The Spring Weekend Top 10
1) 420: The New National Holiday?
A proper DJ dance night comes to the Bearsville Friday night, 4/20, and to our delight it’s a good one. Credit to Anthony Molina from Mercury Rev for dropping some proper techno early in the night, and to the late night DJ for the funked-up house. (Less props to Lemar Soulflower in the middle for changing genre with every song; some of us like to get more than a three-minute groove going on.) But as pleasing as the beats is the crowd. Here we have local goth-ravers looking to share glow-bands, a couple of pimped-up would-be porn stars waving their arms in the air to every song, a whole bunch of 30-somethings with seriously good steps and, perhaps not surprisingly, a smattering of unabashed old hippies. You’ll have to take my word for it that no one embarrassed themselves on the dance floor – and believe me, too, I’ve seen enough bad dancing in my day to know. The party returns on May 25 – and inbetween, on May 4, it hosts Juan Atkins at BSP in Kingston.
2) One Last Hit
Re-reading Nathan Walpow’s affectionate and witty One Last Hit: A Joe Portugal Mystery (Joe Portugal Mysteries)“>crime story, in which an ageing Who fan and unwitting detective gets his old band back together – with murderous results. Anyone looking for an easy and amusing beach (or bus) read need look no further, especially considering that every chapter is named for a Who song.
3) Sore Winners
I watch the Manchester United-Middlesborough game, which ends with real excitement as Man U desperately look to put the title away, and Boro sniff a chance of victory. There’s no doubt that Southgate’s squad are robbed of a fair penalty minutes from time, and that subsequent decisions at the other end (an unfair free kick, a non-corner) suggest that this particular referee might possibly favor a last-minute winner for the home team. Certainly, that’s how Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho feels about it: after Chelsea squander a chance to close the gap by failing to score at Newcastle, Mourinho diverts attention from his team’s failings to the bias of the referees. “It is not possible to have a penalty against Manchester United,” he says, noting equally dramatically that if the FA chooses to charge him for speaking out of turn, “It is the end of democracy.” The BBC web site subsequently provides some statistics to challenge Mourinho’s charge, as follows: Man U have been awarded five penalties this year in the League, Chelsea have been awarded four. Chelsea have had two penalty decisions against them, while Man U have had… Four. Grow up, Jose.
Whether the petrol-powered choppers favored by 1st generation graying old Bikers, touring bikes favored by would-be Lance Armstrongs, or purely functional pedal-pushers favored by local kids round the village, the sudden presence of two-wheelers is the most definite sign that it’s spring.
5) Sound Affects
The Jam albums re-view continues, and for the first time I’m confused. Why do I have to look at the album sleeve to get the title of ‘Set The House Ablaze’? Why does the finale ‘Scrape Away’ fade so half-heartedly into oblivion? Did you know that Sound Affects has two of The Jam’s shortest song – both ‘But I’m Different Now’ and ‘Boy About Town’ each come in under two minutes – and also what I believe is the longest, ‘Set The House Ablaze’? Why did ‘Man In The Corner Shop,’ arguably one of the greatest Jam songs of all, suffer from such poor dynamics in the studio? Come to that, why are the vocals mixed so far back throughout the album? And the drums too? Why can you not hear almost anything with any clarity? How comes such awful production comes from the exact same team that made the preceding albums? Ultimately, a claim can be made that Sound Affects has some of the very best Jam songs to be found on one record (don’t forget, also, ‘Dream Time,’ ‘That’s Entertainment’ and ‘Monday’), and is yet the least coherent of all Jam albums. Maybe I’m not confused any more, just frustrated.
6) Earth Daze 1
And then there is great production. With Timberland at the console, Bjork opens her new album Volta with ‘The Earth Intruders,’ the most striking song I’ve heard from her in years. Few other people could sound this original, on their sixth album. ‘The Earth Intruders’ is the kind of track that makes me wish I was DJing again.
7) Earth Daze 2
A bright warm sunny spring weekend brings with it depths of color, shade, light and perspective to the Catskills that makes everything look brand new – and all the more dramatic for the peaks that are still snow-capped, the rushing creeks that are mercilessly just short of flooding over, and the streams pouring down the middle of the mountains. Driving down Platte Clove Road for the first time since in several months (it’s closed during winter), I feel high with life. I don’t stop to take photographs; the camera never does it justice. This is something to be experienced in person.
8) Earth Daze 3
The running season starts with what should be a simple lunchtime four-miler (but for a steep uphill on mile three) in Kingston. Of course, it just happens to be the hottest day in this part of the world for six months or more, and everyone’s a little freaked out by the sudden climate change. This doesn’t stop our area’s resident speed freak winning in barely 20 minutes. I promise myself to take it slow, so as not to further aggravate my messed-up ligament, and surprise myself by staying true to that goal, finishing way further back in the pack than I’d usually be happy with. My reward: not feeling flat-out tired and dehydrated for the rest of the day.
9) Earth Daze 4
Phoenicia kids and parents get together for an Earth Day celebration perhaps caught short by being held indoors on such a beautiful day. I show up from the race to find the local kids have painted stones with peace signs, arranged cones in a peace sign, and many have had their faces painted in peace signs. Oh, and on my drive I saw a Jeep with the license plate Peace19, and a Prius with a bumper sticker reading ‘Patriot: 50MPG.’ Ah did I tell you we live near Woodstock?
10) Earth Daze 5
While some of us just talk and write about global affairs from the comfort of our safe western homes, others experience the planet firsthand. I met Helena Mulkearns in my early days in NYC, when we were in the same line of work: she was writing for Irish music mag Hot Press while I was freelancing for European media. The last five years though, she’s been living in Africa, working for the UN in Eritrea and Ethopia. This weekend she sent out an e-mail announcing that she’s moving on, reminding us that her time in Africa “made me realise how lucky many of us are not to be one of the millions on this planet living under fire, and in the comfort of a zone where the global weather changes are not rendering crucial harvests late, or absent, meaning malnutrition and starvation for families across Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Her new destination? Kabul, where she will be working as a press officer for the United Nations. “The situation will be challenging,” she notes dryly, “with a lot of restrictions and almost no freedom of movement for a little Irish girl (or any other girls for that matter, international or not). I will not be permitted drive, or to walk in public without a male escort.”
I seem to recall that the fall of the Taliban was meant to bring with it freedom for women from repressive Islamic standards, but then I know the clock has been turning backwards again these last few years while our attention has been diverted to Iraq. Any which way, Helena, I salute your courage. And please do get that blog going. I’m sure you’ll have no shortage of subscribers.