Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My grandfather's song

This is my grandfather's composition, "Holly Hop." He is also playing on piano here. The song was later picked up by Woody Herman, with the name then changed to, "Hot Chestnuts."

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Jazz Profiles: Woody Herman: The Early Herds

Jazz Profiles: Woody Herman: The Early Herds

I've posted this here, this article has mention of my grandfather, Robert Hartsell, a jazz musician who wrote a song called "Hot Chestnuts" and performed with Woody Herman in the early 1940s.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A reporter in the trenches of ordinary life

I cannot believe that it has been nearly a year to the day since I've blogged here. I'm not sure why, if it was due in part to the seduction of Facebook, where you are guaranteed an instant audience based on the number of friends you have online, that will see and hopefully, respond to your statuses. I'm not alone. Several of my blogging friends have ceased writing entries as well. I hope that will change.

My father in law, Dick Sheridan, a respected veteran reporter at The New York Daily News who is currently writing a work of fiction, recently started a blog of his own, to keep in step with the other media outlets-Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. This is just one reason why I too, feel I need to get back to maintaining my own blog, to keep things fresh. You can find a link to his brand new blog on the top left.

Today, Harvey Pekar, author of the "American Splendor" comic books, passed away at 70, he'd been battling prostate cancer, depression. He is survived by his wife, Joyce Brabner and their adopted daughter. An Ohio file clerk, he decided to write about everyday instances that millions could relate to in his comic book series, illustrated by numerous artists including Robert Crumb. Last year I bought an anthology of his works, some of which had me laughing to tears, some moved me. He is something of an eccentric curmudgeon, so some are turned off by him. Not enough razzle dazzle, I s'pose.

In the age of the "Harry Potter" series and other recent bestselling works of fiction, I wonder or doubt that there is an audience for stories about the hardships of ordinary people-real life happenings without magic, the allure of a period or a scifi spin. It takes writers like Pekar, David Sedaris and Jeannette Walls and more recently, Sloane Crosley and Justin Halpern for me to be reminded that the market for these kinds of stories is alive and beats with a strong heart. Thank God. My only regret is that I did not follow through to write Harvey Pekar as I'd once intended.

However, this year, I did write Jeannette Walls, author of "The Glass Castle" in an attempt to glean advice on writing a memoir, not necessarily expecting I'd hear back, but of course I hoped. Sure enough, about a month later, in May 2010, I received a custom made postcard with her picture with a horse. On the back, she'd handwritten me a note, and while I know I still have a ways to go, I am encouraged and inspired to continue working on my memoir.

In the meantime, I continue to write for a consulting firm specializing in union publications, with clients including the Utility Workers Union of America. I hope to continue to give voice to their stories, and perhaps tell a few more of my own.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Music, Memoirs and Me

The summer of 2009 has bolted like a racehorse and is nearly half over. These past couple of weeks have been slow work wise, so I've taken some time for myself a bit, with writing my memoir, getting some new clothes and renewing my library card to read some new memoirs.

A couple of weeks ago I took a three-hour memoir writing workshop, which helped me realize some of my writing handicaps, particularly in the area of 'seeing vs. saying'...remembering to describe those that I may have seen endless times, but another person perhaps, never has. To choose adjectives over saying 'x' looks like 'so and so.' It's a cop out I too frequently rely on. I remembered being overwhelmed walking home that night after the class, committed to what I've started, but worried if I'll be able to execute it in the best way possible.

I'm only a few chapters in, but already the memoir "Here if You Need Me: A True Story" paints a picture of an incredibly strong woman, in ways I could only hope to be facing the sudden loss of a loved one. The author, Kate Braestrup was married to a state trooper that aspired to be a minister. Sudddenly he is killed in a car accident. She slowly pieces her life with her four children back together and eventually becomes one of Maine's first chaplains ever appointed to the Maine Warden Service. Her choice to personally bathe and prepare her husband's body after his autopsy, prior to his cremation, is bold and moving. I look forward to reading further. I've also gotten a memoir by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme, "My Life in France," along with Joan Didion's "A Year of Magical Thinking," so I've got a full plate.

Ian and I recently went to a fantastic concert too, our first in a year since Radiohead. I hope the 'annual' gig doesn't become a pattern-there's too much good music out there, but life, money, time often are scarce. We caught The Dead Weather-Jack White's third band-in concert at Terminal 5. I secured a spot before 6pm, the band didn't go on til almost 10:30pm, but being thisclose to the stage, seeing Jack White, was amazing. The energy the new band had together was fresh and exciting, and the house was mobbed. It was the best night we'd had out in a while. Jack White is HOT!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring 2009 Reading, Watching, Listening Update

Read "The Reader" by German lawyer and judge Bernhard Schlink, in about a day's time. While beautifully written, I was disappointed with the story's 'twist', which seemed in the end somewhere between 'twisted' & or stupid. I had guessed fairly early in the book this aspect, but I didn't think it was the main part of the story. I won't give it away here. Still debating whether to watch the film, although I love Kate Winslet.

