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May 31, 2009

Horns Phil Likes, Vol 1.

Note -- these liner notes are still in progress, but I've been distributing the CD so now I have to post it.  There will be updates, but feel free to click the many video links now.

14th Street - Rufus Wainwright. Rufus performs 14th Street live at the Fillmore in SFO.  At ~3'10" and other places notice how the women sing loud and low while the men provide falsetto "woo". :-)  See 2'05" for a cute facial expression.

Special_Beat_Service I Confess - English Beat.  Back in ~'98, My office mate Tom wondered why there weren't more cover bands that focused on the late New Wave.  I dunno.  I Confess is a boppy song strangely matched with dark lyrics that are hard to understand without help from the internet.  I love the solo that starts at 2'27" on the CD.  The solo in the video isn't as nuanced, but you can still watch it here.  I dig the opening ~10 seconds just before vocals.  No it's not a joke / It's cards on the table time. 

Papa Was a Rolling Stone - The Temptations.  Speaking of bass lines... this song has what some consider the mother of all bass lines.  Was (Not Was) does a fine cover of and somewhere (not here) there's a great story about how they decided who should sing the parts. Part of Was (Not Was) also performed with Lyle Lovett.  Now check out this extensive cultural and musical analysis, excerpted below:

"In ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone’ the bass line is absolutely unrelenting. It is uncompromisingly fixed in the minor 7th/minor 3rd axis that ‘announces’ the climate of blues. The bass line never stops. There is no let up in this situation which is about the eternal consequences of sin which just cannot be brushed under the carpet."

Strangely, it does not make the top 50 bass lines of all time in this article.

Solo Te Echaron Un Medio - Irakere.  Song performed by José Miguel Meléndez, (possibly the author, as well).  Irakere was founded by Chucho Valdés (whom I've mentioned elsewhere). The best translation I can give for the title is "They only gave you the half of it." Check out Sylvia and Lisa's Onda Carolina blog if you're interested in Latin-origin music, especially if you live near Durham NC.

Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen.  A confession: one afternoon in the summer of '86 or '87, my mom and I were listening to the radio while driving home on Durham's Constitution Dr.  I explained that Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp were both chroniclers of blue collar America, but that Mellencamp was the more sophisticated writer.  Argh.  I accept that I'll never write with a 1/16th of Springsteen's strength and creativity.  I'm just glad I can listen to the genius at work.  The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves / Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays / Roy Orbison singing for the lonely...  Man, what a break between "plays" and "Roy".  Of course, the miracle is how he puts these words with the music.  Here's Thunder Road in a duet with Melissa Etheridge.

Penguins - Lyle Lovett.  I have seen him in concert and you should, too.  Go for the cello player.  Here's the first Lyle Lovett video I ever saw, She's No Lady, She's My Wife.  Junior year in college.  I was living in two closets at Crew House, whose residents were kind enough to take me in.  My three-hundred-percent favorite video from that time was George Michael's highly polished Father Figure. So Lyle Lovett's tune, gone 180 the other direction in terms of costume, models (and color) was a real awakening for me.  "Wow," I might have thought, "you don't have to do a stupid Phil Collins video to get away from slick hotties."  If you still need slick, check out the little cadenza at 2'27" in the video.)  Come to think of it, why didn't I put She's No Lady on this CD instead of Penguins?  Probably because of the too-fun five-part entrance: crowd, announcer, drums, horns, backup singers and bass player.  And yes, I jab my finger at the speakers just as the horns come in.  Every time.

Francine reed Wild Women Don't Get the Blues - Francine Reed.  Sure, we don't get to hear her tell Lyle Lovett, "Well you ugly too," but in this track she gets to sing more.  Do you wonder how singers (and comedians, etc.) keep track of what city they're in so they don't yell "Are there some wild women here in Baden Baden" when they're actually in Brussels?  And do they ever forget their bandmates names when they introduce, mid-song?  Watch Francine do it up here: Wild Women Don't Get the Blues

I Just Want to Make Love to You - Etta James.  Isn't it a shame that she didn't like Beyonce covering At Last for one of Obama's inaugural balls?  I just hope she was more offended by the TV commercial that used this song.  Here's a later-Etta performance of At Last. And here, an unexpected rendition of I Just Want to Make Love to You.

Sexy M.F.- Prince.  The song that inspired this mix CD theme.  "Horns, down please." is what I -think- Prince says in the middle.  Very frustrating that I can't be sure. I've never seen Prince in concert.  I feel like I've deprived myself for that.  Xta and Mary and friends have, and that makes them -even cooler-.  Lately people are asking whether Prince has jumped the shark.  I remember a Keyboard magazine article that said...  No video because, you know, it's Prince.

Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves.  I remember watching this video on a small TV set in the kitchen of my aunt's Indonesian restaurant in Chambersburg, PA, summer of 1982.  I knew even then that the song was cheesy.  But good!  In '84 I met a girl who I thought looked a lot like Katrina, in a very nice way.  A decade later, I remember noticing it on the radio one afternoon while exiting the parking lot of my old place at Five Oaks.  "Gee, I like this song," I said to myself.  Because I do.  Another song that gives me a similar smile: Don't Get Me Wrong.  I think that because the Pretenders are doing it, DGMW is actually cheesier than WoS.  And yes, I still like it.  Nobody plays either of these songs on the radio any more, but you can play Katrina on YouTube, and Chrissie Hynde live from 2007: Don't Get Me Wrong.

Dos Gardenias - Ibrahim Ferrer.   You heard this on Buena Vista Social Club, yes you did.  when Dave and I were in Cuba, we wondered how often we'd hear people covering the tunes.  I think we heard them only once, in Havana Vieja (the tourist side of the capital).  Ferrer sings on stage in a rendition that features the piano more than the horn. A tu lado viviraaaaan!

El Calderito - Compay Segundo.   The original source is gone so I've put them here. El Calderito -- lyrics took forever to find.  They are here now (must link to my own site).  A silly song if you sang it only in English.  Folk songs and children's songs.  OK to be simple.  Is simple OK for others as well?  A sketch.  Not even a scene.  Just flashes of what's there in the story.  I don't normally like the "quack/beep" style of horn but in this song it works just great for me.  Horns aside, I love the guitar in this song, especially the short set of chromatic descending chords at ~2'16", echoed at ~2'45". Sorry no video available for El Calderito, but here's a neat Compay Segundo performance of Como La Avellaneda (aka Camagüey ?) with dancers.  It's not Segundo's best music, but the dancing is fun.  For a better Segundo track online, try Es Mejor Vivir Así with subtitles so you can sing along, even if you don't speak Spanish.

My Brain is Like a Sieve - Thomas Dolby.  My housemate David Kamp introduced me to this album our junior year in college when somebody (Steve? Me?) cooked a spicy dinner that made Kamp think of Hot Sauce while we were living at this neat house. I overplayed the hell out of it senior year in this beautiful house, and never got tired.  Along with Joe Jackson's double Live 1980/1986 album (and Body and Soul which includes Happy Ending), they were the first pop albums that I seriously listened to for their musical structure and technique. It may be because I'd taken a music theory course the previous semester.  Pal Dave says, "you know, of course, that you don't listen to Joe Jackson for the singing." But I digress. What I loved about this song was the harmony, with the alto singing harmony on top of the title words.  Can you tell whose voice adds the one word "murder"?  You know him.  I know you do.  Live performance (unappealing to me) here.  Studio version (the one I love) here. Harmonies begin at 0'17".  Previous blog on backup singers.  Enrevanche's blog on backup singers.

Toledo - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach.  I think this album is stunning and thought about finding a way to do one of its tunes at karaoke.  But a very cool person I was seeing at the time suggested, "You'd have to do it as an "over the top" cover."  Huhn?  Apparently she thought it was too cheesy for the "younger generation" of which was she was.  I considered her advice and decided to leave well enough alone. Pal Dave who introduced me to this album has family in Toledo.  (Ohio, that is.)  Toledo, from Sessions at West 54th.  Did you know that Elvis Costello is married to Diana Krall?

Jackie What the World Needs Now - Jackie Deshannon. Elvis Costello also does this Burt Bacharach tune in Austin Powers (music only), but I'm giving you the Jackie Shannon performance, since you already have a Costello/Bacharach collaboration.  I took this from the soundtrack to My Best Friend's Wedding, which is worth seeing if only for this awesome Main Title featuring Ani DiFranco's Wishin' and Hopin'.  The opening scene in the restaurant might be enough to put off anyone who knows -anything- about restaurant reviews, but really, the whole movie is pretty cool  (OK, Dermot Mulroney acts a poorly written part, but never mind).  The story line could have gone on a much lesser route.  Rupert Everett's character keeps nudging things the right direction.  BTW -- do you think we don't need any more mountains and meadows? I can't find the Jackie Deshannon version online, but here's another song of hers, When You Walk In the Room. Or "Put a Little Love in Your heart."  Which is also covered by Leanord Nimoy.

Nightswimming - REM.  Here's the video.(With some nudity.  Where did it run?) And here at Wikipedia, I learn it was an oboe, not a horn. I'm pining for the moon / And what if there were two / Side by side in orbit / Around the fairest sun? What does good art require?  Some blend of imagination, composition and technique are three of the first things that come to mind.  REM puts them together so well in this piece.  I seem to recall others that try to approximate the effect of Nightswimming, but the magic reaction never happens, and the piece doesn't bubble into greatness.

