About “Plastic Alto” : your source for jazz, rock, art and local politics in the 650

About “Plastic Alto”. It’s a jazz reference, to Ornette Coleman’s acrylic saxophone, but also slyly but not disparagingly references my home town, Palo Alto.

My contact is earwopa@yahoo.com or just call me 305-0701. A bunch of people lately told me that they could not find this info!? (And its true that other than wordpress blog, I do not participate in “social media”. I did not own a computer until January, 2014, not counting the fact that Mr. Waller my then neighbor, owner of ERA Electronics in Los Altos and SF, father of my classmate Rob, lent me an early Mac when I was applying for ad jobs direct out of Dartmouth, circa 1988. I never bought a computer; still have not; Terry and Paul bought me this one for my 50th.

Ornette Coleman and his plastic alto

Mark Weiss can also be reached at earwopa@yahoo.com


This blog is more of a notebook wherein I keep track of ideas, and expand them slightly, than something I would imagine others to read. (As of 2015 I call this the blog with 500,000 words but no readers when in actuality it gets 50 to 100 hits per day, but that seems pretty minimal, especially spread out via “the long tail” among 1,000 posts).

At first, I tended to comment on my own posts as a type of footnoting. More recently, I post things quickly, revise quickly and often label such as “edit to add” or “edita” and generally time-stamp those updates.

I have also started contributing to Palo Alto Patch (part of AOL); seven whole-cloth new columns (on some of the same themes explored here plus so far about 35 other comments and quips. (whereas, as of July 27, 2011, I have posted about 130 times here).

(Edit to add, now there are 450 posts here and I don’t write much for Patch AOL, although I still comment there and on Palo Alto online)

There have been about 20,000 hits so far which makes me imagine a potential reader but this is still more like letting someone read my diary than actively trying to reach out for an audience or sway public opinion. Every bit helps, in terms of my wanting people I write about to find an audience.

This is a work in progress, plastic, in flux, flowing.

I am just a wave, and not the water.


edit to add, July 27, 2011: recently Ben Ratliff reviewed Tom Ze and called him “Plastic Man.” I mean to click on through to coverage of Tom Ze and Tortoise.

This is me in a cutting contest with Palo Alto Weekly’s editors Bill Johnson and Jocelyn Dong:


24 Responses to About “Plastic Alto” : your source for jazz, rock, art and local politics in the 650

  1. Mark Weiss says:

    here is a link to wiki article on grafton saxophone which it describes as “cream colored” not white. duly noted:

    also, in terms of the magic significance of 1959, i took in the double feature at stanford theater of “house on 92nd street” and “odds against tomorrow” which featured a rather jazzy score (by john lewis?) and harry belafonte fronting a jazz band.

    • Mark Weiss says:

      Great conversation this morning with Erik Lawrence, who is in a project with Allison Miller called Honey Ear, about, among other things, the possible connection between Ornette’s adoption of the white Grafton and Charlie Parker using one earlier for the Massey Hall of Toronto show, and maybe Charlie grabbed that axe out of desperation because he had to pawn his actual weapon of choice. Also, that Mingus taped the event but then over-dubbed his performance. And: Dartmouth, Williams, Alden Van Buskirk, Don Glasgo, Don Cherry, The New School, Rabbi Bernstein, Zelig vs. Forrest Gump as a shibboleth, and more. Reminded me that I had if not committed then at least mentioned I might help MTO Sly find a hit next year, and now can I help the more modest Honey Ear next spring? But also and firstly the Merge Poetry project, maybe related to Alden Van Buskirk next steps. 63 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to now 8:44 a.m — he East Coasting. I am going to send a check for a broadside printed by his, now sister rabbi in shreveport but cousin artist in Chicago, Meredith Winer I think it was. Thirty bucks and would he burn me a cd to save me from having to register with dropbox.

      • Mark Weiss says:

        i had an inkling to start a new blog called “un04k1ds” or, scrambled, “sunk 41D”: think blink 182, sum 41, stanford had a list of every number and its bands kzsu

        i was going to write 40 posts of about 500 words each no more certainly and back to front so that when it was done it would make sense… sunk 40d, sunk 39d, ..like hide and go seek.

    • markweiss86 says:

      find my picture in Webster’s under luddite: to wit, today on patch:
      Let me be the first to say that this is the biggest boondoggle in Silicon Valley history, and the most over-valued asset in the history of corporate capitalism.

      Occupy should picket in front of Wilson Sonsini.

      I’m just saying.

      By the way, what kind of reporting is this if you don’t even mention what the purported valuation would be. Are they selling, for example, half the company for that $5 billion. I liked George Packer’s phrasing, in his New Yorker profile of Peter Thiel, in which he said “well over $20 billion.” For the record, the value in the semi-fictionalized version of this company’s story, “The Social Network” was $20 when the movie was released, according to the movie, and $40 billion when the movie was pulled. Even that, to hype a project so that it doubled in value, made the movie the most successful of all time, to create $20 billion — or were there other indicators besides the role the movie plays?

      Either way, it won’t change the kind of cheap wine that I drink or spit-take.

  2. Mark Weiss says:

    john lewis of modern jazz quartet on piano and milt jackson on vibes (belafonte’s character plays at vibes on screen). jim hall on guitar.
    not quite ornette but pretty great

  3. Mark Weiss says:

    It pops up when search-injuning “plastic” “alto” and “weiss” that Christian Weiss was an early manufacturer of not saxophones but harmonicas:

  4. Mark Weiss says:

    I am a concert promoter and artist manager, but my training was first in journalism then in advertising. I probably spend too much time with visual artists. Even worse, I stood up in public on more than one occasion to read “Howl.” If I mention someone or thing it is usually because I like, respect or admire this person or thing.

