Sunday, July 31, 2011

Burt Bacharach Story and Interview


Burt Bacharach's non-stop musical journey
Written by
George Varga
6 a.m., July 30, 2011
Updated 9:06 a.m.

Burt Bacharach is very likely the hippest and most eclectic 83-year-old legend in pop music, as befits a pioneering maverick whose collaborators in recent years include Elvis Costello, Jamie Cullum and Dr. Dre. Bacharach, who performs a Summer Pops concert here next Sunday with the San Diego Symphony, is likely also the most active 83-year-old legend in pop.

After completing a concert tour of Italy in July, he flew to Aspen to do two concerts. From there, he jetted to New York to resume work on “Some Lovers,” a Broadway-bound musical that teams him with Steven Sater (who in 2007 won two Tony Awards for writing the score and the book for “Spring Awakening”). “Some Lovers,” based on the O. Henry short story “The Gift of the Magi,” will make its world debut here as part the Old Globe Theatre’s 2011-2012 winter season.

Following his Summer Pops show, Bacharach will vacation with his family in Del Mar, where he used to own a home on the beach and still likes to spend at least part of his summer. Then it’s back to work on “Some Lovers” for this eight-time Grammy Award-winner, who has also won three Oscars.

“It may seem like I’m a workaholic, but I’m not,” said Bacharach from a tour stop in Catania, Sicily.

“I really benefit from working, and there’s a great pleasure in doing concerts. I don’t overlook what got me on stage in the first place, and it was the music I wrote. It wasn’t that I played (piano) very well, it’s what I wrote. So it’s important to keep writing, and I’m very excited about this new musical.”

Time allowing, he hopes to include one song from "Some Lovers" at his Summer Pops concert here next Sunday.

"It's always a race against the clock," he said, citing most American orchestra's two-halves-with-an-intermission concert format.

"I've come to realize a certain momentum gets lost when you do a first half, and then there's an intermission and people eat, talk and mingle. You have to regenerate (momentum) and re-start again. But I do hope we will get a song in (from 'Some Lovers'), that I'll tell you, from the show, absolutely.

"It's just about how much material you can get in (a concert). You compromise either way; you have to do some songs in medley form. Otherwise, you've done your program and left out a lot of songs that people might want to hear, even if its only 16 bars. It's not the best way. In Australia, they are not so stringent with symphony rules and you can stay out for two hours (on stage). That's fine for me. I think we probably did two hours at the Belly Up (in Solana Beach) for Valentine's Day, and that was a kick"

A lifelong jazz fan who played in a big band as a teenager, Bacharach studied music with such groundbreaking contemporary classical composers as Henry Cowell and Darius Milhaud. His love of bebop and classical music later helped him to craft some of the most intricate and original hits in pop, full of uniquely shifting melodies and harmonies, deft polyrhythms and impeccably textured nuances.

"I was torn," he recalled of his decision to move away from contemporary classical to pop-music. "I'd go to John Cage and Lou Harris concerts, and I thought that was the direction I wanted to go in. I went to Tanglewood, but there was also the draw for me of jazz. Once I heard what was going on at 52nd Street (in Manhattan) -- even though I was under age -- and listened to the (Count) Basie band at Birdland and Dizzy (Gillespie) at the Royal Roost, that music just blew me away.

“Was I really good enough to be a classical composer? I wasn’t sure. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my life teaching at some university, to supplement my income as a composer.”

So pop music it was for Bacharach. Alas, he was fired after only three weeks from his first prominent job as the pianist and conductor for Vic Damone.

"I don't know why Vic fired me -- he fired a lot of people -- but maybe I wasn't good enough," Bacharach recalled of his short, bumpy tenure with Damone.

"I'd never conducted an orchestra before I'd gone to Las Vegas (with Damone). I didn't quite know what I was doing. But it's a good way to make a living. I got fired by Vic, then went with the Ames Brothers and then Polly Bergen. I ended up with Marlene Dietrich and traveled the world. I was never good at chasing my desire... I wasn't like one of these 'I'm going to get there at any cost' people. I was so far from that."