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Bonus Track : If I ever do a volume 2 of horns, it will probably have Ain't Even Done with the Night, just so I can share the video again.

11:44 PM in Music | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 22, 2009

I-H8-I-40

I-H8-I-40

I-H8-I-40. 

Spotted on I-40 eastbound, ~6:45 today.  Slow traffic because of what looked like a five-car fender-bender at the I-40/WadeAve. split.

I wonder if there are versions of this plate around Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque or Bakersfield.

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For the record, I was in the passenger seat.

12:28 AM in Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (3)

Durham Fountain

Durham Water Fountain

On the northeast corner of downtown, a public water fountain and garden.  Still pleasant despite the weenie water pressure and the loud HVAC unit across the street.  "There's a fountain here?" exclaimed my friend as we walked by.  Her offices are in the building top right but she'd never had reason to walk in the fountain's direction until I invited her for a visit at Urban Ministries of Durham.

You notice different things when you're on foot, of course.  I first saw this then-dry fountain during the ~2000 Great Human Race which looped around the fountain at the halfway mark. 

I'm told that we're officially "not in drought" for the moment.  Enjoy it while you can -- a treat that has so far escaped the gov't budget cuts.

12:04 AM in Destination Durham | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2009

Durham Station -- by Jay at FortuitousCapture.com

Durham station awesome

I came across this great photo while trolling the internet for a pic of Durham Station.  Photographer Jay at FortuitousCapture.com was kind enough to permit my reposting.  Click to enlarge.

10:26 PM in Destination Durham | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 17, 2009

Las Vegas Airport Slots

Las Vegas airport slots

Slot machines at the Las Vegas airport.

The payout system at Gate C11 was surprisingly low-security.  I watched one player cash out: she hit "print" on her machine then handed the slip to a "casino" staffer, who walked twenty feet to another staffer who paid out the winnings from the pile of cash in her fanny pack.  "Winning again?" asked the fanny staffer.  "Yes," said the other, "one more time."  I think the player took ~$200.

So different from the way Robert DeNiro described things in Martin Scorcese's Casino.  I'd send you to a video of my favorite scene but the legal folks at YouTube have disabled audio. Instead, the DeNiro narration in text:

In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino...  the dealers are watching the players... the boxmen are watching the dealers... the floormen are watching the boxmen... the pit bosses are watching the floormen... the shift bosses are watching the pit bosses... the casino manager is watching the shift bosses... I'm watching the casino manager... and the eye in the sky is watching us all.

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Screenplay courtesy of Script-o-Rama.com.

Pic courtesy of me, from an April layover.

10:34 PM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)

Christian Laettner is a Jerk. It's Official - Grant Hill Said So.

Christian_laettner  From a ~February Sports Illustrated interview:

Dan Patrick (SI): This is my idea for a reality show: Have a camera crew follow Christian Laettner in full Duke uniform through Kentucky during March Madness to get people's reactions.

Grant Hill: Laettner is a little bit of a jerk, and I mean that in the nicest way.  He'd probably do it for free.

DP: Why was he such a jerk, even to his own teammates?

GH: Everything was a competition.  He liked to get under people's skin.  We had a great group of guys and we all liked each other, but Laettner was an ass.  He would pick fights with guys, like a big bully.  But it would carry over onto the court.  And he was so good, so competitive.

DP: If I said you could have traded him for Larry Johnson...

GH: Never.  I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Christian.

To my dying day, I will not understand how my Kentucky alumna mom was happy with the 1992 East Regional, even if she was a longtime Durham resident by then.  (Said mom also has a photo with Grant Hill, bent over like a question mark to stay in the picture.)  Also to my dying day, I will not understand why I continue to care.

See my favorite re-enactment here in "Lo-Def Productions Presents...Kentucky vs. Duke - Buzzer Beater":  McKinney in Durham did the brilliant piece (with Christian's own "piece").  If you dig the advertising industry, check out this related writeup.

Here is my second-favorite re-enactment, with Chris Farley:

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Image yoinked from ESPN, 2004.

08:37 PM in Quotables | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 16, 2009

Star Trek. Yes. And Departures with Mr. Bond.

I tend to be a fault-finder when I go to movies at the theatre.  All the bad stuff amplified on screen and in surround-sound, plus the cost of admission, snacks, and sitting in one place for 90 minutes makes it easy for me to get annoyed by flaws.  That said, I enjoyed the holy crap out of Star Trek.  If ever there was a movie with potential to disappoint or annoy me, this was it. But I loved it.  I might even do the unheard of and see it -again- in a theatre, but this time at IMAX in Raleigh, now that I know it doesn't shake so much that it would disturb me.

