PONDERING PUBLISHING AND THE WORLD GONE BY

I usually say I wouldn’t want to ever work again, but I got to thinking about that. I realized if I could get back my job as editor at Doubleday? I’d do it in a heartbeat. How many jobs give you unlimited sick days, two-hour lunches, and require you to read sleazy novels during the day? And pay you for the privilege? And give you the best bunch of people as colleagues you could hope for.

We met at Doubleday!

I also had to write stuff about the books I read, but a long review was still shorter than any of the pieces I write for this blog. Even in my crumbling state of health, I think I could handle it.

The trouble is, the job doesn’t exist. Publishers are thoroughly conglomerated. Each is a subsection of some über corporation where books are one of many products — and not an important product, either.

The 1970s were wonderful years for reading. It was a tremendous period for books and book clubs — and for literature as an art. In those days, reading was major entertainment. People read books and talked about them by the water cooler. If you got excited about a book, you told all your friends … and they read it, too.


Before the internet.

Before cell phones.

Before cable and satellite television.

Before computers and many years before WiFi …

We had books.

Other entertainment? Of course there were movies, but you had to see them in a movie theater. Television was there, but it had limitations. We had — in New York which was entertainment central — seven channels. Unless you had a really good antenna on the roof, you rarely got a clear picture. There was interference called “snow.” Pictures rolled — up, down, and side-to-side. Vertical and horizontal holds on your TV were designed to help control it. Sometimes, they did, but I remember many nights of giving up and turning the set off because we couldn’t get a decent picture. Meanwhile, many of us used a set of rabbit-ear antennas that worked sometimes — if the wind was blowing due west.

I spent more time trying to convince the rabbit-ears to receive a signal than watching shows.

Doubleday in Garden City, NY

Not surprisingly, television wasn’t our primary source of entertainment. Instead, we read books — and we talked to each other — something we old folks continue to do. Sometimes, we had conversations that lasted for hours and in my life, occasionally ran into weeks. Blows your mind, doesn’t it? All that talking without a phone? Without texting, either.

Books were big business. If you wrote anything reasonably good, there were more than enough publishers who might be interested in printing it. I miss that world, sometimes more than I can say.

All of this got me thinking about how hard it is to get books published these days. So many people I know have written really good books and have never found anyone to back them. It’s rough on writers, and it’s not a great sign for the art of literature. Not only has our political world caved in, but our literary world is sliding down a long ramp to nowhere. In theory, many more books are published today because anyone can publish anything — and sell it on Amazon. All books — the great, good, mediocre, and truly awful are lumped together. Most of them are rarely read since none of them are being promoted by a publisher. This isn’t a small thing. Publishers were a huge piece of what made books great. If your publisher believed you’d written something excellent, you could count on being visible on the shelves of bookstores everywhere. You’d also be part of book club publications. People — reading people — would see your book. There were book columns and reviews — and people read them they way they read stuff on upcoming television shows today.

Of course, we are also suffering from the vanishing bookstore … a whole other subject.

A great idea followed by a well-written manuscript was just the beginning of a book’s life story. From the manuscript, publishers took books and did their best to sell them to the world. Today, all that pushing and pitching is left to authors, including those whose books typically sell well.

Can anyone imagine how Faulkner, Hemingway and Thomas Wolf would do trying to “work the marketplace”? No doubt there were writers who were able to do the balancing of writing and marketing, but many authors are not particularly sociable. A good many are downright grumpy and a fair number are essentially inarticulate. They are not naturals to the marketing gig.

And … ponder this … what kind of blog do you think Faulkner … or … Eugene O’Neill … would have written?

I miss books. I miss authors. I miss publishers. I miss carefully edited manuscripts and beautifully published books where you could smell the ink and paper as you cracked the cover open. It was a heady perfume.

HOTTER THAN FIRE – RICH PASCHALL

Hot Summer Dancing, by Rich Paschall


Summer is in full swing, just like your dance moves.  The nights are hot and the days are sweltering.  We can tell by the sweat running down your flushed face that you are not just a Hot Child in the City, but that you have the Dance Fever.  It happens to many so do not be five alarmed.  In The Heat of the Night, you just have to get up and move.  We are not handing you a Hot Line, just our top ten HOT dance tunes.