Started Mirielle Guiliano's "French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes and Pleasure," which offers some simple, yet sage advice that is slowly melting into my psyche about how to further streamline my daily eating/living habits, to maximize my health and pleasure. How can anyone go wrong with that?

Also started the third 'Twilight' book, "Eclipsed". I enjoyed the first part of the second book, "New Moon" that explores Bella's relationship with Edward's family and Jacob, her other close friend that is also a werewolf. The stories, while perhaps simple and straightforward, still fuse together lots of issues as a parent of a teen I can relate to, regarding change, love, family, separation.

On the tube: I'm liking a new show, The Unusuals, kind of like a darker, hourlong version of "Scrubs" in a police precinct setting. Great cast, Amber Tamblyn, Harold Perrineau ("Lost"), Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Renner. Peculiar plots and I love that it's set in downtown Manhattan, with bits scattered in Queens. Each character has their own 'secret.' The writers/producers are pretty vocal on their Facebook page, if you want to check it out.

New York Noise on NYC 25 can often be a case of hit or miss, but seeing how MTV and VH1 show little or no music during their primetime hours, might be worth a look/listen. They show videos of local talent (ex. Vampire Weekend) as well as folks across the pond, and there have been a few gems found along the way. Thanks to DVR, you can fast forward through the crappier songs. Sometimes they have children or elderly persons critique the videos, which is quite hilarious.

Neko Case. If you like the sounds of red-headed women wailing out somewhere in Grand Canyon, with guitars, have a listen. I'd heard a song of hers, "Deep Red Bells" regularly on Radio Paradise and took notice. It's on one of her older albums, "Blacklisted." She recently had a concert broadcast on NPR.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Worth A Read...Sort of

(Fyi, I've also posted this review on Facebook.)

A Review on "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia) By Elizabeth Gilbert

I admit, getting through this book was something of a struggle. It's about a woman coming to grips with the unraveling of a marriage she doesn't want to be in, nor the dysfunctional relationship she entered immediately following her marriage. Luckily she was able to bankroll her travels through Italy, India and Indonesia with the advance for this book.

I was certain I'd enjoy the first part, where Gilbert travels to Italy, but it was extremely difficult, to the point where I nearly gave up on the book. Even considering what she was going through, I thought she was so weak-minded, and foolish at times (I mean on a superficial level, c'mon, not visiting any museums while she's in Italy???) I said I would force myself to get to when she arrives at the Ashram in India, and that's where, thankfully, it gets interesting, but not so much because of her, but the other people she meets that force her to step out of herself. Like Richard from Texas, or the religious tomboy, Tulsi.

But I would say the best is saved for last, when Gilbert arrives in Indonesia, revisiting a silly, eccentric medicine doctor, Ketut, she'd met a few years earlier on her travels in Indonesia, when she was writing a piece on yoga. Ketut is a wonderful, wise inspiration in her life, the first in a string of colorful people she befriends there-Yudhi, a Christian 'dude' from Indonesia who is indefinitely separated from his wife (who he was living the American dream with in NJ) shortly after 9/11 thanks to Bush's implementation of the Patriot Act; Wayan, another kind of exotic, sexy medicine doctor of sorts who uses food and spa like treatments to help her clients that has a wicked smart daughter named Tutti and is in need of a permanent residence; and Felipe, the gentle, Brazilian, who ends Gilbert's dry spell.

Stick around to learn some interesting factoids about all the different cultures, like how the Balinese won't allow babies to touch the ground for the first six months of their lives because they are perceived as gods; how "Ham-Sa" in Sanskit (a simple meditation which can be uttered when one simply inhales, exhales) means "I am that", or the Italian term for crossing over, "attraversiamo."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Wonderful Read

It's a new year, and I've shamefully neglected my blog for more than two months. Holidays, stress and illness have come and gone. One of the lovely aspects of the past couple of weeks has been reading "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry," a memoir by Kathleen Flinn, an American corporate exec who gets axed at her job in London, takes her savings, and enrolls at Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris.

Whether you are a foodie or not (and it is packed with recipes that I will definitely try), this book was like a new friendship in my life that I didn't want to end. It is about learning about yourself and what matters, family, a suspenseful romance with her boyfriend who inspires her to follow her dreams of cooking, surpassing one's own expectations, and bien sur, Paris.

Now, I'm off to read the more commercially successful, "Eat, Pray, Love," by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I hope to be at least as satisfying.