The Dead Disappoint On David Letterman

picture-14I will say that I fully understand that getting a slot on a talk show to perform one song is nothing like playing a concert. Most bands have no problem with this format as their live renditions of songs are not that far removed from their studio renditions and often fit nice and snug into this little arrangement reserved for the Late Night guest band.

This past Thursday night, The Dead chose to do one of the Grateful Dead’s more popular tunes from the early 70’s, Sugar Magnolia. Great song, always a live favorite and often an energetic 2nd set-closer. Sadly, this night allowed the band to play only the vocal parts of the song, thus eliminating the best part: the enormous, high-energy, dance-your-feet-off jam that leads into the second part of the song, Sunshine Daydream.

Again, I understand this is about getting people to come to the new shows and trying to show them that if they go, they will see some of those great oldies folks have come to love. But the band is sorely misrepresented by this little-dittie interpretation of Sugar Magnolia. I only wish the band had been as creative in choosing a song for the Letterman Show as they have been about choosing set lists on their tour. But I’m coming from a Dead-Head point of view and not a practical marketing one. No surprise there. Maybe what they played was smart. But it certainly wasn’t inspiring. And like it or not, what they played felt rather lackluster and a bit messy. Didn’t think the mix was very good either.

My god, I seem to have only negative things to say! I do hate that, I must admit. ‘Cause at the end of the day, I love these guys. Perhaps that’s why I hold them to a higher standard than I do most others. I’m glad they’re out there. I’m glad they seem to be having a great time. I’m glad audiences are responding.

And I miss the Grateful Dead. And I’ll just have to live with that.

Here’s the vid of the boys on Letterman. Would love to know your thoughts, reactions, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a fan.

The Dead Disappoint On David Letterman

Favorite & Least Favorite Films Of 2008

elegy-poster-bigA little late, you say? Hogwash! I usually wait till long after Awards Season to make my picks as it usually takes me that long to catch up with most (though sadly not all) of the films released in any given year that I really want to see. As such, I reserve the right to add films to this list as I view them. I’m sure there are a few that I missed and will discover as the year progresses.

I don’t do “Best” and “Worst” as I don’t think I’m qualified to make such statements, but instead I prefer “Favorites” and “Least Favorites”. I also don’t limit myself to 10 films in each category. There are as many or as few as feel appropriate. There are some other categories as well and they are, I believe, self-explanatory.

As always, there will be those who will vehemently disagree with my choices, but that is one of the reasons I have made the categories “personal” and not “absolute.” It is not unusual for me to find disappointment in films that many others rave about or award statues to. By the same token, it is not uncommon for me to cherish films that either slipped under the radar or were considered “too slow” by many. I am therefore thankful that filmmakers of different visions get to express themselves in today’s world. Granted, this happens far more outside the industrial machine that is Hollywood (with so many cookie-cutter formulas and all-powerful CEO’s), but I am simply thrilled it happens at all. Here’s to different styles, visions and tastes!













Also Recommended:

CHE (Parts 1 & 2)










Least Favorites

10,000 BC














Favorite & Least Favorite Films Of 2008

The “New” Dead on Letterman Tonight

picture-10While it’s no secret that I’m a bit underwhelmed with the post-Jerry Garcia Dead’s sound, I think many folks who weren’t big fans of the band before might actually, ironically, prefer this current incarnation. Guitarist Warren Haynes’ sound is certainly more “familiar” sounding to the masses as his playing is a tad more “straight-forward” than Jerry’s was. Jerry spoke from his soul and the music took you there. It was different from anything else out there. And that’s what made it so damn one-of-a-kind. But it was an acquired taste and often took folks a bit of time to hear what was going on there (to the untrained ear it can sometimes sound a bit harsh, or so I’ve been told), but once tapped in, it was the centerpiece of joy and inspiration. It was NOT, however, great background music (unless you were singing along) as it demanded your attention. It’s possible that I just need more time to tap into Warren. Though something tells me that’s not the case. But I’ll be listening nonetheless.

