Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Badass is the new Green

There are motorcycle guys, and then there are motorcycle guys. And then there's Van Asher, who hunted snakes at summer arts camp, and who is an excellent example of why "oner" shows up in the The New York Times  crossword puzzle. Ain't no one like Van Van, the Snake Man.

I met Van in the summer of '81 during my second summer at Camp Ballibay. Here are two memories: One of him wearing a knotted necktie as a headband ("My mother told me to wear a tie on Sundays!") Another cheerful comment when I got back from an off-campus trip without telling some of my couselors I'd be missing rehearsal: "Hey Blais! Everyone wants to kill you!"...perhaps the first time someone my age had called me by my last name. And the guy's name was Van! Exotic stuff for a kid from a one-stoplight town.

Fast forward to our adult lives. Van is all about helping the other guy: Van worked several years for the Needle-Exchange Program; is a motorcycle safety instructor; is training for EMT certification. Despite his Facebook manifesto (if you have fewer than four wheels, Van will race and--quite possibly--crash you), there's no one I'd rather have drive my bus, in the aftermath of calling 9-1-1.

So lend a hand to Wingnut Cycles --an organization for which Van is both a principal and test pilot, and a group of fellas who mean to fight the good fight from behind the bars of a tricked-out bio-diesel chopper. No matter what your culture, they will counter it. Cue Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," as the shot pans across a solo motorcycle tearing up the Brookyn Bridge, and our boat sinks slowly in the West.

All images in this post courtesy of Wingnut Cycles. Except the one of the cheeky 6th-grader flipping you off.... I took that one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

That was no woman, that was my fastball!

BlaiserBlog Ketchup 2 of 2

Or....What better time to finish a recap than when the Yankees have just lost a game? (Last night's ALCS Thrilla in Calilla...)

August 28th at Baltimore, 11-5 Sox

Baltimore sports a lovely park on the harbor, but don't fall into the Chesapeake--I hear there's a nasty multistep decontamination process. Pity, that. I didn't pity the club-level all-you-can-eat hot dog fest, however, nor a terrific national anthem by operatic tenor dude.

There were so  many Sox fans at Camden Yaads that day, that my Baltimore friend commented the stadium had never seemed that full! I felt bad for the O fans, shown up in their own house.

At this writing, the boys of summer are down to but three squads, and my beloved Sox are not among them. I'll have to wait for next season to stand up and holla, "Lowell for Senate!!!" my war-cry in Baltimore.*

Here are a couple more of my B'More photos that I like.

If I ever get a serious camera, I'll branch out from this grainy motif....
I am so not into the flash.

The Flash, however, is pretty boss.

My dad, who turns 81 soon, is called "Flash" by the head groundskeeper** at the Corey Creek golf course. I just love that!

 * Lowell photo cribbed from some other dude's blog. Wow! And you should check him out. He's apparently in 7th Grade and a really good writer.

** Full disclosure: Greenskeeping Dude is a high-school classmate. Even cooler.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I know my work is subpar, but at least I'm slow!

BlaiserBlog Ketchup 1 of 2...
This took too dam long to write, so I'm just postin' what I got, and I'll work on the rest latah!

It's mop-up week here at BlaiserBlog. Often, as I roll through life slightly out of control, tumbleweed-style, potential blog topics sprout from the earth at my feet, eke out a brilliant half-life in my half-brain, and wither from a cetain lack of aqueous thinking.

Some of these thoughtlets deserve to live on. And so, to cheer up yesterday's inner Wedensday's Child (and here would go a micro-treatise on the western archipilagos and the International Date Line, if I knew when the hell it means...) I offer a smorgasbord of intrigue, a pu-pu platter of platitudes, a Whitman's Sampler of witticism, and yesterday's trash.

Sublime, it should be noted, is the opposite of trash. If you've not heard of Midsummer Night Swing, consider the following: For three weeks of the high Manhattan summer, Lincoln Center becomes an essential destination. Most evenings, at 6:30 P.M., a mass hajj of dance lovers coalesces in Damrosch Park and collectively takes a lesson in tango, salsa, West Coast swing--the style changes daily.

Two sets of live music follow--with a DJ sewing the gaps. You want Chubby Checker? We got Chubby Checker. Ask Big Bad Voodoo Daddy for the car keys; drive to a world beat. Hang your head out the window like a hounddog in the breeze, and watch everyone put their schooling into practice, whilst shaking what their mommas gave them.

