October 1st, 2014
For a media hound like me, Jim Romenesko’s media news website is a regular must-read. Imagine the satisfaction I felt today when I saw he’d done a post yesterday that used a tweet of mine from Monday night—about a shockingly one-sided PBS Newshour segment about ISIS and President Obama—as the jumping-off point for his piece. In the segment, Judy Woodruff interviewed Frederick Kagan, an early proponent of invading Iraq, who slammed President Obama repeatedly for his supposed failures with regard to Iraq, including the bogus canard that he failed to leave US troops in the country, when it was the Bush administration that negotiated the terms under which US forces left. This and many other false and tendentious claims were made by Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, all of which went unchallenged by interviewer Judy Woodruff. Worse, at the end of the segment she said, “We hear you,” as if lending her stamp of approval to Kagan’s screed. I was appalled at this egregious example of biased coverage and tweeted to that effect. Today, Romenesko ran a post picking up my tweet, and for which he interviewed PBS ombudsman Michael Getler, who’s also covered this episode. Getler agreed that the segment was an example of terrible and one-sided coverage. Getler learned that the program had planned for another guest to be on opposite Kagan, but that they couldn’t come on, after all. The NewsHour never told viewers this on-air. Below is a screenshot to Romenesko’s post, and here’s a link to it.
September 22nd, 2014
As this day, September 22, 2012, stretches toward midnight, it happens to have been my 58th birthday. Growing up, of course I always enjoyed this day, but as I prepared to turn 13 back in 1967, my appreciation of my own birthday had taken a new turn. For earlier that year I first read the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and discovered that all the key action in The Hobbit, and the first book of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, was triggered at the birthday parties of Bilbo Baggins,and his nephew Frodo Baggins. And for reasons unknown to me—and so far as I know, never analyzed in all the criticism on Tolkien and Middle Earth—the birthday of uncle and nephew Baggins was September 22. The sharing of my birthday with the brave and indefatigable hobbits was a source of great strength to me during my adolescence. When difficult times arose, I took comfort in the knowledge that I had some sort of kinship with the creative imaginings of such a great writer as Tolkien. His books have been with me at many junctures in my life. Seeing Tolkien’s hobbit protagonists at the center of his sagas made me believe I could be at the center of my own life narrative.
I’ve always liked the fact that the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana, falls around roughly the same time as my birthday. This year it was just last week. I like that the new year is said to begin in autumn–counter-intuitively–just as life in nature is beginning to fade and die. It sobers one up a bit, reminding us all that we’re not here forever. I don’t need too much reminding of that fact, in as much as starting in my late 30s I lost my father, then in my 40s, two best friends from college—Rob Adams and Karl Petrovich—and in my 50s, my mom and then my brother, Joel. Still, it seems salutary to take note of the leaves falling just as we prepare the turn of another year, as well as the turn from summer into fall.
With Tolkien in mind, my observance of my own birthday this year got off to a good start yesterday when I saw in Shelf Awareness, the bookselling daily e-newsletter, that Tolkien’s US publisher is publishing a new edition of The Hobbit, tying in with Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” prequel, premiering December 14. When the movie opens in a few months, I’ll sort of feel as if it’s almost again, albeit out of season. Meantime, today’s been a good day, thanks to family, friends, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
September 20th, 2014
Had an enjoyable time last night at “Dark and Pretty Flat,” a dance performance and multimedia presentation put on by Esmé Boyce Dance. The series of eight linked pieces flowed seamlessly from one to the next against a rolling video backdrop, of wooded roadsides and watery depths; atmospheric guitar playing, both live and looped; and spoken word poetry. The four dancers, in costumes that bore a wood grain texture in gray and peach hues, were sometimes on the floor all together, in pairs, or solo. Carving space with their articulate arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes, they supplely shifted their weight in to rolls across the floor and shoulder tucks that brought them in to very near proximity with their own torsos, or those of fellow dancers. It was a world premiere, with all the pieces choreographed by Esmé Boyce. Beside directing her eponymous company, she collaborates with the Satellite Collective and is a member of Janis Brenner & Dancers. Other collaborators were: video artist Cody Boyce, Esmé’s brother, music and poetry; actor Ted Levine, reader; architectural designer Chat Travieso, set designer; artist Sue Julien, the two Boyce’s mother, costume designer—she chose the wood grain fabric, and cut the costumes as supplely as the dancers moved.
