David M. Riley

Author Archive: David

Bo Diddley Rides Again

Bo Diddley is one of the key players in the development of rock n’ roll.  His signature beat influenced almost everyone who has come along since the mid-50s.  Rolling Stone magainze says, “To use the word “influenced” is an under-statement to describe the effect of Diddley’s first half-dozen singles and careening performances on rock music.”

And that “Bo Diddley Beat,” the hard-driving five accented sound based on an Afro-Cuban rhythm can be heard on dozens of famous rock songs by Buddy Holly, the Stones, Springsteen, and even Bow Wow.

Shortly after Diddley died in 2008, American musicologist and author Ned Sublette said, “Cubans play it straight, boom, boom, boom.  Bo Diddley swung it, boom, boom, boom.  He played it like an African-American.  It was also hambone, but it was neither.  It was the Bo Diddley beat by the time – and he never played it the same way twice.”

Well, here’s some music I put together the other night… it didn’t start out like this but at one point I thought it was sounding a little Bo Diddleyish and I went all the way, as sort of a tribute to a great innovator.

Hope you like it.

My Favorite Christmas Movie

I’ve been through them all.  Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas in ConnecticutHoliday Affair, The Lemon Drop Kid, White Christmas, Bad Santa , and Die Hard 2 (Bruce Willis fighting some terrorists taking over air traffic control at a Washington DC airport on Christmas eve, what more could you ask for?), and I’ve loved them all.  Something about Christmas movies that touches my sentimental heart.

I was an early convert to It’s A Wonderful Life.  The movie was a flop when it was released in 1946 and forgotten until the mid-70’s when PBS discovered it was in the public domain and began showing it each holiday season. I think I watched that first year, and since I am a fan of both Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra, and because it’s a great film, it became a favorite.

My favorite these days, though, is Remember the Night is a little gem of a romantic comedy that lingered in obscurity until Turner Classic Movies started showing it a few years ago.  A wonderful Christmas movie.

From 1940 with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, just four years before the two stars would team up again to play illicit lovers who kill Stanwyck’s husband in the film noir classic, Double Indemnity, this movie, written by Preston Sturges, is as traditional and sentimental as you can get.  And great fun.

The story involves Stanwyck getting arrested during the Christmas holidays for shoplifting.  MacMurray, the Assistant District Attorney, prosecutes her.  The trial starts just before Christmas, but is postponed and MacMurray posts Stanwyck’s bail so she won’t spend Christmas in jail.  He’s going back home to Indiana for the holiday, and when he learns that she is a fellow Hoosier, he offers give her a lift . . . the rest is pure 1940’s hokum at its best, elevated to, in my opinion, classic status owing to the talent and watchability of the two stars.  Also in the film is  is Beulah Bondi (aka Ma Bailey), and Sterling Holloway.

A word or two about Mr. Sterling Price Holloway Jr. (1905 – 1992):  He was an American character actor and voice over actor who appeared in over 100 films and 40 television shows.  He known for his distinctive tenor voice, and was the original voice of the title character in Walt Disney’s Winnie the Pooh.  He also had a wonderful singing voice that you’ll hear in the clip below.

Do yourself a favor and catch this delightful warm-hearted movie when TCM airs it on Dec. 22 at 10PM Eastern, 7PM Pacific,

Here is a clip from Remember the Night, with Stanwyck, Biondi, and Holloway who sings a very old song very beautifully.

Christmastime is Here Again

Yep, the most wonderful time of the year has fallen upon us once more.  To get into the spirit, here’s The King of Rock n Roll, Elvis singing “Blue Christmas.”  Now this was recorded at one of the warm-up sessions prior to the taping of The King’s 1968 “comeback” television special.  Elvis was reunited with his original band and they went through a number of songs together.  The idea was that since Elvis had not performed in pubic for many years, this would help get him back into the swing of things.  If you watch the entire session, you will notice how restrained Elvis feels.  He wants to get up and rock out but there’s no strap for the guitar, the microphone can’t be raised high enough… Elvis is stuck sitting down when all he really wants to do is get up and swivel those hips.  Stuck in Colonel Parker’s prison where he’d remain, a caricature of himself, for the rest of his life.  Kinda sad, but Merry Christmas anyway.

Tribute to Bill Crider

I mentioned the other day how I got the idea of featuring vintage ads from Bill Crider, who, as I said, is a well-respected crime fiction writer and blogger.  Another blogger Patti Abbott hosts “Forgotten Fridays” where bloggers post articles about books that have been lost or forgotten in people’s minds.  This week is a tribute to Bill Crider.  Check it out here.

Happy Birthday Kenneth Patchen

Celebrating the 106th anniversary of the birth of American poet and novelist Kenneth Patchen.  He wrote in a style often referred to as “jazz poetry,” and influenced younger poets like Allen Ginsberg, as well as collaborating with music artists John Cage and Charles Mingus.

WHERE?

Kenneth Patchen, 1911 – 1972

There’s a place the man always say
Come in here, child
No cause you should weep
Wolf never catch such a rabbit
Golden hair never turn white with grief
Come in here, child
No cause you should moan
Brother never hurt his brother
Nobody here ever wander without a home
There must be some such place somewhere
But I never heard of it

Today’s Vintage Ad

I’ve stolen the idea of posting vintage ads from Bill Crider.  Bill is a well respected crime-fiction writer.  He also has a great blog he’s been doing since 2002.  Unfortunately, he has cancer.  According to his last post, he hasn’t got much longer and has moved into a hospice.  So I’ll be doing vintage ads as a tribute to Bill.

Net Neutrality

It’s 99.9% sure that the FCC will vote to repeal its net neutrality rules put in place during the Ombama administration this Thursday, December 14.

