July 2011


I really enjoyed this book. I was reading it at one point in a waiting room and started laughing so hard that I had to put it down.

His writes about the realities of prison life – the dangers, the monotony, the grind, the internecine politics – with intelligence, perceptiveness, candor and affection.

In his two years as a prison librarian and creative writing teacher, Avi Steinberg became much more enmeshed in the lives of the inmates than one might suspect. It’s poignant and revealing to learn about the sad, victimized lives that unfolded before him as he strived to make a difference. Seemingly, the crushing inertia within society that faces so many of the people therein is virtually insurmountable.

I also particularly enjoyed reading about his Jewish cultural background. I learned something, was touched and enlightened by what he shared.

poster from Guitar World or one of those mags, signed by Dick Dale @ The Backstage in Ballard (Seattle), circa 1994

text on poster:


“I’ve only had the one guitar all my life,“ says Dick Dale of this battle-worn left-handed Strat, nicknamed “The Beast”. The guitar has served the self-proclaimed “King of Surf Guitar” faithfully on every track he has ever cut, from his debut single, “Let’s Go Trippin’,” to his latest album, Unknown Territory. And even if this guitar hasn’t fallen out of a plane on takeoff or been run over by a car, as Dale claims, it is a survivor; most axes would’ve been reduced to kindling by 34 years of daily use and abuse.

According to Tom English of the Fender Custom shop, who went over this guitar with a fine-toothed comb while he was designing the new Dick Dale Signature Series Stratocaster, “The Beast” was built in 1960. The original electronics have long since been modified to suit Dale’s needs: an extra switch instantly engages the neck/middle pickup combination, regardless of what the five-way switch is set to, and all of the pots, except for one volume control, have been removed. Dale strings the guitar upside down with super-heavy bridge-cable-like .014-.060’s.

Although the guitar used to be sunburst, Dale claims to have refinished it at least nine times in order to foil would-be copy-alikes, who in the guitarist’s early-Sixties heyday, would paint their guitars to look just like his. “I used to go in and have it painted every week just to be cute,” he grins. “Finally, my buddy, who used to paint cars, painted it the first metal-gold-flake.” Dale affixed two stickers atop this last coat of paint; an American flag on the top horn, and a Kempo Karate emblem, which he received from his martial-arts instructor, whom Dale alleges was also Elvis Presley’s bodyguard.




This is one of my most popular posts. I would infer that it’s the humility, energetic music and performances of Dick Dale that make him so enduringly well loved; as well as being an inspiration to many guitarists.

A reader wrote, “To back up a little bit, Dale was known as Richard Monsour when he was growing up in Quincy, Mass., and playing trumpet in the Quincy High band. Originally a drummer, Dale had first wanted to be the next Gene Krupa. His guitar work has always had a raw, percussive quality, and like his dad, Jimmy Dale, plays both drums and guitar.”

This really makes sense.
I don’t totally understand the use of guitar as a percussion instrument, although one day in the park I heard someone playing and it was very obvious. The piano is considered a percussion instrument, too; though, it is of course, so much more. I guess it’s just one of the many mysteries of music and the arts that makes life interesting.


Wikipedia article on Dick Dale


Guitarist Dick Dale performing at the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 28, 2005. A really excellent photo, by Mike Burns

Transcribing the text on the poster got me thinking about my first electric guitar. Here in the photo you see my friend Kevin Travis from high school with my Fender Musicmaster guitar. He painted it in an American flag motif for me. Good job, huh? He’s standing in front of his 1940 LaSalle. I think it’s a cool picture; very iconic of the times.  From October 1971. Photo courtesy Kevin Travis

Other autographs:

Jimmy Dale Gilmore, also from The Backstage in the ’90’s

paperback book cover signed by Hot Tuna touring band at The Backstage circa 1996: Jorma Kaukonen (JK), Jack Casady, Pete Sears, Michael Falzarano and unknown (drummer).

I can still vividly see Jack Casady signing that in purple felt-tip pen, so fluid and artistic; what a hero of the bass, anyway! Jorma – gracious humility with fans.

“cat outside fishmonger’s” by amyeigttrack – smudged crayon and oil crayon, c. 2003

“man smoking cigar, thinking, in clouds, by river” – by amyeighttrack – colored felt tip pen and smudged crayon

“my stuff” – by amyeighttrack

“IT’S EASY BEING GREEN” – collage w/ cut paper, by amyeighttrack. (Note – the paper was a beautiful, thick sheet with blue on one side and purple on the other. I cut out shapes and reversed them to show the tactile pleasure of the paper.)

beaded pouch

pouch, reverse side

diorama.  woman with owls greeting card by Cheryl Renee Long


Japanese dolls


Turku 87, print by Robin K. Wright

untitled abstract by Dolph Strietzel, colored ink (felt tip pens?) on heavy paper. I love the bright colors and Southwestern Native American motif. I won it with my bid on eBay.