When the Grateful Dead introduced TOUCH OF GREY to the world, it signaled the beginning of the end of an era. Legions of new “fans” stormed the scene expecting a band that played amusing little ditties like GREY (a fun song, absolutely, but not really the kind of thing the Grateful Dead were known for). Suddenly, the tight little community was inundated with concert-goers more concerned with the drug-scene than with the music. People were getting too high, too drunk, and oftentimes violent. Before we knew it, the Grateful Dead was banned from playing many of its long-standing favorite venues! The scene never fully recovered, IMHO.

I’m curious to see what this newfangled Dead will choose to play for the masses on the David Letterman show tonight. Will they pick some great, weird oldie that will shock and amaze? Or will they decide to play something a bit more… “mainstream”? We’ll see. No doubt, either way, a few more folks will climb on board the bus as a result. posted a History of the Grateful Dead on David Letterman. It’s a fun journey back in time. I saw all of these shows when they originally aired. Enjoy!

History of the Grateful Dead on David Letterman

cThe members of the Grateful Dead, mostly Jerry and Bobby, have a long relationship with David Letterman going back to 1982. The two guitarists first appeared on Letterman on 4/13/82, during the Grateful Dead’s Spring tour, on a night off between shows at Nassau Coliseum and the Glens Falls Civic Center. On this episode, they played two acoustic songs, Deep Elem Blues and Monkey & The Engineer, with Jerry and Bobby revealing terrific senses of humour in describing the origins of the moniker Dead Heads. Classic stuff. Bobby had a bit of a cold, and his voice was a bit off, but they played these acoustic tunes very well.

The next visit to Letterman was on 9/17/87 on the night off during a five night stand at Madison Square Garden, at which they played Bob Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiecewith the Letterman house band backing them. While talking with Dave, they discussed their new video So Far, the shows at MSG, and the success of In The Dark. Bobby then did one of the oddest things these guys have ever done on TV, he attempted to lift Jerry via a parlour trick, with Dave and Biff helping out. The sight of an unwitting Jerry, in a nice coat, sitting as the crew tries to lift Jerry with two fingers is one of the most hilarious images of the band I’ve ever seen. Just the way Dave looked at the camera and said “we’re going to lift Jerry” had us all cracking up. I’d been at the two previous shows at the Garden, and they were playing very well and, obviously, having loads of fun.

In 1989, during a five night run at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, Bobby and Jerry once again visit Dave, on 10/13/89, this time playing Second That Emotion with Paul’s band once again backing them up. Also very cool during this appearance was during the commercial breaks, they played along with the band on the music the leads in and out of the commercial breaks, including Good Lovin’, Mighty Quinn and Hideaway, amongst a few other things.

In 2003, The Dead appeared on Letterman with that version of the band, featuring Bobby, Phil, Mickey and Bill, as well as Jeff Chimenti and Rob Barraco on keyboards, Jimmy Herring on lead guitar, and Joan Osborne on vocals. They played a rocking version of Casey Jones.

Bobby and Jerry also appeared separately on Letterman, the former playing The Winners with Rob Wasserman in 1991, and the latter playing Friend of the Devil with David Grisman in 1993.

The “New” Dead on Letterman Tonight

Fox’s Shep Smith Drops Appropriate F-Bomb

Shepherd Smith seems to be the only person at Fox News who actually gets angry when people lie and/or mislead. So what the hell is he still doing at Fox!? Well, after dropping the F-bomb on air today while discussing the torture memos, he may not be for much longer. Which would be a shame since he may be the only voice of reason left at the despicable and shameless Fox News. Listen for Shep’s little “Oops” after he realizes what he’s said.

Addendum: To watch another great moment from Shepherd Smith I posted back during the presidential race, check out this Fox News clip of Shep speaking with Joe the Plumber. By the end of the short interview, Shep is openly horrified. 

