Friday, October 31, 2008

Chuck the Writer endorses Cameraworks

One of the drawbacks of a Nikon D70 is that if any dust gets into the CCD sensor, the pictures it takes will have spots on them. Noticeable spots. Spots that are too noticeable to use for quality photographs.

Normally, one would send their camera away to a specialty camera shoppe, where they might charge $200 and take three weeks to get the camera back to you. However, I have been fortunate to discover a store in Latham called Cameraworks. Three days a week, they have walk-in service where you can drop your camera off on Wednesday and it will be cleaned on Thursday - for $25 plus tax. And let me tell you, that camera when I get it back is minty fresh clean.

Today I picked up my D70, nicely cleaned, so that the photos I take at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame event will be crisp and sweet. I'm already packing all my camera equipment for this trip, and I hope to use all my lenses - my kit lens, my f/2.8 telephoto, my f/1.8 85mm, my E-series 50mm f/1.8, my Kenko 180 fisheye, even my Loreo 3D lens set.

One lens I'm not taking, however, is my Kiev Mir-24H wide-angle. There's an issue with the lens - if I try to focus out to infinity with this lens, it just won't give me a sharp picture. So Cameraworks is going to go over it and see if the lens needs cleaning or alignment or what. And maybe they can get rid of the foul cabbage smell that all Russian-made lenses seem to be infected with (someone told me the smell comes from the lubrication equipment used inside the lens).

Don't get me wrong, my Kiev lenses are great lenses. Lenses made for Kiev-17, Kiev-19 and Kiev-20 SLR cameras are interchangeable with Nikon F-mount cameras, which makes Kiev lenses a budget-based alternative to Nikon's stock equipment - especially when one considers that Kiev's glass is the same glass used for military-grade applications like bomb sights and binoculars. But the quality control in Russian camera equipment is seriously "hit or miss" - quality control is more of a suggestion than an application.

So if Cameraworks can get this Kiev lens working to proper specifications, I'll put it back in my arsenal. But for now, it's on injured reserve until it gets better, under the care of Dr. Cameraworks.

Chuck the Writer and the Elbo Room Trivia Tournament - Week 9

Ah, it feels good to be back on top. My "Street Academy" one-man wrecking crew (with my wife along as my personal rooting section) is now back on top in the Elbo Room $2000 Trivia Tournament. By nailing such questions as "Which US President threw out the most Baseball Opening Day first pitches?" (Franklin D Roosevelt), and "What is the current name of the island formerly known as Formosa?" (Taiwan), that put me in the lead. Then I was able to nail the 20th question, on "America at War" - "During World War II, the White House allowed two dozen of what animal to wander the White House lawn?" (it was sheep), so I was able to pick up the five first-place points, and am now back as the #1 seed in the tournament.

Here's the standings, the top eight teams will get into the finals, they're currently listed in green:
  • STREET ACADEMY - 17 points
  • Mayhem - 14 points
  • Big Red Machine - 13 points
  • Woo Hoo a Go Go - 10 points
  • Brown Van Experience - 6
  • Tres Hombres - 5
  • Beer Addled Brains - 5
  • Stern Fans - 4
  • Liquor in the Front, Poker in the Rear - 3
  • Donna Martin Graduates - 3
  • 40 oz. Bounce 1

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chuck the Writer and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame

For those of you who want to see the lineup of concerts for the 2008 Vocal Group Hall of Fame - go to this link.

I'll give you more updates as the concerts and inductions get closer to showtime.

Chuck the Writer and the Elbo Room Tournament - Week 8

As I get ready for tonight's next round of trivia at Elbo Room (and its $2,000 prize for the winning team), I am reminded that last week I didn't do so well.

Memo to self - watch a few more John Hughes 80's teen films. I wasn't into them when they came out, so to me "Sixteen Candles" is a song by the Crests, "Breakfast Club" was a group that had a hit with "Right on Track," and "St. Elmo's Fire" is a song that was overplayed about two weeks after it came out. So last week, when the host asked the question about "In the Breakfast Club, what did the one girl give to the guy at the end of the movie," I had no clue and was about to write SKIP on my sheet.

