Saturday, October 7, 2017

He's back. And, better.


For those of you of a certain age, and a certain musical knowledge, I ask that you take a break from your busy day and listen to these two tracks from the just-released solo debut album "As You Were" from the godson of Britpop, Liam Gallagher. 

There once was a time, when people named George HW Bush, John Major and Boris Yelstin were running the world and then, bursting onto the scene to urge us to "fuck them, fuck the world, fuck everything, turn up the fucking music and fuck off!" came a band of brazen Mancunians led by two uncontrollably loutish and ill-behaving brothers. They called themselves Oasis.

The world has changed a bit (or has it?) and one of those brothers has changed a bit (he definitely has!). This is accomplished, high-end music made by a guy who was the very embodiment of a rock-and-roll bad boy; heavy drugs, heavy drinking, trashing hotel rooms, cursing out his fans from onstage, crashing cars, endless girlfriends and generally boorish behavior no matter the venue. No, those days are most likely behind him for now, and he's the better for it.

Now it seems as if time and the conditions of the world have given Liam pause to not only offer us all what seems to be a genuine apology ("For what it's worth, I'm sorry...") but one of his most reflective and most informed compositions in "Chinatown". The opening stanza is brilliant, a commentary on the police state, our indifference to it and a nod to his beloved Beatles all in one fell swoop. The string section in "For what its Worth" adds some poignancy to the message, helping to make his mea culpa all the more believable.

I've previewed the rest of the tracks and there are several more gems in there, so if you like what you hear, you should do the same. It's always nice to witness the maturation of an artist (well, this is Liam Gallagher after all, so I'll try not to keep my hopes up for his full-on rehabilitation!) but with the release of "As You Were", I daresay this particular one threatens to be downright transformative.




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Spursy, Chirpy and the $5 Shish Kebab


Your 'Scatter-in-Chief seized the golden opportunity this summer to witness his beloved, mighty Tottenham Hotspur live, up-close and in living color, right here, just about 11 miles from our front door, at Red Bull Arena. It was a pre-season friendly international match played against another European powerhouse, A.S. Roma. It went off back in late July, and I'm still on a high. (That's me above, hamming it up with "Chirpy", the team mascot!)

The tournament was sponsored by Heineken, it's known as the International Champions Cup, and the teams who participate come from the top flights of European football leagues, representing at least some of the creme de la creme. Arguably, its a stretch to have Spurs included in this mix of 'champions', shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Paris-St. Germain, Manchester City and Bayern Munich, as we've not been on the receiving end of any hardware in about ten years, and the last time we took the whole magillah was way, way back in 1961. But we've a long and storied past, we are coming off of our best season ever (by the numbers, that is) and although the trophy case has lots of shelf space remaining, Spurs can match up with the best of them any day.

There is so much for me to report about this event, it's a challenge to put it all down in writing. We have the ridiculous, as in this was my first ever attendance at a soccer match, at any level. And here I am, a guest at a match featuring two of the world's greatest professional clubs with a combined 225 years of history behind them. Then, we have the sublime: the capacity crowd of 26,129 was overwhelmingly Tottenham supporters, and that created an atmosphere that could have mimicked White Hart Lane itself. We were in full voice, chanting "Oh when the Spurs come marching in", "Come on you Spurs", and even a few "Harry Kane, he's one of our own!". If I closed my eyes, it could just as easily have been North London, N17 on a Saturday afternoon. (As an addendum, some time after returning home, Spurs' manager, Mauricio Pochettino, confirmed this for me, telling reporters at their training ground that he felt "as if we were playing on our own pitch". I should be in the booth!!)

I was accompanied by my wife, who reluctantly "accepted" my offer to come along but who became a true believer once the action heated up, and a good friend, Steve, who is a lifelong Manchester United fan. Steve also plays in an adult league, and is a real student of the beautiful game. He regaled us with tales, tall and short, of his many experiences on and off the pitch, most of which involved detailed descriptions of horrific injuries, drunken post-game celebrations and other such career-threatening calamities. At one point, he felt the need to list all of the dimensions of the field of play, and the purpose of each and every hash mark and painted line. By the end of it, I was dizzy with numbers, facts and figures, and I let him know that I needed to conserve some of my energy to concentrate on the proceedings.

He's one smart fella who also never passes up the chance to give a good-natured poke at those of us who don't support a side that's been crowned champions a combined 65 times in major competitions, including 20 League Titles alone. When I told him that Spurs just might have the most chants and songs of any other club, he intoned, "Well, sheet music takes up a whole lot less space than trophies!" I proceeded to pummel him senseless with my foam "Come on your Spurs" finger mitt.

