Sunday, April 30, 2017

Paul McCartney One On One

The last time I saw Paul McCartney in concert was in Kansas City (Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey). We were both younger in those days.

The first time I saw him was in St. Paul. I was in high school and he was single. Oddly enough, we never went backstage together. I suppose, in hindsight, that's a good thing. I would have considered that creepy and the press would have noticed Paul McCartney with a high school student. I'm pretty sure that's not his style anyway. His soulmate was an older woman.

Now that I'm too old to pay $300 for a concert ticket, and Paul is far older than anyone ever expected of a rock star back when he started, this could very easily be the last time I see him perform. He can't do 3 hour shows much longer, and I can't rationalize the high ticket prices. That and his refusal to acknowledge any country in Asia besides Japan. I live in the single most populated country in the world, by a long shot, and I have to fly to another, far smaller country to see him.

The opening to Thursday's show at the Tokyo Dome was a little strange, with his Hofner bass on the video screens like it was a golden idol, with fireworks exploding behind it. I've never seen anything like that in a concert before. While the audience was cheering, Paul and band casually strolled on stage. It looked more like the end of a concert than the beginning. Then they played “A Hard Day's Night” and the crowd went wild. The light show on screen reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I don't think it was supposed to.

“Junior's Farm” was the less political, radio-friendly version. Although, right now might not be the best time to sing about jumping the fence at the houses of Parliament.

They showed clips of A Hard Day's Night and various Beatles footage during “Can't Buy Me Love”. We all knew it was going to be a nostalgic night, with mostly songs from the '60s and '70s.

“Letting Go” was a little disappointing. Not because of anything the band did or didn't do, but because nothing can compare with the Wings Over America version. “Temporary Secretary” was also a little disappointing. Despite using keyboards for all of the string and horn parts on every song, which is just criminal, the keyboards for the synthesizer part on this song sounded wrong. It's essentially an electronic song. The keyboards should be easy.

“Let Me Roll It” was one of the rare times Paul picked up an electric guitar. “Let Me Roll It”, “I've Got a Feeling” and “The End”. Most of the night, he was on acoustic guitar and Hofner bass. He actually played lead guitar on “I've Got a Feeling”, with a solo in the coda. He also played an acoustic guitar solo during “In Spite Of All the Danger”. It's kind of odd that he doesn't give himself lead parts more often.

People like to complain about Paul's voice, especially during songs like “Maybe I'm Amazed”, which requires a combination of screaming and soft ballad. I'm sure that's hard to do in your 70s. And maybe he shouldn't do it right after screaming at the end of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five”. But he didn't sound bad Thursday night. He just didn't sound 28 anymore.

He tried to speak Japanese before “In Spite Of All the Danger”. He had a script on the floor, which he stared at the entire time, but it was still pretty bad. He obviously doesn't speak a word of Japanese. The audience loved it, though. Japan is one of those countries where people appreciate the effort, even if you butcher their language. No one will ever yell at you to “learn Japanese or get out” or “go back to Mexico, Pablo”.

“You Won't See Me” was interesting. He did a little acoustic intro that most of the audience didn't recognize until he started singing the lyrics. The audience sang along with “And I Love Her”. I was looking at one of the video screens when he did his little booty shake, so I got to watch his 50 foot tall butt dance to the song.

The saxophone solo on “Lady Madonna” freaked me out. I was looking around the stage, but I couldn't see anyone with a saxophone. Then I realized that Wix was playing it. That was disappointing. They might as well use drum machines instead of real drums. I bet Paul could afford to hire real musicians.

Just before playing “FourFiveSeconds”, he introduced the song with, “We just played the oldest song and now we're going to play the newest song.” But the song he played right before was “Lady Madonna”. Hardly the oldest song he played that night. He played a lot of Beatles songs. Half the concert was Beatles songs. And most of them are older than “Lady Madonna”.

