Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mixed tapes and mixed grapes!

Making compilation CDs is my specialty. I have a gift for making them. Back in the days, I made mixed tapes. Now, I have a CD burner and I take good advantage of it. My compilation making skills are not so shabby; they can be compared to Thievery Corporation's "Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi." For one thing, I have countless music to draw from, for my CD library is the size of the RFK stadium. Second, I have good taste. But that's stating the obvious.

So far, I made the following compilation CDs of which I'm proud:
1. The Chet Baker Mood
2. The Best of Pam Bricker
3. HC Blues Vol. 1: Cool Ass Blues
4. HC Blues Vol. 2: Blues That Gives Me Chills
5. Swing Yo Ass Off
6. Funk 4 Yo Soul
7. Cool as Hell
8. Eric Clapton Blues
9. Van Morrison Blues

Another art of making compilation CDs is to decide to whom to send. There aren't many people out there who share my exquisite music taste. Most of my friends either listen to Britney Spears or Classic Rock anyway. I will not send my work to people who dig Zeppelin or Skynyrd. No way. They must be people who have an "old soul," or "inner soul." Someone who appreciates life as is. Someone who's not pretentious and who doesn't try to be someone else. Someone who admires art and the artists' blood, sweat and tears. Or someone who simply adores the music group of the same name.

The most important aspect of the compilation CDs is the recipient, because the reason for making them, aside from your own listening pleasure, is to strike a chord with others. Because the CDs truly define who you are and what you like, by liking them, you know there are people who like you. And it's cool to have people liking you because one doesn't live alone in this world.

That said, if you want one or more of my above compilations, please send me an e-mail. Before you send an e-mail, please reflect on your activities in the last three months to evaluate whether you're cool. If you have determined the positive, then send me that e-mail.


Monday, November 28, 2005

This is pretty cool!

Jin! Freestyling champion. A Chinese Eminem!

Check out how he kicks butts on here, here and here.

Totally rips his opponents apart!


Friday, November 25, 2005

Amelita Galli-Curci

What a voice! She was before the times of Billie and Ella, and was considered one of the greatest opera singers in the 1920's, if not the greatest coloratura soprano of all time. Her rendition of "Home Sweet Home" has an urgency of poignancy that pierces your heart as though the world has stopped so you can catch your breath. It's that breathtaking. The scruffy sound of an old phonograph recording also adds to the poignancy, making one wonder why such sadness in her singing.

This is probably the only comprehensive English website that is dedicated to Ms. Galli-Curci. This is the voice of the century. You just need to listen to it to believe its magic.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Random before Thanksgiving

The new Harry Potter movie resembles my high school experience. Sports and evil devils and jocks and asking a girl out to prom. Uncanny similarities. J.K. Rowling is a genius in recrafting her childhood to adolescence and places them in the wizard school. The Tri-wizard tournament is brilliant. Make sure you don't get to the theatre late, or you'll miss the awesome trailers of "King Kong," "Superman Returns," and "Lady in the Water, a fable by M. Night Shymalan." The latter generated more laughs than a Three Stooges gag.

Been trying to make sense out of this whole holiday season. The point is: There's no need to. After all, you know who means well and who doesn't. Let's just enjoy the whole thing.

I think listening to Ray Charles and Betty Carter singing "Baby It's Cold Outside" while sipping a Peppermint Mocha is the best holiday pasttime.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

This is pretty funny!

Some things that put a smile on my face:
Dunkin Donuts coffee
Egg tarts when they're hot
People arguing in Lebanese
Food joints that are open way after 11 p.m. when you're hungry
Craving for diner breakfast food
College students doing homework and hanging out in library at 2 a.m.
Older people who are young at heart
Water fountains

So the Henley Park jazz program is closed, after a well-run two plus years by Chris Grasso, featuring some of DC's and the nation's best jazz musicians. Its tenure also witnessed the deaths of two of its most dynamic singers: Pam Bricker and Sam Smith, and the growth of many up-and-coming ones. All in all, despite some personal preference of artists, the Henley had become one of my favorite places to listen to jazz. For one thing, there was no cover. Their food and drinks were in the reasonable price range. The musicians were always top-notch (with some minor exceptions). There was a real grand piano there, in lieu of funny sounding keyboards. I bidded my farewell to it last Friday seeing the second to last show.

It's harder and harder to listen to good jazz in DC town. If you wanted to see a really good show, you could always go to Blues Alley and spend at least $75 on everything. If you brought a date, it'd be $150+. Call me cheap, but that's not my idea of a good night. You could also go to Kennedy Center or Wolf Trap or Constitution Hall to listen to some world renowned artists. But it's not an intimate setting. I try to avoid these "siddown and shuddup" type places.

Jazz is meant to be listened to at nightclubs. Period.

Twins Jazz does not have a good vibe. I'd still try to go to Twins Lounge on Colorado Avenue on occasion but lately there hasn't been a lot of good acts. You can always count on the Big Three Trio at 219 in Alexandria putting on a good show on a weekend night. The cover is minimal and the atmosphere commands the attention of the audience. U-Topia on any given night should be fun but there's no piano. Keyboards just don't sound the same to my ears (Imagine Diana Krall playing keyboards - you immediately lose all interests). There's also Kinkead's on Penn Avenue with Hilton Felton, Bohemian Caverns on some nights, etc. with a real piano.