In 1962, working with the great lyricist Hal David, Bacharach’s career began to ignite. That year alone saw the pair co-write three major hits, Jerry Butler’s “Make It Easy on Yourself” and Gene Pitney’s “Only Love Can Break a Heart” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

The songwriting team also collaborated on "Waiting for Charlie to Come Home," the B-side of Etta James' combustible "Something's Got a Hold On Me." An urbane, intensely melancholic ballad with unexpected musical twists (albeit subtle ones), it sounded like nothing James had ever recorded. It still does.

"Thanks," Bacharach said. "I like the song and we do it in performance now. I like it a lot, or I wouldn't be doing it."

By the time “Alfie” came out in 1966, Bacharach and David had co-written classics for such diverse artists as Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles, Chuck Jackson, Lena Horne, Etta James, Manfred Mann and Tom Jones. Warwick scored a staggering 20 Top 10 hits with Bacharach/David-penned songs, including “Walk On By,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”

But it wasn’t until “Alfie,” the title track to a 1966 film with Michael Caine and Shelley Winters, that Bacharach felt he was really on the right track.

“You write and write (songs), and have hits, and you still maybe have some doubts,” he said. “You wonder: ‘Are you shucking and jiving, and fooling people with what you are writing?’ Or are you — not stealing (from other songwriters) — but being in that proximity?

“Miles Davis said to me: ‘ “Alfie” — that’s a really good song.’ If Miles said that to me, well, that drove my self-esteem way up.”

Jazz artists have long been drawn to Bacharach and David's songs, even if they often dispense with David's lyrics to focus on Bacharach's ingenious melodies and challenging harmonic and rhythmic nooks and crannies.

As a lifelong fan of jazz, did he take particular pride when such greats as saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist McCoy Tyner recorded entire albums devoted to all-instrumental versions of his songs?

"I love McCoy Tyner and Stan Getz," Bacharach replied. "Do I think they were great albums? No. Tommy LiPuma’s production just restricted McCoy; it should have been more free (musically). You are always flattered when you hear a major artist is doing your material. I heard Stan Getz's recording of my music and it felt, to me, like they were just going through the motions. It could have been a great record, so it really dispirited me, because Stan was a great, great player."

Could the problem have been that, given how Bacharach's intricate songs are so carefully and meticulously crafted, they leave little room for the improvisational fervor that fuels great jazz?

"That's a very good observation. Maybe they are not ideal for jazz artists," he said. "I've heard some great renditions by other jazz artists, like (Art Blakey and) The Jazz Messengers. But I do think it's a little more restricting (to do my songs) and you've got to give them freedom. On McCoy’s album, he was strangled with the orchestrations. They choked him.

"I wanted those two albums to be heard and successful, because those are two artists I have huge respect for -- you can't do better than McCoy Tyner, and then you've got Stan Getz."

Bacharach’s songs have also been covered by a slew of rock artists from the Los Angeles band Love to White Stripes. His career ebbed in the late 1970s and ’80s, then surged anew in the 1990s, when he made an acclaimed album with Elvis Costello and appeared in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” (and both its sequels). He was feted at a 1998 TNT TV tribute concert, which featured such admirers as Warwick, Costello, Luther Vandross, Chrissie Hynde and Sheryl Crow.


read the full story HERE.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Syrian Pianist Performs in Washington, Syrian Police Beat His Parents in Syria

Syrian musician blames security forces for his parents' beating
By Tom Watkins, CNN
July 30, 2011 7:53 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Malek Jandali, a pianist who performed last week at a rally in Washington in support of the Syrian opposition, blamed his work for what he said was an attack Thursday night by government security forces on his parents.

The father, Dr. Mamoun Jandali, 73, was carrying groceries from his car to his home in Homs when a man grabbed him from behind and asked him to help care for someone who had been injured, Jandali told CNN Friday in a telephone interview from Orlando, Florida.

When the doctor agreed to do so, the man spoke into his cell phone and said to bring the patient. Moments later, two other men showed up unaccompanied by any patient. They handcuffed the doctor, covered his mouth and nose with duct tape, then took him upstairs, Jandali said. The musician's 66-year-old mother, Linah, was in bed.

"All of a sudden, she finds two men attacking her while the guy was holding my dad and ordering the other two to beat my mom in the head and eyes," Jandali said. "My dad, he couldn't do anything other than watch this atrocity."