“Kitten Eyed Woman” – pastel oil crayons and gold leaf by Brandi Cleveland. Her daughter named this one. Check out her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Brandi-Cleveland-Artist-622485181182054/

I think Brandi is a great artist! She is personable, engaging and thoughtful. I bought this from her at the Pride festival at the Seattle Center a couple of years back. I complimented her on the expressiveness, the beauty of the ethnicities she portrayed. I asked her about it. She said that one of her sources and inspirations was National Geographic magazines. I was doubly impressed.

Money was tight for me, and she kindly reduced the price. There was a large reclining nude she had there that I craved for months afterwards. It was indescribably Lush. You have to see her work in person to get the sensuality of it. If you see something you like – you won’t be disappointed! It only gets better!

Winter Sunshine by Gwendolyn Grant. This reminds me so much of my mom – beautiful, reading a book, enjoying the sun.

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This is one of my more popular posts. What can I say? Ya got good taste!

See my “Amy8Trak” reggae and disco playlists on Spotify


Bunny Wailer Sings The Wailers

This is an excellent set.  If ya na know Bunny Wailer, ya na know reggae. Listen to ‘Rule This Land’

Best Dressed Chicken In Town by Dr. Alimantado.

Listen to ‘Just The Other Day’

Very musical and rhythmical stuff. It chugs along like a clattering, unstoppable train. Like the album by Culture below, it grows on you.

These tunes were put together about 1973-1976. Hard times were coming in Jamaica: the man’s talking ’bout “Poison Flour”, killing all man; or if not that, it’s high prices in “Just The Other Day”; or a gunman backing him up around a corner in “Gimme Mi Gun”, which addressed the growing climate of political terror and violence.

A very dread set, indeed. And this was before drugs, greed, corrupt politics, NAFTA, the World Bank and the long shadow of the US made of JA a wasteland; and of reggae, a pale shadow. Of course, the greed and exploitative nature of the recording industry did not help!

Actually, it was in the resolve, conviction and integrity of  the people and artists such as  these in Jamaica – in the face of such repression and deprivation – that made reggae great, transcendent in it’s “golden era”.

Two Sevens Clash by Culture

Very vital, primal music; funky and rootsy;  like a fresh, pure breeze out of Africa that wipes everything else clean with it’s utter authenticity. I love it’s clattering rhythms and musicality; stylistically similar to the above album by Dr. Alimantado.

Listen to ‘Two Sevens Clash’

The Chanting Dread Inna Fine Style by Big Youth

I love the song “Streets in Africa”, which is sung to the tune of “The World Is A Ghetto”. Big Youth is da bomb!

Listen to ‘Streets of Africa’

Farover by Burning Spear

There’s a note of weary, resigned patience to this set that grew on me.

Listen to ‘Greetings’

Red by Black Uhuru

A very fiery set. A classic, a masterwork. Some standout tracks are “Sistren”, “Journey”, and “Utterance”. “Youth of Eglington” and “Carbine” warn against gunplay while raising the unasked question, “What’s driving people to it?”

Sandra “Puma” Jones, who sang with the group on this album, was a social worker from South Carolina.

Listen to ‘Sistren’

Sugar Minott, “Good Thing Going”, original 1981 vinyl version

I’m talking strictly about the original 1981 vinyl version which contained these 7 songs (and three more): 1. Good Thing Going 2. Never My Love 3. My Sisters 4. Jasmine 5. Life Without Money 6. Lonely Days 7. Walk On By.

Nice album in original form! and I don’t know why they had to delete some of these crucial songs on subsequent versions and still call it the same album! Yechh!
Sugar Minott, rest in peace, 1956-2010. He had the sweetest, most endearing, slightly off-key lovers rock croon on these songs that ya never gonna hear nowhere else and puts the autotuners to shame, yuh!
So straight from the heart – do yourself a favor, give these songs a listen & let your smile glisten, you’ll soon be a raver

Listen to ‘Good Thing Going’

Here’s a link to Fire Pashon, Sugar Minott’s daughter, doing an inspirational song in the classic reggae style,    “Mek It Inna Life”

Knock Out! by Toots and the Maytals. This is a great album. See my review at the link below.

Listen to ‘Careless Ethiopians’

 See my review here.

Natty Rebel by U-Roy. I haven’t heard the whole album, but the version of “Natty Rebel” is one of my all time favorite songs. See link to my review below.

Listen to ‘Natty Rebel’

 See my review here

Another of my favorites was Jacob Miller with Inner Circle. He used a dynamic quaver or vibrato in his singing to a very expressive effect. “All Night Till Daylight” is a good example.

Steel Pulse have a really smooth sound – great production, singing, melodies etc. Here’s a link to their song   “Your House”  The song was featured in the cool UK film ‘Fish Tank’ about a troubled, tough adolescent girl.

Also recommended: the movies “The Harder They Come” and “Rockers”.