A Broken Record…Broken Record….Broken Record…….

Have you noticed how often all-time baseball records are being broken, equalled, or seriously challenged this year? Almost on a weekly basis, if not daily. It’s partly because we’re living in a historic period in terms of home runs and strikeouts, not to mention the vast quality and quantity of elite young talent in the game. Abetting it all is the unfettered access to instant information –  the minute somebody does something remotely unprecedented, the baseball mainframe whirrs into …

Yogi Berra and the Catcher’s Burden

A while back I had occasion to look over Yogi Berra’s career stats and noticed something for the first time which shocked me a little: in his long and storied career, he never led his league in a single offensive category. That’s not to take anything away from him, but I just assumed a player so great would have led in something – maybe doubles or sac flies or walks – at least once.

Because he looked and talked …

Not Trotsky, TROSKY

The words to Dave Frishberg’s great baseball song Van Lingle Mungo are all old ballplayers’ names and the name Hal Trosky appears at the end of the third system, which repeats later in the song. Trosky is now shrouded in obscurity, so a mention in such a hip, insider song is what passes for his moment in the sun these days. It has maybe kept his name alive somewhat and may have led a few jazz/baseball fans – hi, …

Dodgers-Phillies Dillies

The Dodgers and Phillies recently split an eventful and combative four-game series in Philly which featured a fair amount of back-and-forth animosity. The two teams don’t have the same kind of arch rivalry as the Dodgers and Giants or the Yankees and Red Sox, but going back a ways, they do have some serious history: in 1950 and again in ’51 the Phillies and Dodgers played dramatic showdown games on the last day of each season with the National …

Rub-A-Dub, My Dears, Rub-A-Dub

Down through the years, especially in the distant past, scores of comic, off-beat or novelty songs were written and recorded, taking their place alongside more conventional Tin Pan Alley or Broadway show tunes. Some of them achieved mass appeal, while others had more of an underground cult status. Some were quite harmless but the many about sex were intended to titillate and the raunchier ones are fairly shocking for their day. Those by Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart were …

Mel Ott: What Does It Take For a Guy To Win An MVP Award Around Here?

To me, the most surprising fact in baseball history – and that’s saying something – is that Mel Ott never won an MVP Award, not one. He led the National League over 20 times in various categories such as home runs (6 times), RBI (once), runs scored (twice), walks (6 times), on-base percentage (4 times), and slugging (once). Yet, not only did he not win an MVP Award, he never even finished as high as second in the voting, …

Thanks, and One More Ed Story For the Road

Hello, everybody. I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I wanted to thank all of you for reading my remembrance of Ed Bickert and for the very positive and widespread response which has been a little overwhelming, but in a nice way. I’m a bit naive, but I guess this reaction was to be expected under the circumstances. It says more about Ed than my writing and as I’ve learned over the years, in terms of reader …

So Long, Ed: A Remembrance

By now we’ve all heard that Ed Bickert passed away on Thursday, February 28 at the age of 86. Our hearts go out to his family, especially his daughter Lindsey, his sons Jeff and Tim, and his grandchildren. Written tributes have poured in and will continue to, both in Canada and “south of the border, down America way”, as Ed made an indelible mark internationally. I’ve wanted to write something about him sooner than this but just couldn’t, not …

Great Irish Pianists, Redux

I’ve expanded on yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day post with a few small improvements and the addition of two more modern Irish jazz pianists I’d overlooked, McCoy Tyner, and Joanne Brackeen, suggested by one of the many enjoyable comments left. I’ve also included a joke which demonstrates the difference between “lace-curtain” and “thatched-roof” Irish, so readers may want to revisit yesterday’s post. Or not.…

Dressing Down for Winter

I recently became the proud owner of a deluxe, almost-new down parka, replete with all the snazzy requisite features: a luxurious hood trimmed in genuine fake-fur, numerous handy inside and outside pockets (including the all-important diagonal slits on the sides which allow you to bury your hands snugly while walking elbows akimbo), and storm cuffs to keep out blizzards and other animals. And it’s in a manly shade of black with a quilted grey interior; nothing too Champs Élyseés

Snow Business

“They call my home the land of snow” – Robbie Robertson, “Acadian Driftwood”.

Without a doubt, snow can be a pain: shoveling it, driving in it, schlepping and trudging through it. But it can also be so pretty, not just pretty awful. Snow is the decorative element of winter: without it, the season would be long, cold, dismal and grey; snow makes it long, cold, dismal and white. It’s important to stay positive.

