The Creative Process with Paul Simon

Songfacts.com is a cool site for music geeks like me, and they have a section of interviews with songwriters that are worth reading. 

I find the creative process fascinating, especially the process of creating music and lyrics. You have to start with one or the other, first of all. Do you think up a chunk of melody and then some words to go with it, and then keep building on that? 

Or the opposite, start with some words that resonate and then build a melody for them? Each songwriter does things a little differently, and even from song to song they may change that process around. It’s about as pure a creative process as you will find. 

Or maybe you just do one or the other, like Elton John (music only) and Bernie Taupin (lyrics only) — Tapuin would hand fully formed lyrics to Elton who would then create the melody on piano.  

Then there’s this:  you sit down at the piano or with your guitar and then an hour later — or sometimes ten minutes later — you have this totally new thing that you created, with a tune and lyrics, and it’s destined to be part of history now. It did not exist until you created it. Now it’s forever. How cool is that? I’m not sure how non-creative people can even begin to understand what that feeling is like.

Here’s Paul Simon on music crtics and their weird obsession with lyrics:

Most of the time, what I'm writing is about music, not about lyrics, and critics pay scant attention to the music. I mean, if you're saying something with music and words - if you're saying one thing with words and the opposite with music and you're creating a sense of irony - that's lost. Or if the idea of a song is a musical idea, how to write a song in 7/4 time and make it feel natural, let's say, it's beyond them. I never heard anybody say, Now that was a clever way of doing 7/4 time. Instead, most critics are basically analyzing words. It's English Lit all over again.

My thoughts exactly. Analyzing and focusing on lyrics is okay up to a point, but pulling them out of the music they were explicitly created for, and intended to be consumed with, is just an attempt to call attention to yourself as a critic and the “English Lit” nerd inside you. I’ve got news for you:  hardly anyone cares.  Lyrics are meant to be heard backed by music, sung by singers, not recited at poetry slams populated by 4 people including your family. 

The music is the thing. The music is always the thing. Lyrics are usually just sounds that happen to be words that work with the meter and the tone of the song. You might be overthinking it.  

Before Simon & Garfunkel made it big, Paul Simon had already been semi-successful as a songwriter with Carole King. The two of them would write songs together, and create demo tapes with Carole playing drums and piano, and Paul playing guitar and bass, and both singing, obviously. Simon: 

The game was to make a demo at demo prices and then try to sell it to a record company. Maybe you'd wind up investing $300 for musicians and studio time, but if you did something really good, you could get as much as $1,000 for it. I never wanted to be in groups - I was only after that $700 profit. I always tried to get my money up front, because you were never sure of getting your royalties if they put the record out. You were dealing with a lot of thieves in those days.
Quite an array of talent on those demo tapes: Paul Simon and Carole King. The two of them had about 30-40 classic songs in their future, just waiting to come out.

Paul Simon really upped his songwriting game around 1969, and it’s obvious from listening to his work before and after that time. Here’s his take on that:

For me the significant change occurred around 1969, after I wrote 'The Boxer,'" he said. "At that point I stopped smoking grass and I never went back. I told a friend of mine, a really good musician, that I had writer's block. And he said, 'When are you going to stop playing this folkie stuff, all the time the same G to C chords? You could be a really good songwriter, but you don't know enough, you don't have enough tools. Forget about having hits - go learn your ax.' I started to study theory. I began listening to other kinds of music - gospel, Jamaican ska, Antonio Carlos Jobim. 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was a gospel-influenced song. It was very easy for me to feel at home with gospel, because it sounded like the rock 'n' roll I grew up with in the early '50s.

He definitely took that advice to heart, because his 70s output has amazing breadth and depth. Start with “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” (Spotify) which has heavy gospel, ska, and jazz influences, plus one of biggest (and best) hits “Kodachrome”. Gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds appear on several songs and make an amazing difference in the tone and depth of those songs, starting with “Tenderness” and the other big hit “Loves Me Like a Rock”. Simply one of the best popular music albums of the 70s. 


“Everything is Beautiful” and Other Reasons I Miss the Early 70s

Ray Stevens - “Everything is Beautiful”

There were a lot of classic songs in the early to mid 70s, like this one, and sometimes I really miss that era. Those years were good for me. And for some reason, 1972 sticks in my head more than the other years.

