Peripatetic Postcards

Blog, After All: PCH pics and bits

According to this piece by Sarah Boxer, in The New York Review, I don't know how to blog.

As if:

whatever you think you've been doing for the last 3 years, dude . . . you've been doing it all wrong.

My reaction? Kind of like the guy on his death bed said, after encountering the winning numbers printed on his lottery stub: "better late than never."

According to Boxer, what distinguishes my work from true blogging is that I don't:

  • thrive on fragmented attention (one-liners, song samples, summarized news);

(I mean, if you discount these bullets I'm just beginning to work through).

I also fail as a blogger, because I:

  • fail! To: punctuate?

  • eschew the use of punctuation and acronyms to express my feelings -- a la :-) or ;-)


And, I fail as a blogger because:

  • I tend not to adopt the mien of an impresario, curator, or editor -- picking and choosing the snippets and headlines found on-line;


Looks to get back in the picture as his new VP

Okay, so I'm having a little fun here, at someone's expense. Yours, McCain's, G.H.'s. Mine. (But really, doesn't that creepy sneer on senior and the semi-dazed, semi-satisfied look on McCain's face make you suspect that something unsuspected is happening off-camera?)

But, in general, it is true that I don't trade in Boxer's following standard blog tropes:

  • I don't begin my posts mid-thought or mid-rant -- as if I am talking to my buddies;

  • I don't shirk from feeling responsible for a reader's education, instead, struggling to provide all the necessary details for a casual interloper to keep up;

  • I don't get caught up in trying to be famous; thus, this blog doesn't seek to: say anything to get noticed, start rumors, tell lies, pick fights, create fake personas, and post embarrassing videos; (I mean, aside from the snide photo aside concerning senor senior Bush, above);

  • I don't trade in trendy, esoteric blog-speak; and

  • I don't have a foul mouth; (I mean, aside from the snide photo aside concerning senor senior Bush, above)

Well, at least I don't possess a very foul mouth. (The last one being why I probably have managed to keep this gig over these last 36 months).

The bottom line, though, is that, perusing the above list, I have a lot of holes to fill in if I am ever going to live up to this space's billing as an actual "blog". So, given the list, where (and when?) does one begin?

Cut to the now! Where: here I am on the way to San Francisco -- cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway -- with little time to get myself as organized as usual, and (aside from feeling incredibly insecure, certain that I've lost utter control) it occurs to me that this might be the perfect opportunity to become more bloggy, to earn my cred as a big-time blog-hound. If you're game, I am too. So, let's try this . . .

The first thing I should start with is a picture. Or maybe a matching set. The two taken at the rest stop along the northerly shore with the sign warning that the surf is a dangerous thing: strong backwash, sleeper waves, and rip currents.

I didn't know that sea water could be so specialized.

Anyway, check out the placid gull hanging out atop the sign: offering up his best imitation of concern over the caveat below.

So, that is kind of bloggy, right? Ironic contrast, culled (from the gull) in the moment.

And after moving the camera around the landscape -- at the bench overlooking the beach, and the guy occupying the bench as he shoots snaps of his gal posing on the precipice overlooking the beach --

it is time to move down to sand-level. There one encounters a well-tempered piece of an up-rooted telephone pole (unless it is a portion of a dismembered pier), along with some driftwood detail and stray seaweed:

And after capturing a solitary walker braving the brisk wind, basking in the sparkling winter sun, beholding the munificent unadorned ocean . . .

. . . it is time to head back out, on PCH. Refreshed, reinvigorated, rededicated to peripaticity.

After 3 years of posts, there is one overriding question that faithful readers -- of this, well, if not a blog, whatever it is -- invariably ask. You know the one, right? (cause you've thought it, yourself -- admit it!): "how do you manage to get all these glorious photos?"

The question usually attendant to the unveiling of shots like this:

And admit this, too: you're jealous, right?

The answer, of course, lies in equal parts (ahem) talent, serendipity, and -- well, actually -- luck. That, and taking multiple chances with my life as I point my camera out the window of my Lexus RX 300, generally revved up to . . . 70 mph (but not a click more, Mr. Officer, honest!)

More often than not, shots come out somewhere between the unusable and the inscrutable. Something akin to the one below:

providing an unplanned glimpse of the wizard behind the curtain -- spied in this mis-angled (or is that "mangled") mirror shot.

Which is probably a good enough place to leave this entry (and bring it full circle). Suspended as we are between the peripatetic push up the Pacific Coast Highway and deep into the self. For, in any writing -- as in any work of art or simple communication -- there is no way of avoiding the self. It is the iron law of subjectivity. Something illuminated in the reminiscence of Joan Didion during her memorial service oratory for Elizabeth Hardwick, co-founder and advisory editor of The New York Review:

In 1985, when Darryl Pinckney suggested during a Paris Review interview that (Hardwicke) did not like to talk about herself, she gently set the record straight: "Well, I do a lot of talking and the 'I' is not often absent. In general I'd rather talk about other people. Gossip, or as we gossips like to say, character analysis."