  5. markweiss86 says:

    When I label a post in the category “this blue marble” I mean “geography.” I am indirectly or imprecisely thinking of the Jimmie Dale Gilmore song “Defying Gravity” — “I live on a big blue ball….” which I had forgotten was actually a Jesse Winchester song. I presented Jimmie Dale in Palo Alto at Spangengberg Aud. in May of 2000; here is Robyn Israel’s preview of such:

    When I say “this round marble” I am speaking of “geometry” rather than “geography.”

    • Mark Weiss says:

      Saw Robbie Gersoe and Robbie Fulks at Freight last week and since Gersoe was part of the Jimmie Dale Gilmore gig I produced here I asked him about this song and he corrected me that it was a Butch Hancock song and not Jesse Winchester — I was conflating “Big Round Ball” with “Water Wave”.

  6. Mark Weiss says:

    I got this from a Dana Gioia book, and quickly confirmed it via searchinjuning to find cites by Ted Gioia and Jesse Hamlin here, but get this, Max Weiss, founder of Fantasy Records was in plastics before music:

  7. Mark Weiss says:

    Not related to polyalto.com or Groupe PolyAlto, unfort:

  8. Mark Weiss says:

    here is i think jim harrington plugging my series in palo alto weekly:
    Earthwise Productions has done quite well with young, pop-oriented jazz bands–and, hey, why mess with success? After scoring with the likes of the Charlie Hunter Quartet, T.J. Kirk, Broun Fellinis and Medeski, Martin and Wood, Earthwise chief Mark Weiss has booked the Greyboy All-Stars into the Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, for Wednesday, Sept. 11. The Greyboy All-Stars are a San Diego-based jazz unit which appeared on the “Get Shorty” soundtrack. The band features young lion Karl Denson on sax, flute and vocals.

    As Earthwise kicks into the Fall of ’96, the stakes have been raised. Weiss said that last year, the goal was to sell out one show. Now, the goal is to sell out every show. Advance tickets are $8. Tickets sold at the door will be $10. Music starts at 9 p.m. For more information, call XXX-XXXX.

    On stage

  9. Mark Weiss says:

    i don’t think i knew that i was written up on page 80 under “good works” in the nov. 27, 1999 billboard magazine, now documented and searchable on my favorite injun. I did a benefit, with penelope houston and five other acts, for, among ngos, “tracey’s place of hope” at Women’s Recovery Association, regarding Tracey Biletnikoff, whose case was back in news recently.
    the link: http://books.google.com/books?id=gggEAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA80&lpg=RA1-PA80&dq=mark+weiss+earthwise&source=bl&ots=-EtfTHF4s1&sig=PB5ZmMwyJXPRlRtmg0F5AUGmaG0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pYUnT7SeGsvUiAKo6InRAQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAzgy#v=onepage&q=mark%20weiss%20earthwise&f=false

  10. markweiss says:

    ok i am still really clueless on the use of the web or context — i write these more to organize my own thoughts than to reach an audience — but while looking for a link to Fernanda Castellos the sailor I could not help but check out a different Ferndanda Castellos — the injun made me do it — and or her friend I guess Abigayle, who has 500,000 hits but only one person clicked “i think she’s funny”

    more on platos allegory of the cave….

  11. markweiss says:

    i left a voice mail requesting an interview with a randomly chosen employee of Plastic Logic a venture funding startup in nearby Mountain View. I think her name was jennifer jones. i found this info via Silicon Valley Business times; a rep for them was at Philz when I was there, at a seminar or meet and greet set up by tony i keep wanting to say hawk but it is maybe wilkins.
    i said “what is your favorite local small business story of the last ten years”he said “me”. i would say noah hikens village cheese shop

    • markweiss says:

      i want to dedicate this next click of Jimmie Dale and Bill to Jennifer Jones of Plastic Logic: babe, you’re just the wave you are not the water.

      it could be “babe you are not both particle and wave”

  12. markweiss says:

    i actually applied for a job there, at plastic logic. i sent them this “about” as a cv…dont click thru us we’ll click thru u was a weird text i got — but how did they get my cell?

  13. markweiss86 says:

    Maybe this doesn’t go here at all, but Scott and I went to T-Mobil to upgrade me from Really Stupid Cell Phone to (conforming status of consumeristic adoption of mobile computer proliferation device) and he snapped a photo –from his Android, which is supposedly a term licensed from George Lucas to everybody else but I would question whether it is descriptive or property of Philip K. Dick:

    Warning: Plastic Alto is now laptop AND smart phone fully loaded. And if not mobile than at least in vague conversation with people of persons from parts of Alabama wherein Willie Howard Mays did hale, or reference a Dylan song “stuck in _ with _ blues again”. The business manager of my dentist-in-waiting is from down there.

  14. Mike Rodgers says:


    Good to see you again at Mac’s this AM.

    Here’s a link to one of my sample photography galleries on my Smugmug account:


    password: 99Blessings!

    There’s a few of my jazz music event photos: Herbie Hancock, Rhoda Scott, Lou Donaldson, Nick Payton, Jackie McClean, Gerald Wilson big band, Nancy Wilson mixed in with other photo genres.

    Ed–thanks man. Nicholas Payton played with John Ellis on an album recorded in New Orleans that I helped John get put out on Joel Dorn’s Hyena Records. I’d love to run a little gallery of your shots here in Plastic Alto...

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