The three men broke his mother's teeth and beat his father, then locked them both in their bathroom and ransacked the house, their son said. After the attackers had departed, the father, who had held on to his cell phone throughout the ordeal, called relatives. He had to call security forces to remove his handcuffs.

The doctor then sewed shut a cut in his wife's face, said Jandali.

Jandali said his performance in Washington had provoked the attack. During his mother's beating, "they were telling her that ... 'we're going to teach you how to raise your son.'"
Read the full story HERE.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cameroon's breast ironing tradition

Breast ironing tradition targeted in Cameroon
From Nkepile Mabuse, CNN

(CNN) -- Every morning before school, nine-year-old Terisia Techu would undergo a painful procedure. Her mother would take a burning hot pestle straight out of a fire and use it to press her breasts.

With tears in her eyes as she recalls what it was like, Terisia tells CNN that one day the pestle was so hot, it burned her, leaving a mark. Now 18, she is still traumatized.

Her mother, Grace, denies the incident. But she proudly demonstrates the method she used on her daughter for several weeks, saying the goal was to make her less desirable to boys -- and stave off pregnancy.

A study found that one in four girls in Cameroon have been affected by the practice.

The U.S. State Department, in its 2010 human rights report on Cameroon, cited news reports and said breast ironing "victimized numerous girls in the country" and in some cases "resulted in burns, deformities, and psychological problems."

There are more than 200 ethnic groups in Cameroon with different norms and customs. Breast ironing is practiced by all of them.

In 2006, a German nongovernmental organization exposed the practice, which at the time was done mainly in secret.

Now, charities have embarked on campaigns to educate mothers in Cameroon that sex education -- not breast ironing -- is the solution to ending teenage pregnancy.

Dr Sinou Tchana, a gynecologist in Cameroon, has seen breast glands that were destroyed. She also saw one case of cancer, though she says it couldn't be established whether the ironing caused or only exacerbated the cancer.

The full story with video report is HERE.

Monday, July 25, 2011

NYT: The Master's Is the New Bachelor's

July 22, 2011
The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s


Call it credential inflation. Once derided as the consolation prize for failing to finish a Ph.D. or just a way to kill time waiting out economic downturns, the master’s is now the fastest-growing degree. The number awarded, about 657,000 in 2009, has more than doubled since the 1980s, and the rate of increase has quickened substantially in the last couple of years, says Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. Nearly 2 in 25 people age 25 and over have a master’s, about the same proportion that had a bachelor’s or higher in 1960.

“Several years ago it became very clear to us that master’s education was moving very rapidly to become the entry degree in many professions,” Dr. Stewart says. The sheen has come, in part, because the degrees are newly specific and utilitarian. These are not your general master’s in policy or administration. Even the M.B.A., observed one business school dean, “is kind of too broad in the current environment.” Now, you have the M.S. in supply chain management, and in managing mission-driven organizations. There’s an M.S. in skeletal and dental bioarchaeology, and an M.A. in learning and thinking.

The degree of the moment is the professional science master’s, or P.S.M., combining job-specific training with business skills. Where only a handful of programs existed a few years ago, there are now 239, with scores in development. Florida’s university system, for example, plans 28 by 2013, clustered in areas integral to the state’s economy, including simulation (yes, like Disney, but applied to fields like medicine and defense). And there could be many more, says Patricia J. Bishop, vice provost and dean of graduate studies at the University of Central Florida. “Who knows when we’ll be done?”

While many new master’s are in so-called STEM areas — science, technology, engineering and math — humanities departments, once allergic to applied degrees, are recognizing that not everyone is ivory tower-bound and are drafting credentials for résumé boosting.

“There is a trend toward thinking about professionalizing degrees,” acknowledges Carol B. Lynch, director of professional master’s programs at the Council of Graduate Schools. “At some point you need to get out of the library and out into the real world. If you are not giving people the skills to do that, we are not doing our job.”

This, she says, has led to master’s in public history (for work at a historical society or museum), in art (for managing galleries) and in music (for choir directors or the business side of music). Language departments are tweaking master’s degrees so graduates, with a portfolio of cultural knowledge and language skills, can land jobs with multinational companies.