If our last top ten list of Dance Songs did not get you out of your chair, we think these will do it.  They are hot, really hot.  In fact, they are so hot all the titles tell you so.  Yes, they all have heat (or fire) in the title.  Since you have heat in your shoes, get up and bust a move to these dance tunes. Click on any song title for the song and video, or get the entire playlist at the end.

10.  Hot Blooded, Foreigner.  Sometimes dancing is not enough in the 1978 hit.  “Well, I’m hot-blooded, check it and see / I got a fever of a hundred and three / Come on baby, do you do more than dance?”  The single sold more than a million copies and also appeared on the Double Vision album.

09. Heat Wave, Martha and the Vandellas.  There are many hot versions of this song, especially this one by Linda Ronstadt, but we thought it was best to go with this Classic version by Martha Reeves.  The 1963 release went to number one.  Yes, it was a hot hit.

08. Just Like Fire, Pink.  “Just like fire, burning out the way / If I can light the world up for just one day / Watch this madness, colorful charade / No one can be just like me any way.” And no one can be just like you on the dance floor.  Get up and groove to this 2016 pop hit.

07. Heat of the Moment, Asia.  This was a 1982 hit for the alternative rock group.  “It was the heat of the moment /Telling me what your heart meant /The heat of the moment shone in your eyes.”

06. Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly and the Family Stone.   We can see that you are starting to pant, so it is time to slow the playlist down for a couple of songs before we have a scorching hot finish.  This 1969 hit added a bit of funk and a bit of soul to the hot tune.

05. Too Hot, Kool and the Gang. The smooth 1979 R&B hit should add some soul to your step.  “Oh it’s too hot, too hot, lady / Gotta run for shelter / Gotta run for shade.”

04. Hot Stuff, Donna Summer.  By 1979 the disco queen was rocking up the tempo with this single from her seventh studio album, Bad Girls.  “How’s ’bout some hot stuff, baby this evenin’ / I need some hot stuff baby tonight.”

03. Hot, Hot, Hot, Buster Poindexter.  This infectious dance tune got an over-the-top performance in 1987 by singer David Johansen as Poindexter.  It will add a bit of calypso to your dancing feet.

02. The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey.  This tune was recorded for the 1984 movie Beverly Hills Cop.  It received a Grammy nomination for Frey and a lot of air play.  The music video was very popular in the early days of MTV.  “The heat is on (flames are burning higher) / The heat is on (baby can’t you feel it) .”

01. Hotter Than Fire, Eric Saade.  The Swedish pop star scored so big with the 2011 dance tune that there were actually two official videos.  The first one featured pictures and graphics, while the second one had Saade dancing through many sets.  You might be cooler than ice, but your dance moves are Hotter Than Fire.

Play the entire hot playlist with Bonus tracks here.
Related: Can’t Stop The Feeling

WHAT IS YOUR SONG? – RICH PASCHALL

The Soundtrack of Your Life, Rich Paschall


You have probably heard that phrase before. Oldies radio stations love to use it. They want you to think they are playing the soundtrack of our lives. You know what they mean. They want you to think that they are playing the songs you remember from when you were younger.  That could mean a few years ago or a few decades ago, depending on who they are pitching their playlist at. What is the soundtrack of your life?

After you leave your twenties, your soundtrack is probably set with the most often played and most often heard music. We inevitably love the music of our teens and twenties. It is linked to those big moments that never leave our memory banks. They could be high school dances and proms. They could be college dances and parties. They probably include weddings and select family events. It certainly includes your record, tape, and/or CD collections. In future years our soundtracks will all be held in digital form in some cloud that you can download when you feel nostalgic.

It is certain that people from 16 years old to those who saw the beginning of the rock era can tell you the songs that meant the most to them, that held the greatest memories. I feel confident in saying that these songs will come from earlier years. This is not just because it holds true for me, but it does for many of my friends. This is reflected in the crowds that show up to concerts. In recent years I have seen Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Chicago, Reo Speedwagon as well as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett and Brian Wilson. These stars continue to fill concert venues across the country with people who may have seen them generations ago. The reason is not a mystery. They wrote and performed our soundtrack, and the people who connect with that music continue to go to see them.