1972 . . . somehow deep down inside where emotions reside, I get a good warm feeling just from thinking about that year. Whatever the reasons might be, including pure nostalgia for when we were young and life was simple, I know that part of the reason I like 1972 and his friends 1971 and 1973, plus their cousins 1970 and 1974, is because of the music of the era. Music exactly like this.

Music, on the radio, heard by everybody because radio was not the balkanized wasteland that it is today. If a station played music at all, it was generally Top 40. On AM radio. And did we like it anyway? Yes we did. Damn right we did. Instead of walking around looking like dorks with little white things in our ears, grooving to our own sounds, shutting out everything else, we listened in our cars and bedrooms and kitchens, on AM radios played through 3″ speakers, with other people. Hard to picture now, I know, unless you were there. 

Music was far more communal back then. It was a cultural bond. It’s not like we sat around and thought about it, but looking back, yeah, that’s what happens when popular music caters to a mass market. Songwriters wrote songs and singers and bands recorded them with the hope that it would become a hit and thereby a small piece of the soundtrack of the lives of millions of people. 

Sometimes, like this one, it was even a little bit spiritual, and that wasn’t unusual either (“Put Your Hand in the Hand”, “Day by Day” from Godspell, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, among other examples) —  but that trend also stopped around the mid-70s.

Can you even imagine a song like this today, being written, recorded, and released, and becoming a hit? It just doesn’t seem very likely to me.

There was something different about the early 1970s, when the patchouli haze of the 60s had finally dissipated, but before Watergate would invade our minds and rudely demand all our attention, and during the time when we were slowly pulling out of Vietnam, assuming everything would be all peaches and sunshine when we left. Smiley face stickers and t-shirts were everywhere. People looked for reasons to be happy and positive, it seemed.

Looking back now, the early 70s seemed like an island in a vast sea, a port in a storm. The ugliness of the late 60s, the riots, the demonstrations, the assassinations (two historic figures were assassinated within two months of each other, Martin Luther King in April 1968, and Robert F. Kennedy, who was on track to be elected president, in June), all of that seemed so last-decade, probably because we so desperately wanted it to be.

But of course, soon enough, everything changed. By 1975, Watergate had forced Nixon to resign in disgrace and portrayed Washington as a national punchline, and we had to turn tail in South Vietnam which had been overrun by the Communists to the north, so as a result, public confidence in our country and in our future took a nosedive that we didn’t pull out of until the mid-80s and the economic boom and optimism of the Reagan years. Those of us who lived through the 60’s and 70’s think of it through two filters: Vietnam and Watergate.

But in between, there was a little respite, and 1972 was the year that defined that respite, at least to me and my then-13-year-old ears. Within a couple of years, other pop music trends started to dominate, like disco, art rock, punk, new wave, all sorts of influences that chased out the sense of pure unabashed naivete and childlike joy from our popular music, and therefore, to a degree, from popular culture. But pop music never recovered its 1972-ish halo.

The point here — besides my obvious nostalgia for my formative years — is that we have chosen (been forced into?) a much different way of doing all this today, due to cable TV and then internet streaming of music and video and then smartphones — and it has had entirely predictable consequences and some of them are not on the positive side of the ledger. 


A Tuesday Link

Rick Beato “This Song Changed My Life”:

He was bored with his leg in a cast all summer long after 7th grade, and decided to learn this song by America “Never Found the Time” (Spotify) which includes about 15 different chord shapes, many of which he had to figure out on his own because the music book had them wrong. 

That is a lot of chord shapes for one song — most songs only use 4 or 5, max. More chord shapes means more complex and challenging to play, and using minor 7ths, add-9,  suspended chords, etc.

Picking a song like this as your very first song to learn all the way through is a challenge, to say the least. 

It was also played on a 12 string, not a 6 string, which he also had to figure out himself by going to a guitar store and playing the chords on that 12 string, many weeks later. He got that 12 string, by promising his mom not to tell his dad how much it cost ($120 in 1975 was a pretty substantial sum). 

Watch the video to learn the rest.


