Archive for July 2009

Categorizing The Actors

July 30, 2009

My brain is really weird, or so my wife has convinced me. I have a real obsessive compulsive fanboy/geekdom to me about strange things – like, say, Actors. I’m constantly evaluating them, categorizing them, thinking about the marketing aspects of them, how they play to audiences and why, etc. (I told you my brain is weird.) Well, here is the proof you seek.

It sounds easy – but its not. You’re kind of born with “it” – the ability to portray the average man in such a way that the entire audience can put themselves in your shoes. Everymen aren’t big and muscular. They aren’t geniuses. They don’t tend to have superpowers. They don’t see themselves as heroes. They have self-doubt. They wrestle with moral choices. In short, they are completely human. But you trust them. You root for them. You see yourself in them. And Tom Hanks may just be the best everyman ever.
Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington, Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, Jimmy Stewart, Matt Damon, Owen Wilson, Viggo Mortensen, Jim Caviezel, Bill Pullman, Matthew Broderick, Michael J. Fox

These guys specialize in wide range…they can play the villain, the creep, the underdog, the authority figure, the weird neighbor, the colorful family member, the flamboyant friend…you get the picture. These guys can really act. All hail Steve Buscemi – King of the character actors.
Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, Johnny Depp, Hugo Weaving, Alan Rickman, Joe Pesci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon, Randy Quaid, Christopher Lloyd, Geoffrey Rush, Don Cheadle, Paul Giamatti, Edward Norton, William H. Macy, John Rhys-Davies, Jeffrey Jones, Donald Sutherland, Gary Oldman, Christopher Lee, J.T. Walsh, John Heard, James Cromwell

Some of America’s most popular actors are on this list. We love them. It’s just that…they always seem to be playing different variations of the same character…like they’re really just playing bigger-than-life versions of themselves. It leads you to say things like, “it’s Tom Cruise as a sports agent. It’s Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot. It’s Tom Cruise as a race car driver.” In the end…it’s still Tom Cruise. These actors sell us their own hyped personality again and again and again…(and amazingly we keep buying it). Mainstream comedic actors tend to fall here, too, as they all tend to have a “schtick” that carries over from movie to movie.
Tom Cruise, John Wayne, Sean Connery, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Tim Allen, John Travolta, Jack Black, Samuel L. Jackson (but agreed he’s the best on-screen cusser ever!), Tommy Lee Jones, Dustin Hoffman (hailed as a big ‘character actor’ when The Graduate came out – but looking back on his long career – ehh, they’re pretty much all the same soft-spoken, smallish jewish guy who sometimes reaches his boiling point – am I right?), Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Alec Bladwin, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, Russell Crowe, Val Kilmer, Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins

Actors who may actually have some skills, but whose looks always seem to take priority over the quality of their material. Rarely do you see emotional depth or range from this type…it seems to be all about the hair (or the pecks, or the abs, or the whatever…)
Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Hugh Grant, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Pierce Brosnan, Richard Gere, Matthew McConaughey, Warren Beatty, Jude Law, Ryan Phillipe, Orlando Bloom

The ones who appear to be giving a master’s class in acting every time they’re on screen – they dominate the scenes they’re in – you can’t take your eye off them – they turn even mediocre scripts into Hollywood Magic…
Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Ian McKellen, Ralph Fiennes, Ed Harris, Patrick Stewart, John Malkovich, Robert Duvall, Kenneth Branagh

Actors who somehow manage to get themselves cast repeatedly in big budget Hollywood films, yet you wonder if they realize they look like wooden cutouts on screen…
Kevin Costner, Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves, David Duchovny, Ben Affleck, Hayden Christensen, Freddie Prinze Jr., Chris O’Donnell

Alright, readers out there. Who did I tick off? Who’s on the wrong list? Who did I forget? (Yes the list is inherently sexist…I’ll get around to the females someday…)


The Essential Bassists

July 24, 2009


I’ve been playing bass guitar since I was 8 years old. That means I’ve been playing for 30 years now! Wow…time sure flies. I began playing with my dad’s traveling gospel group that year. My dad was a guitarist, and knew enough to show me where the notes were and how to get started. I began playing with my thumb until I got a little older and switched to standard finger-style. I was completely absorbed in southern gospel music until I got to middle and high school. Then I began to see what else was out there and slowly began to get into the history of the instrument and seek out all the treasure trove of bass masters. So I’ve decided, in this post, to share some of what I’ve found. These are the bassists that, in my opinion, are essential study in becoming a well-rounded bassist. Every list will have people arguing over who should be listed above who, and in what order, and who’s been left off or shouldn’t be there…but hey – that’s what makes music so fun – It’s all subjective and conditional to your experiences. So have some fun with the following list. Hopefully, if I’ve done my job well, you’ll see some new names and faces and get exposed to some new music!

