Christmas Vacation

Last night, we saw “Christmas Vacation” in a theater. Of all the movies I’ve seen in my life, I think this is the one I’ve seen the most. In the 30 years it’s been around, I may have missed one or two seasons. It’s one of those movies that I remember laughing my ass off the first time I see, and that’s why I can still laugh now.

The first time I saw it was when it came out in 1989. I was in college and over Christmas Break and visiting my parents who were in San Diego at the time. The other movie we saw was “War of the Roses”.

We did a shit ton of stuff on that trip including the Rose Bowl Parade, the NBC studio tour, and a Luau for New Year’s Eve.

The best part of the trip was seeing the Tonight Show live. It was the last show of the decade, and Johnny Carson was still the host. Dad managed to get some standby tickets by phone that morning. It meant getting in line a couple hours before the show to improve our chances of getting in.

The show had everything for a Tonight Show fan. The guests were Tim Conway, Park Overall (from “Empty Nest”), and a juggler who played a piano with his balls. Get your mind out of the gutter, and watch the video to see what I meant. For a bonus, there was a Mighty Carson Art Players sketch with Johnny and Tim Conway doing something about golf I think.

You gotta love YouTube.

Before the show, we took the NBC tour. The thing I recall most about that was seeing gameshow sets and how flimsy they were up close. I think it was the “Jokers Wild” set that looked like something from a high school stage play.

While waiting in line for the show, the Tonight Show band walked by having just wrapped up their happy hour at the bar across the street.

During the tour, we got to go back stage. We even saw the star on the floor where Johnny stood during his monologues. What struck me was how small the whole thing is. From TV, the stage looked huge, but the distance from Johnny’s desk to the band was only like 20 feet.

Ed McMahon warmed the crowd up with some slightly dirty jokes. After Jonny’s monologue, they broke for a commercial and he talked to the audience. Someone asked him about his car, and he made a joke about how hard it shifting a manual 6-speed can be in LA traffic.

It was cool to see him in the flesh, but even impressive how he could think on his feet and be funny just interacting with the audience,

After the show as we were driving back to the hotel, Johnny pulled out of the NBC lot and right in front of us on Alameda avenue. We drove behind him for a couple blocks before he exited onto the freeway. What was most surprising to us, was he hadn’t stuck around after the show any longer than we did.

Elf

Last night we saw the movie “Elf” in the theater. I don’t remember what I really thought of the movie when it first came out in 2003. I just remember I didn’t used to like Will Ferrell, but I do now and have for some time. 

He’s perfect in the movie because he really sells it, especially with the facial expressions. It’s almost a perfect script in terms of following the form without getting tired. Don’t get me wrong, it’s full of holiday movie clichés, but that’s required of the genre. What I like is it didn’t use any of the pop culture clichés of 2003 that would make it feel horribly dated today, like say “Shrek”. Which I hated then and still do.

Decoding the coding code

This guy makes a great point about ignoring the hype around teaching our kids to code. We shouldn’t. Instead, we should focus on developing their problem-solving skills.

I couldn’t agree more. We never encouraged our kids to develop skills over learning how to learn. You can figure out skills later in life after deciding whether or not they’re worth it. 

Plenty of people who were conned into developing skills have been left in the dust of progress and change. In a world that is always changing, mastery isn’t nearly as valuable as adaptability. 

Besides, most of what they teach kids about code today in school or one of those bullshit code academies is already obsolete. 

If you’re thinking of pushing your kids to learn code, ask yourself why. Is it because you think they’ll make more money? If that’s the case, you’re better off encouraging them to be an Instagram influencer. They make a shit ton more money for doing absolutely nothing. If it’s job security, then tell them to go into elder care or nursing because there are way more openings in those fields, and they have yet to find a way to offshore them.

I have a lot more I’d like to add to this topic. Stay tuned.

All about the bass

I have been relearning the bass, or should I say, teaching myself. I used to take bass guitar lessons in high school. My first teacher was a guy named Tommy O’Donnell. His nickname was OD and he taught at Miller Music. It was one of those old school type of music shops that mostly sold pianos and organs. 

He was a heavy metal guitarist and would sit in the back of the store and shred. He took me on as his first, and only bass student. For lessons, I’d bring in a tape, listen to it, and he’d figure it out. The first song I learned was “Blood and Roses” by The Smithereens. 

