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Archive for the ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ 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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[LISTENED TO: September 13, 2017] Believe Me

When I saw that Eddie Izzard had a book out I was pretty interested to read it.  I have loved his stand-up since 1997 or 1998 and I was lucky enough to see him on his Circle Tour (on the date they recorded it!).  I have been keeping up with his career and trying to see him in whatever he does (although I like my comedy more than drama and he has certainly made the shift towards drama in recent years).

I thought an autobiography or memoir by him would be pretty interesting (even if he claims to be boring).  But when I saw that he read the audiobook, I knew I had to give it a listen (even if it was 12 discs)!

Amusingly, there was a long delay at the library.  The lady at the counter (who is not the librarian–we librarians know the difference) said if I knew his voice, I could just read the book to myself in his voice.  It was an amusing thought, and I possibly could do that, ….yes, but Eddie’s voice is just so fantastic that it never would have worked properly.  Plus, he throws in easily an extra hours worth of footnotes and rambles that aren’t in the print book!  That’s right, an extra hour’s worth of nonsense if you do the audio.   True you don;t get to see the pictures, but it’s a fair trade-off.

Well the book finally came in and I had plenty of driving time to make short work of this 12 hours behemoth.  And I laughed and laughed.  And cried and cried.

Because while Eddie Izzard is an action transvestite (transgender, now) and one of the best stand-ups around, he is also an extremely warm and thoughtful person. He worked very hard to become the success he is.  And he has used his fame to do some absolutely wonderful things for humanity–including raising millions of dollars.  Not bad for an atheist who is sometimes in girl mode and sometimes in boy mode. (more…)

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sticiceSOUNDTRACK: NEIL INNES-Tiny Desk Concert #127 (May 11, 2011).

innesNeil Innes is one of the musical voices of Monty Python and The Rutles.  He is also the creator of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.  I was delighted to see that he did a Tiny Desk concert.

In addition to creating clever songs, he is big into wordplay.  So, he has some great statements before starting:

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen here and viewer.”

“It’s wonderful to be.”

“You know, not so long ago and its been very lucky for me.”

He plays his perhaps most well-known song, “I’m the Urban Spaceman” on guitar.  It is wonderfully surreal (at the end he describes it as a medley of hit).

For “Democracy” he play a tiny ukulele.  This song is not funny (well a little).  It is political, straightforward and pointed.

For the final song, he play The Rutles’ “I Must Be In Love” (with appropriate accent).  He tries to get everyone to sing the really high Ooooh note and then gives up.

And then he’s gone.  It’s delightful.

[READ: August 10 2015] Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream

By this point (the fourth book) the Stick Dog series has gotten a little predictable.  I mean, basically the dogs want to get food right?  But Watson still manages to keep the stories funny.  I see that for this book the illustrations are “by Ethan Long based on original sketches by Tom Watson”  I have a hard time believing that Watson was too busy to draw these very simple figures, but whatever.

I also find it hard to believe that these dogs have never tasted ice cream before–surely they have scavenged a wrapper somewhere.  But best not to think too carefully, right?

because it is summer time and it is very hot.  The dogs are all looking for something to cool them off.  They go out in search of a nice cool water source.

But the best parts of the story are when the dogs get distracted.  On the way for water, Poo-Poo smells something.  They hope it is hot dogs or pizza, but it is…a squirrel.  Stick Dog is afraid of this because Poo-Poo will be not let the squirrel go.  But Stick Dog convinces him to leave it.  And they are off. (more…)

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june23SOUNDTRACK: MONTY PYTHON-“Rock Notes” (1980).

mpThis skit (more of a monologue) comes from Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album, the first Python album I ever bought.  It’s not my favorite bit from them, but it’s short and wedged in the middle of the rest of the album which means that I know it by heart.  Now, the skit is most famous for naming Toad the Wet Sprocket (Eric Idle says he tried to come up with the most absurd name he could think of and there it was).  The band featured Flamboyant Ambidextrous Rex who fell off the back of a motorcycle.

What I tend to forget is that the rest of the joke is all about one band Dead Monkeys who have just broken up again.  They were together for ten years, but for nine of those years the band had other names.  Primarily, the names are fishy: Dead Salmon, Trout, Poached Trout in a White Wine Sauce, Dead Herring.  Then they ditched the fishy references for Dead Loss, Heads Together, Dead Together and ultimately Helen Shapiro.

This extended riff is rather silly and I’m not even sure it’s appropriate for a joke on bands.  I can’t think of many bands who have broken up and reformed under new names (I mean, yes, there’s a couple, but not enough to warrant this extended joke).

And yet, I still remember the joke, so it must be something, right?

What do I think of Dead Duck? or Lobster?

[READ: September 16, 2014] “Liner Notes”

This Shouts & Murmurs piece begins so strongly that I was super excited to read it.  Saunders riffs on liner notes in albums, specifically failed albums.  His liner notes are for the album 2776: A Musical Journey Through America’s Past, Present & Future which is just another attempt to “engage with the vast sweep of American history” via the musical epic.

