Sunday, December 28, 2008

Commercial complaint #1: Jared

The elections long over, we have since been inundated with commercials advertising all those things we just have to have (or worse, have to buy for someone else) in order to live happy, fulfilled lives. But it is time for us to protest, especially in this economy, commercials that are worse and more dangerous than even the lies politicians spend millions spreading. I start with those for Jared the Galleria of Jewelry.

The Jared commercials hinge on one phrase: “He went to Jared’s.” This is repeated until it is rolling around in your head like a song your teenage daughter plays so loud, her bedroom door cannot stop it. And like such a song, you can’t avoid it or its message.

I wouldn’t mind these commercials so much if they operated on that time honored bit of fallacious reasoning so often used commercials: that the brand or store or item is so high class, and everyone should want it. That faulty reasoning is bad enough, but easy to see through.

No. These commercials all have a woman saying the line as if Jared’s is only place a man better go to make the love of his life happy. If a man gets any other present at any other place, then he is a terrible husband/boyfriend/father. Nay, he is an awful human being and deserves nothing but scorn.

Many of these commercials feature some oaf of a man who presumably has not gone to Jared's. Now this man’s wife will not speak to him. His girlfriend looks at him as she has just caught him molesting children. The man usually looks sheepish and foolish, as if one could not expect anything from him but a combination of ignorance and evil.

Commercials for this store have grated on my nerves a long time. When I first saw them, I told myself that if I was ever rich enough to buy my wife a lot of jewelry, I’d never go into a store with that sort of commercial. Now I believe these spots are irresponsible in this economy. This year, Christmas buying was down quite a bit, as people have to think about feeding their families and purchasing medication and making their house payments, instead of buying cars and jewelry and high end toys.

But no matter what the economy is like, I wish no one would buy products from such a place that continues the metaphorical castration of the American male.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Music notes--Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note

I think the moment I realized I was into serious jazz was when I was in my car listening to a tape I’d found in a bargain bin from The Keith Jarrett Trio and heard their 26 plus minute version of “Autumn Leaves.” Every note of that song sounded right, and I think I knew then that this music separated the faux jazz from the real thing. While some could play for three minutes and still have a song that should be two and half minutes shorter, the good stuff was worth each moment spent listening.

Lately, I’ve been listening to the box set that this tune came from: Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings. These sessions with Jarrett’s “Standards” trio were recorded in 1994 and are an amazing achievement. Jarrett is, of course, in fine form, but his band mates, Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums, play tasty licks that made me, as a newbie to jazz, pay better attention to the music I listened to afterwards.

Most box sets are too expensive for me, particularly when I realize that with many, I listen a few times and then they sit for years at a time. Sometimes I pass a box set by because I may already have most of the songs on other album, and can get the extra tracks digitally. But this is a project that holds up no matter how often I listen. It sounds as fresh as exciting as the first time I heard that sweet intro to “Autumn Leaves.”

As well as Jarrett’s trademark solos (and yes, a bit of the excited utterances), one finds some of the most enjoyable and interesting interpretations of jazz classics like “Days of Wine and Roses,” “How Long Has This Been Going On,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Straight, No Chaser,” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” There are also some fine Jarrett originals, such as “No Lonely Nights” and the irrepressible “Bop-Be.” This project is testament of all that is good about jazz and all that is good in music.

Music notes--Somewhere Before

Maybe it is just me and the holiday season, but the cd Somewhere Before reminds me of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. I have enjoyed it, but there is that feel.

What is fun about the disc is the forays into ragtime and blues that Jarrett would later meld into his interesting and unique style. On “Moving Soon,” one gets a taste of the “free” improvisation that, again, Jarrett would later perfect, but here is a bit raw. However, we do get the fine work of two of the greats in the jazz: Charlie Haden (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). Though this isn’t the best work I have heard out of Jarrett, it is a nice addition for the collector, and does show some of the promise to come.

Along with this disc, I found four tunes from a package called The Dylan Concert, I assume because there are covers of “My Back Pages” and “Lay Lady Lay.” “My Back Pages is also on Somewhere Before. Both discs are live albums. A couple of the reviews I read of these discs were not too kind concerning the covers, but I did enjoy both versions of “My Back Pages.” The latter disc does contain a “free” piece with Jarrett on the saxophone, a bit of treat for me, but something that is not likely to win over the casual fan.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Publication Notes--December 2008

I haven't submitted a lot lately. With eight classes and a full family schedule, it has been hard to stick this year to my resolution of sending something out at least once a week. But that doesn't mean that the rejections have stopped. I even got one for a batch of poems I sent out two and a half years ago!

It is also strange that most of the recent publications have been with work I wrote some time ago. Electric Velocipede recently published my story "Partita for continuo". Click here for an excerpt. I'm fairly sure I wrote this piece when I was in graduate school.

And I realized how busy I've been when I discovered that another story, "Down at the Twenty-five," had been featured in the December 1 issue of Fiction at Work. I wrote this story some time in the years between graduation from college and the return to graduate school.

I honestly don't remember when I wrote "Three Short Lake Poems," but one of the parts (poems?) did find a home at Pond Ripples Magazine in the November issue. You do have to scroll down a ways to get to it, but I hope it is worth the trouble.

Here's hoping that despite the holidays and the Winter class, I'll be able to get back to writing everyday and sending more work out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sean Avery and NHL hypocrisy

Just read an article on Yahoo Sports about the Sean Avery thing, and I have to agree that it is hypocritical of the Stars and the NHL to can Avery for his remarks but let Bertuzzi continue to play instead of being forced to clean Steve Moore's house for the rest of his life.

Avery was crude, and I know he has a history of stupid stuff. But Bertuzzi ended a man's career and nearly ended his life. Bertuzzi also has a history—of unnecessary violence. Avery hurt his team and I suppose made the league look bad. Bertuzzi did not even finish the punishment handed down by the league. Some say what Bertuzzi did was just part of hockey. Not really. There are clear lines and Bertuzzi crossed them. The lines for free speech Avery crossed concern taste and appropriateness.

I’m sure Avery will go to rehab and get back on another team—next year. But this still seems more than a little unfair. Bettman has only proven he can pull in accomplices to his continued foolishness. It is clear Bettman was just waiting for Avery to do something he could punish him for. The Stars, I’m trying to believe, had to do something their wayward player’s actions. But they have let me down, not only on the ice, but in this matter as well.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

BCS Crap!

Every year the powers that be in semi-pro sports, otherwise known as College Football in the Fall, prove more and more to me that the BCS is a load of crap designed only to keep a handful of good old boys at work living with little fantasies.

This time we get to add to silly rules that actually use the BCS rankings to determine who wins a division. Isn't this circular reasoning? In the Big 12, we have people not involved in the games, instead of the games themselves, deciding who wins a division.

You cannot convince me that the system would ever have been fair to Texas Tech. In this system, as I get told often, it is when a team loses that matters. That seems to be why Oklahoma goes to the Big 12 title game despite losing to Texas. But it doesn't matter at all for Texas Tech. Consider that both Texas and Oklahoma have a shot with one loss, but the only way Texas Tech would have been able to go to the Big 12 title game and eventually to the National Championship would be for them to go undefeated.

All season I hear about undefeated teams getting the shot, but when certain teams lose, if they lose at the right time, they get a chance. Most other teams lose once, and they are out. And under the current system, Texas Tech cannot even go to a major bowl with their ONE LOSS.

Horse crap! Well, maybe not. Horse crap smells better than this system does.