The performance was at a lower east side combined theater and bar venue Dixon Place, a new one to me. Entering at 161A Chrystie St, between Rivington and Delancey, you walk in on a narrow bar, while small tables, chairs and sofas and a tiny stage are in the back. In that rear area is a stairway down to the basement where there’s a large theater, with upwards of 50 seats in banked rows. As a New Yorker for nearly thirty years, it still fascinates me to discover spaces like this, caverns tucked away beneath the rumbling streets and subways, renovated and built out for creative endeavors. The establishment has a great vibe, whether upstairs or down. It was particularly nice to see Kit Boyce, friend of many years, husband of Sue Julien, father to Esmé and Cody, friends who I first met in Chicago, in the years I regularly went there to visit Franconia College classmate Robert Henry Adams.
After the dances, the full house walked back up the stairs for an instant after party in the bar and seating area. Bouquets were presented to the dancers—Esmé’s mates were Giulla Carotenuto, Kit McDaniel, and Christopher Ralph—and toasts were offered all ’round. I hadn’t been to a dance performance in years, and I found it an aesthetic pleasure to see movement, color, fabric, sound, and light all played to such intriguing effect. There’s one more performance of “Dark and Pretty Flat” tonight. I recommend it highly, or take yourself out to some dance soon.
September 18th, 2014
The Ontario trio Elliott BROOD played a great set of new songs for a 7pm set at Rockwood Music Hall on Manhattan’s lower east side last night. The early hour meant light was still pouring in the windows off Allen Street as they hit their first downbeat, but the vibe quickly turned funky for the crowd of about twenty-five, for as I wrote about this band after I first heard their live show in 2012:
“The trio’s gritty sound feels as if it’s been imported from the early days of sound recording. More raw than roots, it’s a sonic stew of acoustic guitar, banjo, reverb-ed Fender Stratocaster, harmonica, and thumping drums.”
Rockwood has excellent acoustics, whether the room is crammed or not. Last night, the mix was great and all instruments could be heard well. They played six new songs from their forthcoming album, “Work & Love” (Paperbag Records), and a couple older ones. They announced it was the first time they were playing the new songs for a live audience. Dressed all in white, Casey Laforet (electric and acoustic guitars, and an array of foot pedals he played in sock-clad feet); Mark Sasso (acoustic guitar, harmonica, banjo); and Steve Pitkin (drums and a keyboard set up next to his kit) charmed all with light banter and interesting song reveals. Casey, a still-new parent, introduced one new song, “Each Other’s Kids,” by explaining they wrote it after realizing how much people in their world universally rely on one another to take care of their young children.
I had met them in 2012, so it was good to re-visit afterward, and introduce all three to my wife Kyle Gallup, and our friend, Mike Fitzgerald. I caught up on all the news with Casey, and learned he and his wife are about to have their second child. Steve appreciated I remembered his last name correctly, something I can relate to, since people tend to spell my first name with two lls, though it only has one. I told Mark he had been in good voice, though he said he actually felt like he might be getting a cold. I gave them the card for my blog Honourary Canadian, which I began after I met them the first time. They began packing up for a show tonight at the Black Cat in D.C., then they’re moving on to Bristol, Tennessee—said to be “the birthplace of country music in the USA”—where they’ll be playing the Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival.
Last night’s only flaw was that the new album isn’t out yet–after hearing the new songs for the 1st time, I’m keen to hear them again. But it will be available Oct 21, and though it would’ve been nice to get a copy right from the hands of band member, I’ll also be glad to purchase it from the great Canadian indie music website, zunior.com, a seller I highly recommend.
September 15th, 2014
It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon’s board members respond to Authors United’s outreach to them—if at all—particularly the suggestion that while these people may think they joined the board of a progressive company, that’s actually not what Amazon is any more, if they ever were.
Publishing Consultant, Curator & Writer at The Great Gray Bridge & Honourary CanadianCurator, writer, editor, blogger—amplifying my enthusiasms for many audiences.
Readers of The Great Gray Bridge can buy books from Powell's Books of Portland, OR. You may search for a book here, or in my blog posts click on a title, many of which now link directly to Powell's site. They then return a portion of your purchase to help maintain this site.