Monday, July 28, 2008

Suddenly I got a fright...

In the fall of 1987 during my senior year in college, a flier appeared on the table of my dorm about a feature film that would be shooting on our humble little campus located 30 minutes north of Manhattan. From what the paper read, it was a horror story involving murder on a college campus (wow, that’s never been done before) and if anybody was interested in small bit parts or extra work all one needed to do was to show up looking like a "Typical" college student.

Me and my buddy's were on our way to a Saturday football game and thought that if we actually remembered, on the way home perhaps we’d stop by the mall and pick up supplies to silkscreen a fake frat logo on a couple of sweatshirts. We figured that would get us a little play over the other drama students who would certainly be out in full force looking for their big break. We ended up doing just that and when the location producer caught a glimpse us the next morning, quickly thrusted into our hands was a script. “Wha?” was our collective response. “Yeah, the director wants you guys for this scene. Read the script and be ready to take your cue from him when the time comes”. Sweet! We all thought. The film was called 'Fright House'. It starred Grampa Al Lewis and a bunch of other C list local actors. It was supposed to be in the same horror farce vein as one of our favs of the day Troma Films “The Toxic Avenger” which we watched religiously every Fri/Saturday night after stumbling back to the dorms from a typical night of debauchery.

In addition to the big scene we did as a group, I ended up in a few other scenes in various costume as well, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of really. The only real problem with putting me and any of my buddy's in a feature length movie was that not a one of us could actually act, or had any aptitude for it whatsoever. At the time this fact didn't seem to be strange at all to us, nor matter to anybody else including the director. Maybe this acting thing is all a sham we thought. The long awaited finished product went straight to video (where else) and it was horrible by any standard.

This weekend my dad was out looking at IMDb for reviews of flicks he wanted to add to his Netflix list and decided to see what they had to say about his number two son’s brief foray into the world of cinema. Here’s what the two reviews said:

“It's two hours more or less on the mark, one hour per story. Problem is that it feels longer. Part One concerns a snarky detective (actor/producer Paul Borghese) who stumbles upon a coven of witches looking to free their master from hell or something like that. Some bared breasts and Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis, being a sport) supply the only genuine interest. Meanwhile odd things are happening back at the local college creephouse involving human sacrifices, staged suicide jokes, and lots of bad 80's haircuts. Borghese is simply awful, the production utterly uninspired and whatever shocks or gore there is are easily missed if you get up & go to the bathroom at the wrong moment. The problem is that the consumption of beer is about the only way to make it through this and the frequent use of plumbing a by-product of such an undertaking. Too bad: If Grandpa Munster can't even liven up a movie you know it is perhaps time for a re-write.”

(editors note: I didn't get to see any of the bared breastisizz. Even female nudity couldn't save this flick. Sadly, the haircut comment might just be referring to me too.)

Ouch! Here's another...

“This review contains some SPOILERS. Don't read it if you plan on seeing this movie, something you should not do anyway.Taking two short movies, putting them together, and making one movie should double your pleasure, double your fun, right? It should be such a wonderful pairing that it multiplies your happiness by two, right? Well, no, actually it DIVIDES it by two-thousand! For years I wondered if `Fright House' would be an interesting movie, but I was always afraid to rent it. I was always afraid that it would be stupid. Well, finding no one who saw it and no reviews here, I finally rented it and saw it. Yes, it was stupid, but nothing could prepare me for the horror that I was about to see. Now, by saying `horror' I didn't mean this was a scary movie. By using that word, I meant that it was everything about it was pure horror to the viewing eye. Dear Readers, this movie is really terrible.”

So went any hopes for a rags to riches Hollywood story for me. I could feel my dad’s utter disappointment coming through my computer screen 20 years later. I guess the saving grace is that I don’t think the film ever made it to DVD. That’s doubly good since it benefits both me and the viewing public. Sort of like having been in a porno flick. With any luck, my daughter will be spared from ever seeing this film.

Funny thing is, my wife actually BOUGHT a VHS copy of this while we were dating and STILL married me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This can't be good...

Out of all the Democratic candidates who ran for their party’s coveted nomination this year, the one individual I liked the least was John Edwards. I’ve thought he was a shifty bastard going all the way back to the last presidential election. I won’t bother to recap my complete and utter distrust for the guy, but you can take my word for it.