Of course, I go to see current acts. I have also seen One Republic, Maroon 5, Hunter Hayes, Lifehouse, Bruno Mars as well as MAX Scheneider, fallout boy and a few others with more current hits. I like their music, but their songs do not hold the nostalgic connection I feel when I see Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli or Neil Diamond.  When I saw The Monkees, minus the then recently departed Davy Jones, I heard screaming inside the Chicago Theater as I came through the door. It was as if the place was filled with teenagers and I rushed in to see what was the commotion. Mickey Dolenz was just starting Last Train to Clarksville and the AARP set were reacting as if it was 1966 and they were teenagers. Yes, there were younger people in the crowd.  These songs were not on their soundtrack, however, but they were ours.

While leaving the Davy Jones songs to a couple of music videos from their 1960’s television show, The Monkees delighted a crowd with an evening of hits. The band’s recording of a Neal Diamond composition, I’m a Believer, was the last number 1 song of 1966 and the biggest selling song of 1967.

One thing the Rolling Stones do not lack after all these decades is energy. Maroon 5 may want to Move Like Jagger, but only Mick can do that, and he still does.  Here I have taken a few moments from the show at the United Center.  They were true rock stars of a previous era.  They went on an hour late.

The opening of Moves Like Jagger is shaky as everyone jumped to their feet, so of course I had to also.  The venue is The Woodlands.  I should have known everyone in the crowd would try to move like Jagger too.

Without a doubt, the number 1 song on my soundtrack is Beginnings by Chicago. The 1969 song, written by band member Robert Lamm, failed to chart on its first go around. A rerelease in 1971 when the band was red-hot brought success to a song that was featured at dances, proms, graduations and weddings for many years to come. The album version ran 7 minutes and 55 seconds while the “radio version” ran about 3 minutes. In July 2010 I did not have a camera that could zoom in close or record in HD, but it got decent sound so I have this piece of nostalgia:

RJ Paschall music videos here.  See my concert videos and “liked” performers.

A LATE QUARTET – BEAUTIFUL MUSIC AND FILM

A LATE QUARTET (2012)

Director: Yaron Zilberman
Writers (screenplay): Seth Grossman, Yaron Zilberman

The Cast:

Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Robert Gelbart
Christopher Walken, as Peter Mitchell
Catherine Keener, as Juliette Gelbart
Mark Ivanir, as Daniel Lerner
Imogen Poots, as Alexandra Gelbart
Wallace Shawn, as Gideon Rosen
Anne Sofie von Otter, as Miriam.


Garry and I watched A Late Quartet  the other day. We read the reviews — and it sounded like a movie for grown-ups. There have been a dearth movies starring adults — men and women — which are not about getting old. Jokes about getting old begin to get old after a while, so we were ready for a grown-up movie about life and living.

The reviews were right. It’s a fine movie.

If the movie has a “hero,” that would be Christopher Walken who plays against type with elegance and grace. Add Marc Ivanir — usually playing an Israeli CIA sort-of-bad-guy on NCIS (he actually is Israeli and a hero) — as the dedicated, haunted first violin. Phillip Seymour Hoffman did his usual excellent job as the quartet’s jealous second violin. Catherine Keener (on viola) is the “could be better” wife to Hoffman  It’s a great mix of characters and some of the best work done by Walken and company.

Their movie musicianship is realistic. They did not actually perform the music on the sound track, but it looked like they knew their way around string instruments. Some of them may have had some early training, the rest were coached for the movie. However it was accomplished, the cinematographer was able to follow the actors’ performances closely, without resorting to long shots to disguise their identities. Well done!

While doing a little research on the stars, I discovered that Walken attended the same university as Garry and I. He was probably there during one of Garry’s years at Hofstra University. Walken was there for just a year, then left for a gig in an off-broadway show. It was news to us that he’d been there at all.

It is one of the many ironies of Garry and my education that most of Hofstra’s most famous graduates are not graduates, but attendees who left before getting a degree. We had a good drama department. Perhaps the biggest measure of its success is how many of its students were “discovered” before they got degrees, then went on to fame and fortune. No formal degrees, but plenty of magic.

Although it doesn’t hurt if you know some classical music, the movie works just fine if you don’t.

The Story

It’s the 25th anniversary of “The Fugue”, a classical string quartet. Time is catching up with them. Christopher Walken, their cellist and oldest member of the quartet has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and needs to retire. The first violinist is in love with the second violinist’s daughter, and the second violinist wants to be the first violinist … and sex in the form of “oops” infidelity adds enough spice to imperil the survival of the quartet if the rest of their problems were not disruptive enough.

