Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Let Freedom Ring

fireworks-washington-dcWith the 4th of July quickly approaching, I wanted to share with you my favorite patriotic song: “Let Freedom Ring” by Barry Manilow. Below is a live version from Washington DC that is simply perfect. With the nation’s capital as a backdrop, this performance is sure to give you chills. Enjoy it; and for those of you that celebrate, happy Independence Day!

Book Review – Unintended Consequences by Stuart Woods

Unintended Consequences JacketStuart Woods is one of my favorite authors for a variety of reasons. He comes up with terrific characters names. For example, Felicity Devonshire, Arrington Calder, and, of course, the best belongs to the star of his ever-popular book series: Stone Barrington. Woods is also a gifted writer; his sentence structure is varied and infused with inspired word usage, and Woods’ ability to vividly describe a romantic scene is unrivaled.

Like many writers who’ve achieved great success, Woods has been accused of becoming lazy, churning out book after book, focusing on quantity instead of quality. While I’ve noticed a distinct dip in his ability to create a novel that keeps me guessing from start to finish, I still find myself enamored by his characters and impressed with the fluidity of his prose. Yes, he may not be writing at the level of Harlan Coben anymore, but spending time with Stone Barrington, Dino Bacchetti and Holly Barker feels like coming home and catching up with old friends. Which brings us to my thoughts on Woods’ latest novel, Unintended Consequences.

Unintended Consequences kept me entertained from cover to cover. Speaking of which, this book’s cover is beautiful – easily the best I’ve seen this year. A good portion of the novel is set in one of my favorite cities, Paris, where Stone Barrington finds himself ensnared by mysterious circumstances. Unlike Dan Brown’s Inferno, where the lead character also had amnesia, Woods deftly handled Barrington’s challenging situation without leaving the reader feeling betrayed. Unintended Consequences moved along at an incredibly brisk pace without resorting to the pedestrian vernacular that is commonly found in similar books. As a writer, I appreciated this, as well as the palpable new characters – my favorite being the sophisticated Marcel duBois.

I blew through Unintended Consequences in less than a week because it was an easy, captivating read. While it wasn’t a convoluted mystery, it didn’t need to be. It told an easy-to-follow story from start to finish and whet my appetite for the next Stone Barrington adventure. Not only did I get to spend time with some of my favorite characters in fiction, I learned a few new words along the way. What more could I ask for? It didn’t blow me away, but after reading the last page, I felt satisfied. And, for me, that’s what’s most important – feeling that my time was well spent. If you like thrillers, give this one a shot. It may not be Stuart Woods’ greatest novel, but it’s a worthy addition to a formidable series.

Stuart Woods Photo Credit Harry BensonSynopsis 

Stone Barrington is no stranger to schemes and deceptions of all stripes—as an attorney for the premier white-shoe law firm Woodman & Weld, he’s seen more than his share. But when he travels to Europe under highly unusual circumstances, Stone finds himself at the center of a mystery that is, even by his standards, most peculiar. Two unexpected invitations may be the first clues in an intricate puzzle Stone must unravel to learn the truth . . . a puzzle that will lead him deep into the rarefied world of European ultrawealth and privilege, where billionaires rub elbows with spooks, insider knowledge is traded at a high premium, and murder is never too high a price to pay for a desired end. It soon becomes clear that beneath the bright lights of Europe lurks a shadowy underworld . . . and its only rule is deadly ambition.

George Carlin – Fear of Germs

20121114-224514.jpgFive years ago, today, the smartest man I ever met died: George Carlin. No one has made me laugh harder or think more critically. He was a comedic genius and a modern-day philosopher that left an indelible mark on my life. I’ll always smile – and laugh – when I think of George.

The first comedy special of his I saw was You Are All Diseased. Below is a terrific clip from that show about society’s fear of germs. Enjoy!