Looks like my feelings might just be pretty well founded. I heard about this on the radio on the way in this morning and was shocked that MSM hasn’t picked up on it yet, but my hunch is that they are simply verifying accounts with witnesses. If it turns out to be hype by a shit rag of a pseudo newspaper, they ought to be drawn and quartered for going to print with it, but if it’s true, the dude's cred is toast and his political career is done needless to say.

I'll refrain from further debasement of the guy until more of the story comes out. For the record and for his wife’s sake I hope it’s not true.

UPDATE: What he said...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm talkin' 'bout the tape, the tape of love...

Well, other than the show I blogged about below, life has been pretty slow in the summer months here in Atlanta. Not that it’s been bad, just relatively uneventful. The respite has helped me discover the swimming pool in my back yard that I’ve been paying to fix for the last year. I’ve been cursing the damn thing since we moved in, but the gods have elected to ease up on me for now, and it’s been pretty sweet to hang out and goof off with my kid I have to say.

Last week I had a young bass player in the studio who wanted to work up a couple of racks to send to a song writing partner of his. It went really well and I’m hoping my offer to record his band works out. While I was duping CD copies of the sessions for him, I looked to the tape shelf and pulled out a sixteen track analog master tape of a recording session myself and good friend of mine did back in 1989. He was writing a bunch of killer tunes and playing some great guitar. Recording them seemed to be the right thing to do. With my income tax refund in hand, I booked a three day after work hours session up in a Warwick NY studio. My old studio partner made the trip up from Georgia to play drums on the tunes and a guy who ended up playing bass in a band that resulted from these recordings filled that spot.

Since I’ve not heard any of the tunes in a long time, I have to work from memory with regard to the project, but a few things come to mind: I remember that the experience we had under our belts based on four years of messing around in our own studio paid off in spades. We got more done than what we originally set out to do on account of not having to go through what I call the “awe” period of studio work. It was a feeling of great accomplishment to “produce” the session as well. My buddy and I had very good ideas for how we wanted the songs to come out and we’re able to work with the engineer to achieve that. Familiarity with the process hindered us a bit since we also forgot that this was not our studio we were working in, and we were actually on the clock. Perhaps we could have got more done if we’d have kept a better pace. In hindsight, we should have invested in more takes I’d say.

I also remember discovering the importance of rehearsal, especially between bass player and drummer. My buddy and I had been working on his tunes for awhile, but the drummer and bass player had never played together before and if my recollection serves me you can hear it in the results. Both drummer and bassist were very competent players, but nothing makes things stick together like a bass player and drummer who can lock into each other. Lesson learned.

The guy that owned the place liked our stuff so much that he wanted to put a band together with us and it was shortly after this juncture we discovered what a dingus he was when all of a sudden when we suggested we build a set list based on original material and old blues work ups we were doing, he emphatically insisted we start learning some classic rock standards. It was a long ass drive out to Warwick anyway, and while it was fun to rehearse in the guys amazing studio and tape the sessions even, we were done with him that quick.

Which brings us back to today. See, I’ve got a Tascam MS-16, the same machine we did the session on back in 1980 in my studio. It doesn’t get much of a work out these days, but it’s in tip top shape (I’d LOVE to do a session with it if anybody is interested. Free of charge of course). I decided to rack that tape up to check it out and see what was there. I was hoping for better, but as I suspected was going to be the case (based on previously having to deal with the same problem a few years back), the tape suffers from “hydrolysis”, or in laymans terms "Tape Shedding". Years ago while making my first attempts at analog to digital conversion, I was distraught by these 15 year old 1/2" tapes I was working with grinding to a halt during playback and leaving copious amounts of goo all over the tape guides and heads. Turns out that in the early 70’s the green lobby began hammering the tape manufacturers with allegations of using carcinogenic chemicals in the glue that binds oxide to tape. As a result, tape manufacturers had to react quickly with a remedy and rush replacement glue out that was never age tested. It was almost twenty years before the catastrophe was discovered as tapes were being retrieved from archives for CD digital re-master and corrective measures could be developed. Most of the tape manufactured between 1972 and the mid 80’s is affected by this.

Fortunately, the big brains have come up with a remedy if not a temporary one. Apparently, slow baking an afflicted tape can temporarily stabilize and rebind the oxide for about 30 days before the old symptoms eventually begin to reoccur. So that’s what I’m doing with this tape: I’m sending it off to a restoration guy (the guy who wrote the article I linked to above) who is going to bake it and hotshot it back to me to transfer to digital. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to see how it comes out since I elected not to bake the tapes I attempted to transfer years ago. I’ll let you know how it goes and if there are any decent tunes on the tape, I’ll mix them out and post them here.

