Help preserve Woodstock history

July 25, 2011

As of this post, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is 27% of the way towards their goal of raising $12,000 to preserve a sign from Max Yasgur’s farm, the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival.  Please help if you can.  To learn more about the project and Kickstarter, go here:

Sunday morning

July 3, 2011

Walking in Cleveland Heights at 7am, the morning after a thunderstorm:
I saw 1 bunny rabbit, 1 chipmunk, and 1 squirrel, followed by 1 large tree limb on the ground. My route took me north on Meadowbrook (downhill) to Westminster, to Corydon, to Stratford, to Scarbourgh, where I stopped to look at the 1938 Historic Landmark House for sale, which you can see here: (  I heard 1 dog barking, and saw another one being walked further down Stratford. Car traffic increased considerably during the half-hour I spent in the neighborhood, for when I started, I crossed the streets almost without looking. On my way back, I waited for a red light to cross Lee Rd.

To see my full route:

for the love of Sweet Valley

May 21, 2011

If you know me, chances are you’ll know how much I love the Sweet Valley High book series, published during the 1980s-1990s.  These books have been a constant in my life since at least middle school (i.e., for 20 years now), and yes, I still read them.  Thanks to eBay and public library book sales, I own an almost complete run of #1-100 of these 1/2 inch paperbacks.  The series continued after that point, but it lost some of its innocence and appeal to me around #95.

The reason I write today, though, is to exclaim over the latest edition to the SVH oeuvre – a book called Sweet Valley Confidential: 10 Years Later.  Written by the series’s creator, Francine Pascal, who by my count never wrote one of the original books, this sequel catches up with the characters in their late 20s.  In short, I loved the book.  But there were some obvious problems that I simply cannot accept, and I created an errata list.  This is not in any particular order, though the first few are particularly egregious mistakes:

1. Though he’s only mentioned once, the correct name of Lila’s father is George, not Richard. p. 119  Lila was a major supporting character, as Jessica’s on-again off-again best friend.  She barely appears in this book.

2. The twins’ parents could not have been members of the country club since the girls were 12. see p. 215  I don’t think I’m stretching my knowledge to say that belonging to the club is never mentioned in SVH.  This is especially important because belonging to such a club was the kind of life Jessica aspired to in high school.  Also, there’s the fact that in book #1 the family gets a “new in-ground pool in the backyard.”

3. See pages 164-166 and 277.  This is simply an problem of continuity, in which we learn that Bruce’s parents died when he was a senior in college.  The book later implies that this happened 10 years ago, which is not possible – more like 5 years ago.

4. Continuing the Bruce problem, on page 26 he is referred to as a high school junior, when actually he was always a year older than the twins.  Change to senior.

5. What does the new book mean by the restaurant called “Pizza”?  Is this supposed to be Guido’s, or the Dairi Burger?  Why not just keep one of the old names?

6. On page 193, A.J. Morgan could not have been in 7th grade with the twins, because he moved to Sweet Valley in HIGH SCHOOL.  There’s a whole book about Jessica pursuing him as a new student (Slam Book Fever, #48).

7. Similarly, to my knowledge, Todd does not appear in the series Sweet Valley Twins (which was created after SVH).  Therefore, he could not have been in kindergarden with them. (as I said, I’m a purist)

8. Back to A.J. Morgan for a sec – on page 223 he is described as having blond hair.  No, sorry, he was a red-head in high school.  If he’s going to have blond hair ten years later, I want to see the word “dyed” in front of blond.

And last but not least, in the recap section at the end of the book, p. 283, Mr. Collins’s son was named Teddy, not Sam.  I also would have liked a recap on the members of the high school rock band The Droids.

If there’s one reason I have a problem with all of the above mistakes, it’s that the author supposedly has a “bible” of facts about her characters that should have prevented many of these simple errors.

mid-century architecture exhibit

March 30, 2011

Tomorrow night I’m going to try and attend a panel discussion for Don Hisaka: The Cleveland Years, a new exhibit at the Cleveland Artists Foundation, which is the same group that sponsored the house tours I went on last summer.  Here’s a link to the exhibit’s main page (; I’m glad I’m on their email list, otherwise I would not have known about the panel.

That’s all for now – I promise to write more soon!

Radio notes and concert review

July 20, 2010

Here’s another post in the “What I’m listening to” series:

The best thing about owning a car is the radio.  The car came with a CD player, but I’m the kind of person who will pick one station and stick with it, commercials and all, only occasionally checking the other stations on my pre-sets.  And if I do choose to listen to a CD, it will be one that I can’t get enough of, like the National in the previous post.