Streaming Updates and Other News

We finished watching a good short series yesterday, “Manhunt: Deadly Games” (Netflix, possibly others) about the pursuit of the Atlanta ‘96 Olympic Games bomber Eric Rudolph, and the incompetence and hubris of the FBI and the media in portraying the man who alerted law enforcement to the bomb, Richard Jewell, first as the hero he actually was and then as the primary suspect who was tried and convicted in the media for months. 

The phrase they keep coming back to in the show is “don’t judge by appearances”, and this whole case is Exhibit A. 

It’s far from a 100% factual account nor should we expect it to be. Never ever assume that you know exactly what happened down to the last detail from one TV show, movie, documentary, or news article. But getting every detail right is unimportant, if the big picture is correct, and the big picture here is the mendactiy, hubris, and incompetence of the FBI and the media, and then refusal to admit mistakes even when it was beyond obvious that they had started down the wrong road by working together to destroy Richard Jewell.

It’s 10 parts but we easily watched over 3 mights in less than a week. Good performances by all, and I particularly liked Arliss Howard as the grizzled old veteran ATF bomb detective that first uncovers the bombing signature connection to the later bombings which rule out Jewell as the suspect in the Atlanta bombing. Highly recommended. 

Other News 

My highly debilitating vertigo episode of last week suddenly disappeared Friday evening within 20 minutes of taking the first sip of Friday night Guinness. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. I do feel a lot better, although I have noticed the spins when I am lying down and move my eyes quickly, so something is still not quite right in there. Still, much much better. 

Weather this weekend was still very cool, highs in the 50s and breezy, and it’s 42° F right now at 7:30 am, with a high today of only 50 expected. Highs in the 60 all week it appears. But that’s ok with me — I like cooler weather in Spring and Fall. Keep the 80+ and  high humidity days for June, July and August where they belong.

Enjoy Natalie Cole with a good version of the jazz standard “It’s Only a Paper Moon”:

Contact Hitters and Why We Need Them

Accepted wisdom in baseball has changed through the years — due to the ascension of advanced metrics like launch angle— causing many teams to demote the value of the contact hitter in their hierarchy of lineup needs. 

This was a mistake. 

I’ve written on this before, several times, and will do so again, but for now let’s just watch this hit to drive in the game-winning run in the 8th inning on Saturday by Matt Duffy:

Click here to watch if above does not work.

Here he is right after hitting the ball:

Note the orientation of his left foot and his entire left leg, his head, shoulders, and hips — to right field. Physics and common sense tell us this is the _only_ sensible orientation of your body with a pitch on the outer third of the plate, as this one is. Trying to hit such a pitch anywhere *but* right field is giving away an out, and in this case, would have stranded the go-ahead run at second base going into the ninth inning.

Look how far his hips — the center of rotation that creates most of the energy in the swing — are from the ball. Probably 5 feet or more? If he tries to hit that pitch to the left side of the diamond, he almost certainly strikes out, or hits a weak grounder to an infielder. The physics of swinging a bat to hit a ball hard won’t allow you to hit that pitch to the left side and hit it hard enough to get on base. Which is, after all, the whole point of swinging the bat.

The Cubs, along with many other teams I would guess, have in recent years typically had only one guy on the entire roster who can do this consistently. There’s an epidemic across the league of this — mostly due to over-measuring and over-analyzing whatever we decide to measure and anaylze, launch angle in particular — which causes an increase in 3 outcomes (strikeeout, walk, home run) and a decrease in all others. 

The list of ways that this changes the game is long and varied but a primary change is fewer baserunners with the aforementioned increase in walks, strikeouts, and home runs, and therefore far fewer exciting baserunning plays, because on those rarer occasions when there are baserunners, there are fewer hits like Duffy’s that advance (or drive in) those runners. The effect is exponential, not additive. There is also a huge increase in use of defensive shifts, overloading the zones on the field where hitters have shown they almost always hit the ball. 

Far, far less action in the game, in other words. It’s become boring, or more boring, depending on your patience. The league is tinkering with rules changes to increase excitement and shorten games, but it seems to me the simplest and most important change is the one they cannot mandate:  the way hitters swing the bat. 

This “hit it where it’s pitched” approach that Duffy employs — and most players used to employ, 20 or more years ago — is the main reason Duffy made the team out of spring trainng, and Cubs manager David Ross is quoted as saying that. 

Duffy delivering that hit in that spot is the key reason they won the game Saturday. 


