Famous Last Words


“They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” Johnny, the jerky brother taunting his sister in the cemetery where he will eventually join the undead.

I first watched Night of the Living Dead on a big screen TV at my aunt’s house on Long Island. Summers there were spent watching slasher movies rented by my aunt at the urging of my older brother who fancied himself a fan of the genre and even an amateur filmmaker whose contribution was footage of me lying in a pool of blood, poured from a jar of La Choy sweet and sour sauce. I was a reluctant viewer who watched the movie with my hands held over my eyes like blinders, peeking out of the corner of my eyes when I thought it was safe, only to quickly divert my gaze from the stampede of zombies feasting on human flesh.

Things haven’t changed much. I recently saw the movie last Halloween for an outdoor screening but despite my advanced age, I still watched with the same wary eyes from my youth. And despite the movie’s age, which was released in 1968, the film retains all the unease borne from the realization that family ties won’t save you from a zombie’s hunger pains nor would perseverance in the presence of armed townies anxious to exterminate the undead uprising.

And last night I learned the news that George Romero, Night of the Living Dead’s brainchild and director, had died. A few hours before, I was watching this summer’s action-packed blockbuster du jour loaded to the hilt with car chases and cool catch phrases which now stood in stark contrast to the grainy, black and white film that creepily made its way into the mainstream with zombie fun runs and pre-packaged costumes for kids. A low-budget legacy that will undoubtedly, like the zombies, outlast us all. RIP George Romero.


Classic Rock

A steady stream of music fans moved towards the Toyota Center in downtown Houston where Roger Waters would take the stage for his US+Them tour accompanied by Lucius, a two-woman team lending vocal muscle and might to Pink Floyd fan favorites and Roger’s uncompromising anthems asking the audience: “Is this the life we really want?” T-shirts sported by concertgoers provided a timeline of tours from Dark Side of the Moon to those purchased fresh from the merch table. Generations represented by groups of families, couples, and friends gathering for music they grew up with or, as in my case, music that grew on me. Music equally at home in a planetarium’s laser light show, a backyard bbq, the confines of a teenager’s bedroom, or a protest march.

Music simultaneously rooted in the past but uncannily present. The evening’s set list of Pink Floyd titles on point more than ever: Welcome to the Machine, Money, Bring the Boys Back Home, and of course, Another Brick in the Wall with Part II featuring a lineup of young boys and girls singing the chorus while wearing the unmistakable orange of inmate apparel that they shed to reveal t-shirts emblazoned with the present-day battle cry: RESIST.

Music steeped in shapeshifting where a farmyard pig floats above the audience’s head with a bank for a belly. A dog, man’s best friend, turned against him as a tool of torture and intimidation. A president transformed into a diapered, belligerent baby no one wants to hold.


The Piggy Bank of War taking a victory lap.

Music paired with mammoth-sized video screens streaming scenes of collateral damage later making the drowsy, dreaminess of Comfortably Numb less of a song and more of a statement on our own complicity. But shock turned to awe as the Battersea Power Station smokestacks separating the audience gave way and a mirrored orb shiny as a disco ball floated overhead while Dark Side‘s signature triangle sprung up like a lightning bolt with confetti showering the crowd that now was a community. Wish I was still there.




Film, Inspiration, Women

A Letter to Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman cuffs and crown

Killer accessories

Dear Wonder Woman,

I hail from the Lynda Carter era. Although the crime fighting prowess of Charlie’s Angels was more my style, I was captivated by your cuffs and crown, not to mention your makeover moves. As a little girl, I couldn’t imagine a greater superpower than spinning myself into a whole new look. But big screen debuts of beloved characters, whether from tv or comic books, are often fraught with apprehension for fans. I resisted at first – unwilling to accept that your attire was now more gladiator than glam. But the sisterhood persisted with talk of your Margaret Sanger, suffragette-inspired roots and coverage of female-only screenings with attendees sporting Handmaid’s Tale womenswear.  I now wanted to be wowed and filled with wonder with a woman at the helm of the male-dominated, summer blockbuster multiplex scene. So imagine my disappointment when you were dispatched to save humankind from ……….. the Nazis. I thought Indiana Jones finished them off in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Earth to Diana: Papa’s got a brand new nerve gas and it looks like you still got the wrong guy.  Suggesting I wait for a sequel or for your pals at the Justice League to join forces just won’t do. Women in the United States scored the right to vote in 1920. 2016 marked the first time in our history when a woman became the first presidential nominee of a major political party. That’s almost 100 years later. And instead, we got a pussy grabber for President. We don’t have time for another flashback when your high-powered accessories could be put to better use right now. Those bulletproof cuffs could come in handy the next time an unarmed black man pulls over for a traffic stop. Your shield used as a suit of armor protecting crowds from suicide bomber shrapnel.  And you might want to try wrapping that lasso of truth around a guy named Bill Cosby. Pro tip: Do not accept a drink from him under any circumstances!