Then I turned to my wife, who I take with me to the Elbo Room games. "Oh I've seen the Breakfast Club so many times," she said. "She gives him her underwear."


I handed it in.

Host said that she gave the guy an earring. Lost 8 points, everyone else gained 8 points, 16-point swing to the detriment for me.

Of course, after that Vicki said to me, "Oh wait, that was from 'St. Elmo's Fire.' I get those mixed up because Emilio Estevez was in both films."

That sound you heard was me banging my head against the table. I love my wife, believe me, but answers like that are one of the reasons I play as a solo squad.

Anyways, here's the standings up to date, with the top 8 teams going to the finals, whenever those are taking place (teams in red are outside the Top 8):

  • Mayhem - 14 points
  • STREET ACADEMY - 12 points
  • Big Red Machine - 12
  • Woo Hoo a Go Go - 7
  • Brown Van Experience - 6
  • Tres Hombres - 5
  • Beer Addled Brains - 5
  • Stern Fans - 4
  • Liquor in the Front, Poker in the Rear - 3 points
  • Donna Martin Graduates - 3
  • 40 oz. Bounce 1

Chuck the Writer Takes 3rd Place at Brown's

Normally I'm a creature of habit. If I like playing trivia at one bar or tavern or restaurant, I'll keep coming back.

That routine soured about a month ago when my Wednesday night trivia location, a sports bar called the Recovery Room, essentially told me I was not welcome there any more because I won too many times and that it was unfair to the other teams. Essentially I was winning their major prizes (choice NY Giants and NY Jets tickets) and other teams were whining that it wasn't fair to them that this one-man "Street Academy" team was coming in and kicking everybody's trivia tushy.

So I looked to see if there was another trivia location on Wednesday nights. And that's where I found Brown's Brewing in Troy. They have a different trivia setup than what I was used to - the host, Ryan West, asks 60 question (10 questions grouped around a specific theme, six different themes), and the prizes are given out after each round (mostly food and their home-brewed Brown's beers).

It's different than what I'm used to (20 questions on varying topics, different point values for tougher questions), but I'm kinda getting the hang of Brown's setup. The place is packed to the rafters every Wednesday night, and the questions do range from unbelievably easy (at which time the host requests that if you know the answer, you are to raise your glass and shout "SOCIAL!" so that he knows when to drink), to the unfathomably difficult (last night there were a lot of groans and moans over certain questions, but that's par for the course).

The top two teams win bar tabs of $50 and $25, respectively, and last night I had my best showing, third place (one point behind second), and had I actually known which Chinese animal was considered the New Year representative of 2006 (I said rat, it was dog), or what boy band veteran appeared in the Saw film franchise (no freakin' clue that it was Donnie Walhberg), I might have hit second place.

But that at least motivates me to continue the challenge.

Also, you gotta love the staff at Brown's. Unlike other trivia places, where almost everybody can play, Brown's has a special second floor level just for the trivia teams, and the maitre d' Shelby makes you actually reserve your table ahead of time (in some cases, you really need to reserve it for next week the minute you finish trivia for this week). They've always been able to squeeze in my one-man "Street Academy" squad, so for that I am thankful.

So it's still three trivia nights a week for me - Old Chicago on Tuesday nights (for some reason, ever since my original Trivia night at Hooters ended when our local Hooters shut down, Trivia on Tuesdays seems normal for me), Brown's on Wednesday and Elbo Room (and its $2000 tournament) on Thursday.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chuck the Writer Prepares for the Vocal Group Hall of Fame

About ten years ago, when I first worked for Goldmine magazine, the editor of the publication asked if anyone would be interested in covering the inaugural inductions of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pennsylvania. I figured what the heck, eight hour drive, see a museum, write an article, no probbies.