Book Review – Inferno by Dan Brown

Dan Brown - Inferno - EditedTo paraphrase  Dante Alighieri: abandon all hope, ye who read this novel. While Dan Brown is capable of writing a strong book, this isn’t one of them. I thought The Da Vinci Code was terrific, but Brown’s latest novel is marred by garrulous writing and repetitive dialogue. It’s also overflowing with unnecessary historical facts that do nothing but distract the reader from the sloppy narrative. The worst offense is the author’s explanation for Robert Landon’s amnesia. It’s so laughably bad that it makes the first two thirds of the book seem superfluous. Inferno’s only redeeming quality is the villain’s fascination with overpopulation and transhumanism; these topics are discussed at length and are fascinating. Unfortunately, you have to trudge through a swamp of mediocrity to get to them. While I enjoy Dan Brown’s work, Inferno was largely disappointing and I can’t recommend it. I only hope that Robert Langdon’s next adventure is one worth taking.

 

 

Tears For A Good Father – Harlan Coben

Below is a great article by my favorite author, Harlan Coben, that appeared in Parade in 2010. Happy Father’s Day!

Harlan Coben at 7, with his father, Carl Gerald Coben, 40, in 1969.

Harlan Coben at 7, with his father, Carl Gerald Coben, 40, in 1969.

This may seem like a sad story, but it’s not.

“I found this upstairs.” My 16-year-old daughter Charlotte, the oldest of my four kids, enters the kitchen and hands me the 40-year-old photograph. “Is that you?”

“Yep,” I say. “I had hair once.”

It is a picture of my father and me standing on the front lawn at our house in Livingston, N.J. I look at my father in this photograph. My mom used to say that he was a dead ringer for Victor Mature, Dean Martin (“If only your father would get his teeth fixed”), and, mostly, Jerry Orbach. He was a big man, and in this photograph, with his smile wide, he looks strong and confident. I don’t remember the picture being taken. I wish I did, because I look pretty darned happy snuggled against him.

Then, without warning—still holding the old photograph, Charlotte by my shoulder—I burst into tears. I don’t mean well up or sniffle or feel tears running down my face or even cry. I mean head-down, body-wracking sobs. My daughter backs away for a moment, probably scared. I don’t think she has seen me cry before. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever saw my father cry either.

I flash to the little things about him. The polyester double-knit shorts that were always too snug, like he was competing at Wimbledon in 1978. The too-big sunglasses that looked like he might have stolen them from Sophia Loren. I remember when he tried a fanny pack (that was a big no), the smell of his Old Spice, the way he steered the car with his wrists and whistled off-key, the AM news station playing in the steamed bathroom when he shaved, the white tube socks pulled up too high, the CB radio he loved for maybe four months. I remember how bad he was with tools and how that still didn’t stop him from taking on home projects best left to professionals or how every Sunday he would walk to Livingston Bagel or take me to Seymour’s Luncheonette for a milkshake and a pack of baseball cards. And I remember the way his cheek felt when I kissed him hello or goodbye, as I always did, no matter who was around, because that’s what we did.

I look at the 40-year-old photograph and see him so young, but of course he would never have a chance to grow old. I remember buying him an oversize Father’s Day card in 1988. For some odd reason, I bought it early. It was sitting near me when my mother called to tell me that my father had just called from his hotel room in Florida. He was there on business, and he felt chest pains. When I get him on the line, he puts on a brave front and tells me not to worry, he is fine.

That would be the last time I ever talked to him.

So what lessons did I learn when he died of a heart attack at 59? Unfortunately, the great insights are often the great clichés: Life goes by fast, don’t waste a moment, tell the ones you love how you feel, show affection every chance you get—because I would give anything to kiss that cheek just one more time.

I am still gripping the photograph and sobbing. I should make myself stop, but this feels, if not good, right. It’s been too long. My daughter, not sure what to do, tentatively approaches. She puts her arms around my shoulders and tries to quiet me.

“I know you miss him,” she says to me.

And I do. Still. Every day.

Wait. Didn’t I say this wasn’t a sad story?

So here’s the uplifting part: It’s okay to feel this pain. In fact, when you’ve been as lucky as I was in the father department, it would be an outrage not to cry. You can’t have an up without a down, a right without a left, a back without a front—or a happy without a sad. This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments—and you get the tears at the end, too.

My father, Carl Gerald Coben, is worth the tears. I hope that one day, to my children, I’ll be worth them, too. And if your father is worth them, let him know.

As the old proverb says, “When a father gives to his son, they both laugh. When a son gives to his father, they both cry.”

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

 

The original version of this story can be found here.