The beauty of snow is most …

Dimentia Internetus

Multinational Jazz Corporations

For whatever reason, my friend Ted O’Reilly sent out a number of YouTube clips to the Old Farts this morning. They were a series of warm-and-fuzzy Christmas ads for a chain of UK department stores known as “John Lewis”. I’ve included the first one here, which is quite amusing, as English ads often tend to be. The other clips were variations of it along political/satirical lines which I haven’t included because I’m not sure I approve …

Back When Tattoos Cost A Nickel and Steam Was King

The historic, drought-busting nature of this year’s World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians has even my old friend Mike Maehle – not generally a sports fan – uncharacteristically interested. The last time I heard him talk about baseball was…. well, never. But, as a knowledgeable student of history he was talking about it today and we got to kidding around about how unimaginably long ago 1908 was, and how vastly different the world was when …

How Are These with Guacamole?

We’ve just experienced our first heatwave, that sudden annual transition from “it could be warmer” to “man, can you believe how friggin’ hot it is already!?” The last thing anyone wants to do in this heat is cook, yet we still have to eat, even if a little lighter. What’s needed is some refreshing, satisfying food that doesn’t require an oven. Salads and chilled soups like gazpacho are good, but one of the best summer snacks is guacamole, it’s …

Leicester Leaps In

I never write about soccer, or as the English call it, football. In fact, I don’t even follow it, not really. If I write about sports at all in these pages it will likely be about baseball, which isn’t really a sport, but life itself played out on a perfect diamond-shaped patch of green.

However, a piece on soccer is in order, because yesterday the Leicester City Foxes of the English Premier League achieved the most improbable and astounding …

Oopsie!

The post just issued (“Ernie Watts, Brad Goode & Stylistic Diversity”) may have seemed more rambling than usual, and much shorter, not to mention incomplete, all for good reason. I was working on the article, got distracted and clicked on the ‘publish’ button, located just below the ‘save’ button, sending it out to the airwaves accidentally, long before it was finished. It’s a good thing I don’t work in the field of geopolitics or securities trading.

For those of …

Atypic-Lee

Lee Konitz will (hopefully) turn 89 this year and, as his career enters its seventh decade, all of it spent in the vanguard of the music, he has long moved past the point were there can be any doubts about his bona fides as a jazz master. One either likes his playing or one doesn’t, take it or leave it.

That being said, his highly personal and uncompromising approach to improvising has left Konitz open to criticism through the …

Lucky Tuesday – Appendix

I added these paragraphs about Lucky Thompson and his aptly-named “Beautiful Tuesday” to yesterday’s post so it would be all of one piece. I’m offering it separately here for those who have already read the older one, to save the bother of going back to it.

Shortly after this post was published, another of “The Old Farts”, Ron Gaskin, left a comment with another Tuesday track – Lucky Thompson’s “Beautiful Tuesday”, so I’ve added this commentary and clip after …

Auld Clang Syne – Redux

I’ve added a couple of stories to my last post, both of which came to me later amid all the NYE gig memories. One of them is about Rob McConnell and has nothing to do with NYE except that it was prompted by the joke about the pianist who knows only three tunes. The other is a cherished NYE memory of Alice Allair, one of many I have about that dear and now much-missed lady. Sorry for the late …

More Gremlims

In very timely fashion, a couple of readers informed me of a problem with the link to today’s post “Tricotism”, which didn’t seem to be taking people to the bulk of the piece after the initial teaser. I wasn’t sure at first what they meant, the problem being that I don’t receive the posts, so I don’t know what the whole process looks like. At any rate, I think I figured it out and fixed it. I somehow “mis-published” …

Sorry About That, Folks!

Recently a couple of readers pointed out to me by email that they have been unable to leave comments on this site as per usual, apparently it has been mysteriously asking for some sort of password and/or log-in, which seems both heavy-handed and sinister. I’m grateful to them for letting me know, I had no idea this was going on – as you may have gathered, I’m at a sub-Luddite level of techno-peasantry. Or to put it more bluntly, …

Before It Disappears Altogether, “Merry Christmas”

 

The other day, a friend told me of a cartoon she saw recently which showed a man standing in front of his house with another guy, pointing at all the Christmas lights and other decorations he’d put up. In the middle of these was the lit-up message “Have A Nice Day”. The caption read, “I didn’t want to offend anybody”.

And this from another friend, in an email response to an impromptu Christmas gathering of musicians last week:…

Blogus Disappearus & The Cyber Attack Jim-Jams

More than once I’ve observed that in our post-9/11 digital age, paranoia is no longer a mental disorder so much as a normal condition of everyday life. A lot of this has to do with a loss of privacy, both voluntary (with our computers) and involuntary (with sweeping new laws.) The tragic events of 9/11 themselves induced an understandably palpable fear and paranoia, worsened by increased surveillance in the interests of heightened security. Some welcome the resulting loss of …

Why We Live Indoors

The other day I got into a spontaneous conversation with two ladies I work with here at the library, about the dubious joys of camping and enjoying the great outdoors. It proved to be amusing and thought-provoking enough that I thought I’d write about it.