Useful Recommendations

Wisdom passed down through the ages plus our own empirical experience combine to teach us many things, including:

  • Don’t run with scissors
  • Stop, drop, and roll
  • Don’t pet the dog with sticky hands
  • Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker
  • Righty tighty lefty loosey - unless you’re on the other side of the bolt or it’s a propane tank valve
  • Don’t get vertigo
  • If you do get vertigo, don’t get the kind that stays with you for days
  • If you do get vertigo, and you do get the kind that stays with you for days, don’t also get a tooth pulled during that same time period
  • If you do get vertigo, and you do get the kind that stays with you for days, and you also get a tooth pulled during that same time period, plan on being dizzy and uncomfortable and having difficulty eating which then of course in addition to feeling nauseous and unsteady makes you weak and cranky too

I hopt that’s clear. 

I discovered a new radio show last night with great Americana roots music, it’s called American Routes and it’s out of New Orleans. It features “blues and jazz, gospel and soul, rockabilly and country, Cajun and swamp pop, Tejano, Latin… and beyond” and I like *all* of those styles of music. Thanks to my friend Rich who texted me the link while the show was on last night. Highly recommended.

This podcast is worth a listen too, about Lance Armstrong and his doping and PED scandal, it’s called “American Scandal” and it involves a lot of cycling community drama between Armstrong, Greg LeMond, and Floyd Landis. I listen on Spotify but it’s available on various platforms. Also highly recommended. 


Let’s Look at a Couple of Classics from Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66

This band had several very big U.S. hits in the mid-to-late 60s. Here’s Mas Que Nada, one of the biggest.

Infectious, eh? The lyrics are in Portuguese, and I have no real idea what they’re singing about ... but it doesn’t really matter, does it? 

No it does not. 

Here’s Pretty World. 

Music is 100% a subjective experience, and for me, this is one of those songs that instantly lifts my mood. Everything about it says “happy”, from the melody to the lyrics to the percussive style and the beat, from the instruments to the production and finished product.

Yes, it’s lightweight pop entertainment. No, it’s not Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen or Bruce Springsteen delivering a deep thoughtful protest song or Dust Bowl ode to Tom Joad or some brooding, boring and depressing “music as literature” think piece. 

That’s exactly why I like it. Even lightweight pop entertainment can be sorted into piles labeled Excellent, Mediocre, and Bad. This one goes into the Excellent pile. 

The lyrics to Pretty World:

Why don't we take a little piece of summer sky?
Hang it on a tree
For that's the way to start to make a pretty world
For you and for me

And for the sun we'll find a lemon bright balloon
You can hold the string
Oh, can't you see that little world of ours will be
The prettiest thing

We can gather rain enough for the stream
To hold our happy faces
When we want a breeze
I'll blow you a kiss or two
Take me in your arms and our little world
Will be the place of places
Nothing else to make but breakfast and love

We'll hang a little sign that just says
Population two
I know together we can make a pretty world
For me and for you
For you
It's what I long to do, to do
To make a world with you

Great imagery ... “take a little piece of summer sky, hang it on a tree” ... “hang a little sign that just says Paradise, population two” ... The Sun as a lemon bright balloon and you can hold the string ... “we can gather rain enough for the stream, to hold our happy faces”. 

And the phrasing on the lyrics pushes the whole thing into another dimension. 

Excellent relationship advice too, because the desire to “make a world with you” is exactly the right attitude. We have choices every day on what kind of world we are making in all of our relationships, and so we can choose to make it pretty, ugly, or various points in between. The world you make is the world you chose.

I love everything about the bossa nova influences on American music in the 50s and 60s, and wish it had taken a greater and longer-lasting hold. 


On-Screen Keyboards ... Why, Oh Why? Just Why

A Short List of Reasons Why On-Screen Keyboards are The Worst

On-screen keyboards are the worst. We all know it but we all use them anyway, the result of going from using mainly laptops and desktops 10-12 years ago to mainly mobile devices today. God forbid you should be unable to reply to some Twitter hot take for a few hours! Better you should deal with a horrible interface that ruins your day with a low-quality user experience like 287 times a day. 