Now a word about the match itself, which I might remind you, was a friendly. For those of you not familiar with the wider world of football/futbol/soccer, a 'friendly' is that sport's equivalent of a pre-season exhibition game in our own National Football League. Typically, each team will send out a starting side that features a nice mix of regular stars and starters and two or three kids who've made it up from the development squad and are competing for a spot on the bench. The NFL does something similar, only most pre-season games feature the starters for one quarter, and then they're sent off. The rest of the game gives us 'the scrubs', many of whom will be cut before the sun goes down.

After stuffing our faces with the $5 shish kebabs that were being sold outside the boundaries of the arena (so much better than the $16 nacho plate inside the place!), we settled in to watch a match that had us down 2-0 until the 88th and 89th minutes, wherein we staged a typical Spurs comeback to knot things up at 2-2, only to lose in the 92nd minute, also in typical "Spursy" fashion. So, in theory, I actually witnessed the sort of match that generations of Spurs supporters have: a well-played match with many missed scoring opportunities, a handful of joy-producing moments and then a massive letdown as time expires...

And, as I finally publish this, the new season has started with our beloved Spurs' in their usual sputtering form in the month of August; it could be worse, but we've only taken four of nine points, and we can't seem to find the net. I'm sure things will brighten up but as we wait, impatiently, for our new home on White Hart Lane to be completed, "the curse of Wembley" seems to be firmly in place. It matters not, as win-lose-or-draw, a Spurs' man never changes his stripes. COYS. TTID.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What I've Learned, Section 347, Part 112.7


--o-- We have a neighborhood woodpecker who announces himself on any given morning by rat-a-tat-tatting away at the side of the house. I wondered what would possess the feathered beast to do this, so I consulted the website managed by the good folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. When a woodpecker simply 'pecks', he's probably looking for food but when a woodpecker rapidly drums away at your house, it's a male trying to attract a mate. It should end some time in late spring, but here we are on the first day of summer, and this guy is still lookin' for some.

--o-- There's a pizza place in Jersey City that features not only their own dough, but they use the naturally occurring 'airborne' yeast in the kitchen for the starter. The guy also churns his own butter (and, rightfully, charges $4 for a plate of it with his house-made bread). And he makes his own mozzarella. This sounds like the sort of place that would never answer their phone, "Hello, every pizza place!"

--o-- There is a brewery that officially started brewing in the year 1040. Yes, the Weihenstephan has been in operation for almost 1,000 years. And I'm happy to report, with all of that practice, they've gotten pretty darn good at it. I especially like the product they call, simply, "Original", which is a a Munich-style lager. I suppose few other products can be labeled 'original' unless they started being made when the world population was about 350 million, Macbeth succeeded Duncan as King of Scotland and woodblock printing was invented in China.

--o-- And finally, an update on one of the 'Scat's favorites, the United States Post Office. They've finally started delivering those fancy new trucks to the letter carriers (who are more like package haulers these days). And now that Amazon just bought Whole Foods, who knows? Maybe the USPS will install refrigerators on some of these little rigs so they can join in on the upcoming rush of home-delivered quinoa and coconut milk.

Friday, April 28, 2017

This World Over, indeed.


XTC: This World Over. The more things seem to change, they really don't change at all. One agenda, in continuous operation at least since Dwight Eisenhower left office. Or since Jesus took his last steps on earth before saying sayonara for the second time. As I post this, we're being pestered yet again by the fine people in Pyongyang with their unauthorized, internationally-prohibited launches of nuclear-ready missile tests. And the 'nuclear football' will get its very own posh apartment in the sky at Trump Tower when our version of Kim Jong-un is in town. And last week, it was featured in a photo, posted on Facebook no less, by one of his dinner guests at that other palace of tackiness, Mar-a-Lago with the military aide in charge of it being identified by name. Yes, it is very much 'this world over', over and out...