My one modest disappointment (no spoilers, here) is that they didn't use any of the footage from the first Trailer, which K and I saw before the slighty better than "meh" Quantum of Solace.  Imagine seeing this trailer in a dark theatre if you didn't know it was about Star Trek:

Casino Royale may have been the last theatre movie that didn't disappoint or annoy me in any way. Coincidentally, Casino Royale and Star Trek are both movies that gave themselves license to move forward with a new take on an old series. Casino Royale introduced an emotionally complex Bond who declared his independence from the old Bond* in this brief dialogue with a bartender:

James Bond: [after Bond has just lost his 10 million in the game] Vodka-martini.
Bartender: Shaken or stirred?
James Bond: Do I look like I give a damn?

Star Trek's departure is done in a different way, but it's just as clear.

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*actually, he's also declaring his independence from the Bond of ~15 minutes earlier, who ordered his martini with much detail.  A Bond who changes because of how he feels.  Fascinating.  Much like the new Spock.

01:37 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 14, 2009

Drums in Downtown Durham -- Let the Asheville-ization Begin

At Five Points on Tuesday: one dude with drums, beating out the same pattern for like two hours.

Durham drummer

Will we soon have our own Asheville Drumming Circle?

10:22 PM in Destination Durham, Music | Permalink | Comments (1)

Zoom to Glide -- Watts Club Mix ca. 2007

Zoom to Glide was my first-ever mix CD.  I made it for the "Watts Club", a quartet of former colleagues who thought back in 2006 that we might meet once a a season for dinner and music swaps.  You can guess how that schedule worked out, but absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I look forward to seeing them again before long.

Though MP3 players have killed the habit of listening to a single CD straight through, I arranged the tracks in Zoom to Glide with the assumption that they'd be heard in order. It starts fast and loud, then slows to something less lively.  It's good for people like me: I still use a CD player in the car, and I don't enjoy it when my ears go from steady to revved up.  Kind of like my clutch doesn't like it, either.  Let me know if you'd like a copy.  Below, my very first liner notes (which I produced this week, two years after the CD) with many links to the music:

Gravikords Pacific 3-2-1 Zero [Excerpt] - Phil Dadson. From Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones.  I learned only now that this piece "was conceived as a clear and passionate response to nuclear testing and dumping in the Pacific". You'll recognize the opening from the Greek folk song Miserlou (Dick Dale video), which you've heard extracted in other settings.

Pump It - Black Eyed Peas.  And again with the Miserlou.  I first saw the BEP in some TV commercial that had will.i.am yelling "Louder!"  I thought, "Damn, that's impressive stuff for just a TV commercial" but soon learned that it was those "Black Eyed Peas" I'd been hearing about for a year.  Cool.  I mean, "Louder!"  (apl.de.ap is from Pampanga, Philippines, the province next door to my mother's home.)  A naval carrier squadron lip syncs.  Chuckles.

Sell Out - Reel Big Fish.  Do you remember the ska comeback of 1997-1998?  No?  Hmm.  I remember that my friend Brian Rice liked this song and that I saw the video exactly once while hanging out with him and friends in Mountain View (CA) during the early tech boom, right around the time Google incorporated in nearby Menlo Park.  Google now owns Mountain View.  And many other things.  They might even own Reel Big Fish.  "Baby don't you sign that paper tonight."  Unless Google's buying.  For a change, this song does not start with Miserlou.  Watch the fun Sell Out video here with the intro skit dubbed in Japanese.  (As commenter mayday992 asks "is it possible to be sad listening to reel big fsih")

Happy Hour - The Housemartins.  Twenty-three years I've been listening to this song and I still don't know the words.  What a shame.  By the way, the album this comes from is pronounced "London NIL, Hull 4", not "London Zero..."  See The Housemartins play, and dance and sing in a mid-80s pop video from when MTV still let performers run a non-musical skit for 60 seconds before the tune.

Me, Myself and I - De La Soul.  They're shilling for Nike now?  Remarkable.  They play on Arsenio.

Orton, Beth - Central Reservation - Stolen Car - Beth Orton.  "You were sitting, your fingers like fuses.  Your eyes, cinnamon."  I read that this song is a work of Orton's "folktronica" - a fusion of of folk and electronica.  Very well, then.  It is good.  Best friend Dave introduced me to this track and the next.  Stolen Car mix.

Central Reservation [Ben Watt Mix] - Beth Orton.  Where did I read that opera allows us to sing words we could never just say? And that asked, how does the universe decide who has the skill to put lyrics, voice and music together like Beth Orton? Central Reservation, live.