What surprised me was that five people cheered when he started to play the guitar intro. What really surprised me was that he played that song at all. The lyrics were on the giant screen behind the stage, but they were in English, so I don't think as many people sang along as he expected.

The funniest part was when they showed a picture of Kanye onscreen and some of the audience booed. I don't know what Kanye did to offend the Japanese, but his fans weren't in the audience that night.

Before he introduced “Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite”, he led the audience in a little sing a long, during which he gave a dirty little giggle that really surprised me. I've never heard him laugh like that.

While introducing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, he spoke a little Japanese. There were subtitles at the bottom of the video screens, so everyone understood him, but I got the impression that he thought everyone understood his bad Japanese. After the audience cheered, from reading the subtitles, he said it again, only much worse. And not a single person in the stadium cared.

Some people ask why Paul still tours at his age. There was a brief moment during “Band On the Run” where he leaned against Rusty Anderson and smiled before bouncing up and down. The look of pure joy on his face answered that question.

The first “Live and Let Die” explosion scared the hell out of the woman standing next to me. She had never seen Paul in concert, and didn't seem all that familiar with the song, so she didn't know it was coming. She also thought the stage was on fire, with all of the lights and lasers – and actual fire – but the people she came with reassured her that we would all survive. It probably didn't help that the video screen directly above the stage showed nothing but fire. I suppose it would have looked like something went terribly wrong if it was any other song.

The audience laughed when Paul pretended to go deaf from all the pyrotechnics, but it was pretty loud. At his age, he might want to rethink that.

The only time his voice really sounded like he was an old man was during “Hey Jude”. He struggled a little here and there throughout the concert, but it looked like he was having a hard time breathing during “Hey Jude”. With his mussed up hair and a spotlight right in his face, I almost thought I was going to witness a heart attack on stage. He caught his breath as the song went on, though. By the na na nas, he was good to go. Of course, he mostly doesn't sing that part.

When he started playing “Yesterday”, the audience wanted to cheer, but everyone knew they had to be quiet if they wanted to hear the song. That was one of those times I knew I was in Japan.

“Hi Hi Hi” was funny, simply because he was playing it in Tokyo. The greatest revenge is selling out a stadium concert while the politicians are long gone.

The crowd went nuts during Abe Jr's short “The End” drum solo. And then it was over. The confetti and smoke when Paul left the stage was pretty weird. If you're going to shoot your confetti load all over the crowd, make it bigger.

I can't say it was the best concert I've ever seen, or even the best Paul McCartney concert I've ever seen, but it was probably the last time I'll ever see him. He's never coming to China, and going to Japan for a concert is absurd. Maybe if I happen to be somewhere while he's there, I'll see him, but I'm sure those concerts would be sold out long before I got there.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tokyo To Tel Aviv

I flew to Tokyo yesterday and then I'm going to Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv trip should be standard, but the Tokyo is unusual, for a few reasons.

I've been to Tokyo, but I've always flown in to Narita Airport. That's the main international airport with most of the flights. But it's pretty far from Tokyo. They have some fast trains to get into the city, but wouldn't it be better to actually land in the city itself?

This time, I went to Haneda Airport. It's at the southern tip of the city, but at least it's actually within the city limits. The most expensive express train from Narita takes about an hour to get into the city. The cheaper trains are about 90 minutes. From Haneda, I got to my hotel in less than 30 minutes. Japanese trains run on time, so when they tell you how long it's supposed to take, that's how long it takes.

Another unusual aspect to this Tokyo trip is the hotel. I usually stay in Shibuya. I like the neighborhood and it has everything I need without having to crowd onto the JR. This time, I'm in the Ichibancho neighborhood of Chiyoda. I don't know this neighborhood at all, so it should be interesting. My first impression is that it's very quiet. It's definitely not Shibuya.