Here’s my short list of reasons why they are The Worst:

  • Keys are tiny - at least for my thumbs and maybe yours too. And ladies with long fingernails, how exactly do you make that work? Watch someone you don’t know personally using their phone to type furiously from across the room sometime — do they seem to be enjoying themselves? 
  • Spellcheck sucks — we all hate it, don’t we? Ever had it convert something into a sexual term without your realizing it until just after you hit “send”? This is not ideal. And because of (A), spellcheck gets used a lot more than it would with a regular keyboard. It’s quite the combo.
  • Using all your fingers is way faster — anyone disagree here? How could it not be faster, and therefore waste less of your time? One or two thumbs vs. all 10 fingers, this is not even close.
  • Typing should be a tactile experience — here’s where the rubber meets the road. Anyone who learned how to type on a real typewriter knows exactly what I mean. Or anyone who plays piano or any type of keyboard — the pressing of the keys, the feel of them, the amount of pressure it requires, using all of your fingers at a speed that feels right for you and allows the process of writing to flow organically and just “feels right”, these are all an important part of the writing (or keyboard playing) process. Our hands are meant to move things from here to there, to push and pull, etc — the experience of pushing tiny virtual keys on a small screen is nothing like that. It’s entirely foreign and weird and unsatisfying. It sucks, frankly. 
  • Your brain backs up with unexpressed thoughts — this is my own Wild Theory but this seems to be true for me. I don’t write as clearly using a phone or tablet on-screen keyboard as when using a real keyboard. Probably true for others, I suspect.

On-screen keyboards are worse in every way.

But “they’re convenient”, you say. Sure, they enable you to stay engaged with every app on your smartphone every waking hour of every day. 

Are you sure that’s a plus? That sounds like a big negative to me. Do you use your smartphone, or is your smartphone using you?


Tuesday is Links Day

You like art? I like art. Especially Post-Impressionism

Note a couple of things in this graph: 1) the hospitalizations rate for the 65+ demo is 1/5 what it was 3 months ago, and down near all the other demos, and 2) the rate for 18-49 was never above 10/100,000 which is 0.0001 or 0.01%. 

A Handy Guide to Translating Your Wife’s Facial Expressions

Interesting songfacts.com interview with Eric Burdon (The Animals, War, etc).

Another one with John Prine


Back from our weekend trip to see family — and to nobody’s surprise, it was quite pleasant

The littlest guy is adorable, happy, pretty quiet and a little squishy. The other kids are fun to be around and full of energy. Weather was good, and Saturday evening we watched the neighborhood kids ride bikes up and down the sidewalk while we sat in the driveway and enjoyed adult beverages. 

I was reminded again that watching your kids raise their kids is a nice bonus. 

Over the weekend there was a discussion about Bruce Springsteen at thenewneo.com comparing his version of Blinded by the Light (the original, he wrote it) against the hit version by Manfred Mann. Not really a fan of either version, or the song itself, but I was a fan of his early albums and it encouraged me to rediscover a few of my favorite songs, especially those that are a little less well-known and never get radio airplay any more:

  • Spirit in the Night 
  • Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
  • Candy’s Room 
  • Racing in the Street 
  • The Promised Land 

All are top notch examples of his songwriting prowess, with excellent arrangements and musicianship, and worth checking out if you liked early Springsteen at all. Those last three are all in sequence on Darkness on the Edge of Town, a major reason I thought that album had his strongest material of those first four “classic” albums. 

The key, for me anyway, is to listen to what the band is doing, the arrangement and the individual instruments, not so much to the singing.

Spirit in the Night:

It has a bit of a Van Morrison “Moondance” feel to it (and no, I’m not saying it’s as good as that enduring classic).  

Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy):

Again, listen to the band.

Candy’s Room:

A very adventurous piece of music. It works for me. That leads into ...

Racing in the Street:

The band builds, layer by layer, piano and then percussion then bass and then the full band, building a nice groove before falling back to just piano again, all while the story builds. For me this might be best song he ever did, from a sheer “construction of a perfect song” perspective. And that leads straight into ...

The Promised Land:

I get some of these songs won’t appeal to everyone, but as I said, I wanted to rediscover some album cuts that I had not heard in many years. I don’t listen to much of this kind of music any more, but it still sounds good here and there, because it is good, and because it was never played to death on the radio. 