Oh What a Night - Wyclef Jean.  When I was a junior or senior, the Brown Concert Agency announced Wyclef Jean as our headliner for Spring Weekend.  Wyclef who?  One day I'll know something big before it's been big for five years.  Until then, I'll stumble around.  I remember listening to this track at the first of September last year, while winding west down the mountains from Yosemite National Park.  Before each series of tight curves, the California road managers tell you how many you'll see.  "Nine ahead," says the first sign.  "Eight more curves" says the second. Oh What a Night remix.

Les Portes Du Souvenir - Les Nubians.  "The Doors of Rememberance", according to Google's translation. As this song begins, I can imagine that Wyclef Jean will come in after the intro.  Instead we get one of the Faussart sisters.  Pulled from Dave's CD collection on a visit to San Francisco. Video.

11:11 - Rufus Wainwright.  From the same mix CD that brought me Beth Orton.  (It seems that if you like Zoom to Glide you'd also like Dave. Or at least his music.).  Once in 2003, model blogger Rebecky mentioned Rufus Wainwright as if we all knew who he was.  I didn't.  Some of my first Rufus Wainwright listening happened two years later, right hereLive performance from 2006.

Lagrimas Negras - Bebo Valdes and Cachao.  What good fortune brought me to Calle 54?  Dave and I looked for the street while we were in Havana, the former home of Bebo Valdes and current home of his fantastic son Chucho.  We never found the street because of course it is in New York.  Dave has declared that Bebo has no dynamic range in this piece, and that he shows his age.  Whatever.  I believe that I read somewhere that Bebo and Cachao were friends for decades and decades before making this first recording together in 2000.  Watch the video (I'm not asking, I'm telling.  Music starts around 1'30".)  Sometimes when I'm in bed, waiting to fall asleep, this piece enters my head and just plays and plays and plays.Other times, the duet of Bebo and son.

Terra Zona - The Burnt Earth Ensemble.  This is another track from Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones.  If you're interested in alternative musical instruments but don't already have this album and book, you know what I'd advise.  This piece and Pacific 3-2-1-Zero both remind me of Indonesian music though neither one is, so far as I know.

Erang Erang Erang-Erang Subuh - Gandrung Banywangi.  On the other hand, this piece is from Indonesia -- more specifically the eastern part of Java.  My father's ancestral home.  A place I don't visit enough.  Read more on this recording (sorry, no music).

U Plavu Zoru - Pink Martini.  Hear Pink Martini play it here.  See it arranged for cello here.  What language, do you ask?  Serbian, I'm told.

Una Notte a Napoli - Pink Martini.  See Pink Martini play it here in Italy. And grazie mille to K for introducing this band to me, I think on the first night we ever visited at her home.  Not long after, she gave me a beautifully wrapped package that I assumed was a hand-made notepad like the ones I'd seen in her art space.  The paper and ribbons were so pretty that I left the package intact for days.  It wasn't until she nudged me that I realized I ought open it.  Not a notepad but rather the Pink Martini which had impressed me so. "One night in Naples / With the moon and the sea / I met an angel / Who could no longer fly / One night in Naples / We forgot about the stars / And even without wings / He took me to the sky." In cielo mi portò.

Makeda - Les Nubians.  Hélène and Célia Faussart traveled from France to Chad to France and then the United States with a Top 10 R&B hit.  Good travels.  See them sing.

Rickie lee jones It Must Be Love - Rickie Lee Jones.  If I am sometimes sentimental, it is songs like this that feed the mood.  I remember bedtimes back in ~'91 when I'd play this song over and over on my cheap stereo, trying to decide whether I'd go to sleep or hear it again.  It might have been the last song on one side but I couldn't just let it play out while I drifted off.  You remember tape players, don't you -- the strain, squeal, and bam as they shut themselves off?  That's no way to fall asleep.  No video available, so here is just the music.

Lean On Me - The Housemartins.  This is a different Lean on Me than the Bill Withers song that all of us know and most of us love.  I won't say that this one is better but I will say that I love it more.  Know it for yourself.  Music and rest. Peace.

12:36 AM in Music | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 12, 2009

"Why Do I Like Living in Durham?" -- A Durham Neighborhood College Joint

I Heart Durham

Click it! ------> Why Do I Like Living in Durham? <------

Why Do I Like Living in Durham? is a 9-1/2 minute audio piece by my pal Sarah Ovenall and her teammates Allison Moy, Barbara Lau, Ricardo Correa and Joyce Logan at the Durham Neighborhood College.  Sarah pointed her microphone at me and it was fun.