Easily the most unusual aspect of this trip to Tokyo will be the Paul McCartney concert today at the Tokyo Dome. That's something I've never done before. I've seen Paul in the United States, but never in Asia. And if you want to see Paul in Asia, you have to go to Japan. He doesn't seem to know that China exists.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/25/17

I spent a good chunk of the day reading about Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance. Unlike Mary and Molly Bell, there's a lot of information about Edna Purviance out there. But this book isn't about her either, so I think I'm satisfied with what I have.

Also completely unrelated to this story, when I was much younger and I thought I might become a famous movie star one day, I thought about thanking Edna Purviance in my first Oscar acceptance speech. Now that I'm a little older and doing absolutely nothing to become a famous movie star, I still think it would be cool if some modern star named her as an influence. Her contribution to acting in film, especially comedy, does not deserve to be as forgotten as it has.

When you're acting next to Charlie Chaplin, you're never going to be the star of the scene. He was the biggest star in the world for a reason. He could even take the focus away from children and animals. But she was incredible.

Edna Purviance

Shoulder Arms
Directed by Charles Chaplin
© 1918 Charles Chaplin

The Bond
Directed by Charles Chaplin
© 1918 Charles Chaplin

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/23/17

I've started writing one of the main characters. She's the first one to use the clever and/or stupid naming system that I think I mentioned earlier. It's not a name I would have used otherwise, so maybe it's a good idea. It's important to get out of your comfort zone as often as possible.

This story takes place in the United States, so using words in the native language that describe the character isn't going to work this time. That's what I did with the French characters in Shooting For Paris and the Israeli characters in Harmony On Spring Hill. The French isn't as obvious, but I'm almost hoping that no one who speaks Hebrew or Arabic reads the other one.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/20/17

I just finished chapter 2. Once again, finished doesn't mean finished. In fact, it's pretty short. There's no way to know how it will end up at this point, but it will either get longer or, more likely, get absorbed into chapters 1 or 3. I think it might want to be part of chapter 1.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/19/17

I wrote a scene about one of the main characters doing a photo shoot as a model. The whole time I was typing, I kept telling myself that I'd already covered that subject. But I can't change it to something else. It has to be a photo shoot. I've looked at it from a few angles and the only options I see right now are to keep it as is or cut it out entirely. If I cut it, I need to find a way to introduce the character that gets introduced at the shoot. And I'd have to change who he is and how he moves the story forward.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I guess I'll just have to repeat myself.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/18/17

I've considered making this book take place in the recent past. For now, no time period is mentioned, but I'm thinking it might be just before 2000. I wouldn't come out and say when it is. I'd just causally mention the Braves winning the World Series or that new movie about the Titanic.

That leads to a few interesting dilemmas. I know that today, in 2017, high school seniors go to professional photographers to have their senior pictures taken for the school yearbook. They're usually very individual and look nothing like the junior and sophomore pictures. Some schools give students a very wide berth. Some are more strict.

But did they do that in Southern California in the late 1990s? Or were they still using the old system where seniors had general portraits taken just like everyone else? I don't know. They say Google knows everything, but Google doesn't know either.

Amy Adams

Alec Baldwin

Larry David

Zooey Deschanel

Morgan Freeman

Zach Galifianakis

Katharine Hepburn

Robin Williams

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/17/17

What I know about tattoos could fill a postage stamp. I don't care what anyone else does with their body, but I've always considered the idea of a tattoo crazy. It's like picking out a necklace, but you have to wear it every day for the rest of your life. The style you might like now might look ugly and terribly outdated in a few years. The only way to take it off is with painful lasers or piling on more tattoo ink.

What I really don't understand are tattoos on your back or some place that you can never see. I guess it would be good to not have that constant reminder, but then what's the point?

There's no way to talk about this without some tattoo fan getting morally outraged, so I'll repeat that I don't care what anyone else does with their body. If you like tattoos, great. Go nuts.

Right now, the big trend is getting phrases stabbed into your arm or abdomen or wherever. That seems even worse than a flower to me. A sentence that you might find inspirational, deep, funny or clever might sound stupid at a later point in your life. Or you'll see the same sentence on a million other people and it won't seem so edgy anymore. Or you'll just get tired of reading it every single day.