The closing of Blue Bar is another loss to the jazz community in DC after the closing of One Step Down and Fino. Sooner or later the only way to listen to good jazz is to put on an Oscar Peterson album at home. That's only one step away.


Monday, November 14, 2005

O Tanenbaum! O Christmas Tree!

It's not even Thanksgiving yet.

You think I'd learn from all this.

I made this mixed CD this weekend that defines my persona after all these years of ups and downs. Honestly, when you play that CD, it's like me walking in the background.

Sarah's party was rehabilitating. I felt my sanity was restored and my faith in humanity is coming back. Life-changing events start from small gatherings of random people.

I read a Jane Goodall quote this weekend. She says, "You are what you eat." So true. That's why I'm such a slob. I need to watch what I put in my mouth and what comes out of it.

I'm glad Friendster added a new entry for describing status: "It's complicated." Well, that's 80% of the relationships out there.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Literary gold

Noah Baumbach's "The Squid & The Whale" is a major masterpiece. I use the word "major" with a two-fold purpose. One, to contrast his earlier "minor" masterpiece "Kicking & Screaming." Second, as a reference to one of his best lines in "The Squid" when Bernard characterizes "A Tale of Two Cities" as "minor" Dickens.

I recall one critic commenting "The Squid" is the best American movie about divorce. He's probably right. And another critic comments that Jeff Daniels has created his own masterpiece. I agree with that too. This is Mr. Daniels' best performance since "The Purple Rose of Cairo."

A memorable scene in the movie involves Walt describing "Metamorphosis" as Kafkaesque. His girlfriend then comments, "Well, it was written by Franz Kafka. Of course it has to be." That reminds me of a reader e-mailing me calling one of my Syracuse Daily Orange column "opinionated." I wrote her back and said, "Of course it has to be, it's under the "opinions" section." That was ingenious!

That also comes to another point: I never missed a talent. When I saw "Kicking & Screaming" in 1995, I said to myself (and even recommended the film to many, many people), "Noah Baumbach is going to be huge." No one believed me then. That movie didn't do so well, and neither did his subsequent films. Finally, he has created a masterpiece. And I have redeemed myself.

To give Noah his deserved credit, I must end this review and say "The Squid & The Whale" is clearly Baumbach-esque, because it has to be.


Friday, November 04, 2005

When you left New Orleans baby, you were feeling kinda low

Being in DC, you're inevitably exposed to cultural things, especially if you hang out on the Hill. And then outside of the city boundaries, sometimes you'll find the region's best kept secrets without trying hard at all. Now Georgetown is convoluted because it isn't much of a college town. There's M Street where extravagant people shop for extravagant things, but yuppies have taken over it. Two weekends ago, I discovered the U of M campus and the collegetown near it. Now that's a place that truly belongs to students. Everything is student-owned, student-ran, and student friendly. It's a pretty fascinating place.

Finally, Noah Baumbach's got what he deserves - a reputation that's long overdue. About 10 years ago, I already admired his minor masterpiece, "Kickin' and Screamin'" about several individuals who have moved on in their lives yet they want to stay in college forever. That movie got way too little, if any, attention. Whenever I show it to my friends, they were like, "How come I've never heard of this movie? It's so f-ing good." Then Baumbach made a couple more films, one of which entitled "Mr. Jealousy" which I liked too. Last year, he co-wrote the screenplay of "Life Aquatic" with Wes Anderson. That movie was also misunderstood by critics and audience alike. Now with "Squid & The Whale," Baumbach's film finally opened to 100% positive review from critics and was a hit at Sundance. I haven't seen it, but can't wait to this weekend.

Life's been a little more sane lately. Hanging out with Rod and Honey at Blues Alley was just so much fun. These guys are cool and nice and they know what this is all about. It's good to meet someone who's passionate about what they do. Let's hope my winning streak continues.

I'm seriously thinking about getting Sirius so I can listen to Howard Stern in a more raunchy mode.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

2nd anniversary of "The Chet Baker Mood"

Today marks the second anniversary of the inception of the "Chet Baker Mood (CBM)." For those who are not familiar with CBM, it doesn't equal PMS. It's a term that I coined two years ago to describe a feeling that hits me every autumn when leaves start falling and the weather starts getting cold. This is the first time in a long while where I don't have family near me on Thanksgiving, so the mood is going to hit hard.

Interesting enough, CBM has become quite an indie phenomenon on the internet (not unlike Roger's "How Hong Kong Are You" quiz). People including jazz aficionados and other artists have discussed the term online and many of them find the term quite accurate and fascinating. I've had a preacher from the Phillipines e-mailing me, saying that he agrees with my acute observation. The buzz was unexpected, but I'm glad I created something that y'all can chew on. Hopefully it'll become a fine wine in the years to come. When you meet me 20 years later on the street, you will shake my hand and say "Damn, CBM is for real, Chief!" Then I'll smile and walk off.

So to recap, CBM is my way of glorifying and celebrating a heart that is both nostalgic and romantic and sees the world as if were occurring in the past. Like Wong Kar Wai's vision of Hong Kong (always existed in the 60's) or Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Amelie" (the French cafe lifestyle). The past is gone but you can always grasp the tangible memories: TV shows, cartoons, the time you spent with your parents playing in the park, etc.

Sure, the future is ahead of us and we must prepare for it and welcome it, but the past is always a pillow to fall back on. The past is a backalley of hope and happiness that you can always return to find comfort. Louis Armstrong or Nat Cole music will always play in the background. All you need is do is go.


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