Fox’s Shep Smith Drops Appropriate F-Bomb

A View From The Dead Tour

I’ve been listening to snippets from the tour and what I’ve heard so far has been okay, but nothing that’s knocked my socks off. The set lists are amazing given the range of music (30+years) and the daring lack of structure, but the music itself, while good, seems to lack the magic that made the Grateful Dead what they were. And that shouldn’t be a surprise as Jerry Garcia was the lead component of that magic. And while Warren Haynes (the singer/guitar player who replaced Jerry) is an extremely talented musician, his playing rarely gets under my skin. But I’ll reserve a full commentary on that for when I see them live. That may be a thoroughly different experience.

In the meantime, here are a few official snippets from the tour so far:
4/12 Greensboro-Shakedown Street:
Vodpod videos no longer available.



4/14 Charlottsville-Doin’ That Rag:
Vodpod videos no longer available.     





A View From The Dead Tour

Brilliant Cinematographer Jack Cardiff Dies

lg_5888471_jackcardiffOne of my heroes, the supremely talented and illustrious cinematographer Jack Cardiff has passed away at the age of 94. Cardiff was known for such films as THE AFRICAN QUEEN, THE RED SHOES, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, WAR AND PEACE, THE VIKINGS, and one of my favorite films of all time and the single most beautiful ever shot, BLACK NARCISSUS. Cardiff also directed the 1968 psychedelic film GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE.

“Naturally, I am proud of successful films that I have enjoyed working on like ‘The Red Shoes’ and the ‘Black Narcissus’ and I have had a certain satisfaction from that. But the films that I am most proud of – the film for instance that I made under great difficulty, ‘Sons and Lovers’, I wanted to make it into a good film because the book is marvelous and I didn’t want to let the author (D.H. Lawrence) down.”

Luckily for us, much of Cardiff’s work is available on DVD. I highly recommend the Blu-ray transfer of BLACK NARCISSUS which, while not available in the U.S., is readily available from England in a stunning non-region-encoded transfer.

Here’s to you, Mr. Cardiff.


Brilliant Cinematographer Jack Cardiff Dies

Retired Seattle Police Chief Talks Pot vs. Alcohol

Retired Seattle police chief, Norm Stamper, wrote a small article in the Huffington Post about not only his experiences as a law officer dealing with pot smokers and alcohol consumers, but also the statistics currently available on both. As the question as whether or not to legalize/decriminalize marijuana continues in earnest, I thought I’d post a few snippets from that article:

headshotI am a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition… We at LEAP are current and former cops and other criminal justice practitioners who have witnessed firsthand the futility and manifold injustices of the drug war. Our professional experiences have led us to conclude that the more dangerous an illicit substance–from crack to krank–the greater the justification for its legalization, regulation, and control. It is the prohibition of drugs that leads inexorably to high rates of death, disease, crime, and addiction.

Alcohol-related traffic accidents claim approximately 14,000 lives each year… evidence from studies, including laboratory simulations, feeds the stereotype that those under the influence of canniboids tend to (1) be more aware of their impaired psychomotor skills, and (2) drive well below the speed limit. Those under the influence of alcohol are much more likely to be clueless or defiant about their condition, and to speed up and drive recklessly.

Hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths occur annually. There has never been a single recorded marijuana OD fatality.

According to the American Public Health Association, excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of death in this country… There have been no documented cases of lung cancer in a marijuana-only smoker, nor has pot been scientifically linked to any type of cancer…

While a small quantity, taken daily, is being touted for its salutary health effects, alcohol is one of the worst drugs one can take for pain management, marijuana one of the best…

Alcohol contributes to acts of violence; marijuana reduces aggression. In approximately three million cases of reported violent crimes last year, the offender had been drinking. This is particularly true in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and date rape. Marijuana use, in and of itself, is absent from both crime reports and the scientific literature. There is simply no link to be made.

Over the past four years I’ve asked police officers throughout the U.S. (and in Canada) two questions. When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana? (I’m talking marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause, they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask: When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk? They look at their watches…

Anybody out there want to launch a campaign for the re-prohibition of alcohol? Didn’t think so. The answer, of course, is responsible drinking. Marijuana smokers, for their part, have already shown (apart from that little matter known as the law) greater responsibility in their choice of drugs than those of us who choose alcohol.

Retired Seattle Police Chief Talks Pot vs. Alcohol