I realize this is more of a demand letter than a fan letter. But I am hopeful when you shed the coiffed, curator disguise and trade in the stiletto-heeled boots for your sensible superhero footwear, your flight path will take you to the battle you deserve to fight.

Stay woke,

First Set Girl




A Note of Appreciation


Thanks for the blue eyes and Willie Nelson’s Blue Skies.

Thanks for making an early riser out of me so I never miss a sunrise or a flight.

Thanks for letting me listen to whatever I wanted on the radio without complaint or commentary. Even during awkward moments like Madonna’s Like a Virgin and my endurance-testing mixtapes featuring Malcolm McLaren’s six-minute Puccini reboot of Madame Butterfly. I thought you liked opera. You paid me back with Roger Whittaker, Glenn Miller, and Marty Robbins. Thank you for chaperoning me and my friends to see Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 show at the Summit and subsequently deciding I no longer needed adult supervision at concerts. Thank you for taking me to see the Rockets play at the Summit when they had The Dream.

Thanks for taking me and my brother to see films because they were good, regardless of rating: The Blues Brothers, The Great Santini, All That Jazz. Although Grizzly, a 1976 film about a bear on a murderous rampage explains why I have an aversion to camping.

Thanks for taking me and my brother to dim sum on Sundays and letting us order the chicken feet every single time just so we could play with them.

Thanks for buying the entire bag of caramel-pecan cluster turtles I was supposed sell for a school fundraiser but ate instead. In one sitting.

Thanks for still making sure I always have a full tank of gas. Please note, I no longer buy groceries, including beer, on my Chevron card.

Thanks for loving our bulldog, Carlyle, like a grand dog, and my husband like family. That is not necessarily in order of importance. But thanks for also being cool when Jason got arrested in front of you for selling Saints tickets to an undercover cop.

Thanks for acting as my personal weatherman, traffic reporter, and in the age of professional influencers, you are the only one who matters.

With gratitude. #IAmMyFathersDaughter




Shut Up and Smoke


I swore I caught a whiff of a clove cigarette. But since you can’t smoke anywhere anymore, the scent must have been part of the punk rock flashback brought on by being in a room full of fans waiting for the band X to play their unique blend of gritty Los Angeles rapid fire rock & roll tempered with a rockabilly soul. The demographics skewed heavily towards representatives from Houston’s Montrose neighborhood circa 1980s – a group consisting of former garage apartment dwellers, former garage band members, their ex-girlfriends, and the critter in the tie-dyed shirt who was always front row at all the good shows.

Upon taking the stage, even the former power-punk couple, John Doe and Exene, reminisced of their early days playing Houston, noting the significant upgrade in venue for the band’s 40th anniversary. The Heights Theater, a proper performance space on a street known more for antiquing than live music was opposite in every way from the bunker-like, disco ball spinning atmosphere of Numbers where the band played in 1982. However, the crowd, in a standing room only formation, responded just the same as they did back in the day, albeit without a mosh pit as no one in this 40 + years fan base was taking a chance on breaking a hip.

This was an audience singing along to every song – songs that rarely went over the three-minute mark but provided a generous pour of indignation and desolation and a really badass cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’s Breathless. Four decades later, X’s music, much like the resurgence of The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984, remains totally on point as it was in the Reagan era. We chanted the chorus “I must not think bad thoughts” like a mantra for modern times. Despite the musical message reminding us “that the world’s a mess,” cathartic exhilaration bounced back and forth from the floor to the band members: grizzly ringleader John Doe, Exene, clutching the mike in her happy homemaker on a bender ensemble, the super cool DJ Bonebrake on drums and everywhere else, and guitarist Billy Zoom who maintained an unnerving perma-grin and used his forehead as a resting spot for his guitar pick while playing the the saxophone.

Fans quickly and unobtrusively snapped photos during the brief breaks between songs but otherwise kept their electronic devices in their pockets. A scene devoid of the constant chatter dominating many recent concert experiences. This crowd’s attention remained focused on listening to music they loved played by a band who still clearly loved playing the music. A punk rock show ironically turned master class in concert-going etiquette best summed up by the t-shirt worn by a mature music fan: Polite as Fuck.

Ain’t music grand!


Note: All photos taken quickly and unobtrusively by @j.hall.yall

Set List 5/22/17