Music Break

Due to unforeseen circumstances, my surely engrossing, or at least on-topic, fountain pen posts are going to be postponed. I hope not for too long.

But what do we do when the going gets tough? Turn on the radio. Or the turntable. Or Spotify.

Given the month, what could be more appropriate than the song up there, September Gurls by Big Star? This one is from way, way back in the 1900s — 1974. It’s from an album called Radio City, which was the second album from Big Star, and truly it’s a lovely song. Since September Gurls has been covered by other groups, you may have heard it.

So, okay, some trivia. Big Star was a little group and never became big stars. But one of its members, and the principal songwriter, was the late, great Alex Chilton. You may have heard of his earlier group The Box Tops. And Chilton happened to be friends with a guy named William Eggleston. Now, just a few years later, Eggleston would start being recognized as one of the greatest photographers ever. But back then Eggleston wasn’t particularly well-known, and he gave his friend a recent photo for the cover. That photo, The Red Ceiling, is surely the most famous thing about the record today.

But the 1970s ended, and we came to the 1980s. In 1987, the band The Replacements put out a tribute to Alex Chilton, called, appropriately enough, Alex Chilton.

The Replacements were the greatest American band of the 1980s. (I think that’s been scientifically proven). Also, totally wrecked. Fun fact: the band broke up for good during a concert, on stage, in Chicago.

I don’t like old music, but The Replacements are the bomb, even today. Scrolling through their YouTube videos, I’m in heaven. Merry Go Round. Kiss Me on the Bus. Unsatisfied. I’ll Be You. The whole of Let It Be. It does seem that they were never all sober at the same time, so if “on-key” or “well played” are important aspects to music, don’t even click.

But then the next decade came, the 1990s, and everything changed. Again. There was this little band, that became huge, called Nirvana. Back in the 1900s. And it’s very hard to believe this, but tomorrow will be the 25th anniversary of the release of their second album, a little thing called Nevermind.

Actually, if you watch the video, it does seem like 25 years ago. Because that is the most dated video ever. Check out the the hair flips. We could do a drinking game to the hair flips: “He/she flipped his/her hair; drink!” Except we’d all be passed out drunk within the first minute and a half.

So I’m not ruling it out or anything.

Music Break!

I just like this song.  Stevie Nicks famously wrote Landslide in the 1970s, after a fight with her boyfriend and bandmate Lindsey Buckingham.  Fleetwood Mac recorded it in 1975, on the brink of stardom, but this particular song didn’t actually become a hit till years later.

I still have the record, but I like the version in this video, filmed at a concert in the 2000s.  There’s a different resonance thirty years later. Nicks survived hard times with drugs and difficult relationships, and I can’t imagine not rooting for her.  I like seeing Nicks and Buckingham playing together now, each seemingly in a happier and more peaceful place.  If we’re lucky, we all get through uncertain or hard times.

That said, the most moving version I’ve ever heard of this song was when my older daughter’s high school chorus performed it when they were seniors. It was an incredibly moving song from young adults, on the brink of so much that’s exciting, but also challenging and uncertain.  “I’ve been afraid of changing / ‘Cause I’ve built my life around you / But time makes you bolder / Even children get older / And I’m getting older too.”

Stevie Nicks dedicates this version to her father.  That’s part of getting older, too.  “Can I sail through the changing ocean tides / Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

I like seeing this video, because its answer is “yes.”

So, It Really Could Be the End of the World Now?


I read the other day that the Chicago Cubs are the heavy preseason favorites to win Major League’s Baseball’s World Series in 2016.  This is serious.

I’ve mentioned that I grew up a Cubs fan. That is not a prudent thing to be. The Cubs have the longest record of championship futility in American professional sports.  I grew up watching Cubs teams lose. Every single year. Some bad teams, yes, but also some good teams that still managed to claw defeat from the jaws of victory. Every. Single. Year.  I’ve been there, done that and I do actually have the tee shirt.

The idea that people would bet real money on the Cubs winning the World Series this year, at only 4-1 odds, is perhaps not technically crazy. One team will win, and there are only 30 teams. But are the Cubs at 4-1 a good bet?

I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Well, if these are the end of days, at least I have enough ink.

Grab Your Life Jackets

We have not had the greatest ten days or so in our extended family. But the very same day we hit that iceberg, I got something in the mail that I turned out to be a life raft of sorts.  My new album Art Angels from Grimes arrived.

Now, Grimes is, to me, an awe-inspiring genius, but she’s no Adele in terms of appeal.  So I fully expect most people to be saying, who?” Or, if you know her stuff, maybe even, “hmm.” And you know what?  You are fine with that.  I am not pushing her. She’s definitely not for everyone.  Bless her, she doesn’t want to be.  I love that about her — she is singular and she is true to herself.

To give you an idea of Grimes, what’s probably the best song on her new album is called Kill v. Maim, and she said she wrote it from the perspective of Al Pacino in The Godfather Part 2 except he’s a vampire who travels through space. So.

You like to think she’s just playing with people there.  However, the video lends some support to that concept, since it’s so bloody that I wouldn’t link innocent people to it.  Tarantino fans, though, could Google it. And I think it’s great — especially before the rivers of blood begin to run down people’s faces and necks.

But, while it’s perhaps not as fantastic as Kill v. Maim, my favorite song on the album might be another song, called California. Grimes has explained this one as an f-you song, aimed at a music reviewing site.  However, what I love about California is its irresistibly happy pop beat.  It’s an upbeat f-you song.

My favorite part is  when she sings, “And when the ocean rises up above the ground / baby, I’ll drown / in Ca – al- al – al – al- California.”

Okay, maybe that sounds … not upbeat.  But when you hear it, it’s a happy, even triumphant, drowning.  (I mean, she is in California.)

I took a meditation class last year with an awesome teacher who said when things get difficult, remember to ride the waves. Don’t try to fight what’s happening — you can’t change it any more than you can change ocean waves. Just ride the waves. I’m going to say that it’s nice to do that with a smile on your face.


Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day. The other day, I had one of those radio moments, when I was driving with the radio on, and all of a sudden they played Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway.” That was on his first record, Marshall Crenshaw, which came out in 1982.

That song took me back to my freshman year in college, and to the greatest friends anyone could ever had. There were — and still are — six of us in our core group, two girls and four guys.

We all loved Marshall Crenshaw, whose early career coincided with those magical years where we were forging our identities away from home, and taking the first steps into adulthood.  Marshall — we called him that — played a concert at our college in support of Field Day, his wonderful second album. Of course we were in the front row.

It wasn’t just Marshall, though. Music was part of the fabric of our friendship. There were also R.E.M, Elvis Costello, the Replacements, Bruce Springsteen, New Order and too many others to mention.  We played music constantly, we talked about it and we went to concerts in New York and then later California. I can’t remember what I cooked for dinner two days ago, but I can tell you what a young Michael Stipe wore on a tiny stage in Binghamton, New York in the early 1980s.

What better day to appreciate family and friends than Valentine’s Day?  So I’d like to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day to all, old friends and new, near and far, online and offline.  And especially to those five wonderful friends from freshman year to today — one of whom has a birthday today. Thank you for the days and years.

One Minute Ink Review: Diamine Bach


Diamine Bach. Last month was Mozart’s birthday, so I did a one minute ink review of Diamine Mozart ink, here. Bach is another ink from Diamine’s music set, and another lovely dark reddish brown. Bach, the ink, is darker than Mozart.

An everyday ink?  Yes, it could be, for me.  I love a dark brown.

Here is a comparison with Bach on the left and Mozart on the right.  When you put them in the same pen, they look very close in color. Sometimes I can hardly tell them apart.