My station of choice in Cleveland is Radio 92.3, part of the CBS family that I came to know in New York (maybe one day I’ll do a flashback post about that great oldies station, WCBS-FM 101.1).  I just realized, as I type this, that I do not know the call letters of 92.3.  They are announced occasionally in the station’s required ID, but they are clearly not part of the station’s true identity.  This identity is almost purely alternative, primarily the 1990s through today, with a touch of the 1970s (e.g. Pink Floyd) and 1980s (e.g. The Cure).

The second station I’ll turn to when 92.3 has a bad song or never-ending commercial break is 106.5, “Cleveland’s Best Mix”.  Once again, the call letters are superfluous, and did you know that “mix means variety”?  I had to laugh when I saw that slogan attached to this station on a website about radio stations.  Anyway, 106.5 follows more of an Adult Contemporary playlist, evenly mixing hits from the last three decades, along with the best of today, as they might say.

Based on my increased radio listening these last few months, I decided to go see the Goo Goo Dolls perform in Cleveland at the Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City.  In another post I’ll go into other reasons why this show met my criteria for concerts, because I am not that big of a fan of this band.  But the Goo Goo Dolls are what I’d call a radio-friendly band, with multiple hits over the course of their 15 year+ career, and I figured it’d be fun to sing along to the songs I know.

I got there in time for the first of two opening acts, a band called The Spill Canvas (good name).  I initially thought their music was a little bland, but by the end of their set decided that if I was a teenager I’d probably love them.  They announced that they’d be at the merchandise booth after playing, and I wandered back to check it out.  I considered buying their EP for $5, a perfectly reasonable price to pay to support a band like this, but then I saw how much they were charging for their t-shirts, and walked away.  $30/shirt is simply too much for a relatively unknown band to charge, even if they are part of a large scale tour.  I imagine, though, that the long line of people waiting to get autographs proves otherwise.

Next up was the band Switchfoot, who I did not know anything about and went in with low expectations based entirely on their name, which I didn’t like.  In short, however, they stole the show and gave me one of the best surprises I ever had at a concert.  Later on the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls said that having Switchfoot as an opening act meant he was going to have to work harder.  I now know that Switchfoot’s history as a band goes back to 1996, and they had a hit in 2003 with the song “Meant to Live.”  This song was a big surprise, because I’d heard it recently on the radio and loved it, but forgot to find out who sang it.  I don’t think I’ve ever been at a concert where I knew the song but not the band (covers don’t count).  I immediately recognized it from the first note and this song was the deciding factor in my overall impression of the band.  I also need to mention that during one song the lead singer came down into the crowd to sing and hi-five audience members (much like Kenny Loggins did when I saw him last month), and this is the kind of gesture that can go a long way in building a fan base.  Their name still bothers me a little, but (and this is really for another post) the quality of the music is good enough that I can accept the name.

The Goo Goo Dolls played for about 90 minutes, and I thoroughly enjoyed every song, including the new ones that are on their forthcoming album.  It started raining heavily about half-way into their set, but my seat was in the center of the covered section and all I felt was a nice mist.  It will be interesting to see how much airplay their new album receives; one of the new songs (I think it was called “Home,” or the one played during the encore) has clear potential to become a radio classic.  However, I’m not sure if I would see them again – it would depend on a lot of factors such as cost and location, but at least I know they are a great live band and I recommend that you see them if you like the hits.

What I’m listening to: album review

June 23, 2010

This is a new feature that will appear whenever I’m super excited about something that I’m listening to.  This week it’s all about the one album I haven’t been able to stop listening to and had to go buy it at Target after work on Friday because I couldn’t face the prospect of two whole days without it.

High Violet album cover

On Monday afternoon (6/14) we got a delivery of items from the museum to add to our growing collection.  Mixed in among the books and magazines was the new National CD, High Violet.  I think all the band members are originally from Ohio, but they officially formed the band in Brooklyn, NY.  I’ve been a casual fan since seeing them open for R.E.M. two years ago (see my brief review here), and eagerly grabbed the CD to put it on my office computer (which, alas, does not support iTunes).

An album like this doesn’t really reveal itself until the second listen, and by the end of it I was completely enamored.  I won’t get into a song-by-song analysis here, but the themes that immediately come to mind are about love and home, specifically New York (cast in an unfavorable light), which continues the setting of their last album, Boxer.  High Violet’s standout song, Bloodbuzz Ohio, includes the lyric “I never thought about love when I thought about home,” and I see connections from this line to other songs on the album.  But choose another line from this song, “I still owe money to the money I owe”, and Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield would have you believe that the song is the band’s “money” song.   He seems to think that Ohio is used only because it sounds similar to the words “I owe,” but considering the band’s connection to the state, I’d argue the opposite; the closest connection to money that I see is in a larger, state of union sense.  In any case, the alliteration is awesome, and it is one thing that sets the National apart from the average band.  Their songs may repeat the same few words or verses over and over, but the overall effect is hypnotic.