Walken as the sensible, down-to-earth member of the group, dealing with his own burdens and unwilling to tolerate the childish carryings-on by the other performers, is wonderful. “The Fugue comes first,” he says, or words to that effect. It’s interesting to see Walken cast as the stable, adult, not even slightly crazy, member of the group.

The Music

A Late Quartet refers to Opus 131, one of a group of string quartets written by Beethoven towards the end of his life. It is magnificent. I’ve rarely heard this piece performed at all. It’s challenging music, written when Beethoven had already lost his hearing, yet was still able to hear it in his head. It’s one of Beethoven’s most complex, intense pieces and it’s beautifully performed.

I love the music, studied classical music for many years. I love Beethoven. He is my favorite composer, whose music I play as I drift off to sleep at night and whose symphonies have been my companion on many journeys through my life.

It did not disappoint us. It’s not a light piece of fluff, nor is it depressing or hopeless. Problems come, problems are addressed, problems are resolved. Not everything has a happy ending but within the limits of what’s possible, these adults work out through their issues — music, health, personal, and relationships — like … adults.

How refreshing!

FATHER’S DAY TRIBUTE TO CLARENCE

Music by Leslie Martel, SWO8 and photos by Marilyn Armstrong

When Leslie proposed this project to me, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would work out, but it came out fine!

Today is Father’s Day. The song “Tribute to Clarence” by swo8 Blues Jazz from the album Osaka Time in iTunes, was written for Leslie’s father, Clarence. They had an organ at home — at one point, even a pipe organ (I’m so envious — I love the sound of those pipes).

Leslie’s father built a special room to house the pipes. When he played that organ the house rocked! Clarence had two loves in life: music and his dogs. It was at the “dogs” that I came in because I have pictures of dogs, probably because we have two dogs now and have had as many as five. If we took in all the dogs offered to us, we’d have probably been able to register as a shelter, but we were up to capacity.

A fine piece of original jazz! The dog is Leslie’s “grand-dog.” The man playing the organ is indeed the aforementioned Clarence, Leslie’s dad. Enjoy!!

WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT THING?

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

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The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “duh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one.

More weird is when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the plot. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking. Or running from or after serial killers while wearing 4-inch spike heels. My feet hurt looking at them.

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other. The cast dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is quite common. I understand why.

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice.

My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They don’t want to spend money on wardrobe. They figure if you and I notice, we won’t care. In any case, we’ll keep watching. And they’re right. It’s a bottom-line  world. Wardrobe is an area where corners can easily be cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming.

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It’s not just costumes, either. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors. Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

You notice it on long-running shows that had good scripts and editing, but not any more. Quality drifts away. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. Obvious to a normal person, but apparently incomprehensible to network executives. Disrespect for viewers is at the root of much of the illness besetting the TV industry.

They should be nicer to us. We’re, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

HEAR NOW – A FESTIVAL FOR AUDIO LOVERS

HEAR Now – A Festival for AUDIO Lovers


Visit: http://www.hearnowfestival.org for additional information

HEAR Now: Audio Fiction & Arts Festival returns to Kansas City June 8-11, 2017, for its 5th annual 4-day weekend.

Like a good film festival, HEAR Now features panels of producers and artists showcasing their work, an annual “Audio Forum” blending audio fiction and storytelling with other disciplines in an immersion experience of audio arts. You won’t believe your ears!

Country singer songwriter Kasey Lansdale (daughter of author Joe R. Lansdale) will be available to discuss Wondery’s podcast, featuring her new horror tale – Blind Love. Simon Jones will perform a brand new Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

“It’s the only festival of its kind in the U.S. dedicated to the art of recorded and live audio storytelling in all its many genres and forms,” says HEAR Now Festival Director Cynthia Allen. “This is a chance to educate your ears and your imagination.”

INNOVATIONS opens the Festival at the Kansas City Public Library’s Truman Auditorium on Thursday, June 8th from 7:00pm – 8:30pm.

HEAR Now also offers hands-on training in production and story-telling. Dramatic Podcast Workshop 101, led by former NPR anchor Frank Stasio and playwright Howard Craft, focuses on creating new original short fiction.

The NATF Playhouse showcases productions in a high-quality listening environment. The show runs through Friday, June 9th.

It closes with a retrospective of Simon Jones’ more than 40-year career as a voice artist, beginning with Arthur Dent in the first-ever Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and ending with special new audio treats.

For more information visit http://www.hearnowfestival.org. Questions? Email hearnowfestival@gmail.com.

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