While it was cool watching him figure out things by ear, he didn’t teach me how to figure things out on my own. Lessons were $5 for 30 minutes and I quit going to him after 4 or 5.

My next teacher was an actual bass player.  He worked at Guitar World, a “real” guitar store in Normal, IL. I can’t remember his name, but we all referred to him as “buddy”. He wore a denim vest and bell bottoms when it wasn’t ironic or fashionable. 

Buddy was way more academic than OD. Instead of music theory, he’d spend most of our lesson time on rock history. He spent at least four weeks on Jaco Pastorius. 

Jaco Pastorius or possibly James Franco.

After two teachers, and only learning a handful of riffs, I bagged lessons and just tried to figure out bass on my own. Eventually, I got bored with it and took up guitar.

Over the years I would take it out and tinker, but I never wanted to be a bass player. I only took it up because I wanted to be in a band, and that was the only opening. 

I have a renewed interest in bass because I recently sent mine into the shop for some basic maintenance. It had been sitting in the cases neglected for a few years and the neck started to curve. My local music shop sent it out to a guy in Berkeley. 

It should have been a simple one-day thing, but it was taking weeks. Then one day, the guy called me to let me know he was done. He also wanted to tell me how impressed he was with the guitar and the shape it was in. 

The bass is an ’87 G&L SB-1. I bought it brand new for $299. While I knew then, G&L was a quality guitar, I was disappointed that I couldn’t afford an Fender. Funny enough, G&L is the guitar company Leo Fender started after selling his namesake to CBS.

My 1987 G&L SB-1 Bass in extremely good condition. Back from the shop and sounding great.

I bought it to replace the cheap bass I originally bought because I was in a band with some friends, and wanted to look cooler. The band dissolved a couple months later. 

Today, I watch my kids figure everything out on the internet and I’m motivated to do the same. This time around, I’m actually doing what I wouldn’t do back then – read. I can still read music (because I took piano lessons before I took guitar lessons). Now, I can figure out a lot of things quicker, because I’m actually studying music theory as well as the riffs I want to play.

Yosemite, again

We took yet another trip up to Yosemite this right before Thanksgiving. It was our second time this year. We went up earlier to catch the fire falls but missed it. 

It was a very short day trip with my father-in-law. We had to be back for dinner in town, so there wasn’t any time for hiking or site seeing. Instead, I just got a couple pictures using my phone and Osmo Mobile.

  • Wide-angle Half Dome
  • Super Wide Half Dome
  • Outside the Majestic (Formerly the Ahwanee)
  • Large rock
  • Great room of the Ahwanee
  • Great room of the Ahwanee

Neko Case, Fox Theater Oakland December 3, 2018

Last night we saw Neko Case at the Fox Theater in Oakland. It was the second time I saw her this year. The first, was at The Greek in Berkeley, back in June when she opened for Ray LaMontagne. She didn’t get a lot of time to perform back then, so this show was a big improvement.

Her opening act was Destroyer, which is one of those artist/band one in the same acts, kind of like Bright Eyes. I recognized this guy’s voice as one of the New Pornographers. 

I have tried to see Neko Case for years and it never worked out until now. She did a great set doing a couple songs from different albums going all the way back to her album Blacklisted. 

She requested no recording or picture taking during the show, and people obeyed for the most part. I had to snap couple to document I was there. 

Next Show…

Cool parents

We’re not cool parents, but we are fun parents. There’s a difference. Cool parents let their kids and their kids’ friends do stuff other parents won’t. Fun parents do all the things cool parents do, just without the kids or in front of the kids and tell them not to. We still drink and swear. We just don’t let our kids or their friends do it when we’re around. 

Our kids don’t think we’re cool and we’re cool with that. 

When I was a kid the cool parents were usually the divorced parents. They were either trying to score points over their ex or too preoccupied starting over to care about their last family. 

I remember thinking it was cool that we could drink in my friend’s basement because here mom was upstairs with her boyfriend. At the same time I remember there was something kind of creepy about it too. 

The only thing worse than the cool parents, are the uptight parents. They give us a hard time for not dialing it down because we have kids. They’re worried about sending the wrong message, that it’s hypocritical to have fun while telling our kids they can’t. It’s a double-standard.

To which I say, well no shit. Of course it’s a double-standard. The double-standard is the only thing that makes being an adult better than being a kid. Without it, we’re equals and who wants that? I remember being a kid and thinking how I’ll do everything I’ve been told I can’t do as soon as I’m old enough.