Fun fact #1: his drummer Max Weinberg is the same guy who later became bandleader for Conan O’Brien from 1993-2010. He’s an interesting guy and just turned 70 years old last month.

Fun fact #2: Fans of Springsteen’s early music should check out Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, another “bar band from Jersey” that played a lot of classic R&B (Sam and Dave, Solomon Burke, etc), was heavily mentored by Miami Steve Van Zandt who wrote several songs for them,  and whose first three albums are uniformly very good. Springsteen wrote “The Fever” for them.


Is it April 30 Already?!

Yes it is, a Friday, and getting April behind us always sounds good to me. But we’ve been looking forward to this weekend for other reasons. 

We’re going to visit with my oldest son’s family to meet my newest grandson, born in February. Say hi to the cute little guy: 

He’s a big boy, well over 10 pounds at birth and already the same weight as a 16 lb. bowling ball at just 2 months old. 

He’s very chill and doesn’t fuss or cry too much, just some whimpering when he’s hungry or needs a change. 

So that’s what our weekend ahead looks like. 

Yesterday I took a day off and watched the first episode of the “Mark Twain” documentary from Ken Burns. Twain is one of my favorite people in American history in addition to being a writing genius. His life story is fascinating and filled with adventure especially as a younger man — if you’ve never read his account of being a riverboat captain in the 1850s, you really must do that, look for “Life on the Mississippi” — and then he wrote his classic books in the 1870s-80s and built his family a huge, beautfiul home in Hartford, Connecticut. But family tragedy upon family tragedy awaited him, and financial troubles too. 

He was also a newspaperman for many years — where he mixed humor into reporting and turned it into something much more entertaining than “news” — and a gold /silver prospector during the Gold Rush in Nevada and California. He wrote short stories, and became famous for that too, and turned them into a one man stage show that became quite popular. 

All of this before he ever wrote “Tom Sawyer”,  “Huckleberry Finn” and his other well-known books.

Learning about his life is truly a window into America in the middle of the 19th century: growing up in a small town, riverboats on the Mississippi, westward expansion and the Gold Rush, the newspaper business, reconstruction, slavery, the Gilded Age, traveling abroad when America was still quite the underdog on the world stage, and so much more.

Highly recommended. Obviously.  

It’s on Amazon Prime Video for free, or PBS here


It’s Thursday and that means music, art, and other fun stuff.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, “The Nearness of You”

Sheer awesomeness is difficult to describe, so I don’t really try to explain such beauty in mere words. Instead: click play and enjoy! 

Has there ever been a better singer than Ella Fitzgerald? Not to my ears, that’s for sure.

Did you know there are Twitter accounts for famous artists from the past? Classic art in your feed can only improve it.

Some artworks I have happened upon in my Twitter feed recently ...  

Samuel Peploe, “Landscape at Cassis”, 1924 link

Pierre Renoir, “The Rose Garden at Wargemont”, 1879 link

Camille Pissarro, “Avenue de l’Opera Rain Effect”, 1898 link


Steve Winwood’s Musical Genius

Seems underappreciated to me ...  

Musical genius Steve Winwood wrote this classic when he was just 20 years old: 

Of course that’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” on solo acoustic guitar. 

Did you know he played guitar, in addition to keyboards, drums, bass, mandolin, saxophone, and several other instruments? Neither did I. 

He joined the Spencer Davis Group (“I’m a Man”, “Gimme Some Lovin”, etc) when he was 14 after playing in local jazz and blues-rock bands starting at age 8, including gigging with famous blues artists on tour in the U.K. like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley. 

He started Traffic when he was 19. He started Blind Faith with Eric Clapton when he was 20. He was always the youngest member by far of every band he played in, from my estimation. By the time he was 25, he had been playing many instruments professionally for over 15 years, and created timeless music that still sounds good today, as a main creative force in multiple bands. 

The timeless classic Traffic album “John Barleycorn Must Die” is mostly his creation. Just one of the great songs on it, “Glad”:

He wrote or co-wrote most of Traffic’s other well-known songs like “Paper Sun” and“Dear Mr. Fantasy”. 

And, as a guy who plays multiple instruments and writes the music, he obviously had a very big hand in the arrangements on all this great music. 

Again:  all this before he turned 25 years old. Then of course, he went on to a long successful solo career and session work. 