Actually, the event was more impressive than I anticipated. I watched as surviving members of such bands as the Drifters, the Coasters, and others went up on stage and received honors for their long careers. This was great. I had a blast. And every year after that, I vowed that no matter what would happen in my life, I would be there to cover the inductions for the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

The next inductions took place in 2001 - the original date of the inductions was September 12, but it was hastily rescheduled after the attacks of 9/11 to a late November induction. Once again, another wonderful time was held. This time I had my own camera - albeit it was my Nikon Coolpix 800 - but I got some great shots of the event.

This year the inductions will take place in Youngstown, Ohio, and will honor the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 classes with four back-to-back-to-back-to-back concerts at the Chevrolet Center. I'm already making my plans to be there - including getting my camera all tuned up for the trip, packing plenty of batteries and digital film, etc.

As we get closer to the event, I'll pass along some stories about some of my favorite moments at the VGHF events.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chuck the Writer Remembers Stacy Davis After 25 Years

I still can't believe she's been gone for 25 years. Even when one of the most wonderful, innocent, warm people ever could have their lives taken away like that - it still burns at me like heated barbed wire.

Stacy Davis died 25 years ago.

I'm kind of guessing you haven't heard of Stacy Davis. That or Rocshire Records, the company for whom she was both the "college promotions rep" (she made sure college stations like my WHCL at Hamilton College received product) and the "I'm just as enthusiastic about this music as you are" person who actually believed in the music her company tried to promote.

Flash back to the spring of 1983. Our radio station, WHCL, had been raided by graduating seniors every year, and the amount of records being sent to our little measly 2.5 watt station was barely a trickle. In fact, you couldn't pick up WHCL on the other side of campus, that's how puny the broadcast signal was. But in 1983, myself and a class of "Young Turks" did whatever we could to get that station fully up to speed - increasing the broadcast signal, increasing the station's visibility on campus, and - my personal goal - getting record companies to start sending us product once again.

With nothing but the addresses on the backs of the record albums, I was able in one day to snag mailing contracts with RCA, Warner Bros., Columbia, Elektra/Asylum, Motown, and a tiny Anaheim-based label called Rocshire. Of the six labels, the most enthusiastic response came from Rocshire Records, who had just sprung into business barely a year earlier and wanted to crack into the college "progressive new music" markets. To that end, I struck up a fast friendship with the promotions person at Rocshire, Stacy Davis.

Stacy told me her father, Gary Davis, was once president of three different record labels, and our conversations slowly drifted from record promotion to more esoteric matters that college-age people might discuss. She was cute, she was funny, and maybe I was fooling myself into thinking that this was actually more than it was - but we kept in touch during the summer, and had hoped to meet up in the fall when Rocshire would have a booth at the College Media Journal music promotion weekend in New York City in late October.

I arrived in New York, but she was not there. Originally I thought that she was either in the other part of the convention hotel or just was playing me for a fool - until another record company representative told me that she was on her way to the airport for the convention when a drunk driver sideswiped her car and plowed her into a telephone pole, killing her instantly.

Needless to say, I was devastated. I could not think clearly throughout the entire radio convention, and for months afterward I couldn't come to grips with what had happened to her - why did a wonderful young girl have to die like that?

As time went on, I was able to balance out my emotions, and was able to remember Stacy for all the fun conversations we had. I eventually acquired some Rocshire 45's for my own personal record collection, but acquiring that vintage vinyl wasn't easy. Barely a year after Stacy died, Rocshire was under investigation when the record company's owner [not Stacy's father] was caught in a check-embezzling scheme, using payroll checks from Hughes Aircraft to prop up his record company. He's probably still in jail now. The artists on that label lost everything - their master tapes, their recording equipment, the momentum of their careers - when Rocshire's doors were locked forever.

It's been 25 years. And it still takes the cold chill of an autumn wind to instantly remind me that she's gone.