I've been fortunate to operate a lighting console there for two years running. Rain has only been a factor once or twice on the expanding MNS stage.

 This year, impresario Bill Bragin opted for a stage couched in the bandshell and an expanded moving-light package. The results were pretty cool.

Let's Play Two!

 In other norts spews, I finally made it to Fenway Park, thanks to a very generous welcome-to-your-40's gift. In fact, the 2009 has been my breakout season as a baseball fan. I wear jerseys; I visit parks.

Fenway is a national treasure, nestled, as it is, on the banks of the Charles River like a massive organic wild mushroom. But it's small, and intimate on the inside, almost Hobbit-like.

Jon Lester pitched a gem against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Beer was drunk, hot dogs eaten. Sox roll to a 3-2 victory. Even got to see Papelbon who, despite blowing the last game of the season on Sunday, was a marvel--a panther of a pitcher, languid and deadly.

  To Be Continued.....

Monday, October 5, 2009

She Blinded Me With Vinyl

I make no bones about hating i-Products, maintaining suspicions on mp3 formats and generally whinging about the deteriorating-mazationings of actual, physical things that I can touch. When Y2K hit, my response was to start buying up manual typewriters, like some kind of ironic literary survivalist. When Douglas Adams wrote words to the effect that "And you thought digital watches were pretty neat," I was that guy, but I would have preferred things had stopped with Ms. Pac-Man and that four-player Dungeons & Dragons game, Gauntlet. However, Time Has Passed, and now Elf needs food, badly.

Food for thought, that is, and music that requires neither one, nor zero. (Note that analog music reaps metaphorical benefit from the other 8 digits.) The awesomest sound I've ever heard from a cone was in my parents' basement, when my audiophile brother, Matt, was testdriving a dbx-encoded jazz LP. (Think Dolby Z-Cubed...) I know crates of records are a pain to lug around, but it's not only worth it, it's essential.

And so.... I invested in two classic Technics 1200 turntables, and a mixer.* The Technics 1200 Mk2 is the shark of turntables.... essentially unchanged by evolution for millions of years (OK, slightly more than 30, but you see my point.) The rig is powered by the Panasonic dual-cassette Boom Box with which my parents bundled me off to sleep-away college in the late 80's.

Its left channel is intermittent, and comes and goes like Mary Poppins--when the wind changes. Sometime last week, it healed itself again, and I'm living large in stereo. One has to make the most out of an uncertain world.

And so my 9-year-old son and I are nurturing a weekend ritual: Sunday brunch a la vinyl. A most recent utterance: "Daddy, what's Styx?" ** (He already has something of a foundation in mythology, so he knows about Achilles and the River. Now he's learning about the concept album, a concept that's all but gone the way of the dodo.)

Here's what else I'm finding so fabulous about this trend: Not only is it a joy to dance around with your 9-year-old to rockin' tunes, but his ear horizons have stretched global. That is to say, up to now, he's never thumbed through all the CD's to find something new and interesting. But put him in front of a crate of vinyl, and he's doing exactly that, and here's why: It's fun. It's fun to put the needle on the record; it's fun to play with the pitch, or play a Bruce Springsteen album on 45 rpm so that the Boss sounds like an indignant chipmunk; it's fun to look at the photos on a jacket sleeve--many of them are as large as an entire CD case, nevermind the ridiculous dwarf-photos that show up on someone's i-Product.

Maybe the point is that running around with earbuds and paper-thin music players belies an essential truth of music: Rock is large. Power chords mean more when played on a 12" disc. The Magical Mystery Tour is trippier when flipping through the "24-page full color picture book" included inside. In fact, I'll go ahead and say it: Digital is synthetic.

Disc-uss below: As always, thanks awfully, for reading. And remember, if my busmates on our senior class trip to Washington, DC, hadn't ruled the music choices under threat of extreme violence, I might never have come to fully appreciate AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long, which we listened to, in its entirety, 37 times straight.

* Full disclosure: the mixer also sports two CD players with adjustable pitch. When we're playing vinyl, we play vinyl. When he graduates from Mixing 101, we'll entertain other media. I'm not a total crank...

** And lest one think I'm a purveyor of cheesy pop music alone, get hip to other parts of my vinyl catalog: Bob Dylan, Marlene Dietrich, Lady Day Holiday, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bil Cosby, as many Beatles as my son can eat.