Archive for March, 2008

Not Just Another Band From East L.A.

loslobos200.jpgThis is something new for me, writing a music review instead of just mouthing off.

Los Lobos, Thursday, March 6, 2008, Matthews Theater, Princeton, NJ

Los Lobos are very much a collection of equals. That said, it remains the voice and the imposing physical presence of David Hidalgo that have become the signatures of the band.

Like so many of us, Los Lobos are getting long in the tooth. With the exception of Cesar Rojos who seems to be blessed with preternaturally dark hair, the boys from East L.A. are now a collection of middle-aged grayhairs. A bearded David Hildalgo is beginning to look a lot like Hemingway before the Ketchum exit. All that said, the band still rocks. In fact, they concede nothing to time, no nostalgia and no dinosaur act panderings.

Like the Heartbreakers, and like the Dead before the death of Garcia, Los Lobos remains pretty much the same bunch of guys who began playing together in nineteen-seventy three; David Hildago, and fellow guitarist and co-vocalist Cesar Rojas, guitarist and percussionist Louie Perez and bass player Conrad Lozano are the core of the band. But longtime sax and keyboard player Steve Berlin has to be an honorary Chicano by now. There was also a drummer, who’s name I didn’t catch, who was delivered a solid wall of backup to the front line-up of three guitars and Berlin’s honking sax fills. Continue reading ‘Not Just Another Band From East L.A.’


Wanna Trade?

Here are more of my comic book memories that Rob Kelly was kind enough to post on one of his amazing comic book sites.  Check it out.

I was thinking of doing a nostalgia piece on “trading comic books.” In truth I don’t have a nostalgic bone in my head, believing that the only element that makes the past seem attractive to older people is that back then, they were young.

When comics were a dime in the late forties/early fifties, kids in row-house, city neighborhoods would become aware of other kids who were into comics, even if they didn’t personally know those kids. Early on a week-night, there might be a knock on your door, and a kid you might only know by sight would be standing there with a stack of comic books. A simple “Wanna trade,” was enough.

The kid would come into your living room and lay his pile down. You would get your pile, and each of you would go through the other guy’s pile, picking out the ones you wanted. Each would then count the ones he wanted and whoever had picked out more would discard the least desirable. With that, the transaction would be over, often without another word exchanged. Other nights you would be the one walking in the dark to a house on another street to initiate the trades. Continue reading ‘Wanna Trade?’

A Rule of Thumbs

“The past, that alien bourne to which no traveler can return.”
Cynthia Ozick

Let’s just pick a number. I like thirty-five. It’s a good age for my hypothetical person. That’s a point in life when many of us first became aware that things seem to be speeding up, that we could recall events of a quarter-century ago, and that we were just beginning to experience that sense of strangeness that increasingly accompanies the business of remembering.

Let’s say then, you’re thirty-five, born in 1973, and you recall some event in your life that occurred when you were ten years old, Kissing a girl, taking a drag on a cigatette.That woud have been in 1983, a clean twenty-five year gap. How do we begin to make sense of what the passage of those twenty-five years might mean in any person’s life.

There is a simple, small positioning device I’ve come to rely upon in my own quest to gain some minimal sense or feel of where I might possibly be, relative to my experience of the passage of time over my now seventy year life span.

My admittedly limited understanding of a fundamental principle of mathematics has led me to stumble upon a crude system for the placement of events into a context that seems to generate a kind of meaningful resonance. In solving for an unknown, an “x”, I believe that you have to have a ”y” point, or even a couple of “y” points, upon which, or from which, you can measure where your missing “x” lies. At this moment any reader with even a rudimentary literacy in mathematics already must be laughing. Continue reading ‘A Rule of Thumbs’

Hey Kids Comix!

A very talented freelance illustrator named Rob Kelly maintains a set of passionate sites devoted to comic books, comix that is. Rob was kind enought to post my comments on the war comic books of the late nineteen-forties and early fifities. Check out Rob’s amazing work at Don’t miss the Dylan portraits.

Here’s the gist of what I sent Rob:

One of those things I obsessed about as a kid was a comic book called “Wings.” It was during the Second World War and for three or four years I bought a copy every month. It was the cover art that got to me more than the stories or even the strip art. If you are not familiar with Wings, the cover shown tells it all, a gorgeous WW II aviation cover of a P-39 Bell Airacobra.

When I discovered comic books, the war dominated my mind. Two other comic books were favorites; “Blackhawk,” and “The Boy Commandos.” The pilots in Blackhawk, an international mix of course, fought the evil fascists while wearing flashy Prisoner of Zenda, Hapsburg-style uniforms, and they flew stubby, little two-engine Grumman Skyrocket naval fighters that in reality never saw action during the war. The Boy Commandos were a comic book version of the “Dead End,” “East Side” or “Bowery Boys” movie gang who also helped win the war against the evil Nazis and Japs. I thought they were great.

Now here’s a strange one. I rarely read a comic book. I looked at the pictures. If the artwork got my attention, I bought the book and looked at the pictures. The stories hardly interested me at all.

When the Korean War started in 1950, I was twelve years old and already into the whole EC comic line. I had every on of their two war, or rather anti-war, comics, mostly for the Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman work, particularly the Kurtzman covers. I bought a couple of reprints back in the late eighties or early nineties and what surprised me was just how well the artwork, the Kurtzman covers specifically, have held up. After more than fifty years, I believe that in terms of graphic art, subject matter aside, it would be difficult to date them. They are wonderful.

834_06.jpg834_031.jpg762_201.jpgA Part of Kurtzman’s genius was an ability to convey a wealth information with a minimum of detail. Look at his 1951 Korean War piece “Contact.” The splash panel is a small masterpiece. The rendering of the winter tree holding a Chinese sniper is van Gogh-like, and the drawing of the rifle, absolutely minimalist, is still recognizably, a Mauser.