Far too soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chuck the Writer and the Elbo Room Tournament - Week 7

Just couldn't put anything together Thursday night at the Elbo Room tournament; used up both my skips within the first four questions, then wiped out on a 10-pointer (how the hell was I supposed to know that Ringo Starr has suddenly decided to curtail any autographs or fan mail?), and in the end I didn't have enough points to make the Top 3. Oh well, I'm still among the final eight, as can be seen below:
  • Mayhem - 14 points
  • STREET ACADEMY - 12 points
  • Big Red Machine - 12
  • Woo Hoo a Go Go - 7
  • Tres Hombres - 5
  • Liquor in the Front, Poker in the Rear - 3 points
  • Stern Fans - 3
  • Brown Van Experience - 3
  • Donna Martin Graduates - 3
  • 40 oz. Bounce 1

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chuck the Writer Mourns the Loss of Chickie Williams

Although I didn't find out about it until today, I am saddened by the November 2007 passing of Chickie Williams.

Back in my days of writing for Goldmine magazine, I penned an article that eventually appeared in the Journal of Country Music on the history of radio station WWVA and its "Saturday Night Jamboree," a radio broadcast that could be picked up, on a clear Saturday night, from Newfoundland to Florida. Among the people I was able to interview included Doc Williams, who with his wife Chickie Williams became a Jamboree USA staple from 1937 to the 1990's.

The reason I even started working on such an article came about from finding vintage homemade recordings of Maxine and Eileen Newcomer, two blind singing sisters who had their own WWVA radio show in the mid-1940's. These records were engraved on old Webcor home disc cutters, and were recorded straight off the air at WWVA.

When talking with Doc Williams about the recordings, he told me that there was a special recording that Chickie made with the Newcomers, a mixture of "I Love You Truly" and a recitation of a poem called "Should You Go First And I Remain," but that that acetate had long disappeared. In an effort to gather more Newcomer Twins recordings, I drove to Jeannette, Pa., where I had originally purchased some of the orginal acetates on eBay. The estate dealer who had the recordings allowed me to go through the unsold discs, as they had not yet been offered for bid because he had to pay someone to transcribe the Braille printing on each record label so as to identify the disc.

Surprisingly, I was able to find a copy of that lost acetate. I purchased the acetate, along with about 100 other Newcomer Twins discs, and visited Doc Williams in his Wheeling, W.Va. home and presented him with the recording.

Back in the mid-1940's, when Doc received the record as a Valentine's Day gift from Chickie, he turned the homemade record into what would become his biggest hit, a medley of "Beyond the Sunset" combined with the recitation of "Should You Go First And I Remain." Doc's hit, with Chickie on vocals, hit #3 on the country music charts, and was later covered by hundreds of artists, including Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Pat Boone.

The obituary for Chickie Williams can be found here.

The original poem, "Should You Go First And I Remain," was penned by A.K. Rowswell. I am reprinting it here, in Chickie's memory.

Should You Go First
By A.K. Rowswell

Should you go first and I remain
To walk the road alone,
I'll live in memory's garden, dear,
With happy days we've known.
In spring I'll wait for roses red,
When fades the lilac blue,
In early fall, when brown leaves call
I'll catch a glimpse of you.

Should you go first and I remain
For battles to be fought,
Each thing you've touched along the way
Will be a hallowed spot.
I'll hear your voice, I'll see you smile,
Though blindly I may grope,
The memory of your helping hand
Will buoy me on with hope.

Should you go first and I remain
To finish with the scroll,
No length'ning shadows shall creep in
To make this life seem droll.
We've known so much of happiness,
We've had our cup of joy,
And memory is one gift of God
That death can not destroy.