To turn the tables, I emailed Sarah with some questions about the production. Read on for her fine responses about producing audio docs for the Durham Neighborhood College and for her WXDU show Divaville Lounge.

So, what's this Durham Neighborhood College thing?

Durham Neighborhood College is a ten week course about Durham government, jointly sponsored by the city and county. Each week representatives of different agencies come to the class and talk about what they do, where their funding comes from, how they make decisions, the problems they face, their upcoming goals, etc. I signed up because last year I did some political canvassing in neighborhoods I had never been to before, and often didn't even know were there. Cool neighborhoods where I met friendly, interesting people. It made me realize that despite living in Durham for 22 years, there's so much I don't know about it. I tend to stay in my own little area, go to the same places and see the same people. I wanted to learn more about Durham and the DNC seemed like a good place to start.

And why the audio documentary?  And why "Why Do I Like Living in Durham?"

The class broke into 4 groups which each had to do a project on the topic of "perceptions of Durham." Our group was lucky to get the "pro" argument. It's a lot easier to do a happy project about positive perceptions! 

The specific idea came from someone else in my group. She suggested we do a vox pop, short "man on the street" interviews with no names. (from the Latin vox populi, voice of the people). The original idea was that we use the information in the vox pop to decide what to do our project on. As we started collecting the interviews, we liked them so much that we decided to use the vox pop as the project itself.

The whole group collected the interviews, and then I edited it together into the finished piece. For the DNC presentation we added a slide show of drawings to go with the voices, drawn by a couple of kids we know.

Did the shape of the project change after you started recording?  After you started editing?

I initially thought it should be much longer. My (music) radio show is 2 hours so I'm used to thinking in much larger blocks of time. Due to the prep time available & the number of interviews we had, the version we played for the DNC ended up being about 5 minutes long. Which turned out just right for holding people's attention during a class. Longer than that and people would have been fidgeting in their seats.

After the DNC project was over I collected additional interviews and put together a longer version for WXDU, with music to break it up. That version was about 9-1/2 minutes and I think it worked well for radio.

Your production is 9-1/2 minutes long.  How much time did you spend planning/recording/editing?

I didn't do all the recordings, so I'm not sure how long that took. The ones I did sometimes had to be scheduled, and sometimes just happened off the cuff. For a couple of weeks I carried my recorder with me everywhere.

The editing took about 35-40 minutes for every minute of final audio. That's a bit long for me, because there were so many transitions. For a longer interview I usually plan to spend about 20 minutes editing for each minute of the finished piece.

How was it received?

The DNC class seemed to really enjoy it. It was a strange experience, to stand there watching people listen to audio I had produced. Very different from radio, where you have no contact with the audience. I used to overcome nervousness about being on the radio by telling myself no one was even listening. You can't do that when they're right in front of you!

Were there any things you hoped or expected to happen during the project?  Any things you hoped or expected to hear?

I didn't have any specific expectations, except that I know some really interesting people and I knew they would say good things.

How did you choose your interviewees?

We tried to get people from a range of ages, races, income levels and experiences. We were hoping to widen the range of what people might say, and also to reflect the broad range of people who live in Durham. Two of the people in the vox pop were members of the project -- the man who mentions the Durham Bulls, and the woman who says "funkytown." I regret that I didn't get to record a child or an older person. It would have been really good to have those perspectives in the mix. I did talk to an elderly woman who had lived her whole life in Durham, and she said all kinds of interesting things, but she refused to be recorded. Alas!

Did you worry people might say certain things you didn't want to hear?

I was kind of worried that we'd end up with an undiverse group saying "I like diversity!" over and over, which could sound a little clueless. And a lot of people did mention diversity, but it wasn't the only thing that was said so I think it worked.

Oh yes, "diversity."  How did/do you feel about the words "diversity" "funky" and "gritty"?

Well, some people were obviously looking for a euphemism for Durham's minority population. And some meant crime, which is a genuine issue in Durham, though outsiders perceive it as more of a problem than it actually is. I think people were trying to say that without coming right out and saying it.

But not everyone was euphemizing; I think some of them said "funky" and meant the fun culture in Durham, like the local music scene, or the people with homemade sculptures in their yards, things like that. There are pockets of cool weirdness all over Durham and I think that's a lot of what people were talking about. 

Not everyone bothered with euphemisms: one white guy (who we didn't end up using) came right out and said "I like that black people live here"!

Did anything else in the recording make you cringe? Laugh?

The part that made me laugh, of course, was the young woman saying that Durham is not the armpit of the state! I had a hard time not busting out laughing during the interview when she said that. 