My brother and I get along great and have lots in common, including a whacked-out sense of humour and a generally easygoing attitude about most things. But sometimes it’s hard to believe we share …

Brazilian Players Blame Rout on Using Wrong Hairspray

The following jokes about yesterday’s unbelievable 7-1 drubbing of Brazil by Germany in the World Cup semi-final were rolling around in my head when I woke up this morning. I’m not sure they’re that funny, but I am pretty sure this means I need help.

Q: How do you make a Brazilian soccer player stand tall?

A : Give him feet.

Q : How do you make a Brazilian soccer player run?

A : Turn his countrymen loose on …

Bird Math

It seems that everything that was supposed to go right for the Blue Jays last year, but didn’t  – a deep, potent batting lineup, good defense, a strong starting rotation, a weakened A.L. East ripe for the taking – has come together this year, as though it just took a year for everything to settle. Jays’ management could have been forgiven for simply backing up the truck after last year’s Murphy’s Law-disaster and getting rid of almost everybody, but …

Phew….

It’s been a while since my last posting and I’d like to explain…..It’s not that I’ve become lazy of late, or developed a sudden case of writer’s block or anything like that, although……For the past few days, I’ve been unable to log on to the site itself, which is where I do the actual writing. Whenever I tried to get in, I was greeted with the same scary message that the website was temporarily unavailable, due to a “brute …

No Good Seed Goes Un-Pun-ished

As some of you may know, I support my jazz habit by working days at a splendid old law library called The Great Library. Among other things, this makes it easier for people who’ve heard me play bass to say “Don’t quit your day job.” The library dates back to the 1840s, when people actually used words like “great” to mean “big” – we’ve tried to get the name changed to “The Awesome Library”, but no luck.

One of …

Don’t Burn the Garlic

My last post was about making chili and while I don’t intend to make this a food site, this one is about cooking too. It’s just that I’ve become something of a foodie in recent years, because I’m fortunately surrounded by people who either love good food or who are great cooks. Or both, they tend to go hand in hand. I also really enjoy cooking when I have time and seem to do more of this in the …

My Kick-Ass Chili

I wanted to post this a few days ago, but the web server for this site went down and then I was off to Mexico for a few days………

Given the Ice Station Zebra conditions outside, I think it’s time for something to warm us up, in this case my recipe for chili. I wish the name sounded a little less like chilly but trust me, a bowl of this will heat your innards and stick to your ribs, …

Laughter Travels Well Too

As part of the last post about The Wind Journeys I planned to write about a second great road film I watched recently, but got off on a music tangent and decided enough was enough. Don’t worry, I’m not setting myself up as some sort of faux film critic, I won’t make a habit of these little movie reviews. It’s just that I really love movies and have been watching a lot of them recently and happened to …

The Wind Journeys and Other Musical Travels

As a big movie fan, I don’t know what I’d do without Turner Classic Movies, though I’d no doubt be better-rested without it. With so many more channels on TV now showing so little worth watching (and with so many ads), TCM is like an oasis of civilization. I often land in this cinematic Shangri-La at an hour when more reasonable people are sleeping though and the next thing I know I’m down a half-bottle of red and it’s …

Three Pitchers Who Bucked the Odds

 

The following is a companion piece to “Shake Hands With the D.L.”, which examines injuries to pitchers down through the years. This piece takes a closer look at three pitchers from the distant past – Babe Adams, Eppa Rixey and Dazzy Vance – who overcame serious injuries and went on to have long, interesting, productive careers. In fact, Rixey and Vance are in the Hall of Fame and many think Adams should be. 

1. Babe Adams.

Say It Ain’t So, Joe….

I want to make it abundantly clear that, while I have a fairly active imagination, I’m not one of those nutters given to conspiracy theories…I repeat, I’m not a conspiracy theory guy. But the baseball played by the Cardinals in the early innings of last night’s World Series opener was so surpassingly strange, so surreal, that it brought eerie echoes to me of the curious doings in the 1919 Series. Yes, that one, the Black Sox one, the thrown …

I Hear A Sym-Phony

I’m never sure how far these posts travel or who sees them, so I want to avoid any misunderstanding by clarifying a couple of things in advance. In the following, I poke fun mostly at symphony musicians and eventually the French, a little bit. This is all in the spirit of parody as in my last two posts, which took the piss out of my own, namely jazz bands. I have the utmost respect for symphonic musicians, in fact