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Archive for the ‘Douglas Adams’ Category

Terry Jones [1942-2020]

Terry Jones died last night at age 77 because of complications from a rare form of dementia.

I was a huge Monty Python fan back in the day.  I’ve seen all the episodes (even the German ones) and the movies.  I have the records and the books and just about everything they’ve done.  They influenced me terrifically.

Terry Jones was a founder of Monty Python and while I tended to not think of him as my favorite on screen person, thinking about all of the amazing characters he played over the years, I think I’ve unfairly put him too low.  Especially as I think of some of the most quotable lines and how he either said them or was in the skit that spawned it (wafer-thin, anyone?).  Not to mention he did some of the best women’s voices in the series.

Most of the Pythons have been slowing down as of late, which is to be expected.  I was supposed to see John Cleese live recently but my plans fell through. Terry Gilliam is making some unfortunate comments in the media lately.  Eric Idle seems to always be about.  Michael Palin has been doing fantastic work travelling and writing no-fiction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEODATO-Prelude (1973).

I know this artist because of Phish.  For years I thought that they “wrote” the discoey, funky. super cool version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” which they play at a lot of shows.

I should have realized that the “Deodato” in the credits was the actual arranger of this cool piece, but I guess I never really thought about it.  I’ve no idea where the realization came to me, but once it did I decided  to check out the album from which it comes.

It turns out that Deodato is Eumir Deodato de Almeida (Brazilian Portuguese: [ẽʊ̃ˈmiχ djoˈdatu]; born June 22, 1942) is a Brazilian pianist, composer, arranger, and record producer, primarily in jazz but who has been known for his eclectic melding of genres, such as pop, rock, disco, rhythm and blues, classical, Latin and bossa nova.  Prelude was his first album released in the U.S. (released when he was 31) and eighth overall.  In addition to making over 30 albums, he has also been a producer and arranger on everything from Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” to Bjork’s albums PostTelegram, and Homogenic

“Also Sprach Zarathustra” begins with twinkling and guitar noises for 30 seconds before the 5-note funky keyboard comes in.  And then about a minute in the horns join to create the familiar Richard Strauss “Also Sprach Zarathustra” crescendo.  Even though that melody is barely a minute long, this version is 9 minutes long with a lengthy funky keyboard solo occasionally punctuated by horns.  It then switches to a more rocking sound with a 70s sounding guitar solo.  It really never loses the funk for the entirety of the piece.

“Spirit Of Summer” is a slow moody song that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a noir film with slinky horn lines and jazzy bass.  I love the opening and how it then switches to an almost easy listening string section before adding a mellow keyboard solo and a surprising very fast flamenco guitar solo as well.   The song is only four minutes and ends with a flute solo and then a return to the opening horns.

“Carly & Carole” is an easy, mildly funky jazzy number.  There’s lead flute combined with the keys that push the song along.

“Baubles, Bangles, & Beads” is a jaunty five-minute romp that sounds like it would have been very popular at swinging parties in the 1970s.  There’s more flute and keys and two lengthy wild Santana-like guitar solos that run through to the end of the song.

“Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun” opens with a mournful flute that sounds a lot like the weird Snoopy interludes when he is the World War I Flying Ace in the old Peanuts cartoons.  The melody is quite nice and is then repeated by several instruments throughout the piece.   After 2 minutes it tuns into a swinging jazzy number with a flute solo and wah wah guitars and a bright trumpet solo.  I see now that this piece was done by Debussy and this is another arrangement.  It is not used in Peanuts although Schulz does reference the song in a strip.

“September 13” ends the disc with an upbeat funky song with groovy bass and keys and wah wah guitars.  There’s a wild mildly distorted guitar solo with fun effects put on it.  It’s a fun way to end an album that is short but really captures a moment in time.

[READ: September 3, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole Book 2

I accidentally read Book 3 before Book 2.  I am embarrassed that that happened because I am a librarian and I should know better, but I checked on Goodreads and must have read a paperback reprint pub date and though that book 3 was in fact book 2.

Having read book three I basically knew a lot of what happened in book 2.  But primarily this is because in book 3 they make offhanded comments to things they did in book 2.  Incidentally, while I was reading book 3 I thought it was a really fun, bold move on the author’s part to reference adventurers that we hadn’t read about.  That should have dawned on me but I just persisted in believing that the author was being really daring. Oh well.