So what’s going on here? Have jobs, as Dr. Stewart puts it, “skilled up”? Or have we lost the ability to figure things out without a syllabus? Or perhaps all this amped-up degree-getting just represents job market “signaling” — the economist A. Michael Spence’s Nobel-worthy notion that degrees are less valuable for what you learn than for broadcasting your go-get-’em qualities.

“There is definitely some devaluing of the college degree going on,” says Eric A. Hanushek, an education economist at the Hoover Institution, and that gives the master’s extra signaling power. “We are going deeper into the pool of high school graduates for college attendance,” making a bachelor’s no longer an adequate screening measure of achievement for employers.

Colleges are turning out more graduates than the market can bear, and a master’s is essential for job seekers to stand out — that, or a diploma from an elite undergraduate college, says Richard K. Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Not only are we developing “the overeducated American,” he says, but the cost is borne by the students getting those degrees. “The beneficiaries are the colleges and the employers,” he says. Employers get employees with more training (that they don’t pay for), and universities fill seats. In his own department, he says, a master’s in financial economics can be a “cash cow” because it draws on existing faculty (“we give them a little extra money to do an overload”) and they charge higher tuition than for undergraduate work. “We have incentives to want to do this,” he says. He calls the proliferation of master’s degrees evidence of “credentialing gone amok.” He says, “In 20 years, you’ll need a Ph.D. to be a janitor.”

Read the full post HERE.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The turntable-in-car sound system

In the mid-to late 1950s there was a minor attempt to get turntables in cars, marketed as a high-end option and a way to hear your favorite music that either wasn't on the radio or when you were out of range. Not surprisingly, these systems didn't really take off but they do look similar to the compact disc systems that emerged decades later.

This post was inspired by photos from a couple of blogs. Paul Collins has a post; check it out HERE. Retroist has one too.

I've always longed to be on the cutting edge of technology, but I've never come close to achieving it. I'll never be like this guy, who boasted his own under-dash record player to play his favorite 45rpm records. Look how happy he is; it may be 1957, but he knows with his dope set-up he is THE MAN. Radio signal full of static? "No problem, baby. I got your Johnny Mathis right here." [sigh]

I like how her driving gloves help keep her 45 rpm records clean while she handles them in the car:

This 1959 German version came from this post.
and here:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Even More Misspelled and Wrong-Word Tattoos

All these come from Ugliest Tattoo, a site you should visit right now [CLICK HERE].

Okay, on to the permanent misspellings these geniuses had inked into their skin, because life does not come with a spellchecker.

Special prize for this one: Failure and Always









This one takes the prize, because she caught the spelling error after the fact and then had the correction tattooed in, adding the "e" to forever, but underneath the original as there was no room for a proper correction. Looks like a tattoo rough draft with mark-up:




Ah, another favorite, screwing up the "hakuna" in Hakuna matata. No worries? I don't think so:

No apologies? More like no spellchecker


Seize the dictionary






Double words


Here is another post with some classics from Failblog

Here is a post dedicated to tattoos with incorrect use of the words "your" and "you're"

You know, there are a lot more, but just go to Ugliest Tattoo for yourself to see tattoo misspellings, bad tattoo art, bad tattoos ideas, basically the Hall of Regrets.

Your/You're Misspelled Tattoos from Ugliest Tattoos

A couple of years ago I posted some funny misspelled tattoos. My best source was Failblog, which has since created its own spin-off site called Ugliest Tattoos: The Gallery of Regrets. It's really quite remarkable how many godawful tattoos exist out there, but some of the most pathetic ones consist of misspelled words permanently tattooed into one's skin. This post is dedicated to the misspelling of "your" and "you're." Mess them up in an email or post? Hey, it happens. Make the mistake in a report or paper? That's unfortunate, a little embarrassing. But permanently etch the mistake into your skin? I mean, really, even if life doesn't come with a spellchecker, that's no excuse.

From Failbook:

From WTF Tattoos:

This one gets the pole position because of the spelling used for "dealt":

A double fail:

Visit Failblog and Ugliest Tattoos (and WTF Tattoos) for more beauties.

A similar post contains misspelled tattoos messing up the words belief and believe; you can see that one HERE. One for the words "to" and "too' is growing HERE.