The tattoos I like are when people get Chinese characters without being able to read a word of Chinese. I actually saw someone with “stupid foreigner” tattooed on their arm. I don't know what they were told it meant, but I doubt they knew the truth.

A few of the characters in this book have tattoos. It makes sense that they would. It's a hip trend these days. But writing about getting a tattoo doesn't work when you know nothing about getting a tattoo. Watching Popeye cartoons doesn't help.

Looking at a million pictures of tattoos, it's clear that some of this “art” really is art. Some of these people who tear ink into other people's flesh really know what they're doing. Like anything else, I'm sure it takes a lot of practice to do well. But if it's art, why put it over your butt? How often are you going to look at that?


Friday, April 14, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/14/17

And then I cut out the scene about the Brady Bunch. It doesn't help the story and was only distracting when I read it through.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/13/17

Today I wrote about the Brady Bunch. That was an odd experience. I'm familiar with the show from a pop culture perspective, but I don't think I've actually seen a single episode.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/12/17

Shopping malls are also a big thing in Southern California. I'm from Minnesota. I know a thing or two about malls. I grew up next to the oldest indoor mall in the country and the largest mall in North America. But Southern California has to be the suburban shopping mall capital of the world. They don't have the largest or smallest, oldest or newest, but the San Fernando Valley alone has at least a dozen full scale shopping malls, with another 20-30 in and around Los Angeles. You never have to drive more than 30 minutes to get to a mall.

For the record, I'm mostly looking at the Northridge Fashion Center in Northridge, which is right in the middle of some of the freeways that frame the San Fernando Valley.

Northridge Fashion Center

Beverly Center

Hollywood & Highland

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/11/17

I've finished the first chapter. It's worth noting that this is a first draft and “finished” is a relative term.

My current plan is to move on to the second chapter, but I could always go back and work on the first. More often than not, I'll go over a chapter after it's finished and rewrite whatever needs rewriting. That's also when I catch most of the typos, even though it's not anywhere close to the editing stage. By the time I start editing, I've read each chapter so many times, there really shouldn't be any typos. But you always have to keep an eye out for those little devils.

This time, I'm thinking about moving on after each chapter and just pushing forward. Sooner or later, I'll go back and read over everything. At that point, something will change. I guarantee it. I'll either make a few tweaks, edit it heavily or rewrite it entirely. I might even cut it out completely. It's too soon to say.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/10/17

How important are grocery stores in this story? Practically irrelevant. But I know pretty much nothing about grocery stores in Southern California. I've spent more time in Santa Monica than any other part of Los Angeles, but I can't tell you anything about the grocery stores. I vaguely remember a Whole Foods. It was simply never important to me while I was there.

Most of the stores seem to be large chains that are mostly located in the western United States, and smaller independent bodegas. There's definitely no Byerly's, Kowalski’s or Seward Co-op.

From what I can tell, Ralphs seems to be the king of the San Fernando Valley. Vons is what they call Safeway in California. Gelson's is the Dean & DeLuca of Los Angeles.

The amount of time I've spent looking into this is ridiculous, especially when you consider that it doesn't affect the story at all. I could have just had them go to the grocery store, but then I realized that I didn't know anything about what that's like in Los Angeles.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/9/17

The second character that I've started to write seems like someone I know very well. Not as in she's based on an actual person. She's not. She's pure fiction. But I feel like I could answer anything about her. Not so much about the facts and figures of her life. I don't know most of that because I haven't made it up. But I think I know how she'd reacted emotionally to pretty much any situation.

It might seem like I should know everything about a character, but she's actually pretty minor. When she comes in, it might seem like she's one of the leads, but she's a supporting character at best.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/7/17

I looked up apartments in the San Fernando Valley and was surprised by how expensive they are. I assumed Los Angeles would be an expensive place to live. Houses in Bel Air and Palos Verdes sell for insane amounts of money, but those are some of the richest neighborhoods in the country. The Valley is generally looked down upon by people in Los Angeles.

