Archive for March, 2008

Current Playlist II

1. Impossible Germany – Wilco

2. Rearview Pictures – The Twin Atlas

3. Summer Is Icumen In – Richard Rhompson

4. Dark Come Soon – Tegan and Sara

5. Funky Kingston – Toots and the Maytalls

6. Don’t Fade On Me – Tom Petty

7. Swingtown – Steve Miller

8. Horseshoe Lounge – Slaid Cleaves

9. I Ain’t Got No Home – Bruce Springsteen

10. The Star Of Track And Field – Belle and Sebastain

11. Fortune Teller – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

12. The Just Is Enough – Clue To Kalo

Watch The skies!

“We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t a fish.”
Marshall McLuhan

Over the past decade, I’ve taken up something I call “strolling.” It’s a form of very slow walking, usually after dark when the surrounding suburban streets are deserted. The slowness of the pace seems to encourage a heightened awareness of one’s surroundings, a state that rarely accompanies walking for exercise, and never while jogging. The second desirable development, one that may or may not occur with each episode, is a slow emptying of the mind and an emergence of a Zen-like state of being. Many who know me would say that the emptying of my mind should be quick work indeed.

The other night, after ten, I left the house to stroll. The night was mild for late March, soft with a clear, star-filled sky. I am aware that we live beneath one of the major North bound flyways, but the sudden passage of low-flying jetliner caught my attention, and triggered a modest experiment – to count the number of aircraft I might observe in the night sky during the thirty-five minute course of my stroll. The total was thirty-one, and because my view was restricted to the direction in which I walked, there were probably many more that I couldn’t see. Still, thirty-one airplanes in thirty-five minutes at ten at night is a lot of airplanes. Continue reading ‘Watch The skies!’

Let’s Hear It For The Band!

Check out my absolute favorite band, “The Twin Atlas.” Virtually under the radar but getting serious play on NPR as segment segues. Also significant satellite radio play.
The Twin Atlas in performance at Indre Studios, Philadelphia, 2005 (watercolor)

The Twin Atlas is a folk-rock band, known for its atmospheric folk & pop songs, written and home-recorded by Sean Byrne (son of this blogger) with Lucas Zaleski, who began playing together when they met at the University of Delaware in the early ’90s and began releasing music as The Twin Atlas in 2000.

Zaleski is now an NYC resident, and Byrne lives in Medford Lakes, NJ, and has drummed with the bands Lenola, Mazarin, Matt Pond PA, Audible and BC Camplight.
The foundation of their songs often come from Byrne’s compositions or from Byrne & Zaleski’s recorded collaborations and improvisations, upon which Byrne later goes back to and finishes; adding vocals, additional melodies & instrumentation, and assorted sounds. This work process has proved prolific to say the least.

Their last release is 2005’s Sun Township, a ten song set of haunting folk rock containing their most fully realized fidelity to date thanks to post-production by engineer Dave Grubb (Lenola, Like A Fox)

The Twin Atlas plays: acoustic & electric guitar, vocals, mandolin, keyboard, live & electronic drums, harmonica, banjo, effects, melodica, percussion, as well as whatever and whoever may be laying around at the time.

You can hear The Twin Atlas at

Warning, Adult Content (Political)

“I know a guy who’s kinda confused; got muscles in his head never been used…” John Prine

Thinking about guys like that, I try to figure out why people believe the stuff they say they believe. It’s a difficult task and the difficulty seems to arise from the confusion between feeling and thinking. I try and do my best to keep the two separate, not that my efforts in that area have been marked with anything like success. From some of the coded racial and political comments I hear and from the so-called “funny” emails I receive, I begin to understand that there are a lot of people who don’t even try to make that kind of a distinction. They feel strongly about all sorts of things but there doesn’t seem to be much of a connection between their thinking and their feeling. In fact, I get the feeling, if that’s the right word, that there isn’t a lot of thinking taking place.

I read once that all politics are personal. That Lenin’s brother was hung by the Czar and that Giap’s wife died in a French prison are but extreme examples of the axiom. Closer to home perhaps, the motivations that lead toward the uglier forms of social and political belief would seem to lie in the lesser disappointments of life, the little humiliations of class, income or achievement. A broken heart or a never forgotten rejection, just might account for a lot of the misogyny in this world. And a dissatisfaction with one’s own position or face, as Mister Dylan once put it, could account for much of the attraction to racist, sexist and extreme political positions. There’s also no discounting the masturbatory pleasures of patriotism on the cheap; waving the flag and letting somebody else’s kids do your fighting for you. Senators John McCain and Jim Webb excepted. Continue reading ‘Warning, Adult Content (Political)’

Tartan Kilts: No Irish Need Apply

This year, for the first time, I attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. Both of my paternal grandparents were born in Ireland, and my mother’s people came here in the 1850s, most likely “Famine Irish,” a two-word description so graphically horrific, it needs no further embellishments.