Oh well, that's this world over
Oh well, next one begins 
Will you smile like any mother
As you bathe your brand new twins?
Will you sing about the missiles
As you dry off numbered limbs? 
Oh well, that's this world over
Oh well, next one begins
Oh well, that's this world over
You sadly grin 
Will you tell them about that far off and mythical land
About their leader with the famous face?
Will you tell them that the reason nothing ever grows
In the garden anymore
Because he wanted to win the craziest race
That's this world over 
Will you smile like any father
With your children on a Sunday hike?
When you get to a sea of rubble
And they ask 'What was London like?'
Oh well, that's this world over
Oh well, next one begins, it begins, it begins
Oh well, that's this world over
You sadly grin 
Will you tell them about that far off and mythical land
And how a child to the virgin came? Whoa
Will you tell them that the reason why we murdered
Everything upon the surface of the world
So we can stand right up and say we did it in his name? 
That's this world over
Or so it seems
But that's this world over
The end of dreams 
That's this world over, over, over and out
That's this world over, over, over and out

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Update, this just in, and other ephemera


For starters, let's talk about this photo, taken by my wife just the other day. It happens to be one of the few taken of me that I've actually 'approved' for use. Like many guys aged 56 years, I feel as if my looks and vitality are starting to show signs of wear. Oh, I'm fit as a fiddle and I maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle but I've more wrinkles and hairline recession than I'm comfortable with and this photo helps to disguise some of that. Nothing like a jaunty cap and a pair of trendy eyeglasses to hide some flaws!
-----
SPORTS
My beloved Spurs not only lost their FA Cup semi-final match to Chelsea on Saturday (which was a stunner), hated North London rivals Arsenal won theirs against a slumping Manchester City on Sunday, so the sting of our exit is more keenly felt. They let one slip away, but watching this entire match clearly illustrated the superiority of a Chelsea team that established themselves at the top of the PL table by the end of last August and have stayed there since. A combination of a slip in form by Chelsea and a surge by Spurs now has us only four points adrift (at one point the lead was 14), but any serious contention for the title will require nothing short of brilliant form from us and more than a few missteps from Chelsea along the way. Fingers and toes crossed.

Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix and now has two victories of three in this young season. So things are looking up for this, the first campaign of the "Post-Bernie Era" that introduced several significant redesigns of the cars. Sunny skies over Modena!

Your 'Scatter-in-Chief is now able to catch most, if not all, of the New York Rangers' run for the Stanley Cup, thanks to something called Sling TV. My second boycott now ended, it's nice to see this team which I've been a fan of since I was 9 years old do so well over the past few seasons. (Ed. note: At the time of this post, the Rangers have defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, in the first round of the playoffs and will now meet the Ottawa Senators for the chance to play in the Eastern Conference finals.)

MUSIC
I've just placed an order for an obscure, long out-of-print compact disc, an anthology of Ella Fitzgerald's earliest days as a band leader, "Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight". It includes material from 1936 to 1939 and has the young woman who would later become known as "The First Lady of Song" in a bright and eager mood. The other day, we marked what would have been her 100th birthday and seeing that I had nothing of hers in my inventory of jazz music, I thought it would be a good idea to finally do so. Anxiously awaiting its arrival!


POLITICS: I'm not one to discuss politics here on the 'Scat and given the current situation we find ourselves in, it's not a good idea to discuss it anywhere. But I urge those of you who either did not vote for the eventual 'winner' nor support him to get your hands on the current issue (May 1st) of The New Yorker and read David Remnick's excellent appraisal of the Orange Menace's first 100 days. It is a singularly great piece of writing that not only accurately summarizes all that has happened (or not happened) in this first, early stage of a very troubling presidency but offers a cautionary perspective on what is coming our way, like it or not.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Robert Johnson was right


Since I've got so much free time on my hand these days, I have been looking to be more prolific, especially here on The 'Scat, than I have been over the last couple of years. My production has fallen off dramatically and I must get back on the stick, especially if I'm to reach the magic number of 200 total posts before the summer.

This particular post will take the form of an 'update', but with a few new items tossed in for good measure, so here goes...

---Shaving Chronicles, next chapter: Yes, you thought it was all over, didn't you, you thought your Scatter-in-Chief finally settled on a supplier after vacillating back and forth, back and forth. Well, here it is, folks: I've decided to re-join Dollar Shave Club. After a boycott that lasted about 10 months, initiated following the announcement that mega-corporation Unilever had purchased DSC for $1 billion, I've been brought back into the fold.

Here's why: the folks at DSC assured me that no changes in the structure of the company would be taking place, at least not in the near future. No jobs lost, no management shifts, etc. Although I found that hard to believe at the time (and, to be honest, I still do), the fact of the matter is their product is superior to those of the other mail-order services I've used since quitting (these include Harry's, which is long on style and pizazz but short on actual performance and "Dorco", which suffers from unfortunate branding and identity and the least-longest lasting blades of the bunch). DSC's blades keep their edge longer, the price is the lowest and I still admire their cheeky, clever marketing and packaging. As of this post's publication, I await my maiden delivery of handle and four shave cartridges, which, mind you, cost me a whopping $1.07 (special promotional price for 'new' members). Breaking up was hard to do, but making up already feels so good.

