#ROW80: Pretty good week

Right into it:

  • Writing: Completed three stories for Story a Day and mostly finished two others. There are ideas that appeal to me more than others; those are the incomplete stories. I’m finishing the ones that aren’t as compelling. At the end of May, I can go back and see how well they combine with one another and other fragments I had. Writing as decoupàge: I like it.
  • Reading: I had one of my “duh!” moments last week: If I’m mostly writing short stories, I should be reading short stories at least more than I have and likely 80% of the time. So, I’m doing that, and I’m learning more about writing short stories than I did by reading novels or reading craft books about writing short stories. Like I said, “duh!”
  • Tweeting: Yeah, I’m doing it.

I didn’t get around as much as I would have liked to spread joy and happiness to my fellow ROWers. I’m off to do that now. Have a good week!

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Two for Tuesday: Chris Standring


Gee, almost didn’t get this one out.

Chris Standring grew up in Ayleshire, England and moved to Los Angeles in 1991. He met Rodney Lee while backing Lauren Christy, and they released an acid-jazz album, Solar System, in 1996. In 1998, he released his first album, Velvet, and has released seven albums since then.

These two cuts are from his two most recent albums. The first is “Oliver’s Twist,” from his 2012 release Electric Wonderland. Matt Cooper remixed it and choreographed it differently, using skaters from Venice Beach; the result is here. The second is “Bossa Blue,” from 2010’s Blue Bolero. You can find more at his YouTube channel and at his official website.

Chris Standring, Your Two for Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

#ROW80: Pretty good, really

Jump right into the middle of it here:

  • Writing: On the whole, I’m doing well with the Story A Day for May challenge. I’m in arrears for a couple of the stories, but I’m not going nuts over it. First, it’s easy enough given the prompts that Julie Duffy (who runs the challenge) is sending out on a daily basis, and second, I’ve found myself actually wanting to write. Even if I don’t write one of the stories exactly on the day it’s sent, or don’t actually get around to doing the prompt until June, it might actually be because I’m doing some writing on my own ideas. Damn, but this writing stuff is fun.
  • Reading: I’ve been so wrapped up in writing, I’ve been neglecting the reading. Lee Child will have to wait. I need to be in the mood to read, and lately I haven’t been. I know, I can’t call myself a legitimate writer unless I read, but as it says in Ecclesiastes, “to every thing there is a season.” (Or was that The Byrds?) I’m sure there will come the time when I don’t write much but do a lot of reading. So I’m not in panic mode over it.
  • Tweeting: I’m learning that the key there is don’t think about it, just do it. And I have been. So I’m covering the social media thing. My self-imposed exile from Facebook has been going well. I go out there maybe once a day, mostly to see whose birthday it is, and I’m only doing it when I’m too tired to do anything else. (By the way, this practice of sending a PM to your new followers on Twitter asking you to follow them on Facebook drives me up the wall. Does it bother you, too? I’m at the point now where I send them a return message saying, “I don’t do Facebook.”)

And that’s about it for this week. Thanks for reading. Here’s your reward: the song referenced above. See you next week.

Two for Tuesday: Acoustic Alchemy

I can’t believe that I haven’t featured this band before now. By far, this is my favorite smooth jazz group. I could do a whole year just on them.

The concept behind Acoustic Alchemy was the blending of musical styles, including jazz, reggae, funk, Chinese, classical and flamenco, as well as the blending of Nick Webb’s steel-string guitar and Simon James’ nylon-string. They started in 1981 at a time when there wasn’t much demand in the UK (their home) for the sort of music they were doing. They recorded a couple of albums that didn’t sell well, and split in the mid-1980s. Simon James would go on to form the band Kymaera in the early Nineties.

Nick Webb met nylon-string player Greg Carmichael in 1985, and Acoustic Alchemy was reborn. One of their first gigs was as in-flight entertainment between the UK and the US on Virgin Airlines. They sent some demo material to MCA Records, who called them a few weeks later to record. That first album, Red Dust and Spanish Lace, was released in 1987 and was an immediate success, and over the next two years they released two more albums, Natural Elements (1988) and Blue Chip (1989).

MCA bought GRP Records in February 1990. By that time, GRP was a huge smooth jazz label with artists such as Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, and Dave Grusin, and Acoustic Alchemy was moved to that label for their fourth album, Reference Point, released later that year. 1991 featured the release of Back on the Case, which added country to their particular blend of styles. Webb discovered fourteen tracks that he had recorded with Simon James which formed the basis for 1992’s Early Alchemy. Their next two albums, 1993’s Against the Grain and 1994’s The New Edge, featured edgier tunes and a general harder edge to their playing.

In 1996, the group released the album Arcanum. It featured a couple of new tunes, but most of the album consisted of new recordings of old favorites. It was around this time that Nick Webb was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His last album with the band was 1998’s Positive Thinking…, and he was spelled for much of the album by longtime associate John Parsons. Nick died on February 5, 1998.

Greg Carmichael decided to keep the band going, and employed Miles Gilderdale, a sideman on several albums, as the new steel-string player. They made other changes as well, including a new label (Higher Octave) and new musical influences. The albums released since Webb’s death include The Beautiful Game (2000), AArt (2001), Radio Contact (2003), American/English (2005), and This Way (2007). Their latest album is 2011’s Roseland, and they’re currently on tour.

Again, limiting myself to just two tunes by the band was difficult, but I managed to pick a couple. The first is the title track from Roseland, their latest album which shows where they are today as a group. The second is “Casino,” a song originally recorded with Simon James, then re-released on Natural Elements and again on Arcanum. Every time I saw them live, this was the tune that they started the show with.

Acoustic Alchemy is one of the few bands that I can honestly say that I haven’t tired of, even after 26 years and sixteen albums. They always find a way to keep their music fresh and interesting. I hope you’ve enjoyed the music of Acoustic Alchemy, you Two for Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

This ballgame is OVAH! An #atozchallenge retrospect

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Man, this was fun. I want to thank Arlee Bird (who came up with the idea) and all of the people who dropped by this month as I took this stroll down Memory Lane, or down 35th Street in Chicago, whichever you prefer.

I should also recognize Wikipedia, the source for some of the little details on the players as well as their list of the White Sox All-Time Roster; Baseball-Reference.com, the source for all of the statistics as well as game logs and box scores (anytime I mentioned a specific date, such as the day Bill Voss ran headfirst into the left field wall or the day Gary Peters batted sixth, B-R’s information was critical); White Sox Interactive, which provided a lot of information on the Sox’ threatened move in the Sixties and Seventies; Richard Roeper, whose book Sox and the City, about the Sox from 1967 until the 2005 World Series Champions, gave me more background than I had; and the various sites that provided the images seen here.

There are far too many other people to thank. Start with the White Sox managers, coaches, and players from 1967 forward. Continue with the TV and radio announcers that brought the games to me, and the sportswriters for the Chicago newspapers (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago’s American (later Chicago Today), and Chicago Daily Defender) that reported on them. And let’s not forget my family, who were North Siders whose hearts were on the South Side, and who passed along the genes that allowed me to remember all this stuff…

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This is my second year doing this, and it’s been fun both years. Now comes the hard part: coming up with a theme for next year.