The Republicans outnumber the Dems on this one, and the new Trump appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai has been an outspoken critic of Net Neutrality, so there is little question about the outcome.

Some experts say it could radically reshape the internet.  Repealing Net Neutrality will give telecommunications companies even more control over our online experience.  Some warn us to expect fewer choices and higher prices.  They say we’ll soon be screaming like Calvin  over here.

The philosophy behind Net neutrality is that internet service providers should, in general, treat all data sent over the internet equally.  There should be no difference between sending an email, access a website, making a phone call or watching movies on Netflix. The fear is that without some rules in place, ISPs will block or slow down access to some sites, giving preferential treatment to their own sites and services.

The most powerful telecommunications companies own media companies and ISPs themselves.  Verizon owns AOL and Yahoo, Comcast owns NBC Universal, and AT&T is trying to gobble up Time Warner.  They have an significant interest in what sites you visit online.   You might end up with quick access to Yahoo, but Google could be very slow.  You may get a reasonable charge to stream a video on NBC, but pay extra to stream video on Amazon… and so on.

Of course, it’s all about money.  That’s capitalism for you. These companies are shifty enough with their rates, why give them increased latitude to rob us?

For the most part, the Internet has been open and free.  We could see a day soon when everything you watch is based on what you can buy.  Loss of net neutrality could also mean tolls.   For instance, if you’re a Comcast customer and want to see something on Netflix or listen to a song on Spotify, those companies will have to pay a toll to Comcast in order to provide you with that content.  It could be a big mess.

Although there has been a large protest over repealing Net Neutrality, evidently it has not been enough to stop what most believe will happen on Thursday.

Maybe it won’t be a bad as they say.  Maybe it will be worse.

I expect my upcoming cable bills to be higher, much higher.  That way I will be pleasantly surprised if they stay the same.

Borrowing from Bob Dylan, the Internet “sure was a good idea, ‘till greed got in the way.”

Best Book I’ve Read in a While

James Fenimore Cooper (1789 –1851) was the first major novelist of the 19th century.  A prolific author, he wrote the first espionage novel (The Spy), along with sea stories, and a series of novels about the early American frontier known collectively as the Leatherstocking Tales; the second in the series, The Last of the Mohicans, is considered Cooper’s masterpiece.

I had never read Cooper, put off I suppose by Mark Twain’s description of his “literary offenses” in a famous article.   But I was intrigued by things I’ve read lately, particularly that the hero of the Tales, Natty Bumppo, was the prototypical America hero, the forerunner to Huck Finn, The Continental Op, Philip Marlowe, and so many others.  Besides, I was looking for some pure escapist fare and Mohicans, I thought, would hit the spot.

It was perfect.  I read The Last of the Mohicans quickly and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Written in 1826 and set in the 1750’s when England and France were at war on American soil, the plot is basically about Bumppo, a frontier scout, rescuing the two daughters of a British commander from renegade Indians.

One thing I have always had difficulty with in novels from this period is the discursiveness.  Perhaps the most famous of these is Les Misérables where Hugo goes into long asides about politics, religion, The Battle of Waterloo, and the Paris sewer system.  I understand why authors did that.  Readers in that age knew very little about the world beyond their visual horizon.  They did not have a modern education system, or cable with so many channels devoted to learning and discovery.  Readers probably expected to learn as well as be entertained.  Today, we have little patience for that.  We want action, movement.  Fenimore has his own excursions and in this  book, they’re short and pertinent to the story, about interesting Indian lore, the political and military climate of the time, and descriptions of the land around upstate New York.

Natty Bumppo was born of white parents but he grew up among the Delaware Indians.  In the Tales, he is often joined by his Mohican companion Chingachgook.  In each book, Bumppo is known by an ‘alias”: “Pathfinder” in The Pathfinder, “Leatherstocking” in The Pioneers,”the trapper” in The Prairie, “Hawkeye” and “La Longue Carabine” (The Long Carbine) in The Last of the Mohicans.  This latter nickname refers to his prowess with the long rifle.

In Studies in Classical American Literature D.H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley Lover) wrote,

“And Natty, what sort of a white man is he? Why, he is a man with a gun. He is a killer, a slayer. Patient and gentle as he is, he is a slayer. Self-effacing, self-forgetting, still he is a killer.

Twice, in the book, he brings an enemy down hurtling in death through the air, downwards. Once it is the beautiful, wicked Magua — shot from a height, and hurtling down ghastly through space, into death.

This is Natty, the white forerunner. A killer. As in Deerslayer, he shoots the bird that flies in the high, high sky so that the bird falls out of the invisible into the visible, dead, he symbolizes himself. He will bring the bird of the spirit out of the high air. He is the stoic American killer of the old great life. But he kills, as he says, only to live.”

Yes, he is a killer.  He kills not out of evil, he kills because it is a job that must be done.  Judging from this book and what I’ve read about the others, it seems that Natty spends a great deal of his time trying to help others.  The iconic American hero, an adventurer, a man devoted to justice because for him it’s the only thing to do.  To protect himself, he acts dispassionate, but inside he cares.  From this we can see Philip Marlowe, James Bond, Jack Reacher, Shane, John Wayne’s character in The Searchers. So many others.

Lawrence notes that Bummpo is a moral man, but that his morality is from a practical point of view, not from philosophy.  Bummpo’s motto is “Hurt nothing unless you’re forced to.”

There are some good reasons to read this American classic.  It’s fun, perhaps the chief one.  And never mind what Twain said.  You will be so engrossed in this rousing adventure that you won’t notice any of Cooper’s alleged literary offenses.

The Last of the Mohicians – best book I’ve read in a while.