Knowing what happened didn’t really spoil anything, because the book is silly and funny anyhow.

This book opens with a paneled cartoon recap of book 1.

It’s followed by a hilarious opening sequence in which Alex’s dad has become hooked on video games.  He was trying to bond with Alex over Alex’s love of video games.  But in book 1, Alex’s memory of video games is wiped out.  So now his father is playing them and Alex doesn’t really see the point.  But Alex’s father is now as addicted as Alex was. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: September 2017] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy complete radio series

The history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is almost as convoluted as the story itself.

Douglas Adams (with help from John Lloyd) wrote the radio story in 1977.  It aired in 1978.  A second season aired in 1980.

Adams wrote the novel based on the radio series in 1979.  And then the second book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in 1980.

Then they made the TV show.

Apparently Adams considered writing a third radio series to be based on Life, the Universe and Everything in 1993, but the project did not begin until after his death in 2001.  The third, fourth and fifth radio series were based on Life, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless which were transmitted in 2004 and 2005.

It’s interesting and a little disconcerting how different the radio play is from the story of the book. There are a lot of similarities of course, but some very large differences.

The first series obviously leaves a lot out from the book, since the book wasn’t written yet. (more…)

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kazam1 SOUNDTRACK: ALISA WEILERSTEIN-Tiny Desk Concert #80 (September 15, 2010).

alisaI have concluded that the cello is my favorite solo classical instrument and Alisa Weilerstein plays a beautiful cello indeed.

She plays three songs: two pieces from Bach and one from Golijov.

I can’t speak to specifics about Weilerstein’s style or skills, but she plays beautifully.

J.S. Bach: “Bourree & Gigue” (from Solo Cello Suite No. 3)
Osvaldo Golijov: “Omaramor”

[READ: May 15, 2015] The Last Dragonslayer

I have loved Jasper Fforde’s books.  His Thursday Next series is brilliant (and I plan to re-read it someday).

This is the first book of his 4 part (not a trilogy!) YA series (called The Chronicles of Kazam) and it was fantastic.

The story is about Jennifer Strange.  Jennifer is a foundling who has been working for the past four years at Kazam Mystical Arts Management.  Foundlings from The Lobster are sent for indentured servitude for six years.  She has been quite successful at Kazam and when the owner Zanarerilli disappeared several months ago (she wont say how) she has basically been in charge of the building.  Not bad for a 16 year old  (well, she’ll be sixteen in a couple of months).

Kazam is in the Kingdom of Hereford in the Ununited Kingdoms.  Kazam is the home to some of the most powerful wizards alive.  Sadly there aren’t that many left.  Magic has slowly been dying and as the magic goes so goes the fancy titles of the wizards.  And now you have to fill out all kinds of paperwork every time a wizard is going to cast a largish spell.   They are stuck doing basic magical deeds for people–lifting illegally parked cars, magically rewriting houses, etc.

Also in the house is the Quarkbeast–the most ferocious creatures every created. Well, at least he looks that way.  He is actually quite sweet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-Live at the Black Cat, October 20, 2011 (2011).

It’s interesting to compare this show by Wild Flag with their SXSW show.  This set is longer, but they retain the same raw energy and intensity.  It also sounds as though the tour has been rough on Carrie’s voice, which sounds a bit strained and hoarse (even when she talks!).

They play most of their debut album, but they also throw in a couple of new songs and even a few covers.  Perhaps the most fascinating part is the 15 minute (!) version of “Racehorse.”  There’s a lengthy noodling section as well as a cool part where Carrie goes a little crazy asking about money.

Janet Weiss is absolutely amazing here too.  And the keyboards, definitely complement everything well, but they are always the most notable flubs, and there’s the same one as in the SXSW show (not as bad, but noticeable).

Without a doubt the most interesting thing is the hearing that Mary Timony gives guitar lessons in Washington DC.  She lives there and evidently earns extra cash by doing guitar lessons.  Wow.  How cool would that be?

Check out the show here.