I grew up in a city neighborhood that tilted toward Irishness, and attended a parish school that tipped even further in that direction. Yesterday, standing behind the barricades along Fifth Avenue, I watched in a kind of dismay as one after another, kilted pipe and drum bands passed by my review. Almost all of them led by solemn fat guys, fully outfitted as regimental pipe majors, and all of them staring off into the middle distance in dramatic seriousness.

I am seventy years old and until about twenty years ago, I had never heard an Irish pipe band, nor had I ever seen anyone I recognized as Irish arrayed in Scots Highland drag, no matter how green the tartan. I am aware that there is a generalized Celtic link among the Scots, the Irish, The Bretons, the Basques and maybe even the Inuit. But it is a frail reed upon which a second or third-generation, or even a further removed Mick, can tart him or herself up in plaids, spats, sporrans, bearskins toppers and daggers in their sock-tops. And then, there’s the marching around skirlling and screeching on a Scottish three-octave bagpipe. The original Irish warpipes were two-octave howlers, but the truly traditional and musical Uilleann pipes of Ireland are much smaller, elbow-pumped, played seated and not blown into. And further, how come so many of these noisome Gaelic marching societies are made up of public sector participants; cops, firemen, postal workers and even the U.S. Coast Guard? Continue reading ‘Tartan Kilts: No Irish Need Apply’

A Will Eisner Side Project

In the mid-1950s, as an army draftee killing time in a motor pool near Stuttgart, I stumbled upon a relatively little known piece of cartoon art history. Left lying on a work bench was an Army publication, a digest format titled “P*S” The Preventive Maintenance Monthly. With a title like that, it just had to be almost as exciting as all the other mind-numbing, bureaucratic crap the Army was then producing.

Picking up the October, 1956 copy of P*S, I experienced a shock of recognition. It was unmistakably the work of the great Will Eisner. I knew the Eisner signature and style from his wonderfully drawn superhero crime-fighter strip, “The Spirit,” that ran in the comics section of the Sunday paper back home. Could this be, could somebody with the stature of an Eisner be illustrating a monthly Army “How-To” publication on the care and maintenance of military equipment?

Eisner, who had served in the Army during WW II as an illustrator, had been asked by the Department of Defense in 1951, the start of the Korean War, to take on the monthly publication of P*S. He did and continued to do so for two decades, right up into the Vietnam War, finally dropping out in 1971. I’ve learned that the magazine is still in publication.

The quality of Eisner’s draftsmanship and his sense of graphic style lifted the delivery of a modest “nuts and bolts” digest into a much-anticipated monthly event. “Connie Rod,” the provocative babe of a mechanic was pure Eisner, worthy of the best molls and dames that filled the frames of The Spirit. M/Sgt. Half-Mast, the old Motor Sgt. is a ringer for The Spirit’s Commissioner Dolan. And Eisner’s technical skills were on display in his renderings of all sorts of complicated military hardware; tanks, guns, vehicles and their component parts. I was impressed. Still am.

Over my time in Germany, I accumulated several dozen editions of P*S, current and back issues. But like my collection of EC originals, somewhere along the way to becoming a so-called grown-up, they sort of wandered away. And as much as I read or scanned Eisner’s fine work in P*S, I never felt the slightest inclination to lift the hood of my jeep or deuce-and-a-half (two-and-a-half ton, six-by-six wheel Army truck) and perform any of the much vaunted preventive maintenance so well advocated by Eisner.

Thanks for some of the above information goes to

By The Time We Got to Woodstock…

…it was dead and gone. Last Sunday, a raw, blustery, but sunny day in early March, we got off the Thruway and drove past the junk, the wreckage and the marginal commercial sprawl, following the signs to the village of Woodstock.

It’s all over now Baby Blue. Like the tattered, washed-out tie-dyes of the counterculture itself, Woodstock hangs on by its fingernails trying to scrape the occasional buck or two from its moment in history, nearly forty-years gone. There are the sadly ramshackle shops filled with the now almost meaningless trivia of the sixties; Hendrix posters, Rastafarian flags, dancing bear shirts and guarded allusions to getting high. The Tibetan import stores, aroma therapy signs, dirty-windowed coffee shops and new age crappy-doodle emporiums looked even shabbier framed by the sparse traffic, melting ice and gritty sidewalks. A couple of days later at Stratton, two overweight guys with white-ish hair, wearing Deadhead shirts got in line behind us. It took me a minute or two to remember, that at the time of his death, Jerry Garcia was a fat guy with white hair. After our cursory, bundled-up stroll through Woodstock, I had told my wife that now, at least, if the subject ever comes up, we’ll be able to say, “yeah, we were at Woodstock.”