All posts by Fred Sampson

College foosball

  1. Is there any question that it is inordinately stupid to end a football game trying to duplicate Cal’s insane lateral play? It has not worked since 1982, come on guys!
  2. I’m starting to wonder if the PAC in PAC-12 stands for PAthetiC.
  3. I’m looking forward to the Georgia vs. Oklahoma game on Monday, but it’s not the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl was played last night in the AT&T Stadium, between USC and Ohio State. Someone mistakenly called it the Cotton Bowl.

Head-scratcher of the day

The U.S. Presidential oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I don’t see how one gets from there to “I have the absolute right to do whatever I want”.

Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte!

Back some time in November, Streetlight Records announced a contest to win Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s new album, Rest, in vinyl, along with a signed photo. I signed up, never expecting anything to come of it.

Well, today I got the call from Paige at the San Jose store: I won!

Why do I care? Well, for one, I’m listening to a lot of French pop music to augment my efforts to learn French, which means hearing Charlotte’s father, Serge Gainsbourg, and sometimes her mother, Jane Birkin. For another, I’ve seen her in a couple of films (Lars von Trier seems to like her), and find her intriguing. So this should be fun.

American poetry, redux

I took a break from poetry for, oh, 40 years. Just like the near-20-year gap between the purchase of  my last Zappa LP with Joe’s Garage in 1978 or so until my purchase of the entire Zappa catalog on CD as it stood in 1995, I didn’t keep up with new poetry after graduating from UCLA with a Master of Arts in English in 1975.

Now, I’m back, trying to figure out who is new, fresh, important in poetry today. My Virgil in this endeavor is a lovely, intelligent, and justifiably opinionated young lady at Bookshop Santa Cruz named Amber. She helped me pick out a couple of recent books of poetry as Christmas gifts for Miranda; because Amber was so helpful I felt obliged to return when BSSC had the Best American Poetry of 2017 back in stock (today) and picked up three more works for a purchase totaling more than $80. Good job Amber, I hope Bookshop Santa Cruz appreciates your value!

Grasping at the center

When neighbors and acquaintances learned about my son JJ’s condition, they would sometimes say “But, he’ll be OK, won’t he?” That’s what they wanted to believe, because the alternative was clearly, inconveniently, painful. And my answer was always, “No, no, he will not be OK. He will never be OK.”

And when he died, I remember thinking that I would never be OK, either. Not that I ever was — OK — but I never would be. That was 14 years ago, in 2003. The same year that John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion’s husband, died, and also the year in which Joan’s daughter Quintana got ill, went to Los Angeles to recover, hit her head disembarking her flight and went into the coma from which she never recovered.

Watching the Didion documentary The Center Will Not Hold (Netflix), with descriptions of The Year of Magical Thinking (book and play) and conversation with Vanessa Redgrave, whose daughter Natasha died of another head injury, I wander into consideration of loss, and the possibility of losing another child, and thinking no, I will never be OK. I will be functional, I will be capable, I will be productive, and occasionally happy. But I will never be “OK.”

And I’m OK with that.

P.S. More than a small part of my interest in both Didion’s writings on California and those of Eve Babitz is that they write about a time in which I was “coming of age” in the same milieu: suburbs of Los Angeles. Specifically, Didion and Dunne lived in the Portuguese Bend community of Palos Verdes at the same time I was in middle school on the other side of the peninsula; lived in Hollywood as I was in high school (Rolling Hills HS, now Peninsula HS), then Malibu while I left high school and went off to UCSD. It took more than 40 years for me to discover and start reading both authors.

What I did on my winter break

. . . or, really, what I am doing:

  • Finished digitizing the last of my LPs, and packed the keepers (Zappa, Beefheart, Tull) away in LP-sized storage boxes
  • Nearing the end of ripping CDs
  • Since Tuesday, watching Dr. Who marathon on BBC America (via Sling), leading up to the Christmas Special on Christmas evening (which again conflicts with the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race)
  • Reading
    • The History of Modern France, by Jonathan Fenby
    • What Unites Us, by Dan Rather
  • Saw The Last Jedi yesterday, in 3D because that’s what screened at the earliest available showing, 10:30 a.m.; bought tickets via Fandango and learned how to pick it up from kiosk at the theater (Cinelux Capitola)

Adventures in digitizing

For the third — fourth? — winter break in a row, I am making time to digitize my collection of LPs. Why? Mostly because I expect to move some day, and I’m not going to move three big boxes of 400-500 vinyl records. They weigh a lot, and it’s not going to happen. So I’m turning them into ones and zeroes on some big hard drives, and backing up to the cloud.

This time around, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that there are not as many albums left to record as I thought. Right now, it’s Ali Akbar Khân’s Ragas of India (Book of the Month Club edition).

Once I’ve finished with the LPs I’m willing to part with, I’ll deliver them either to Streetlight Records or Metavinyl in downtown Santa Cruz. Then get back to ripping the remaining CDs; I sold perhaps 200 to Streetlight last weekend.

P.S. Recording Clear Spot from Captain Beefheart, and it’s really good!

Christmas, etc.

I’m not a big fan of Christmas. The sugary promotion of emotion turns me off, the forced generosity makes me gag. I’ve developed a routine of gifts for the kids: books, videos, trinkets, and a stocking full of miscellany. Good enough.

That said, it wouldn’t be Christmas (yes, even as a Buddhist, Christmas is what we celebrate in the U.S.) without three flix:

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s the classic that sets the mood.
  • White Christmas. I still gag at some of the maudlin military camaraderie, but it’s not Christmas without it.
  • Scrooged. Bill Murray is indeed scrooged, until he gets it, really and enthusiastically gets it. Plus Bobcat Goldthwaite, Karen Allen, and Carol Kane’s “Nutcracker” fairy. Gets better each year. Just don’t staple those antlers on the mouse.

Don’t feed the Russian trolls

At this point it’s reasonable to assume that anyone stirring things up on social media with pro-fascist, pro-nazi, pro-Trump, anti-liberal fulminations is probably a Russian troll being paid to inflame and distract. And it’s now incumbent on those folks to prove that they’re not.

Keep your eyes on the impeachable offenses, follow the money, and ignore the distractions. And don’t feed the Russian trolls.