Wish me luck.

And for those that have stuck with this post to this point, did I mention that a friend called me last night and offered me a spare front floor section ticket to Rush tonight?

Oh how sweet it is!!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Music, Music, Music...

My week began with Jackson prodding me for a review of the new Judas Priest album. My brother gave me a copy of it during our reunion last week, but Mrs. Alva refused to let me plop it into the car’s CD player during the drive home. I was going to get to it yesterday, but after my brother mentioned the most excellent Frank Zappa album ‘Zoot Allures’ in a recent blog post, I got hooked on that instead. I WILL get to it Jackson, don’t worry.

Had a unexpected recording session this week with a young bass player looking to commit a couple of ideas to tape to share with some song writing buddies of his. Good kid and a great player.

Another excu... I mean, reason for not getting to the JP release (seeing a pattern of avoiding the JP album here), is I needed to spend my drive time re-familiarizing myself with the T Bone Burnett produced Alison Krauss/Robert Plant album ‘Raising Sand’ ahead of the concert we attended last night. Jackson’s and the Misanthrope’s opinion of Robert Plant, as well as Mrs. Alva’s for that matter, are well know to many and I myself run hot and cold on his vocal stylings (1st Zep and ‘Presence’ album MOST awesome, ‘I’m in the Mood For a Melody’ and most of his solo work dreadful), but even the reluctant Mrs. Alva had to concede that the guy delivered the goods last night.

This was the second time seeing Alison Krauss with Bob and Betty Builder at Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheatre. The first time was when the Down from the Mountain Tour pulled into town a few years back. Down from the Mountain was a tour produced by T Bone Burnett which he launched on the heals of the overwhelming success of the soundtrack to the Cohen Brother’s film “O’ Brother Where Art Thou”. It included a menagerie of artists who lent their infinite talents to the film’s sound track along with some of the best bluegrass players in the world. Mrs. Alva and I were both immediately smitten with her as she and Emmy Lou Harris delivered an angelic version of “Down to the River to Pray”. It also happened to be the show where I first heard the haunting Darrell Scott penned tune ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive’. Patty Loveless ripped through her rendition and I’ve been mesmerized by her and the tune ever since.

Alison Krauss can certainly hold her own and her band Union Station are arguably the best of the genre, T Bone Burnett along with a gang of top shelf players need no help either, but it was Plant who worried the four of us to varying degrees as we found our way to our seats. Especially since we paid $85 for face value for them. The ‘Raising Sand’ album is fantastic which is no surprise since just about everything T Bone touches is da bomb (not much beats the 1st and 2nd Peter Case records and to argue would only prove your tone deafness). But Plant impressed the most ardent skeptic last night. He possesses that familiar awe of American blues artists of yore so common amongst his British invasion brethren and humbly pays tribute to them all. I think this kind of music suits him well at his age. Absent were the attempts at high notes he can no longer hit and so prevalent at past Page/Plant shows. With both the ‘Raising Sand’ record and show, T Bone has managed to convey to him that he doesn’t have to try and relive his youth vocally. What we heard was a humble, somewhat subdued, but most importantly, comfortable Robert Plant for this show.

Yes, they worked in some organic arraignments of a couple of Zep songs (‘Black Dog’ eh, not so good, ‘Battle of Evermore’ phenomenal) and my least favorite song of his ever the aforementioned ‘I’m in the Mood For a Melody’ which actually took an amazing turn for the better when they segued into the 17th century folk love triangle tale ‘Matty Groves’. Other than those indulgences, it was all tracks from the record along with a few Alison favs including her beautiful a capella “Down to the River to Pray” with Robert and T Bone backing her beautiful voice.

I’m batting a thousand as far as concerts at Chastain go to date. I appreciated the fact that they turned it up a bit in comparison to previous shows we’ve seen there (the amphitheatre sits smack dab in the middle of some high dollar residental real estate). We’ve got Mark Knopfler at the end of the month which should be another winner. I hope he plays every song from “All The Road Running” album, peppered with stuff from “Ragpickers Dream”. It’s not a lot to ask for really.