---Robert Johnson was right. Yep, I think the ol' boy made the right decision about selling his soul to the devil so he can play guitar so well that none other than Keith Richards, upon first hearing him, thought he was listening to three guys playing, not one. Hey, we're living in a Luciferian type of world anyway, where we all need to sell out a little to serve 'the man' and where we can't believe anything we see, hear or read so it seems like a fair enough exchange, doesn't it? I would deffo sell my soul (to anyone, mind you, not just Beelzebub himself) to get ahead right now.

---Crossroads, while we're on a theme, that's exactly where your 'Scatter-in-Chief finds hisself these days. Thirteen years and about 10,000 massage sessions performed, and I'm ready for a change. I still get the occasional jolt of satisfaction and pride in my work but it's not enough to keep me going, sadly, anymore. I'm losing my tolerance, my patience, and, most of all, my compassion for some of my clients and when that happens, you know something's gotta give.

---Five minute hotel room workout: Here's a quick little set of five simple floor exercises you can do every morning to get the blood pumping and to clear out the cobwebs before you head off to work or school. We recently added this routine a few days a week and believe me, it's an easy and fun way to raise the heart rate and feel energized to start your day.


--- And finally, this: I ran into a former client the other day at the CVS and she tells me that she and her husband (both in their late 60's) are packing up and moving to Bozeman, Montana. She urged us to come visit and stay with them. The missus and I, since we are on the subject of crossroads, had already been considering a trip out west to scout out the location for the next phase of our lives, and we know the place we choose must have one thing: MOUNTAINS! Lord knows, Montana's got them, so maybe it was a fitting coincidence that I had this chance meeting at the CVS. After all, we've already lived in Mendham, Morristown, and Montclair and we visit Montreal often... so let's add another "M" to that list, how's about it!


Friday, April 7, 2017

What I'm up to


It's been a while since I've given the few remaining of my 'Scat faithful an update on what's going on here at TSHQ. The winter around these parts was a middling affair and ended in the warmest February on record. On the flip side, the spring has so far been crap but we still have some crocuses poking up and forsythia starting to show it's trademark yellow sprigs all over town so it won't be long until we can break out the flip-flops and cargo shorts.

I've done a lot of reading over the last few months, mostly "re-reading" I suppose: Jean Jacques Rousseau has been in heavy rotation to remind me how spot on he was about mostly everything and how most of it remains true to this day, 240 years after his death. I've also been reading a more modern philosophical tome, "Assholes: A Theory", and although decidedly less authoritative and eloquent as any of our Genevan hero's body of work, it does present a very strong argument for the predominant human personality type in the world today. I continue "The Saxon Tales", Bernard Cornwell's great stories about the early days of what eventually became England, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable way to get lost for an hour or so, even with all the blood and gore involved.

And, as always, I'm on the hunt for new beers and wines that y'all should seek out, as well as whatever "new" music might be of particular interest, so with that in mind, here are my current favorites being served at TSHQ...


The best draught beer I've had thus far in 2017 is "The Prospector" from the upstart Hackettstown, NJ microbrewery Czig Meister. (I'm not certain but I assume that's being pronounced "CHIG Meister", as in CZECH Republic.) Too many consonants maybe, but so much flavor, body and character from this American style amber ale, it was a pleasure from first to last gulp. Not for you masochists who love to get hit over the head with the hop-hammer, this one's all about the malty smoothness and creamy finish that only a well-made top fermented ale can offer.


The best red wine I've had so far this year is "Artuke", from a small artisanal Spanish winemaker in the Rioja district. The plots of vines are small and well-maintained and they use traditional methods  to grow and harvest their grapes. The wine is so fresh and lively yet has just the right amount of acidic tang. I loved it so much, I sent them an email to tell them; within hours, I received a big 'thank you' from Arturo, who, with his wife Keke, run the operation from their small finca. Yet another reason to keep buying (and drinking) their product.


Finally, we have Olafur Arnalds. Olafur (which from what I can determine is the Icelandic equivalent to "Oliver") is the master techno-synth-house-acid-ambient artist who rode the 'second wave' of great music emerging from Iceland, which has a stunning artistic output considering it's mostly volcanic rock, thermal springs and home to only 320,000 souls. Olafur's latest is actually a collab with his friend, the German producer Nils Frahm and it's a beauty through and through. If you're in the mood for some dark & lovely keyboard-and-loop, this 2-disc set should keep you satisfied for the long run.