The things that made me cringe weren't included in the final piece. Several people described their liking for Durham in terms of how much better it is than other nearby communities. Like the woman who said "It's not sterile," she actually said "It's not sterile like Chapel Hill." I don't agree with that, and besides, it's not necessary to trash other towns in order to make Durham sound good.

Also when people talked about diversity, sometimes they said cringe-inducing things. Like the guy who said he likes Durham because black people live here. Or another person said "I always wanted to visit Mexico, and now I don't have to because Mexico is moving here!" I'm pretty sure that person did not mean that the way it came out, so I edited it out. 

What were you delighted to discover about the process, or the people, or Durham?

One surprise was that the two people who have traveled the most, both described Durham people as up-front and lacking pretense. It's not something I'd ever thought about, and it was nice to hear!

On the technical side, I hadn't done field recordings before so that was a good learning experience. It's very different from a long interview in a controlled environment.

Many folks want to try their hand at audio docs.  Any advice?

Listen to programs that are doing what you want to do. Don't just listen to what they're saying, but how it sounds: how is it paced? how do they build tension? if there's narration, when does the narrator break in? if there's music, how do they use it? do they edit out all the "ums" or leave a few in? All of those decisions were made for a reason. 

There's a website called Transom.org which is full of advice about audio documentary. The site is specifically aimed at breaking into public radio, but it's useful for anyone doing audio work.

And if you live near Durham, contact WXDU. They have a weekly half-hour documentary program called Durham Noise Network and they are very welcoming of new people.

Speaking of WXDU, tell me about your soundtrack...

The music was two different versions of the theme from the movie The Third Man. It's one of my all-time favorite movies, and if you haven't seen it, you really should! I used the original version which appeared in the movie, played on the zither by Anton Karas, and then a really fun version by the Skatalites.

The music almost made it too easy: it makes everything sound good.

You've done some solo documentary work, haven't you?

I do a show on WXDU about old music like Tin Pan Alley, pop and jazz from the 20s to the 60s. Occasionally I do interviews, and last year I did a series about WWII that I'm proud of: a man who was a child in England during the war, another who was a child in Sicily during the war, and a WWII veteran who served in the US Navy. It was really interesting to hear such different points of view. (the one from England also happens to be my dad.)

I'm working now on a series of interviews with older people who experienced that great music when it was new. So if you know any older folks with interesting musical experiences -- they danced to big bands in the 40s, they went to a famous nightspot to hear the music, they saw a great singer back in the day -- please put them in touch with me!

And where can we find Divaville?

My show is called Divaville Lounge, Sundays from 2-4pm. http://www.divavillelounge.org If you like old music, check it out!

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Photo yoinked from Zazzle.com where you can buy the shirt and more.

02:44 PM in Destination Durham, Quotables | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 11, 2009

"Chalkmark -- When You Forget to Care Enough to Send the Very Best"

Mother's day cement

I forget to get a Mother's Day card but had found some sidewalk chalk at the house where I'm currently sitting.  Scribbled this out just before the folks showed up for lunch.

Dad took porch pix of me and mom (on his camera, therefore not shared).  Then mom took some pix of me and dad after I strategically placed a piece of paper marked "DAD" and another piece marked "FA".

"Philin" is my parents' nickname for me, in case you didn't know.

12:14 AM in Misc. 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2009

We Want Oprah to be Sipping Drinks by the Pool, Waving to Friends in the Plaza

The Upper Deck Patio and Pool

The Upper Deck to CCB

The Upper Deck

Changes in the last year: Ronnie Sturdivant got shot.  "We Want Oprah" signage came down.  "We Got Obama" signage went up.  Oprah got Elizabeth Edwards.  And Duke Got Oprah.

Meanwhile, the old Washington Duke / Jack Tar Motel remains mostly in rot.  Blue Coffee is the standout tenant.  A few others pay rent and the parking deck gets a dozen or so fares each day.  What a waste.  What a drain on Durham's energy.  On this, all agree.

But I'll go minority voice with a followup: I think it's an excellent (and rare) good example of 1960s-modern commercial architecture in Durham.  Clean it up and take away the air conditioning units, and you'd have a very hip collection of hotel rooms or urban apartments.  Of course, I'm sure that whoever owns the building (Hank Scherich and the Sturdivant heirs perhaps?) has plans that start with "tear it down".  But I can dream, can't I?

Imagine summertime drinks by the pool, waving to friends in the plaza...  Did you even know they had a pool?

Links: 

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Pardon the craptastic photos. It was grey day and even it wasn't, my Blackberry camera sucks eggs.

11:10 PM in Destination Durham | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 08, 2009

The Tip Calculator

IPhoneTipScreen Back when 15% was an appropriate tip, I used to calculate the amount by dividing the bill by seven then rounding up slightly (because 1/7 = 14.3%, not 15%). Then someone mentioned their method: divide the total by ten (i.e., just slide the decimal over) then add half again. Much easier, dang.