One of my other favorite moments on the album begins at the 3 minute mark in the song “Afraid of Everyone.”  The repeated lyric is not anything special on paper – “Yellow voices swallowing my soul, soul, soul” – but as it is sung, along with the production of the music, these few words take me to another time and place, reminiscent of the 1985 song “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy.  And indeed, a description of that band’s song on includes the phrase “memorable chant-like hook,” which could easily apply to the National as well.

House tours

June 6, 2010

Now that I have my dream job and plan on staying where I am for quite a while, my next dream involves real estate.  I’ve also always been interested in architecture, going back to at least the age of 10.  It will be a year or two before I’m ready to buy my first house, and until then I intend to immerse myself in the history of residential design and learn as much as I can about anything house and home related (obviously, I will have to get cable so I can watch HGTV!).

Today was my first adventure related to houses – an event sponsored by the Cleveland Artists Foundation called Cleveland Goes Modern III.  I got to see inside 2 wonderful examples of 1950s modern architecture, meet the home owners, and hear about how their renovations maintained the integrity of the original design and/or materials.  It also gave me a chance to explore a new area to the east of where I live – Mayfield Heights and Gates Mill (about a 20 minute drive).  Below are a few pictures of the houses:

Front, Carl Droppers designed, 1956

Back of above

close-up of fountain

2nd house, designed by Robert Little, 1952; view from back

pond situated behind where I was standing in above

look at all that glass! (all windows were replaced in the mid-1990s for energy efficiency)

The interiors of both homes were equally beautiful, but my photos did not turn out as well as those of the exteriors.  This was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I plan on going on more house tours this summer, as they seem to be a popular event around here.

a note on the name

May 23, 2010

Now that I’m no longer living under “them western skies,” the question was asked, am I going to change the name of the blog? After thinking about it for several weeks, and considering other names that might work, I decided not to change it. Technically I’m still west from where I grew up, but geography is a very small part of what the name means to me. I feel like “them western skies” is as much a state of mind as it is a place; it is the idea of traveling to places unknown (which I continue to do), staring into the sun as you drive or ride, and following the road to wherever it takes you.

random notes

May 8, 2010

first, the weather.
It’s early May, but still cold. There were some record-breaking warm days in April, but apparently it’s true what they say about Cleveland going from winter straight into summer. And I learned the other day that this is due to the lake warming up – then once it’s warm, it takes a while to cool down, so I’m hoping fall will be nice and long.

second, concerts.
I’ve only been to one show in the month or so that I’ve been living here, and it was a great one – I discovered a band that I’d previously only heard about (never listened to), The Apples in Stereo. They’ve been around for years, I think since 1992, and their new album is like a trip back in time, reminiscent of ELO, catchy and fun to sing along with. I went to see their opening act, Generationals, who are two talented guys with a girl drummer, from New Orleans; their album, Con Law, was my favorite release of 2009.

third, sports.
I’m still following the SF Giants in baseball, because, frankly, the Indians suck. Basketball, on the other hand, Cleveland does well – due to the Cavs being in the playoffs, I quickly became a fan and following the games in the paper (next season I’ll try to see one).

fourth, other activities.
It takes me a while, on purpose, to get used to new routines. So most days I drive to work, and then back to my apartment, and that’s it. It’s a fun drive, too, just over 7 miles each way. I’ve tried 3 different grocery stores, not counting Whole Foods, because I know what to expect there. I still have one or two more local chains to try, as well as find a farmer’s market and perhaps a food co-op.
On Cinco de Mayo I went to the Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood to have a margarita. It’s an upscale place, and so crowded I could only stand at the bar, but the drink was one of the best I’ve ever had and I can see myself going back for happy hour.

Until next time. Oh yeah, I love my job 🙂

I am a rock

April 10, 2010

To paraphrase Paul Simon, I am my own time zone. It’s Saturday night, almost 9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific, and I am caught between the two zones. For example, in California I would call my parents at 6pm, because it was 9:00 in Pennsylvania. Now that I’m back East, I still want to call them at 6:00, forgetting that it’s dinner time. Or it might be 11:30am and the call I would have made last month to a friend in California has to wait because it’s only 8:30 in the morning there. That is perhaps the greatest challenge in moving across the country. Time remains the same no matter where you are and regardless of which clock you follow.