[READ: January 15, 2012] The Influencing Machine

Brooke Gladstone is one of two reporters who works on NPR’s On the MediaOn the Media is an awesome show which dissects things that happen in the world and examines the way the media portrays the events.  They work pretty hard to see who is reporting bias, who is exposing bias and how things are getting out to the average media consumer.  It’s worth anyone’s time to read (it doesn’t take very long).  And it’s also fun and enjoyable.  As anyone who has heard the ending of On the Media: “and edited [dramatic pause] by Brooke” knows, there’s always a smirking grin attached to the program.

When I heard that this book came out I was pretty excited to read it.  And then I promptly forgot all about it.  Lucky for me, my wife can take a hint, and she got it for me for Christmas.

The first surprise of the book is that it is written as a graphic novel–illustrations by Josh Neufeld (who has drawn for Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor).  The funny thing about the illustrations is that I have no idea what Brooke Gladstone looks like (which I rather prefer about my NPR announcers), but I really like the cartoony style of her avatar (which reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld and which inspired me to draw a kind of similar version on my drawing site.

On to the book.

This book works as a primer for understanding media ownership, media consolidation and media power.  The opening few chapters are going to be nothing new for anyone who has read Chomsky or Vidal on the media.  But since most people haven’t, it’s a wonderful way into some of these thorny issues of who tells us what and why. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK SABBATH-Vol. 4 (1972).

When I was younger I liked this Sabbath album a lot more than I do now.  There are some absolutely stellar tracks on here, but most of the songs are a rather peculiar for Black Sabbath.  It showcases ballad-y nature that Ozzy would have for some of his biggest hits twenty years later.

“Wheels of Confusion” opens the disc with a fascinating bluesy sounding guitar solo that turns into a straightforward rocker.  But, as it’s 8 minutes long, there’s a lot of twists and turns.  And it ends with a two and a half minutes of upbeat guitar soloing (with a tambourine keeping the beat!).

“Tomorrow’s Dream” opens with a rocking bendy guitar riff  but in the middle the chorus turns the song into a delicate ballad.  This is followed by “Changes” a full-on piano ballad (!).  It’s catchy, no doubt, and I loved it when I was younger, but I’m not entirely sure it passes the test of time.  This is followed by “FX” which is literally almost two minutes of echoing blips and bleeps, some of which go back and forth on the headphones.  It’s a very strange addition to any disc and is really the perfect example of “filler” unless by some chance this was majorly cutting edge at the time.

This is redeemed by “Supernaut” one of the all-time great Sabbath tunes.  It’s heavy, fast and features a great guitar riff.

“Snowblind” is a another fantastic song.  A great riff, and of course, it’s totally pro-cocaine!  How can you tell?  Well, because at the end of the first verse, you can hear a very unsubtle whisper of “cocaine.”  My, how the band has changed in just a couple of years.  This song also features a ballady mid-section.  It also features an awesome middle bit that rocks very hard (and can be summed as: don’t tell me what to do).  The drugs hadn’t deteriorated Sabbath’s songwriting yet, but give it a couple more records!

“Cornucopia” is one of the weird songs that you find on the second side of a Sabbath album.  It’s a got an awesome slow, doomy opening riff which then turns into a speedy rocker.

When I was kid I really liked “Laguna Sunrise” and I still do.  It’s a pretty acoustic guitar number (with keyboards or strings or something).  After “Changes” you’re not surprised by anything that Sabbath will throw at you, but this song is really shockingly delicate.

“St. Vitus Dance” is probably the most schizophrenic Sabbath song.  The opening guitar riff is so incredibly upbeat, happy and boppy; who knows what will come from it.  And then the verses turn dark and edgy with lyrics about a breakup.  And then the happy guitar bits come back!

The disc ends with “Under the Sun/Everyday Comes and Goes.”  It is once again another wonderfully sludgy guitar riff that turns into a fast rocker (“I don’t want no Jesus freak to tell me what it’s all about!”).  After the verses, you get this wonderfully weird guitar solo that’s like an ascending scale on acid.  Fun!  About three minutes in, it turns into “Everyday…” an uptempo rocker that’s not out of place with the other half of the song, but which does seem like an odd placement.

This disc was strangely experimental for Sabbath.  And, while it’s nice to see them not getting stuck, some of their choices were certainly weird.  And yet all Sabbath fans seem to regard this disc pretty highly (I think it’s the iconic cover that we all remember so fondly).