Barry Manilow – Here Comes The Night

Barry Manilow - Here Comes The Night 1

Thanks to my friend, Mary, I was recently able to get my hands on a copy of Barry Manilow’s out-of-print album, Here Comes The NightOriginally released in 1982, this was Manilow’s 12th record and the studio album that preceded it was If I Should Love Again, which was filled with beautiful ballads including “Somewhere Down The Road” and my favorite, “The Old Songs.”

After having listened to Here Comes The Night several times, I have to say I think it’s a shame that it’s not available to the public. It’s a wonderful collection of music. And while the album went platinum, it didn’t spawn as many hits as it should have. I blame this on Arista because the music quality was top notch. Below are my six favorite songs out of the album’s 11 tracks.

“Here Comes The Night”

This song is spectacular. It’s a traditional Barry Manilow power ballad that soars. Between the gorgeous arrangement and heartfelt vocal, I get lost every time I listen to it. This track should have been a monster hit, but it wasn’t. I’d love to hear Barry perform it live the next time I see him; it’s one of his most underrated numbers.

“Memory” 

“Memory” is the most popular song from Cats, the 1981 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s a beautiful song that many artists have covered, including Barbra Streisand, whose version of the song charted lower than Manilow’s. Anytime Barry Manilow sings a Broadway show tune, I listen with rapt attention. His voice is perfect for these kinds of songs and he knows how to make them sound magnificent. This is one of his best.

“Some Kind Of Friend” 

I would classify this as a rock-infused pop song. It has a harder edge to it than the other music on the album, but it’s still as infectious as Manilow’s other hits. The funky synthesizer, descriptive lyrics and catchy chorus make this a song that gets stuck in my head frequently.

“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” 

Here’s a song that’s been covered by everyone from Nat “King” Cole to Paul McCartney. It’s simple, funny and catchy as hell. And when I hear Barry Manilow’s version, it makes me think of Elvis. It has that rockabilly sound “The King” was known for; and when listening to Manilow’s recording, it’s clear he had a lot of fun with this number.

“Getting Over Losing You” 

What a terrific melody. The chord progression in this song is simply wonderful. It tells a great story, the vocal is spectacular and just like “Here Comes The Night,” it should have been a massive hit. I love it.

“Stay” 

One of the things that makes Barry Manilow a great live act is he performs the songs he enjoys – not just the hits. About a year or two ago, he started adding “Stay” to his set and longtime fans loved it. This sexy mid-tempo number is another song that didn’t get the attention it deserved. The haunting chorus is one that I find myself singing long after the song has ended.

My First Alienware

Alienware M14I’ve been playing video games my entire life. I have fond memories of blowing dust out of NES cartridges and spending countless hours trying to beat Resident Evil 3 on my Playstation. Lately, with work and school, it’s been hard to play games other than the casual ones on my phone and tablet. To get back into serious gaming, I just bought one of the newly announced Alienware laptops this week: Alienware 14.

Alienware M14The new Alienware laptops are beautiful and powerful, and I’m very excited to get mine in July. Keep an open eye out for my video review of Alienware 14 later this summer.

Book Review – The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

The InformationistI recently finished Taylor Stevens’ 2011 debut novel, The Informationist. It’s the first in a series of books featuring Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, an expert in uncovering information for her clients. She’s best described as a detective without a badge that’s not afraid to rough somebody up. Similar to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, this book was about the main character and what she did to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. It started off slow, and trudging my way through words that most people outside of Africa wouldn’t know how to pronounce wasn’t fun. But once I cut past this and reached the half-way point, the story found its groove. As I neared the end I was eager to see how things would wrap up. It was filled with action, believable dialogue and a lead character I look forward to following on future adventures. If you’re seeking an enjoyable thriller, The Informationist is worth a read.

Below is the official synopsis and book trailer. And stay tuned for my interview with Taylor Stevens later this summer; it should be a good one.

Synopsis 

Vanessa “Michael” Munroe deals in information—expensive information—working for corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. Born to missionary parents in lawless central Africa, Munroe took up with an infamous gunrunner and his mercenary crew when she was just fourteen. As his protégé, she earned the respect of the jungle’s most dangerous men, cultivating her own reputation for years until something sent her running. After almost a decade building a new life and lucrative career from her home base in Dallas, she’s never looked back.

Until now.