The best joke is citing Meat Loaf’s “Ben Franklin Makes Love in a Foggy Grove of Trees” (which failed to translate to live performance).  [I would totally listen to that song].  He then talks about a Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber production of “Johnny Tremain” which was too intellectual for a nineteen-seventies audience.  But I feel like Saunders goes off track when, instead of staying with the slightly absurd realism, he jumps the shark by saying that the songs were too risqué “for a staid culture that, at that time, still believed that babies came when you left a pastel turtleneck rolled up in a wad overnight.”  It broke me right out of the exaggerated realism into the realm of outrageous farce.

Which is a shame because returning to real artists like Tom Waits making a biography of Jesse James called “A White-Trash Rambling Christ Figure Just Shot Your Brother, Amigo” is pretty darn funny. (more…)

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44SOUNDTRACK: WNYC SOUNDCHECK GIG ALERTS (2009-).

soundcheck There are so many places to listen to free music.  But i prefer places where you can (legally) download free music.  So here’s a place I’ve just discovered: WNYC Radio’s website which features a section called “Gig Alerts.”  The feature talks about a different interesting band playing that night (in New York).  After a small blurb, there is (almost always) a free downloadable track.   There’s twenty listings per page and 86 pages.  Do the math and that’s a lot of songs.

The feature covers virtually every genre, although there is a preponderance of alt- and indie- rock (mostly lesser known bands).  If you are interested in new (to you) music and in exploring different artists, this is a great resource for a ton of free music.  So, check out Gig Alerts here.

[READ: May 20, 2014] McSweeney’s #44

I was pretty pleased with myself when I got caught up on the McSweeney’s issues.  But I remember wanting to take a break when this one came in.  I now see it has been almost a year since I read the last issue.  So the break was too long and now I have three issues to catch up on again.  Sigh.  But this one proved to be a great issue to return on.

This is a pretty quintessential issue of McSweeney’s.  It’s got letters, some fiction, a special section dedicated to Lawrence Weschler (which includes a lot of art), and a cool, interesting section of plates with full color art.  It’s also got an interestingly designed hardcover with a kind of raw cardboard in the back, a slightly raised colorful section for the spine and then a further raised section for the giant 44 on the front cover.

LETTERS (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-Legend (1984).

I’m white, so that means I own a copy of this CD (according to the book below).  And I do, because it’s mandatory in college that you play “Jammin'” at every party.

Now, I like ska (yup, still).  I know that ska came from reggae, but to me reggae is just boring ska.  I couldn’t agree more with Barney on How I Met Your Mother:

Ted: Oh, get this, she plays bass in a reggae band. They’re having a show this Friday. How cool is that?

Barney: Oh, does she know that one song? Mm-hm chaka, mm-hm chaka. What’s that song called? Oh, right, it’s called every reggae song.

Although in fairness, listening to this again, it is a rather nice album (I guess I know every song).  I have a personal aversion to some of the really overplayed songs, like “One Love” (because if you go to any Caribbean location they all act like it’s the official slogan of hot weather.  We even have a Christmas ornament from St. John that says “One Love”  WTF?  And I don’t think anyone needs a 7 minute version of “No Woman No Cry.”

But some of the lesser played its (“Could You Be Loved” and just about anything with The Wailers backing him are pretty great).  Although I’ve got to admit I can’t take more than a few songs.  I had to skip through some of the last songs (thank goodness I don’t have the 2 disc version).

[READ: July 26, 2012] Whiter Shades of Pale

Christian Lander created the blog Stuff White People Like.  It was very funny (it hasn’t been updated since Feb 2011, so let’s assume it has run its course).

Lander had released a first book of SWPL back in 2008.  I didn’t read it (blog to book deals were overwhelming in 2008), but I had seen enough of the site to assume it was funny.  One of the funnier jokes when the blog first came out was wondering if the creator was white or not.  (Well, the author photo gives that away, but I won’t).

We grabbed this book at a Borders going out of business sale (sorry Borders, you are missed).  This book continues where the first book left off (I gather).  I don’t know if every entry from the blog made it into the book (the thanks at the end of the book lead me to think not), but I have to assume most of them made it (and maybe there is new stuff in the book too?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK-“Interjection” (1975).

I can’t get over how much information I learned from School House Rock.  And, conversely, how kids don’t have exposure to this kind of educational material.  In part because it’s not made anymore, but also because we TiVo everything, so there’s no interstitials.  I’d love to be able to insert some of these into their shows that they like.

Interjection has got to be one of the best of the bunch (I have a top ten which is very different from the Best of CD that came out–where’s Verb?).  We were listening to this CD in the car the other day trying to get them excited about the songs (which definitely work better with the videos).  But since Clark’s story has an interjection, this was the obvious choice.

Relive the glory:

Darn.  That’s the end.

[CREATED: June 2012] The Book of Hi’s

Today is Clark’s 7th birthday!  Happy birthday, sweetheart!

I have told my kids that if they tell me stories, I will make them into books for them.  I even have a digital recorder if they want to recite stories that we can make together.  They are always coming up with stories that their toys play (mostly about jail and monsters and whatnot), but they don’t seem to want to record them for posterity.

Then one day Sarah and the kids were doing a craft that involved writing out stories (Sarah had stapled pages together).  Clark wrote this story.  And it cracks me up, primarily because I know he thinks it is very funny, but also because it is weirdly funny (if ever there was a kid who was almost ready for Monty Python, it’s this one).

He wrote it out very fast on one page of the book, so I decided to make a proper book out of it.  For your enjoyment, I present, in full, The Book of Hi’s. (more…)

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