Island Records founder and producer Chris Blackwell said of Winwood, “He was really the cornerstone of Island Records. He's a musical genius and because he was with Island all the other talent really wanted to be with Island.”. 

Yesterday was pretty warm and sunny but the next two days should be cooler and a little rainy which is good for me as a homeowner because I need to get the weed ‘n feed down. Dandelions gonna dandelion, bro. 

Cubs lost again last night, with a grand total of 2 hits. Recent offensive explosions last week saw some folks getting a little giddy, but I saw those explosions as anomalies, so time will tell I guess. Too many free swinging “launch angle” guys in this lineup. It’s annoying, unsound baseball. 

Things to read today: Lileks Bleat is about pandering vulgarity on coffee mugs


In other streaming news ... Sunday we watched 2 episodes of “The Kominsky Method” with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. Douglas (Kominsky) is an acting coach and Arkin his agent. 

It’s funny and touching in turns, and has that sense of gravitas from really good old-school actors who know how to deliver their lines and carry a scene. Arkin is one of my favorite comic actors, and Douglas is just good in everything — and have you noticed how much he looks like his dad Kirk Douglass lately? 

Those two legends were the main reason I decided to check out the show. And then it turns out, Nancy Travis is in it as well, and I like her too.

It’s also written and produced by Chuck Lorre, whose comedy genius signature is unmistakable. Pro Tip: If you’ve never watched “Mom” you need to binge that shit. It’s hilarious.

On Netflix, two seasons so far and a third season starting in late May. Here’s the trailer for season one.


We might have been the last people on Earth to start watching streaming TV, but we are fully committed now. We are on board.

More or less in order: Prison Break, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Queen’s Gambit, Ozark, Afterlife, and a few more that we just sampled and may revisit again someday. Some pretty good stuff in there, but everyone knows about all of those shows already.

I want to mention a show we’re watching now that we really like and that you may not know about: Last Chance U (Basketball).

Last Chance U started a few years ago and focused on football programs at community colleges around the country, the kind of places where players go when they had bad grades in high school, or tried a year of college and it didn’t work out for some reason. Key point: nobody wants to be there, they want to be somewhere else better but need to start there. 

Last year they did a basketball version for the first time, about East L.A. College. We found all the coaches and players likable (some presented a bit more of a challenge in this area) and easy to pull for. It’s a view of young men, and of college sports, that you never ever see unless you know someone personally in one of these programs.

Eight episodes, around 50 minutes each, on Netflix. Worth checking out. Here’s the official trailer.

Tomorrow: another show we like called The Kominsky Method.


Woke up late this morning after waking up at the normal time this morning. Wait, what? 

See, normally I wake up around 6am naturally, no alarm needed. This morning I could hear birds chirping outside and looked at my phone: 5:48. Good enough, but still tired so I’ll just lay here and relax a few minutes ... then my wife’s alarm rings and suddenly it’s 7:10. 

Seemed like 15 minutes to me but it was an hour and 22 minutes. Huh.

Coffee making is late. That’s my gig, and always has been, because I wake up first and as James Lileks always says, “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee”. 

Enough trivia. 

Interesting links you should check out:

Pathogens in One Lesson, Courtesy of Sunetra Gupta - very interesting and informative, key takeaway is “take care of your immune system and don’t obsess about pandemics”

Roquan Smith Awarded Ed Block Courage Award for Chicago Bears - congrats to Smith, who had a great year last year on the field too 

Image above: Van Gogh “ Houses in Auvers” 1890


Woke up this morning to frost on the car windshield. Reminder:  it’s April 22.

We had some light snow on Tuesday. Again:  today is April 22, and Spring started a month ago. 

Two weeks ago we hit the 80s a couple of times. EIGHTIES in early April. 

So, yes, Springtime is a little bit bipolar around these parts. I’m not complaining though, I prefer cooler weather, and would be perfectly happy with highs in the 60s in the Spring. 

And the Summer. And the Fall. 

Maybe two weeks of highs in the 80s, from July 1-15, that would work. How can we arrange that? Is there a 1-800 number or something? 

I guess I should get a Tesla so my disgusting CO2 output will drop and cool the planet by 0.00000000000000000000000000001 degrees. Or a Chevy Volt? Something like that.

I love it when a plan comes together.