A Texas oil billionaire has hired her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago. It’s not her usual line of work, but she can’t resist the challenge. Pulled deep into the mystery of the missing girl, Munroe finds herself back in the lands of her childhood, betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead. If she has any hope of escaping the jungle and the demons that drive her, she must come face-to-face with the past that she’s tried for so long to forget.

I Hit 10,000!

20130605-204526.jpg

Great news! My blog has surpassed 10,000 views! Considering I started it less than a year ago, I’m very proud of this achievement. Thanks to all of you that visit on a regular basis. I’ll continue to do my best to provide you with compelling and entertaining content. Here’s to the next 10,000!

A Conversation With Michael Des Barres – Part 3

Michael Des Barres and I hanging out before his concert in NYC.

Michael Des Barres and I hanging out before his concert in NYC.

Below is the conclusion to my three-part interview with Michael Des Barres. Make sure to read part one and part two.

There are two videos at the end of this post: One is a live clip from Michael Des Barres’ concert in New York City on March 7, 2013 at the Bowery Electric, and the other is Michael’s music video for his terrific new single, “Life Is Always Right.”

When it comes to how to distribute your music, how do you decide what works best for you?

Well, what works best for me is ownership. Autonomy is everything. As you can imagine, I’ve been owned for 40 years as a recording artist. And I don’t like that. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now…so I don’t do it. I’m in the position where I can sit down and figure out how I want to get my music out to people and bandcamp is fantastic. iTunes and Amazon clearly have an infrastructure that works, and I have my own infrastructure. We do our own artwork. Photographers, for some reason, like to take my picture, so I have an enormous amount of content to turn into the graphics required.

People enjoy working with me because I’m enthusiastic and it’s fun for them. It brings the best out in them. Half of this endeavor is being able to inspire others to do great stuff. And I don’t mean great in the sense of being better than anybody else. I mean just great, fun work that they enjoy doing.

And in terms of  distribution, there are a particular ways to go. You have iTunes and Amazon, and then it becomes about building a fan base. I fully accept the notion that music is free. And I have no problem with that; I think it should be free. Then it becomes about selling other things, t-shirts and merchandising or licensing songs for TV shows or movies – whatever it is to make a living out of it. But let’s not forget, I am 65 years old, I’ve got 45 movies, 100 hours of American television and I’ve sold a lot of songs to people. I am not struggling in the back of a van. I have autonomy, in that I can do whatever I want. What a great place to be. 

With your rich body of work in acting and music, I think of you as a Renaissance Man. You’re just an artist at heart, right?

Yeah, I just want to express myself. The trick about self-expression is knowing who the self is that’s doing the expressing. So, you have to work on who you are to be an authentic artist. You can be anything. You can be a sculptor, a painter, a photographer, a choreographer, a rock and roll star, whatever. What do you want to express, and who is doing the expressing? If I’m coming from an inauthentic place and I’m trying to be somebody else and I’m writing songs for an audience, or through a persona I’ve invented, it’s inauthentic. The audience doesn’t know why it’s inauthentic, but they know that there’s something wrong. So, half of the work as an artist is figuring out who the fuck you are – who’s doing the expressing. That’s why they say a writer “has a voice.” A writer has a voice because it’s true; it’s a true voice. Whether it be Hemingway or Voltaire, they had their own form of expression. They knew what they wanted to say – a point of view, about art and life and the human condition. And if you feel that way, you’ve got a shot at other people feeling the same way. If’ it’s authentic then it will reach the authentic part of the audience and you’ll have a career. 

That’s why Hollywood is such a tainted place. The houses and cars are leased. It’s a land of fantasy, smoke and mirrors and illusion. And that’s why the movies suck and the majority of the music sucks – because they’re trying to figure out what the people want, rather than creating what they love. And I’m not interested in mainstream success. I was never interested in the mainstream. I drown in the mainstream. I have no desire to be there, none whatsoever. And yet I continue to do the TV shows, and I’ve got a couple movies in the can coming out. Of course I do…because I’ve got to fund the work that I love. 

If you could collaborate with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?

It would be Booker T & the M.G.’s. I would sit with them and write songs. These were the guys who were responsible for Wilson Pickett records and Otis Redding records. I would love to play with them: “Duck” Dunn, Steve Jordan and Al Jackson. And the other band I would have loved to play with is Muddy Waters and Little Walter Jacobs’ band. I would have loved to have played with them. 