Set list from last night:

Rich Woman / Leave My Woman Alone / Black Dog / Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us / Through the Morning, Through the Night / Goodbye and So Long to You / Fortune Teller / In the Mood (into Matty Groves) / Black Country Woman / Primitives / Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler / Trampled Rose / Green Pastures / Down to the River to Pray / Killing the Blues / Nothin’ / The Battle of Evermore / Please Read the Letter / Gone Gone Gone // You Don’t Knock / One-Woman Man / Your Long Journey

Now, let me drop this 'Nostradamas' disc in and see what magic Judas Priest have managed to make...

Monday, July 07, 2008

The slide back into the familiar...

Well, I’m back. I hope you’re all still coming by. Turns out the place our family was camped out had cable internet service, but you had to go down to the pool table room and plug in with the wire to use it. I couldn’t be away from the action long enough to bother with it, sorry.

The reunion was a blast. We had a much nicer place to stay than our spot in Lake Tahoe last time around. Biggest upgrade: Air conditioning. It makes a world of difference when sleeping off hangovers, and since EVERYDAY involved consuming copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, sleeping in shade drawn air conditioned rooms is now a steadfast requirement for future get togethers of this nature. The golf course was less than an 1/8 of a mile from our door step. The vista from our place was magnificent. While I’m inclined to say that Lake Tahoe was the better venue by a long shot, the accommodations at this place made up for the locale.

Of course, the best part of the trip was hanging out with our cousins and their families. Within our small family there have been all the archetypical successes, failures, problems, trail, and tribulations, but it still humbles me to no end how much fun we have in each others company. At one point, my father thought that our faux competitiveness was getting out of hand, but he was worrying about nothing. We’ve seemed to have reached an age where we can handle the mutual slagging we give each other and enjoy the laugh. My cheeks are still sore from all the laughing and I’m still giggling over certain points of our merriment. That’s the common bond with all of us: nobody takes themselves too seriously. Outsiders might be shocked at what they’d witness (my 70-year-old aunt flashing her boobs to distract contestants in one of our 4th of July picnic challenges comes to mind. Thank god I was not competing in that particular heat. I have a feeling that I’d be unable to go on living a normal life after being in the crosshairs of that), but it just is what it is with us. One can not walk away from our reunion without the full belief that we all have each others backs no matter what. I can’t wait for the next one on the left coast. Santa Cruz sounds good to me guys.

I’m doing my best to catch up with all of your blogs and will get to them post haste. A few random thoughts before I go read the thousand e-mails I have in my inbox…

- FINALLY something I can appreciate about Barack Obama. His acquiescence to the facts about the situation in Iraq is a POSITIVE attribute and one that I admire. I’ve been wearing out my more liberal friends telling them that any candidate who goes into the fall pledging to pull our forces out of Iraq immediately following inauguration is full of shit and should be called for it. The fact is that things are progressing forward and real hope for stability is building. To ruin a chance at future stability, even after all we’ve done wrong to date, would be a kick in the teeth to a nation of people who now rely on us. We must finish the job and anybody who is going to be our president must understand this. We should be talking about reality, not bullshitting and appealing to emotions, or getting “payback” for Bush doctrine. Pointing out Bush’s mistakes will get you elected, but you will still need to clean up the mess once elected. Fucking that up by leaving Iraq to terrorists and secular division would put any successor in the same boat. I still won’t vote for Barack at this point, but I feel better about the guy who looks to be the shoe in.

- On the issue of flip flopping… I’ve never understood this notion of firm policy stance. Yes, some things require a concrete absolute position at the issues core, but others demand CONSTANT re-evaluation. When gas is $1.50 a gallon we can afford to keep the gulf free of ugly drilling rigs and the useless ANWR track untouched, but when it pings the $4.00 a gallon mark we no longer have that luxury. Both candidates should be able to say this without hurting their electability. Same goes for nuke power. Why haven’t we started turning dirt on 500 new nuke plants? Bury the shit in the desert and be done with it already.

- It’s official: I will not be going to Q school to grab my card and join the PGA tour next year. Out of four rounds of golf played last week, I failed to break below 100 in any of them. Mountain golf is a hard game to play, but the plain truth is I stink. If it wasn’t for the great company in my pairings I’d have picked up at least one of those rounds and headed back to the club house. Not giving up the game by any means, just wallowing in my utter suckiness. God, when does football season begin?

- One thing to look forward to this week will be the Robert Plant/Alison Kraus show at Chastain Park Thursday night with some friends that we’ve not seen in way too long. I’m sure Jackson will groan, but the Plant and Kraus along with T-Bone have made an amazing album.