Should you go first and I remain,
One thing I'd have you to do:
Walk slowly down that long, lone path,
For soon I'll follow you.
I'll want to know each step you take,
That I may walk the same,
For someday down that lonely road
You'll hear me call your name.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chuck the Writer and the Elbo Room Trivia Tournament - Week 6

Started off great at trivia, but I (along with everyone else) missed the final question - category was fast food, and it was about what sandwich was invented in 1972 by someone named Herb Johnson. The answers were split between the Whopper and the Big Mac - but it was the Egg McMuffin, which nobody got. So I moved from first place to second in the overall standings, which are now posted here (the top eight teams get into the tournament finals):

  • Mayhem - 14 points
  • STREET ACADEMY - 12 points
  • Big Red Machine - 7
  • Woo Hoo a Go Go - 6
  • Tres Hombres - 5
  • Stern Fans - 3
  • Brown Van Experience - 3
  • Donna Martin Graduates - 3
  • 40 oz. Bounce 1

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chuck the Writer and the Schaefer Beer Clock

Well, my plans on getting that Schaefer beer clock to light up and tell time has been halved. Apparently according to Lake Electronics, the people who are hopefully restoring my clock, I was told that it's not a malfunctioning switch that is preventing the clock from lighting up, it's something called "the ballast," which apparently they can't replace or repair. So they're giving me the clock back, only charging me my initial deposit plus NYS tax.

So for the moment I have a clock that tells time - but doesn't light up...

Yet. I'm just going to store the clock away until I can find a similar Schaefer beer clock and cannibalize the parts together - maybe the next clock I find has a working light and a malfunctioning clock. Hey, sometimes two halves can make a whole.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chuck the Writer and the Elbo Room Trivia Tournament – Week 5

Had a nice solid run at the Elbo Room Thursday night. Really only missed one question (the band formed by Chris Cornell after he left Soundgarden, augmented with members of Rage Against the Machine – apparently it's Audioslave, I didn't really know that), and skipped two other questions (what did the caveman order at the restaurant in the GEICO commercial, and what horror film series has John Larroquette as a narrator), but pretty much ran the table with the rest of the questions.

Final question was American Business, and I was tied for second place (114 pts) with "Mayhem," while four points ahead were the leaders, a team called "Clay Aiken Skidmarks." Now usually the Skidmarks are in the lower regions of the scoresheet (okay, that was an awkward sentence to write), but they have improved of late and were poised to take 5 playoff points if they could get the final question right. I had 114 points, and since I was tied with Mayhem, I bet 113 – that way, if I got the question right, I would finish no worse than third if both Mayhem and the Skidmarks went "all in" and correctly answered the question.

Question was - In what East Coast State are the headquarters of the Campbell Soup Company?

Hokey smokes. You mean the Campbell Soup Company, right next to the warehouses and factories that once housed RCA Victor's world headquarters? You mean the Campbell Soup Company in downtown Camden, New Jersey? Oh that question was 'Mm! 'Mm! Good!

I wrote down New Jersey, and just to be a smartass, I wrote "Camden" as well. Host read my full answer, and there were some discouraged groans coming from the Skidmarks' table.

Mayhem also said New Jersey, and they went all in.

Skidmarks went all in – and said Pennsylvania.


So that means that Street Academy (my one-man wrecking crew team) took second place and 3 playoff points; Mayhem grabbed 5 points and the Big Red Machine snuck in for third.

Here's the standings after Week 5:

  • STREET ACADEMY - 12 points
  • Mayhem - 9
  • Woo Hoo a Go Go - 6
  • Big Red Machine - 6
  • Tres Hombres - 5
  • Stern Fans - 3
  • Donna Martin Graduates - 3
  • 40 oz. Bounce 1

Saturday I'm going to try to participate in trivia over at Octoberfest at Brown's Brewing in Troy. That trivia operation is run by a different company, and I've only played their "Bacchus Trivia" a couple of times. They ask 60 questions, broken down into six 10-question categories, each correct answer is worth one point, no skips, no deductions for wrong answers, and the big prize at Brown's is usually food or beer. Last Wednesday, I played at Brown's and won my first prize there – a coupon for free quesadillas and beer pretzels the next time I play trivia at Brown's. And judging from an incident earlier this week – in which I will go into much more detail at a later time – I may consider Brown's for my Wednesday night Trivia fix.