I put my characters in a $2,300 apartment between a Del Taco and train tracks. That seems high to me. My first apartment was less than a third of that. But Los Angeles has always been more expensive than Minneapolis. The important thing, as far as this book is concerned, is that the apartment has a swimming pool. As it turns out, that's pretty easy to find in the Valley.

The Chatsworth apartment

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/6/17

Speaking of research, most of it is quick. Sometimes I'm writing something and realize I don't know the answer to an important question. That leads to looking up things online. That might sound like procrastination, but I'm searching relevant information. Most of the time.

Some research takes a one second Google search, like what's on the corner of Sunset and Doheny.

I spent a full day looking into Mary and Molly Bell. They were Virginia farmers during the Civil War who dressed as men and joined the Confederate Army. The amazing thing is, they got away with it for a long time and were even promoted to sergeant and corporal. Sgt Bob Martin and Cpl Tom Parker, no relation to the colonel, served in some of the big battles, like Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, and were part of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign with General Jubal Early.

Eventually, their captain was captured and a new lieutenant ratted them out. They were sent to the notorious Castle Thunder prison in Richmond where they were interrogated and probably tortured. Castle Thunder also had a few other women who disguised as men to serve in the army. It's kind of an interesting subject on its own.

Their general wanted them charged as prostitutes, but no one could find any evidence against them. Instead, their fellow soldiers only said good things about their service, even after everyone knew they were really women. That says a lot. Even today, most men would be outraged and call them all kinds of horrible names. Imagine what it was like back then.

After they were released, they went back to their farm and then all information stops. No one seems to know what they did after the war.

This book isn't about the Civil War or Mary and Molly Bell, but in the course of the story there is a TV series about the Civil War. I've always known the basics, what they teach in history class and Ken Burns documentaries. While I was looking up details about Gettysburg, I ran into Mary and Molly Bell and I just kept looking. Their story fascinated me. I'd love to know more about them, but I've exhausted about all I can from the internet. After a few hours, every website just tells you the same things, and more than a few mix up which cousin is which. They're mentioned in several books, but as far as I know, there are no books specifically about them.

I'll be reading whatever books I can find that mention them in the near future, but for now, I don't need to know every detail about these women.

Possibly Mary or Molly Bell.
Or maybe not.

Pauline Cushman
A Union spy who dressed as a Confederate soldier.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/5/17

I've written the opening scene. It's essentially dialogue that introduces one of the main characters. As soon as I was finished, it occurred to me that I opened another book with dialogue on transportation, but I don't think I'll change it. The conversation and situations are different. I don't think there are enough people obsessing over my books so much that they'll blow a gasket when they read one conversation on a train and another on a plane.

Strangers On a Train
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
© 1951 Warner Brothers

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/4/17

I actually have a title, but I'm not going to mention it now. The title could change, get rejected or someone might point out that it was already used in some huge bestseller that became a huge Oscar winning blockbuster movie that I've never heard of, somehow. I could also tell Blogland the title and then someone else uses it before I'm finished, theirs is a hit while mine sells 5 copies. In the end, the world assumes I stole the title from them.

That brings up another question I've gotten a lot. “How do you think of a title?” There is no rhyme or reason, at least for me. Harmony On Spring Hill came before I wrote a single word. It was always meant to have multiple meanings, which should make sense to anyone who's read the book, but the main character's name only became Harmony at the very last minute. That was the last edit. History, should it remember anything, will assume that the book was always named after the character, but I actually resisted using that name for that very reason.

Shooting For Paris is an I can't think of anything better title. That one was written, rewritten, edited, torn apart and put back together before I realized that I was never going to find anything better. The title works in the context of the story, but there were a few terrorist attacks in France at the time and I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea.