Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Carol Martini's First CD in Six Years: Songs of the Girl on the Swing

Carol Martini's latest CD Songs of the Girl on the Swing (available for purchase on CD Baby) might be more appropriately titled Songs of the Girl With the Guitar. For that's the musical universe Martini comfortably inhabits, singing her own compositions, accompanying herself on guitar, in California coffeehouses. Except her alternative-style songs deserve a much broader audience.
Fortunately she also makes (and markets) her own independent recordings, with Girl on a Swing being her third CD of the twentieth-first century. It's her first since Petals of the Red Magnolia (2010) which followed Rose in the Boxcar (2005, named by the Orange County Register as one of "OC's Best of the Best"). Martini also, in the nineties, made three old-fashioned vinyl albums that are now rare collectibles.
Her two previous CDs were deeply personal tributes to the memories of her parents--Red Magnolia for her mother and Boxcar for her father. By contrast this album's nineteen songs represent a return to the romance of her earlier works. It's a simple collection of love songs, some plaintive, but many with a wry sense of humor.
One such song is "Because that Man's Still Here," in which the singer laments that guy that just won't go away no matter what:  "So I sit in this bar, night after night, crying in my beer, not because he's left me but because that man's still here." (At least she can get away long enough to cry in a bar.) It's the kind of song to sing along to, sooth heartache to, and and perhaps put one's own creative spin on. It's one of Martini's best songs ever.
Swing concludes with another highlight, "Won't You Please Come Home" which paints a word picture of a broken relationship so much that we feel we're living it right along with her--or living through our own breakups and losses along with her.
Unfortunately some of the songs here aren't given the proper musical showcase. Daniel Martin and Lewis Richards are the credited musicians, and they play well, but much of the backing sounds like it came from a computer. If only the musical accompaniment could have shown the same wit and variety as the lyrics.
For more about Carol Martini and her music:
CD Baby

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Link to Random Lengths (12/1/16): Go Retro With Records

Here's the link to my ACE feature "Go Retro With Records" for the 12/1/16 issue of Random Lengths:

Editorial staff added two San Pedro stores to my copy but here is what I filed originally:

Gift of Music:  Go Retro with Real Records

By Lyn Jensen
Music fans! Here is your chance to go retro and spend many happy hours digging through record store bins. Three old-time rockin’ record stores in Long Beach offer you a chance to give the gift of music, in a variety of media—33 ½ RPM, 45s, CDs, even a few cassette tapes. You’ll also find holiday music to give you a soundtrack for the season. As you hop from store to store, you’ll find collectibles, DVDs, and shirts, too, along with surprise finds that only come from old-fashioned store-to-store shopping.

Third Eye on Retro Row
You’ll find about 3,400 new and used records—actual vinyl LPs—at Third Eye, 2234 Fourth Street, Long Beach, in the heart of several blocks of indy storefront businesses collectively known as Retro Row. Gary Farley opened Third Eye in Costa Mesa in 2002 and later relocated to Retro Row in Long Beach. (Note the store’s phone remains 714-415-9814.)
He recalls, “When my job ended as General Manager for a local retail store, I decided to turn my passion for music and record collecting into a career and have been enjoying the experience ever since.”
Farley also says millennials, who can’t remember the days before CDs, are now seeking out the analog recording technology their parents and grandparents know and love. They come to Third Eye for it.
If you’re a music fan who’s got something to sell, “I am always seeking record collections and music memorabilia (including shirts and posters) and pay cash or offer credit,” Farley says.
Third Eye has long had a reputation as a source for collectibles, imports, local music, punk, and hard-to-find items. Listening stations are available so you may try before you buy. Other perks include a delivery service (add $5 to your order) and cleaning records (for twenty-five cents each). Web:

Bagatelle:  Downtown Landmark since the Seventies
Steve Mintz, owner of the landmark Bagatelle at 260 Atlantic Avenue, says what sets his store apart is, “I carry all categories of music, not so much new, mostly used and collectible.”
He buys and stocks some CDs but mostly he’s looking for old-fashioned phonograph records--be they 78, 45 or 33 1/3 RPM. Visitors will find the storefront’s 1,000 square feet crammed full with bins of 45s, LPs, 78s, 12-inch singles, CDs, and some music memorabilia—about 40,000 items in stock at any one time.
Bagatelle started out as a “junk store” in 1974, Mintz says, but soon became a record shop. In 1977 it moved to its current location just south of Third Street.
Be prepared to spend some time browsing and digging in the two aisles that are less than a yard wide. Want to sample before you buy? There’s an in-store listening station.

Fingerprints in the Arts District
You’ll have to visit Fingerprints under the neon guitar at 420 E. Fourth Street to see the full range of holiday gift possibilities, which ranges from records to apparel, guitar straps, storage crates, memorabilia, and incense. This comfortably large store in the downtown arts district stocks thousands of old-school vinyl LPs, alongside tens of thousands of CDs, DVDs, 45s—even some cassette tapes. (There used to be VHS tapes, too, but no more.) The place will also buy your used LPs, DVDs, and CDs for in-store credit.
With enough floor space for just about every genre and music medium, lovingly used collectables mingle with the latest releases, and many of them are sealed copies much preferred as gifts. Country fans will be surprised with fresh sealed LPs by such contemporary stars as Kellie Pickler, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett. If you’re in a Woodstock frame of mind, you may prefer to trip out on collectable vinyl rarities, including maybe, just maybe, that certain Beatles LP still in shrink wrap. Punks, there’s something completely different for you, too, perhaps a new and unused shrink-wrapped copy of Patti Smith’s Horses LP.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

DVD Review: Indian Point

Dispatch from the Anti-Nuke Movement:  Documentary on Indian Point after Fukushima
by Lyn Jensen

Link to distributor's webpage:

Following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, when three nuclear cores melted down at the same time in Japan, the anti-nuclear movement has moved back into the spotlight. A Fukushima-sized disaster at the Indian Point nuclear plant along the Hudson would require New York City be evacuated--possibly forever. Ivy Meeropol's 2015 documentary (running time 94 min.) balances footage of plant workers, scientists studying the plant's effect on fish and the Hudson (where nuclear wastewater is dumped), hearings to close down the plant, and what happened at Fukushima. There's no resolution, as long as the plant stays open, but that's the point.

Indian Point takes an unblinking look at the debate over nuclear power by going inside the long-running controversy over the aging nuclear plant just 35 miles from New York City. Could a meltdown like what happened at Fukushima--something nuclear experts previously insisted was impossible--happen here? 

As the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decides whether to re-license Indian Point to operate for another twenty years, Meeropol looks at both sides--the plant's owners and operators who insist all is well, against community change agents campaigning for a shutdown. The latter includes black environmental journalist Roger Witherspoon and his white wife, former schoolteacher Marilyn Elie, leader of the anti-nuclear group IPSEC. Witherspoon and Elie travel in separate cars and sit separately at nuclear hearings, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

In the middle are the federal and state regulators. While the NRC drags its feet on whether or not to re-license the plant, the state of New York has denied it a permit on the basis of nuclear waste contaminating the Hudson River. It may be the water pollution, not the dangers of nuclear accidents, that eventually succeed in getting the plant offline. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Amoeba Records, Music We Like, and Essential Records You Need on Vinyl

Amoeba Records publishes (online and in-store) a quarterly fanzine (they call it a book) of music (and just about anything else entertainment-related). It consists mostly of lists from their staff--I don't know if they accept outside contributions or not.
More than one issue contains a list of "Essential Records You Need on Vinyl" from the store's blog (the "amoeblog" which has its own website). Its intro says, "Looking to start your record collection or fill out the one you have? We tried to include albums that are readily available on vinyl, nothing too rare or out of print. We also tried to avoid greatest hits records and focus on studio albums."
So just how "essential" is this "essential" list? I count about 200 artists and about 400 albums on it, and anybody who listened to all the genres and eras represented would be completely disoriented while stone-cold sober.
About seven-eighths of it I've got along fine without all these decades. Now let's look over the remaining one-eighth or so:
  • The Beatles--anything ever by the Beatles is essential. If a Beatle record isn't in your collection, you're missing something.
  • David Bowie--no reason to stop at the suggestions Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Keep going with Station to Station, Low, Lodger, Let's Dance, Never Let Me Down, Heroes, and The Next Day.
  • Iggy Pop--The Idiot features David Bowie, so it qualifies as a David Bowie album, too. Dang, looks like I let my copy get away!
  • The Clash--I wouldn't consider London Calling essential anything. I'd want The Clash and Give 'em Enough Rope instead.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival--Green River, yeah, but Cosmo's Factory and Down on the Corner, more so.
  • Elvis Costello--My Aim is True and This Year's Model are essential but so is Armed Forces, Taking Liberties, and Get Happy! If you're as big a Costello fan as I am, even that won't be enough.
  • Bob Dylan--I'd limit essential Dylan to Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, and Highway 61 Revisited instead of the six albums listed here. Even so, looks like my Dylan collection's a little short. 
  • Depeche Mode--Violator is a strange choice. I'd advise Music for the Masses and Black Celebration instead.
  • Green Day--Dookie is in vinyl! It's not the only essential Green Day recording (in any format), though. Nimrod and American Idiot are in vinyl, too, and they're not on the list!
  • Michael Jackson and Prince--I'll agree with Thriller and either 1999 or Purple Rain, but unless you're especially fond of Michael Jackson and/or Prince, you won't listen to any of these three selections that much.
  •  Bruce Springsteen--somebody left Born in the USA off the list, and that's the Springsteen album of the eighties. The ones on Amoeba's list are all from the seventies or pre-MTV eighties.
  • U2--only The Joshua Tree is essential vinyl? Either the person who made up the list isn't a fan of U2 or, there is no or--U2 not on vinyl is unthinkable. Add Boy, War, Unforgettable Fire, Achtung Baby, and Zooropa at least.
  • XTC--don't see any of their hits on Skylarking so why's it more essential than anything else of theirs?
  • Queen--if you're going to have A Night at the Opera, you're going to need A Day at the Races, too.
  • Johnny Cash--I don't know why Amoeba's list includes At Folsom Prison but not At San Quentin.
  • Elvis Presley is a hard guy to talk about in terms of essential LP vinyl, it depends on how much of an Elvis fanatic you are, whether you like his early works or his late, his rockers or his love songs. He wasn't an album kind of artist, he didn't live in an album kind of era.
  • Oasis--we find What's the Story, Morning Glory is on vinyl! But Definitely Maybe is, too, and it's not on the list. It should be, too.
  • Elton John--if there is one and only one essential Elton John LP, maybe it is Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, an oddity because it was released as a two-disk set. Except an essential Elton John collection also needs Captain Fantastic, Rock of the Westies, Tumbleweed Connection, and Madman Across the Water at least. 
Some of the artists on the list are limited to one and only one album and it is the essential one:
  • The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bullocks
  • Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Janis Joplin, Pearl (but if you want the Joplin trilogy you'll also need Cheap Thrills and Kosmic Blues, because she only made three records)
  • The Cars, The Cars
  • Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
  • The Mamas and the Papas, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
Amoeba, I'll be glad to do an list for you of all my "essential vinyl" records that your list doesn't have!

Friday, September 30, 2016

DVD Review: Last Cab to Darwin

Note, for photos and art:

By Lyn Jensen

California’s controversial right-to-die law recently went into effect, and the 2015 Australian film Last Cab to Darwin, which becomes available on DVD Oct. 4, questions through narrative just what the right to die means. A cab driver with a terminal illness faces a monumental choice. He can travel to a doctor who advocates for her patients’ right to die, or he can live what’s left of his life in his longtime home with someone close to him—but that comes with a different set of baggage.

The movie is based on the 2003 play of the same name by Reg Cribb, who co-wrote the script with the director Jeremy Sims. The plot hinges on a right-to-die law in the Australian city of Darwin, one that was in effect at the time the story is set, but has since been invalidated. At present there is no right-to-die law anywhere in Australia. It’s said to be inspired by the experience of an actual Australian cab driver, but is heavily fictionalized.

Last Cab is a different kind of road-trip movie. Rex (Michael Caton), cab driver in the small town of Broken Hill in the Australian Outback, gets the news his cancer is terminal. Nothing and no one can stop him from driving 3,000 kilometers to Darwin—even if it kills him—as his symptoms keep worsening. He’s absolutely determined to become the first patient that a doctor (Jackie Weaver) is seeking, so she may test her new computerized method for allowing a terminal patient to commit suicide.

Complications ensue, both on the trip and at the destination, with the doctor’s end-of-life solution proving not so simple. Supporting characters muddle the issue, and the life Rex left behind takes on new importance. There’s his caring if sharp-tongued Aborigine neighbor (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) who Rex deeded his house to before he left on his last cab drive to Darwin. They could’ve had something—maybe—but the Australian Outback is where “We don’t serve blacks,” as the Native Australians are labeled, is a legal and commonly accepted business practice. The Australia portrayed in Last Cab dictates what rights the terminally ill have, and what rights are allowed to what color of skin, too.

In the end Rex makes a choice that allows him dignity, but it may not be what right-to-die advocates make a catchphrase of. If you want to see how Rex’s last cab drive ends, you’ll need seek out a screening or get the DVD.