Now that a 20% tip seems to be the norm, I try to do the smart thing -- divide by ten and then double. But I often catch myself dividing by seven (old habit) then correcting myself by dividing by five.

Two links:

1.  Seinfeld's The Wizard.  Tip calculator at 9:40.  ("It does other things!")  I'm still amazed at how many stories Seinfeld crams into 28 minutes.  Tip calculator.  Interracial couple.  House in the Hamptons.  Kramer for Condo Board President.

2.  Excerpt from the Washington Post Style Invitational Week 523, in which readers submit ways to make modern life harder than necessary.  I think that one of the WP's examples was "Change 911 emergency number to 134599671A".

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Photo yoinked from Carlos Perez.  It's his first app!

12:10 AM in Food | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 06, 2009

Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears for Fears

Antwerp, 2006.  Tres cool.  I'll bet those tickets were dear.

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Song on my mind because I just found out that an article I wrote for a client is now titled "Sowing the Seeds."  Song also on my mind because you should visit this Name That Number One music quiz blog of mine, if you haven't already.  Or even if you have -- because the videos are great, dammit, and I put a lot of time into it! :-)

11:38 PM in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2009

Burdening the Victim

By nature and profession, I solve problems, optimize, improve outcomes.  I create options, suggest new perspectives, and -- maybe most importantly when I'm doing it right -- I ask people to hope for higher things.

Most of the time, these things are good.

And sometimes, they're not at all what's wanted or needed.

Sometimes, what's wanted or needed is simple listening.  Or support for a choice I wouldn't have made, myself.  Or some other thing that isn't a suggestion. 

I remember this on occasion.  And not nearly enough.

Today, Carolyn Hax sent me a reminder:

CAROLYN HAX

By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dear Carolyn:

My significant other and I are both in our early 50s. We are very much in love. My future mother-in-law probably suffers from borderline personality disorder and my SO no longer wishes to relate to her.

I can understand why some may classify her as borderline. She didn't nurture her daughter. Instead, family life consisted of complaining, one way or another, that the responsibilities of raising her little daughter ruined her life. When she heard her daughter may have finally met her soul mate (me), her reaction was to complain that my SO was abandoning her.

My future father-in-law spent most of his career traveling and now has Alzheimer's. I have asked my SO to at least be civil and call her family once in a while. Her father may be in la-la land, but perhaps he has some lucid moments when a call from his daughter might be appreciated. But that means her mother will pick up the phone, and my SO is adamant about avoiding her and not feeling guilty about it, and does not need me to resurrect the issue.

Of course I did not have to walk in her shoes growing up, but I see her mother not as an evil witch, but as a pathetic and lonely 82-year-old woman. Any thoughts?

Compassionate Observer

Yes, Compassionate Observer. Please ask yourself: compassionate to whom?

You don't seem to doubt "Sarah" ("SO" is s-o dreary) -- you accept her account of her childhood as true. She was emotionally abused.

And since that's such a detached, clinical description of what your beloved lived through, let's imagine Sarah as a little girl. Now let's tell this little Sarah she's a complete waste of her mother's time.

You say this mother complained of ruin "one way or the other," so, to be accurate, let's also tell our little-girl Sarah that she . . . ruined Mother's figure . . . killed Mother's dreams . . . kept Mother from having any fun . . . cost money that Mother wanted to spend on herself . . . in other words, let's tell Sarah that her feelings, her dreams, her very presence, are worth less than even the most trivial things her mother had to sacrifice for her.

The Sarah I envision is 5 or 6 -- cognizant yet childlike -- but to be even more accurate, let's start calling our little Sarah worthless when she's too young to understand, then pelt her unrelentingly for half a century.

Now, I repeat my question: compassionate to whom?

It is possible, of course, the mother herself was subjected to such abuse. Showing compassion is not a zero-sum game.

However, you made your case to Sarah that the woman she sees as an evil witch is also "a pathetic and lonely 82-year-old woman" -- and that her father (who, by the way, completely failed to protect his own child) would appreciate a call when he's lucid. For Sarah's sake, to help her screen her decision for future guilt or regrets, these were fine arguments to make. Once.

Sarah has not only rejected your (apparently) repeated appeals but also asked you not to "resurrect the issue."

So here's my appeal: Someone who claims the "soul mate" title ought to be gentle with her soul. Stop backing the horse that trampled the person you love.


I hope they won't mind me copying this article in full text.  In case it helps, let me encourage you to click the link which includes a clever cartoon.

12:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)