Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No, wait! Detective fiction is like jazz!

If the cadence may be regarded as the cradle of tonality, the ostinato patterns can be considered the playground in which it grew strong and self-confident.  - Edward E. Lewinsky

A decade and a lifetime ago, I interviewed Dr. Ed Lewis, then the head of the jazz department at the University of Regina. I was just kinda getting into jazz at that point, I think maybe I'd just bought my first Vandermark 5 album, and I'd been getting down with, like, Medeski, Martin & Wood and, I don't know, that's probably it. Wait, Roland Kirk. The Inflated Tear. That was happening.
These were not, are not, necessarily the best entry points into jazz, but there they were. And this would have been, really, probably the fall of 2001, really the height of my arrogance as a music writer. I mean, I was headed for a big crash, but I didn't know it. Things were still pretty hot back then for music writers, jobs would find me. There were a few mags I could whip off an email to, say "Hey, buddy, this is what I'm writing today, you want some?" And I'd get these fantastic cheques in the mail for US dollars, and this is back when that mean something. I mean you take a cheque for US$100 into the bank (this was back when you still took cheques to the bank) and they'd give you back $135 in Canadian money. Back then, you could rent a one-bedroom apartment downtown for like $250 in Regina so, the idea that a guy could make a living writing about music was not so fantastical.
Dr. Lewis, known in Regina at the time as "the Jazz Doctor", was a great interview. A natural talker and a wellspring of jazz lore, he took advantage of my jazz novice enthusiasm and gave me his history of jazz. Klezmer, or "klezma" as he called it, played a huge role. He also addressed something that I'd been curious about--why were there so many jazz versions of Broadway showtunes? In my young mind, the two genres couldn't be more disparate: jazz was the sound of America at it's coolest and most sublime; musical theatre was the sound of crazz pandering to base emotions and the death of my career in the legitimate (high school) theatre.
I strained to keep my naive disdain for showtunes to myself, but if Lewis saw it he didn't care. He told me about the Bop revolution (which I knew a bit about from all my Kerouac reading back in the day) and how jazz players grew more interested in improvisation and less interested in composition. The riff ruled. Ostinato. Popular songs, standards, showtunes were great for this because your audience was probably already familiar with the melody and could better appreciate the demarcation of what's composition and what's improvised virtuosity. They'd be hep to your blowing.
Detective fiction is like Bop, in this way. It might even be true of all genre fiction, but I'm not familiar enough with any other genres to say for sure. The plot, or melody, is familiar but what the writer does within the framework (or sometimes without) of that familiarity is what's thrilling.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sez You

Why are we still putting sesame seeds on hamburger buns? It seems like it's just a big waste of time for everyone.
Have you ever had a hamburger on a bun without sesame seeds on it? Did you miss the sesame seeds?
It's not like the sesame seed doesn't have other, more useful places to be. Like in sesame oil, or tahini. It's not some bullshit vanity grain, like the poppy seed.
There's probably just some dude who owns a bakery and has a bunch of sesame trees in his yard. This guy is like, "What am I gonna do with all-a them sesame seeds that fall outta them sesame trees every fall? Fuckit, I'll put 'em on the hamburger buns. Charge an extra 35 cents per dozen. Then I write the trees off as a business expense. Yeah, screw the taxpayer, that's the idea!"

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Thoughts: I got 'em.

I lost my phone, I lost my pen, I spent a fortnight without constant internet access. I should do that more often.
My phone, who cares, right? I'm tempted to not replace it. Just forget the whole thing. I didn't have that phone very long. The one before, I'd had since coming out to Vancouver in August, 2006. It was an artifact. All it did was send and receive phonecalls and texts. Its ringtone was "Milkshake". I had a lot of people's numbers in there. That phone was destroyed two months ago. I couldn't retrieve the numbers. Its replacement, which fell out of my pocket on an airplane did everything people think a phone should do these days.
I was more broken up about the pen. It fell out of the same pocket, probably at the same time. Just goes to show. I'd had it less than a week. The last few years I've been using cheap Bic pens, the kind you get in packs of 12 for two or three bucks. I figured, I always carry a pen, I'll probably lose it, so don't get fancy with it. Just get a pen that does what a pen oughtta do. But I never lost a pen. I ran them dry, broke them, repurposed them, but never lost them. So when the last pen in the bag became unreliable, I decided I had earned the sweet glide of a six-dollar Uniball. So much for that. Luckily, my dad spotted me a ballpoint promoting my uncle's contruction fastener company. It's not much to look at, green textured grips on either side of the nib, but it feels good in my hand.
I filed a Lost & Found claim with the airline for the phone.
So I wasn't on Twitter, I wasn't reading my email. I was hanging out with my family and stuffing my face with butter tarts. I watched a lot of TV and read a couple of books. I put that construction fastener pen to work and wrote some notes.
Most of them, reviewing them now in the silence of the new year, were notes on my Project, which I'm not ready to share. The rest were mostly about TV.  I watched a lot of TV. I was staying at my in-laws and they have all the channels. All the channels. And a deep-freeze full of treats (half-full now) like butter tarts and lemon squares and cookies cookies cookies.
Things I liked about Killing Them Softly (which I saw Boxing Day night with my youngest brother and oldest sister)
  • heavy-handed allegory 
  • all the crime dudes were stuck in the 70s
  • Ray Liotta (who reminded me, in retrospect, of Caroll O'Connor) 
  • didn't cheat against violence with style
  • very few flourishes or vamping
  • Gandolfini was like a Haggatha song 
  • pretending Brad Pitt's character was Tyler Durden to the Richard Jenkins character's Edward Norton character from Fight Club (what was his name?) 

Ads I saw on the Sun News TV Network
  • "Natural Health Supplements"
  • central vacuum system
  • Red Lobster

Every single time I put on Sun TV, it was just one Sun Media journalist talking to another Sun Media journalist. Nothing gets in. Nothing gets out. 

Wallander doesn't know Revelation is in the back?

Good: Night Court marathon
Better: Night Court Christmas episode marathon
Best: Night Court guest-starring John Astin marathon

Book TV check in:
  • Lois & Clark
  • interview with Suzanne Somers
  • Lois & Clark
  • Lois & Clark
  • Road to Avonlea 

Random episode of Arrow
  • All traces of Vancouver have been digitally removed, but then they go and mention Vancouver by name. 
  • Stays true to Green Arrow's roots as a cheap Batman knock-off
  • Bodyguard's name is Diggle, mentions a brother named Andy
  • Really laying it on thick with the DCU references, from Bludhaven to Big Belly Burgers 
  • Not much to recommend it: little humour, no joy, no trick arrows, no van dyke, no chili, no smack talking Batman.