  1. James Jamerson (1936 – 1983)
    The pulse of Motown. Modern bass guitar owes more to this man than you can imagine. He invented so many conventions that we take for granted today: Taking the electric bass into mainstream, syncopated lines under straight arrangements, dissonant leading tones being used to create momentum, etc. His masterpieces include: “What’s Going On”, “Bernadette”, “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”, “For Once In My Life”, “Dancing In The Street”, “I Was Made To Love Her”, etc.
  2. Paul McCartney (1942 – )
    One of the greatest melodic minds of the 20th century brought that same sensibility to the bass guitar. Originally a 6-string man, Paul’s bass lines created lots of movement and interest in otherwise straight-ahead songs, such as, “All My Loving”, “Eight Days A Week”, “Tell Me Why”, “Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man”, and “Hello Goodbye”. Not only that, but the man was an awesome lead vocalist while simultaneously playing these gems!
  3. Jaco Pastorius (1951 – 1987)
    In the late 70’s and early 80’s this man totally blew past the expectations of what the bass guitar instrument could be. No longer a background instrument, it could be an instrument that was Front And Center! Jaco’s soloing was groundbreaking – and he definitely had his own distinctive tone (favoring the treble/bridge pickup of the Fender Jazz bass for clarity rather than the bassier/boomier neck pickup as was common with the Fender Precision bass. He also often added a little chorus effect to his solo sounds and was equally at home on the fretless bass as well as the fretted.)
  4. Victor Wooten (1964 – )
    Virtuoso. Technical Mastery. Slap-Bass Legend. Rhythmic Genius. Banjo-style Flailing Technique. Whatever words you choose, they simply aren’t descriptive enough for Victor Wooten of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
  5. Rocco Prestia (1951 – )
    The funkiest white boy ever! Rocco is the long-time bassist of the funk band, Tower of Power. In the following clip, you get to hear the same song 3 different ways; first, with just solo bass; second as a demo; and third you get to see him play live with Tower of Power. Stick with it till you get to part 3 to see how Rocco’s intricate lines play off of the other instruments and establish the funk pocket.
  6. Tom Kennedy (1960 – )
    Dave Weckl Band, Randy Brecker, Al Di Meola
    An extremely under-rated player! (I’ve never seen him on any best-of list that I know of.) But HOLY COW can this dude play. Perhaps one of the reasons people don’t gravitate toward him is because he comes from that intellectual Chick Corea-style school of jazz that a small sliver of the population are aware of, let alone enjoy. But you cannot dis this guy’s playing. He’s one of the very best finger-style players out there (you rarely see him slap.) Check him out playing on Weckl’s version of “The Chicken” below. Dave Weckl is a master at beat displacement on the drums, and watch for Tom to school you how beat displacement is done on the bass at time index 2:28. He starts a bass solo at 6:05, and he displays blinding speed at 7:40.
  7. Roscoe Beck ( – )
    A crossover player equally at home with jazz and blues, he is the perfect compliment to guitarists Robben Ford and Eric Johnson. In the clip below, listen for Roscoe playing an intricate walking bass line, while simultaneously playing jazz chords over the top! (beginning at time index 1:44)
  8. Ray Brown (1926 – 2002)
    This dude is a jazz legend! Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson, Sara Vaughan, and Quncy Jones. Ray played with them all. No single clip could ever capture his full range, but here is one piece of his musical legacy:
  9. Oteil Burbridge (1967 – )
    Who? You’ve never heard of him? Shame on you. The bassist for Aquarium Rescue Unit, the tour bassist for the Allman Brothers, and bandleader of The Peacemakers. They even made a documentary about him:
  10. Geddy Lee (1953 – )
    Three-piece bands always put an extra bit of pressure on the bass player. When the guitarist goes to solo, there’s nobody playing chords anymore – so the bass part becomes very important as the only accompaniment. Geddy Lee not only was the master of covering the solos, but did so while being the band’s lead singer! His playing influenced a whole generation of rock and metal bassists. The following clip is of “Freewill” – check out the guitar solo section just after the 3:00 mark.

