inside of the home from the elements. But a some point in the relatively recent past shutters on windows became entirely decorative. Without hinges or latches, they were just nailed to the wall. Furthermore, if they did swing shut they would not be big enough to cover the window. We still see examples of functional shutters on old houses and it is always a treat.
Peggi and I finally got our Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 set up. It allows us to record two tracks of instruments or vocals, one for each of us. Of course we could layer to our hearts’ content. The red box had been sitting next to my computer for the past two years. It has been easier to just catch the whole band in one live take.
We never really know where our daily walk will take us. Even though we live on a dead end street we have options and often surprises before our loop is closed. The outlet from Durand Lake is always rearranging itself as it cuts through the beach at Durand and for the last few weeks, with all the rain we’ve been getting in lieu of snow, it has cut a pretty deep, quick-running stream in the sand. So we have had to turn around and double back in the same direction there. The lake is about a half foot above its long term January average.
Yesterday, instead of heading out in the morning we waited for the snow to accumulate and then left on skis. We were hesitant to wax our skis first time out. (We got them so slick we had lost control in the past.) The ground still hasn’t frozen so the snow stuck to the bottom our skies, an experience similar to walking in spiked heels. We skied/walked the length of one hole on the golf course. A victory of sorts over this wimpy winter.
The Amaryllis blossom above is in a most unlikely location. I only discovered it while standing on a stool. The cool blueish-grey horizontal band is our white ceiling, the middle band is our muslin wall and the murky brown base is the dust covered top of our living room built-in cabinet. We usually tuck our Amaryllis plant behind the photo albums in the top cabinet for about a month in the winter so the bulb can go dormant but we forgot about it this year and the white stalk grew out the crack between the cabinet and wall where it found enough light to blossom.
1975 and 1999 were also Years of the Rabbit where luck, hope and good fortune are in the offing.
I predict the future will be really exciting. This morning’s paper had an article about Deep Fakes that included this nugget. “Some experts predict that as much as 90 per cent of online content could be synthetically generated within a few years.” Critical Thinking will be more important than ever and that is where the fun comes in.
We helped Jeff and Mary Kaye clear a path along the river for cross country skiing (if we ever get snow again.) It started snowing on our way back but it quickly turned to rain.
I saw the drummer for Sadistic Mika Band and Yellow Magic Orchestra died. That set us off on rabbit hole dive that ended with this mash-up gem, their version of Archie Bell’s “Tighten Up” performed on “Soul Train.”
Dave Ripton asked if I spend much time thinking about death. I said, “Not really,” but I wondered at the same time if maybe I did. He said he’ll go down a road and think, “This is probably the last time I’ll go down this road.” Do thoughts like this indicate depression or is he just being realistic? He added, “It’s probably the Black Irish in me.” I have a good bit of Irish in me but had not heard this term. I took it to mean dark thoughts. If that assumption is correct, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is Black Irish.
I loved the movie and all its contradictions. The idyllic, island setting, the cozy pub, the fiddle music, the simple life set against the loneliness, the boredom, and the sense that time is running out. The laugh-out-loud comedy interwoven with the despair. The confessional scene was music to any former Catholic’s ears. The self mutilation was a bit much. The whole cast was brilliant. Best Picture in my little book.
The number of times we’ve have walked through Durand Eastman Park and only today did I pay particular attention to the sign that reads “Picnic Grove.” It’s always been there, by the yellow gate on Log Cabin Road, the gate they swing open in the winter because the road is off limits to vehicles. In the summer months it swings closed keeping cars off the stretch that connects Log Cabin to Zoo Road. All good in my book. I like the park rules,”Dogs must be leashed,” “No bikes on trails.” The Picnic Grove sign is in this section.
My mom would often pack a picnic basket, sometimes with just peanut butter sandwiches, and we would come down here when my dad got off work. All the roads were open back then. You could drive on Horseshoe Road, which is now grown over. There was a zoo on Zoo Road and the road connected to Wisner to take you right out of the park. I remember my dad driving slowly to pick out a spot where my mother could spread the blanket on the ground and it was often right here in Picnic Grove.
The Spanish SuperCopa final was thrilling. We follow three teams and Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of them but there was never any doubt who we were pulling for. Barca almost pulled off a 3-0 shutout. They controlled the ball in midfield where Real Madrid used to be dominant. Busquets, the captain, Frankie De jong and the teenagers, Pedri and Gavi played magic triangles around Madrid’s midfielders as if teasing the champions and we loved it.
