Music Monday: “Martha” by Tom Waits

Visiting Montana again has made me feel nostalgic, for times and people now long gone. “Martha” by Tom Waits is as melancholy and nostalgic as any song I can think of.

I was introduced to Tom Waits by my friend Bob. This was back in the days when you would make tapes of favorite music for others and send it to them. I wore the tapes out. One of the first things I did when I got an iPod was to buy all the Tom Waits that I no longer had.

On a melancholy Monday, Tom Waits is just the thing.

Music Monday: “Unemployed” by Michael McDermott

In 2001, I was laid off from the best paying job I had ever had, and still have ever had. The evening of the day I got news that I was unemployed, Sue and I went to see Michael McDermott at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.

The Cedar Cultural Center is a small venue but a nice place to watch a concert. I was drinking a Summit beer and doing my best to enjoy the evening, but I was having a hard time not feeling sorry for myself… until McDermott started singing this song. It has been one of my favorite songs ever since.

It isn’t much of a video… but the song is great.


Music Monday: “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole

The first Monday in June is making me feel nostalgic. When I was young, my mother had a few albums and singers that she played more than others. When I hear those singers or those songs, I am immediately taken back in time to other summers, other long and lazy days.

Nat King Cole was was one of my mother’s favorites. And this is one of my favorite Cole songs.

Enjoy… and happy Monday!

Book Review: .44 by H.A. DeRosso

44_DeRossoIf you grow up in the West and and do not like westerns, it is the same as if you grew up in Belgium and do not like beer. At the very least, you have proven yourself to be someone who cannot be trusted.

The status that westerns have in American culture is much diminished these days. Great westerns are still being written – see Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, and Elmer Kelton. But the greatest practioners of the classic western are long gone.

H.A. DeRosso wrote hard-boiled stories for the pulps in the 1940s and 1950s. He wrote a number of great western short-stories and a few novels. His westerns have been described by Bill Pronzini as western noir. Pronzini has edited a number of collections of his short stories. Each collection is great.

Of DeRosso’s novels, .44 is my favorite. It epitomizes DeRosso’s style: austere, hard-boiled, grim, lonely and yet,… poetic at times. The characters have an archetypal quality that transcends the merely conventional. The desert  landscape they inhabit is mythological– ethereal and bleak.

There are, admittedly, more realistic western writers and much more historically accurate ones. And yet with the possible exception of Cormac McCarthy there are no western writers that are as satisfying as DeRosso in the end.

DeRosso is satisfying because his work is so mythic. Westerns, after all, are suppose to be mythic. To quote Maxwell Scott in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

.44 begins with one of those great first paragraphs that hook you and then lives up to all that first paragraph promises. Everything that is classic DeRosso, that is western noir is here: menace, fate, and myth.

The two riders working up the mountain towards the pass travelled about a mile apart. There was not hurry in their progress. The first rider made no effort to quicken his horse’s pace and thus draw farther ahead. The second rider, too, seemed content with the rate he was travelling. He kept his distance, not trying at all to overtake the other, even though he had been hired to kill this first rider and intended to do so before nightfall.

Chess is Life

bobby-fischer-Life-225x300I am by nature a collector – books, poems, sports cards, stamps, comic books, quotes.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about chess.

I started playing online chess about 8 or 10 years ago. Over those years I have read dozens of book about the game and the players, picked up and discarded many more. These are just a few of the hundreds of quotes I have collected about a game that is infinitely fascinating.

I hope you enjoy them:

Favorite Chess Quotes

“A player plays in order to live through an adventure. In playing, he overcomes – overcomes himself, circumstances, and fate.” – Anatoly Karpov

“During a game the tremendous burden of all possibilities weighs upon you, along with the passage of time. Therefore we play at full strength only in those moments when, consumed by the process of the battle, we merge with the game to such a degree that everything else ceases to exist.” – Anatoly Karpov

“You must take your opponent into a deep, dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.” – Mikhail Tal

“Chess is the art that expresses the science of logic.” – Mikhail Botvinnik

“Chess is life.” –  Bobby Fischer

“It has been said that man is distinguished from animal in that he buys more books than he can read. I should like to suggest that the inclusion of a few chess books would help to make the distinction unmistakable.” – Emmanuel Lasker

Music Monday: “The Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz

A mellow Monday morning in May and I am thinking of Stan Getz. This video of Getz, Astrud Gilberto and “The Girl from Ipanema” is just the thing for a beautiful Spring day.

Coltrane and Getz remain my favorite Jazz instrumentalists. Their sounds are quite different, different enough that you can like them both.

My mother had this album when I was young. My wife received it as a Christmas gift from my friend Keith a couple of years ago.

It has aged well indeed.


Keeping Score

baseball-scorecard-300x214There are two kinds of people in this world: those who keep score at baseball games and those who don’t.

I still have a scorecard from the very first major league game I ever saw in person. It was a game in 1981 at Wrigley Field between the Phillies and the Cubs. I was almost 21 and the pitching match-up was: Steve Carlton against Fergie Jenkins. Pretty damn good for your first game in person.

It is a scorecard from my first game BUT it is not myscorecard. Somehow during that day I ended up switching cards with someone in the large group I was with. So my souvenir is someone else’s scorecard of my first game.

For a number of years I had a notebook that had games I went to at Wrigley,  Comiskey, the Astrodome and Tiger Stadium. Dozens and dozens of games… if not hundreds. Somewhere in one of a many, many moves over the years, I lost that notebook. But for some reason I still have someone else’s scorecard from my first “in person” major league game.

The need to obsessively document every game I go to has lessened over time. This year so far I have gome to one game at Miller Park in Milwaukee and two at Target Field. The game at Miller I scored as well as my first at Target Field. At my second game though at Target Field with my good friend Keith I did not even try to keep score. With time I have learned that the game is enjoyable both ways.


Music Monday: “Blues Man” by George Jones and Dolly Parton

“Blues Man” is a Hank Williams Jr. song. It contains the autobiographical elements that are in most of Hank Jr.s best songs.

This video features a version of the song by George Jones and Dolly Parton that is great. George Jones is probably my favorite country voice. His duets with fellow country legends are always great. Dolly Parton is under appreciated as a singer and, sadly it seems now these days, even as a songwriter.

On a Monday morning, how can you go wrong with two country legends singing a Hank Jr. song.


Music Monday: “Not Dark Yet But It’s Getting There” by Bob Dylan

It is Monday and morning and this week I turn 50. What better song than “Not Dark Yet But Its Getting There.”

Dylan’s first self-titled album came out in 1962. I was two years old. 48 years later he is still original, cutting edge, and relevant. How may of us could say that?

When my father-in-law found out that we had named our eldest daughter Dylan, he asked “after the drunk poet or the drugged-out rock star?” I answered both.

Dylan and a Monday morning seem like a natural fit.