  11. Bootsy Collins (1951 – )
    In the following clip, Bootsy gives the “formula for funk”. This formula was invented by James Brown, and performed by Bootsy and the rest of the band. With Parliament Funkadelic, they took funk to its further extreme.
  12. Marcus Miller (1959 – )
    Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn
  13. Charles Mingus (1922 – 1979)
  14. Stanley Clarke (1951 – )
  15. Larry Graham (1946 – )
    Sly & The Family Stone
  16. Flea (1962 – )
    Red Hot Chili Peppers
  17. Les Claypool (1963 – )
  18. John Paul Jones (1946 – )
    Led Zeppelin
  19. Stu Hamm (1960 – )
    Steve Vai, Frank Gambale, Joe Satriani
  20. John Clayton (1953 – )
    Count Basie Orchestra, Clayton Brothers Jazz Quintet, Diana Krall
  21. John Entwistle (1944 – 2002)
    The Who
  22. Lee Sklar (1947 – )
    Studio session player, Phil Collins, James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Richard Marx, Steve Lukather, Rod Stewart, Warren Zevon
  23. John Patitucci (1959 – )
    B.B. King, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Dave Grusin, Natalie Cole, Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah, Sting
  24. Nathan East (1955 – )
    Anita Baker, Babyface, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Al Jarreau, Kenny Loggins, Fourplay
  25. Ron Carter (1937 – )
    Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock
  26. Abe Laboriel (1947 – )
    Henry mancini, Donald Fagen, Larry Carlton, Dave Grusin, Stevie Wonder, Barbara Streisand, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Paul Simon)
  27. Kim Stone ( – )
    The Rippingtons, Spyrogyra, David Benoit, Larry Carlton, B.B. King
  28. Carol Kaye (1935 – )
    Best known as one of the most prolific and widely heard bass guitarists in history, playing on an estimated 10,000 recording sessions. Kaye was the bassist on several Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and David Axelrod productions in the 1960s and 1970s. She played guitar on Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” and is credited with the bass tracks on several Simon & Garfunkel hits and many film scores by Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. Among her most often cited work Kaye anchored the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds.

Surgery Day

July 24, 2009

Today’s post is more of a personal family nature, so casual readers may want to skip this particular post 🙂 I am primarily posting this information on my blog today because the hospital has blocked Facebook and Twitter on their wireless internet and so this is the only connection I have today with some extended family and friends. [If you read this today, and can post a link to this page via Facebook or Twitter, I would appreciate it!]

For those who aren’t aware, my wife has been having some issues with endometriosis. This has caused her lots of internal pain for many years, and has been getting progressively worse. One of the issues with this is that there is endometrial tissue wrapped completely around one of her ovaries. Today, she is having laproscopic surgery, where they will remove excess endometrial tissue with a laser, and will then perform a uterine ablation, which will cauterize the endometrium in hopes of preventing any future growth. This procedure will also prevent any future pregnancy. Also, if the surgeon cannot successfully “clean off” her left ovary, then they will have to remove it. There was initial talk that they may do a partial hysterectomy, but that has since been ruled out at this time.

Mandy is doing very well. We arrived at the hospital at 7am, and her surgery is scheduled at 8am. They took her back at 7:30 to get ready. As you would expect if you know Mandy, she is calm and cool and ready to get it done. The surgery is estimated to be about 2 hours long. Check back here throughout the day for updates to this post!
UPDATE #1: Post-Surgery, 9:08am

I just met with the doctor, and she said everything went well. Thanks for your prayers, everybody. Doc said there was, in fact, endometriosis that needed to be cleaned off behind the uterus and from the ovary. She didn’t see the need to remove the ovary at this time. They did do the ablation and a DNC (as my friend Nick Pate calls it – a “Dust ‘N’ Clean”).

Mandy is in post-op now. I have not seen her yet. More to come!

UPDATE #2: We’re Home! 11:00am

I’m amazed at how fast this all went! She’s doing fine. We just got home, after a brief stop at the pharmacy. Mandy is having lots of pain, but we’re keeping it under control with our little friend, Lortab! They said she will have to sleep in a recliner for the next two nights. She thanks everybody for your prayers. Maybe tonight she’ll write her own little update on here.