We zoomed with our friends, Matthew and Louise in Hawaii. They told us about a canal near them where they walk their dog, Tricky. That night we watched an episode of Hawaii Five-0 and a chase was filmed on the canal.
According to Visualising Slavery: Art Across the African Diaspora, this Frederick Douglass monument was the first statue in the United States that memorialized a specific African-American. It was installed in front of the New York Central train station in 1899 but then moved to Highland Park in 1941 for some reason. More curiously, it sat not where it is now but down in the bowl, just off to the left in the picture above. In 2018, on the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth, the city commissioned Olivia Kim to construct a series of life sized replicas of the statue. The statues were placed in throughout the city in locations that were important to Douglass’s legacy. A nice idea but the fiberglass replicas look cheap compared to this one. Douglass deserves a fleet of bronze statues.
Steve was already sound asleep in his seat aboard a flight back to Detroit when the flight attendant informed him that the plane was grounded due to a nationwide FAA meltdown. Peggi and I had already gone back to bed after dropping him off at 5:30 but we were happy to have him stay with us for a third night. He was in town for a meeting with the Strong Museum of Play on an AR project. Steve is super productive and we rise to the occasion in his midst.
We were psyched enough to see Noah Baumbach’s new movie, “White Noise,” that we planned on going to the theater. But on the same day it opened here, Netflix announced the movie was available to stream so we stayed in. I didn’t read the book it was based on and I didn’t have the patience to watch the movie. This was no Squid and the Whale, Greenberg or Meyerowitz Story. The movie felt like a complete mess, a cop of Altman, Buñuel and others, built on a book about modern life in the eighties. I fell asleep and missed the whole murder section.
We watched Truffaut’s “Day for Night” the next night and found it completely satisfying. And so much fun. His nods to his favorite directors, Hitchcock and Orson Wells, pay tribute. And last night we started “Tar.” Kate Blanchett is a force of nature. The music is fantastic and the script is timely and witty. I can’t wait to get back to it.
We would rather eat at home than in a restaurant but we’ve been following the story of Noma’s chef closing shop to be reborn as a “giant lab.” What comes after tiny dishes prepared from locally foraged ingredients? Our nephew and his partner own a restaurant in Miami. They earned themselves a Michelin star during the pandemic when the fine dining business was forced to reinvent themselves. We hope to have reservations there someday soon.
Based on the evidence we find along the small lakes in Durand Eastman beavers are not all that fussy. They take down poplar, aspen, birch, willow and maple trees to eat the bark. Contrary to popular belief they don’t eat fish. They are strictly herbivores.
We are in an early winter cruciferous stage. We finished our walk today at the garden where our kale, collard greens and Brussels sprouts are still producing. We brought back an armful for dinner.
Joyce’s “Dubliners” was referenced in something I was reading this morning so I downloaded a public domain copy and read most of the first story. The eBook library on my iPad is stocked with books I have only partially read but I have devoured the artist’s books in my collection. My favorites are are from friends, Anne Havens and Pete Monacelli. Strangely, they were both born on the same day in the same year.
Anne Havens is in the habit of making an exhibition book for each of her art shows. The printed versions are long out of print so she gave me pdf copies of the original files for seventeen of her books. I converted them to ebooks and they are available as free downloads here. In Anne’s “Graceland” book there is a statement from her that points to why I like her work so much. “I borrow from biblical themes, and play with the BIG questions in my quest for Beauty and Truth – and usually find my resting place on the fence between the sublime and the ridiculous, the priest and the jester.”
Frank Gannet died after a fall in his Sandringham Road home in 1955. He built the mighty Gannett newspaper chain, now USA Today. Rochester’s two newspapers, the Democrat & Chronicle and the Times Union, rolled off the presses in the bottom of the Gannett building on Exchange Boulevard for many years. The editorial offices were upstairs. They moved the offices to a new building in Midtown, left the heat off during the pandemic and the pipes in sprinkler systems broke open. The printing facility was moved to the western suburbs and they recently announced they would be laying off some 700 workers there. What’s left of the paper will be printed in Pennsylvania. We still subscribe. Our carrier delivers the New York Times as well. Our NYT edition is printed in Buffalo so it was understandable that they weren’t able to get the papers here during the recent snowstorm.
This morning, a mild mid-winter day, there were no papers in our box. We called our carrier, Marie, and she had left a message on her phone that informed all that were calling about “missing papers” that she drove into a sinkhole on Titus Avenue. Her car was stuck in the hole and she recorded the message while walking back to her house. We could hear her breathing hard as she walked and her story was heartbreaking, a metaphor for newspapers.
The wind storm last week took down a huge pine tree on Zoo Road. The core of the trunk was slightly discolored so maybe it was compromised. It snapped off at the base throwing large pieces of wood in all directions. I found this piece, carried it home, put a couple of wood screws in the back with a short wire and hung it on the wall. It is my first art piece of 2023.
We stopped by Aman’s on our way out to Brad’s house yesterday. It was raining when we stepped out of the car and the parking lot was electric with a mix of oil and water. I bought a clean copy of “Clear Spot” at the House of Guitars on Record Store Day and we were saving it to play at Brad’s, on the giant speakers he inherited from Gary Bennett. It was like the old days, sitting in comfortable chairs with our eyes closed, while Beefheart’s voice filled the room. Brilliant lyrics, phenomenal playing and a voice that makes all others sound small and lacking in expression, there are easily five Top 40 tracks on this album for small parallel universe.
Brad was sitting with us when we saw The Captain at Red Creek in 1977 and you can hear him shouting as the band starts “Low Yo Yo” from the Clear Spot album. Here’s my cassette recording from that show. As a bonus it includes Beefheart’s explanation for why Drumbo left the band.
I guess it was that podcast about Scorgies that planted the seed, the host talking about New Math at the Electric Circus. A couple of years ago Gary Trainer dropped off a cd of old New Math tracks, something labeled April 1977. It was recorded in our rehearsal space above the adult bookstore in the Cox Building, just a block from Scorgies but before he opened his doors. And I knew I had some old Super 8 footage that Peggi shot of the band from back then, dark, live footage from the Orange Monkey without sound, Kevin, Gary and I in front of the first Record Archive store on Monroe Avenue and then some goofy stuff from Mount Hope Cemetery. I put it all together with some crossfades. Duane Sherwood wasn’t doing lights yet so we’re pretty much in the dark.
There weren’t many places to play before Scorgies, the Penny Arcade up at the lake, Electric Circus on Dewey, Big Daddy’s, some place along the river that Howie from Six String Sales booked and the Orange Monkey on Henrietta Town Line Road, down the road from the Red Creek Inn. Pierre ran the Orange Monkey. It was a glam rock palace. Cheap Trick was playing downtown one night when were playing the Monkey and Rick Nielsen joined us on stage after their gig. We did Gloria and something else. He was wearing the hat.
I quit New Math shortly after the first single was released and Peggi and I formed the Hi-Techs. Our first gig was opening for New Math at Scorgies.
We keep an eye on this witch hazel tree. It’s right at the top of the hill on Zoo Road so we pass it often. It is one of the first witch hazels to blossom and it is also the most fragrant, like butterscotch or, more accurately, those butter rum suckers they used to sell at Charlotte Beach when we were kids. These blossoms usually come in February and we read them as the first sign of spring. We already moved the first day of spring up to Saint Patty’s and now we have the first sign on New Year’s Day.
Mike Russello contacted me to make us aware of a podcast he did about Scorgies. I would probably recognize him if I saw him because it sounds like he was at many of the same shows we were. He starts this episode before the Scorgies scene with a description of the a New Math show at the Electric Circus on Dewey Avenue. I was playing drums with them at the time and Mike brought me right back there.
He played three Personal Effects songs after that, when he back announced “Fascinating Game,” he said, “I think that song sounds better now than it did back then.” I think he might be right. I love the dreamlike, hypnotic pace and Peggi’s exotic Farfisa organ and snake-charming soprano sax. Martin Edic wrote the lyrics which were based on a dream.
We might try an instrumental version of the song tomorrow night at the Little Café.
I’m guessing this photo was taken by my father on Easter Sunday. You can see my mom’s artistry in the clothes she picked out for us and herself. I treasure these old photos because they crystallize the fuzzy memories I carry around in my head. That place, that time, the relationships, the happiness along with the craziness.
My sister, Amy, who was a few year’s off when this photo was taken has the family’s slide collection in her front hall closet. I hung my coat in there last night and saw the stacks of carousels. She selected 600 some slides and we had them scanned so we could all have a copy, the evidence of our childhood. There was a Kodak slide scanner under her tree last night. More revelations are in store. We’re having dinner with Mark (shown above to my left) again tonight. It has been a real joy to to spend time with my siblings at Christmas