Which is really the deeper truth behind blogging. There is very sheer veneer between the subject of attention and the blogging subject. A point that Sarah Boxer basically makes in concluding her analysis of blogs:

Blog writing is id writing—grandiose, dreamy, private, free-associative, infantile, sexy, petty, dirty. Whether bloggers tell the truth or really are who they claim to be is another matter, but WTF. They are what they write. And you can't fake that. ;-)

Imagine Peripatetic Postcards without its peripatetique and you will see that Boxer is certainly spot-on. Which is why, despite the paucity of points of confluence, it must be that these peripatetic entries are, after all, lo and behold, blog, after all.

And if you don't believe it, just tune in tomorrow (or whenever the next installment gets posted); when the next stage of PCH comes into id-tinged view, in the form of: pine trees, rocky cliffs, ocean sunbeams, a highway billboard or two, and a sunset even better than the one filtering through today's trees.

From points north of San Luis Obispo, along PCH, (and borrowing a close from The Eagles), this is your peripatetic blogger singing: "nighty-night".

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

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Long eclipsed by the works of many country contemporaries, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge's first album, Full Moon, gets a new look.

Why is it that 1973 albums by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson have become classic country staples (see: Jennings' rough-hewed landmark Honky Tonk Heroes and Nelson's before-its-time Shotgun Willie), while Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge's duo debut from that same year has been relatively overlooked?

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Mike Stern: Trip

Photo: Sandrine Lee (Concord Music Group)

Mike Stern has fallen. Trip shows that he can get back up just fine.

Mike Stern


Label: Heads Up
US Release Date: 2017-09-08
UK Release Date: 2017-09-08
Label website
Artist website

Guitarist Mike Stern suffered from a big owie last year. It seems that, while trying to cross a street in Manhattan, he tripped and fell, breaking both of his shoulders in the process. He underwent surgery and reports that "I still have to use glue so I can hold a guitar pick." While you're busy trying to figure out just how a jazz-fusion guitarist needs glue to hold a pick, keep in mind Stern is an embodiment of a working musician, and his chosen genre of expertise is famous for its pay-to-play, sink-or-swim business model. Such a setback can really eat into one's career. Gigs need to be canceled, which sometimes leads to venues blacklisting you in the future. And in a world where most people listen to their music via streaming services, gigging may be your only reliable source of income. Thankfully, Mike Stern, who was 63 at the time of his injury, has made a full recovery and is back to work with an impressive array of professional help. His new album is ironically named Trip. Apart from the title,

Trip makes it sound like nothing ever happened to Stern. At all. In the same way that John McLaughlin and his current Fourth Dimension band sound like a bunch of barnstormers who haven't hit 40 yet, the powerful performance of Stern and his colleagues coupled with the high quality of the material belie both age and medical condition. Now I'm aware that our very own Steven Spoerl did not care for the writing on Mike Stern's 2012 All Over the Place, but there's no way I can sling the same criticism at Trip. The opening title track alone is enough to nullify that. Stern plays the melody in unison with saxophonist Bob Franceschini, and it's all over the place. The song slinks into a B section where the chords shift from a minor vi to a major IV, and again, Stern and Franceschini drive an even meaner melody down the scale with plenty of sharply punctuated intervals. This guy fell, broke his shoulders, and now needs glue to hold a pick? Are we all sure he wasn't just replaced with Steve Austin?

Another number that, to me, offsets any concerns about the able-bodiness or strength of the material is a spunky one named "Watchacallit". This time, the B section brims with even more tension with Franceschini flying high and bassist Tom Kennedy doing little divebombs at the start of each bar. When it's all put together, it's truly a moment for you to crank your listening device of choice (in the past, we would say "stereo" right about here). But that's just two songs. There's a total of 11, spanning an hour and six minutes. Stern doesn't use every bar of every number to punch us in the gut. He still goes for the smooth bop ("Emelia"), the funky intersection of Miles Davis and Funkadelic ("Screws"), and the soothing ballad ("I Believe in You" and "Gone").

No review of Trip would be complete without mentioning the musical pedigree of Mike Stern's friends. When it comes to drummers, he managed to net Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, and Will Calhoun (yes, that Will Calhoun). Those names alone give you a money-back guarantee that the rhythm section will never, ever falter. But just to be sure, Stern summons Victor Wooten to play bass. Top shelf names like Randy Brecker and Bill Evans, in addition to Franceschini, provide Trip with soulful wind. Pianist Jim Beard pulls double duty as the session pianist. Normally, I'd wrap this up by saying that Mike Stern is under the process of pulling himself up by his bootstraps and dusting himself off after a major boo-boo. But after listening to

Trip over and over again, I'm convinced that he's beyond that. The straps are up, and the dust has cleared. He's back, playing and composing just as well as he ever did. Better than he did before the accident, perhaps? You can be the judge of that meaningless hairsplitting exercise because Trip is worth the journey no matter where your expectations may lie.

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