[READ: December 10, 2009] Unseen Academicals

Terry Pratchett knows football (soccer)??!!  In all the years of Discworld books, I don’ think there has been any mention of football (or even any sport).  Who knew he had a 400 page book about football in him?

Oh, and what is wrong with US book publishers?  Look at the utterly lame US cover at the top here.  First of all, the book is about soccer…why are they reaching for the ball with their hands??  Second, look here at this awesome UK cover by Paul Kidby (the official illustrator of Discworld).  Does he not have publishing rights in the US?

American readers, check out this cover.  It is awesome!  It gives you the whole cast, it gives a wonderful graphic of just what you’d be up against when you play this team.  Look, there’s the Librarian!  And, of course, the drawing is great.  Well, at least we have the internet.

But back to the football.  As with any Pratchett book it’s not just about football.  There is a whole bunch of stereotype-busting, inner-strength growing, pop-culture raspberrying, and general hilarity as well.  Oh, and Rincewind is back!  Hooray! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL YOUNG-Chrome Dreams II (2007).

I reviewed some live Neil Young releases a little while back, and now I’ve come to this, Neil’s latest release. Since he stopped making his grunge records in the nineties, he’s been releasing a lot of records that are more mellow (aside from Living with War which was clearly a cathartic outburst for him). Silver and Gold (2000) is a very pretty collection of songs, and Greendale (2003) is a fun, meandering story with some rather good songs on it. So, Chrome Dreams II is a really nice change of pace for the man of so many genres.

There’s some back story about why it’s called Chrome Dreams II, and you can read about it here if you want. But I just want to talk about the songs. The record starts off with another fantastic country-tinged ballad “Beautiful Bluebird” as heartwarming a song as Neil writes. But it’s really song three that is the standout track. At over 18 minutes long, “Ordinary People” is a weird piece of music for Neil. It’s a very simple song: verse, chorus, bridge, solos. It rocks pretty hard, almost like the grunge days of yore, but the horns make it seem less grungey and more classic rocky. The verses are little slices of life, the chorus is about how the folks in the choruses are all ordinary people, and the bridge moves to the solos. What is pretty impressive about the song is that it never gets tedious, even for 18 minutes. The solos are pretty interesting, and they get more frenetic as the song goes on, but there’s also solos from the horn section (yup, the song has horns, too). My favorite part of the song is the seemingly tossed off feeling of it. The backing vocals don’t really keep up with the lead vocals, sometimes they’re lazily behind, there’s even some improvs from them. It just sounds like they’re having a lot of fun. And that’s good. Normally I like my 18 minute songs to have multiple parts and time changes, but this one manages to pass by on charm.

The rest of the album contains a mix of pretty ballads and unusual rockers. “Shining Light” is another strong ballad that hearkens back to the seventies for me. And then there’s “Dirty Old Man,” a totally silly song about being, well, a dirty old man. It rocks pretty hard in the way many of Neil’s classic songs do. The album then winds down with a 14 minute song that’s not quite a thrilling as “Ordinary People,” as it’s a lot more soloing. The album ends with a pretty song sung with what seems like a children’s choir, “The Way,” which is cute and never descends into mawkishness.

It’s an album that’s all over the place, and yet those differences really make the set versatile and interesting. It’s a really enjoyable collection. It seems that with every new release, people always talk about how Neil is washed up. It must be hard to live up to the glory days of the classic period. And yet, I find his newer releases to be very enjoyable, too. I can’t help but wonder, if you’re Neil Young, you pretty much have to recognize that your all time classic songs are behind you. I mean, he has songs that people still love that are over 30 years old. So, it’s probably okay to sit on your laurels a bit. He still turns out good solid records every couple of years. So, is it possible he’s saving up another “Like a Hurricane” or “Ohio?” I was delighted with the passionate outpouring of Living with War, and am delighted with Chrome Dreams II. I just can’t help but wonder if it’s even possible to write a song now that lasts 30 years.

[READ: March 14, 2008] The Book of General Ignorance

Why is it that UK covers (the one on the right at the top of the post) are so much more interesting than US covers?

(more…)

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