IMG_0380Do you have a favorite new band?

I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but I love Vintage Trouble. They’ll drive you crazy, they’re so good. They’re a young black singer and three white rockers, and they’re fantastic. Their influences are clearly the blues, and it’s exactly what I’m talking about on my radio show. And when they really get it right, it’s beautiful. 

Poison, god bless them, was a parody of the New York Dolls, as were most 80s’ hairnet, Aquanet hairspray bands. They had catchy little songs with the same riffs since time began. My favorite band of them all was Motley Crue – I thought they were fantastic. I’m very generous with this stuff. I can honestly say that I admire anybody that plugs in because it’s so dreadful. You’re putting yourself, literally, in an execution firing line – they can shoot you. It’s very brave to get up and play, so I never put anybody down. God bless anybody giving it a go. Having the balls to to stand up and say, “Look, this is what I do!” That’s great. Do I have preferences? Yes. And I’ll get on the bike in the gym and listen to Motley Crue. Sure, why not?

You mentioned the two movies “in the can.” Can you reveal any details about these projects?

One has just come out. It’s called California Solo with Robert Carlyle, which is just fantastic. He’s the actor in Trainspotting and he’s on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. Wiry Scottish actor, you’d recognize him. Fantastic movie – very fun to make. Grab a DVD and watch it with your girlfriend. It’s really one of the good movies about rock and roll. I play his manager and it’s all very sinister. And there’s this movie I just finished that’s being edited. It stars Gina Gershon, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Molly Ringwald, and myself, and it’s called Me. And it’s improvised. It was incredible to work with those 80s’ ladies. It’s going to be a hell of a movie. Very sexy, very troubling – very much about what’s going on today. It’s about a guy who thinks he’s in a reality show. I can’t tell you anymore about the story, but it’s going to blow your mind and it’s called Me. 

How do your various acting opportunities come about?

I have to audition like every other actor, and if you get it, you get it. For NCIS, I believe they called me in, but they want to see you. They don’t know if you’re 300 pounds or if you’re a junkie. They want to speak to you, and that’s fine; I’ll go in. If there’s something really cool and it has the potential to reach a lot of people, I’ll stand in a parking lot naked to get it. If it’s something I don’t want to do, I simply don’t go in on it. That’s the bureaucratic side of it. Then, there are friends that I’ve worked with and if they think there’s something right for me, they’ll get in touch. That’s usually followed by the sentence, “There’s no money in it.” (laughs) But you do it anyway because it’s challenging and a labor of love and lust. 

IMG_0390The way I discovered you was through MacGyver. When you were on the screen you brought gravitas to the scenes. 

I’m so glad you said that, and I’m so happy when someone says, “Hey, Murdoc!” It happens every day. I’m in Trader Joe’s with my girlfriend and there’s a guy shaking with item in his hand and I said, “What’s going on? Are you OK?” And he said, “You’re Murdoc!” I said to myself, oh god, that’s so great, and I gave him a hug and an autograph – signed the Trader Joe’s bag and moved on. I loved that character, it was great. And people still dig it to this day. How fabulous is that? 

Were you able to make it your own, or was the role of Murdoc already defined for you?

Oh, fuck no! What happened was I just came off The Power Station tour, and I remember I had this big vintage white Rolls Royce and drove onto the set at Paramount for the audition to play Murdoc, a killer in one episode. And the producers were all smoking outside the MacGyver offices and I pull up in my Rolls Royce. I, to this day, know that I got that job because of that entrance. (laughs) They saw me getting out of a white Rolls, all dressed in black and said, “There’s our guy!” And I did it for the next few years, as you know. 

Did you have a good working relationship with Richard Dean Anderson?

Oh, I loved him! Sweet, soulful, generous dude. And it was a hard job – being in a TV series. Wow! Hard work. 16 or 17-hour days, especially if you’re the star. You have to know about pacing, and he did. He paced himself well for such a physical role, and he did a fantastic job. And it was a huge show for many years. It wasn’t an under-the-radar show. It wasn’t a pop culture Twin Peaks, water cooler show. But it had a steadfast audience and I was very grateful for the opportunity.  

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: