Saturday, March 14, 2009

If a Body Catch a Body Comin’ Through the Rye

In high school and college, The Catcher in the Rye and The Stranger were my favorite books. They lent themselves perfectly to the whole goth/punk phase I went through, and I read them probably more than a half-dozen times each in that four or five year period. But I haven’t touched either book in a good 15 years, and have been wanting to for a while now. Unfortunately, since moving to the new house a few years ago, our books have remained in dozens of boxes in the basement (and will continue to stay there until we get the new bookcases built and installed this spring). But I finally couldn’t wait any longer. I requested Catcher from the library and read it last week, and I picked up Albert Camus’ The Stranger when I dropped Catcher off yesterday.

I have to say, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye holds up. It holds up masterfully.

What’s amazing is the range of this now 50-plus year old book. It has the ability to speak directly to adolescence, but offers a completely new set of insights and enjoyment to my adult eye. Unreliable narrator Holden Caulfield corrects another boy at his school when referring to Holden’s new red hunting hat: “‘This is a people shooting hat,’ I said. ‘I shoot people in this hat.’” There are all sorts of new and different implications to the hat, that line, and its symbolism when refracted through a post-Columbine, post-millennial, post-9/11 prism. But to only look at the book from that perspective would be simplistic, short-changing yourself from the rich symbolism and texture of the story. There is so much in this book that I never noticed before, or maybe couldn’t notice before because of where I was in my life and the limitations of my life experience.

I was a creative writing major in college, but I have never had to read either of these books for a class. Interestingly, my wife, who has dual undergraduate degrees in English and French, has never read either of these books for pleasure, only for classroom assignments in college. I’d be curious to know her perspective on these books if she were to pick them up again now and give them another read – free from exegesis, because they still have the power to move me.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I’m a fan of Rubber City Clothing. I love the concept as much as the execution. I have my “Akron Witnessed First” and “Akron: Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten” postcards up on the wall in my office. My friend Dave named his new band The Marble Champs in part after one of the RCC logos. And Chrissie Hynde decided to go though RCC as the official retailer for the Pretenders’ 2009 tour merchandise.

I met Sarah, the general manager of RCC, a few weeks back when we were picking up a "Route 8" t-shirt for the kiddo at the High Street location, and struck up a conversation. What’s even cooler is that not only did Sarah post a little something about Deus ex Comica on the Rubber City BullSheet, but she agreed to stock a few copies of the book or at least display some promotional stuff for the book in the store when it’s ready to go!

So check out the blog, check out the store, buy some cool 330 swag and support a uniquely Northeast Ohio enterprise.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unsolicited Art, Vol 3

When I picked the kiddo up from school he announced he drew a picture for Mom. It's of Buffy. He said he knew she likes Buffy so he tried to draw her. The best part is that he drew Buffy holding to stakes... "so she can slay vampires." (Click image to enlarge)

The poor kid is a geek. Plain and simple. But we wouldn't trade him for the world.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Ten Dollar Experiment

Jake Shimabukuro
07 March 2009: EJ Thomas Hall, Akron, Ohio

Between a trip to the Islands and the opportunity to review a few of his past albums, I fell in love with Jake Shimabukuro’s music. But living in the Midwest, I wasn’t sure I’d ever have the opportunity to see him live. But it’s a funny thing about expectations, they can easily be blown away. We are fortunate to live in Northeast Ohio, which has some strong musical roots and sturdy cultural leanings, so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I found out Shimabukuro was going to be making an appearance at EJ Thomas Hall at the University of Akron.

My parents are huge fans of all things Hawaii, including ukulele music and Shimabukuro, so I knew they’d be up for the show. And, with cheap ticket prices (and no service charges when purchased at the box office), we couldn’t resist bringing the kiddo along with us too. Although only seven, he had a great time, was well-behaved, and announced after the show that he’d like to see Shimabukuro again next time he comes to town to play.

I love Akron. And I love what EJ is doing with their Stage Door series. It’s another example of outside the box thinking to keep things interesting with the economy do
ing what it’s doing and continue to bring different artists to town in a unique setting. Ten dollars a person, all general admission. But instead of the audience in the auditorium and the artist on the stage, everyone’s on the stage together... the artist and the audience. It ends up being a warm, nightclub-like setting with the darkened auditorium itself as the backdrop. Filled with black-clad tables and chairs, candlelight illumination, a cash bar and decadent desserts, the atmosphere is intimate and perfect for an artist like Shimabukuro.

Shimabukuro performed solo, without a full band. Just a guy, his ukulele, and 500 fans. The 13-song main set was supplemented by Shimabukuro’s engaging personality coming through in both the music and the friendly chatter with the sold out, standing room only crowd.

As much as I enjoy his covers (and his rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s “In My Life” is simply stunning), my favorites of the night were mostly original compositions. Songs like the road-trippin’ “Five Dollars Unleaded”, the playful “Me and Shirley T.”, and the Bruce Lee-inspired and Eddie Van Halen-influenced “Dragon” were all high-points.

The kiddo was particularly fond of a late-set three-song stretch that included Chick Corea’s “Spain”, Shimabukuro’s bluegrass flavored “Orange World” (my favorite tune of the night), and George Harrison’s "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".

The crowd was never shy about showing its appreciation of Shimabukuro, punctuating the night with whoops and whistles and spontaneous applause throughout the set and within single songs. The encore, a moving interpretation of “Ave Maria” followed by a crowd-requested, rollicking version “Crazy G”, seemed as spontaneous as I’ve seen in these days of preplanned sets and choreographed-within-an-inch-of-their-life shows.

Shimabukuro seemed genuinely surprised and appreciative of the multiple standing ovations over the course of the night. Afterwards, Shimabukuro walked off the side of the stage and hung around to sell some merch, talk with the crowd, sign ticket stubs and CD covers, and pose for pictures with anyone who asked. He comes off as a really nice guy who’s as amazed as anyone that he’s touring the world as a ukulele player.