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.

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.

Q in my Queue

Quincy | Netflix Official Site

Quincy | Netflix Official Site

This documentary profiles music and culture icon Quincy Jones, offering unprecedented access to his private life and stories from his unparalleled career.

Source: www.netflix.com/title/80102952


I started watching this last night on Netflix. it’s decent, as far as documentaries go. It’s worth watching just to see the depth and breadth of Quincy Jone’s work. His name is on everything from the 60s through 80s.

Overhauling the site

I have been making some organizational changes to this site over the past couple days. Specifically, I have split up my blog into to two different sections; blogs and articles. Articles is for things I write about related to my work in product design and Blog is my personal posts. Depending on your interests, you now have a choice of which to follow. 

Thanks

Fleetwood Mac

Last night we saw Fleetwood Mac at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. It was the ugliest crowd I’ve seen at a concert and I’ve been to Tool at the Sears Center.

That’s saying something. Because at the Tool show, I had to ride a school bus from the parking lot where I saw a dwarf in a wife beater with bleached hair. He gave me the stink eye, I assume, because he thought I was staring at his stripperesque girlfriend. 

I was reluctant to go because I hate arena concerts almost as much as 50th anniversary tours of rock bands. We went because my daughter is a huge fan, and especially loves Stevie Nicks; she just twirls and the audience loses their shit. 

In terms of concerts, it was decent – which isn’t the highest praise for a band of their stature. I really wanted to see Lindsey Buckingham play live, but he was fired in April. They replaced him with Neil Finn of Crowded House, and Mike Campbell from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. If you love Fleetwood Mac, it was disappointing. If you love Fleetwood Mac music, it was great. They played all the classics, even went back to their pre-Buckingham days for some blues. They were kind enough to skip songs from “Tusk” and whatever albums came out after 1986. 

Our seats were up in the nosebleed section, and still cost an arm and a leg. They said it was sold out, but you could see some open sections. Whatever the case, I’m glad we went. 

The best part of the show? They did a cover of Tom Petty’s “Freefalling” in the encore with a photo tribute. 

The worst part of the show? The last 10-12 minutes of Mick Fleetwood’s drum solo.

The view from the 4th to last row of seats at Oracle Arena.

Sacramento Antique Faire

We took a drive up to Sacramento for their monthly antique faire under Highway 50. The last time we went up, I scored a banjo for $50 and my wife found a large galvanized steel farm sink for our backyard. So everyone won.

We didn’t make any major purchases this time. I found a set of cocktail glasses and small pitcher with a Japanese motif. However, there were a few interesting finds in the toy and record departments. Here are some pictures.

  • Josh Brolin?
  • Under Highway 50
  • Your chance to actually own some libs.
  • Mark Davis & Rose O’Donnell Dolls
  • There were no takers for this bargain.

Bodega Bay Camping

This happened back in September, but here are some shots from our annual camping trip to Bodega Bay.