Monday, July 31, 2017

Music Monday ~ Picking Pockets, Russia and.....who?

What do these two songs have in common, other than a passing relevance to, erm...well, current news stories - need I say more?

From Russia With Love

Gotta Pick a Pocket or Two

Both were written by Lionel Bart, whose birthday would have been tomorrow,
1 August, he was born in 1930, died in 1999.

SNIPS from an obituary, by Tom Vallance, in The Independent:
The piece begins:
IF HE had written only Oliver!, the composer Lionel Bart would have earned an honoured place in the history of British musicals, but he was far from a one-show wonder. His other work included shows such as Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be and Maggie May, plus many pop songs including "Living Doll" (Cliff Richard's first No 1 hit), Tommy Steele's "A Handful of Songs", Anthony Newley's "Do You Mind?" and Matt Monro's "From Russia With Love".

He epitomised the start of the Sixties in Britain, which he uniquely captured in song and spirit, and he was one of the few composers to deal uncondescendingly with the working classes, transposing their life styles and vernacular to the musical stage. "Nobody tries to be la-de-da or uppity, there's a cuppa tea for all," sings the Artful Dodger to Oliver, while Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be remains a time capsule of a world in which folk talked of their "birds" amd their "manor" and dreamed of being able to afford furniture that was "contempery"......
 Lionel Bart with John Lennon

Bart also epitomised the Sixties in a less happy way - like many who flourished in that era he was seduced by sudden success into a world of drink, drugs and hedonism, squandering his money and his youth.

Bart was one of the 11 children of an East End tailor. He was born Lionel Begleiter, in 1930, and he had no formal musical training. He displayed a flair for drawing, however, which brought him at the age of 16 a scholarship to the St Martin's School of Art in London....He worked in a silk-screen printing works and commercial art studios before an attraction to the theatre brought him work at the left-wing Unity Theatre, where he worked as a set painter. He started writing songs in response to a sign asking for musical material for one of the theatre's productions. Unable to write music, he would tap out the melody with one finger and someone else would orchestrate it.

The rest of the obituary is an interesting tour through Bart's career, ending with:

Of all the people I know in this business who have had ups and downs, Lionel is the least bitter man I have ever come across. He regrets it but, considering that everyone else has made millions out of his creations, he's never been sour, never been vindictive.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said, "Lionel's genius has in my view never been fully recognised by the British establishment. The loss to British musical theatre caused by his untimely death is incalculable."

Lionel Begleiter (Lionel Bart), composer, lyricist and playwright: born London 1 August 1930; died London 3 April 1999.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Serving of Friday, Saturday & Sundries

A couple of slivers of arty-farty:

Meet painter Pollyanna Pickering, an internationally renowned wildlife artist and environmentalist. Her birthday is this weekend, she was born on 30 July in 1942.

And (with Hat-tip to Avedon's Sideshow)
If Norman Rockwell painted African-American culture today. -
By Jake Johnson [9 pictures by Sam Spratt]

A pouring of politics:

Jon Walker has written about an interesting plan to rectify US's failing health insurance system:
Here’s A National Single-Payer Health Care Plan That Would Work.

A soupçon of astrology:

Back in 2008, just for fun, I Just for fun, I coined twelve collective nouns (you know, similar to "a murder of crows", "an exaltation of larks"), for each zodiac sign, for possible descriptive use in a natal chart where a cluster of planets appear in one zodiac sign, alternatively, for those attached to Sun sign astrology, to describe a group of people who share the same Sun sign.

A rush of Aries
An affluence of Taurus
A chatter of Gemini
A nest of Cancer
A parade of Leo
A proficiency of Virgo
An arbitration of Libra
A collusion of Scorpio
A magnification of Sagittarius
An institution of Capricorn
A metamorphosis of Aquarius (I did write that in 2008, but now prefer An innovation of Aquarius)
A mirage of Pisces

And to pull together the whole caboodle:
A cadence of zodiac signs!

A whiff of words: at The Bureau of Linguistical Reality

A trickle of TV:
We've lately been watching the 10-part series Ozark, starring Jason Bateman (who also co-directs), and Laura Linney, plus a cast of interesting character actors.

Most reviewers compare Ozark to Breaking Bad, I can see why, but for me it felt more akin to Justified, due to its rural, mid-America, background location with lots of attendant quirkiness as well as criminality in local residents. Bateman plays Marty Byrde a cool-headed wheeler-dealer financier from Chicago who, with his early-on murdered partner, had been laundering (and skimming) drug money through their business. He escapes, with his family, to an area of Missouri around Lake of the Ozarks, in the hope that supposedly less-sophisticated (in the ways of finance) locals with be easy to entangle in the money laundering lark away from the FBI's gaze. The laundering must carry on, in order to protect Byrde's own life and those of his (cheating) wife and two (fairly obnixious) teen-ish offspring. He'd thought Ozark locals were going to be unsophisticated in the ways of crime - he had some fast lessons to learn. Some locals could give him a run for his money - quite literally too!

While Ozarks isn't quite up to Breaking Bad or Justified standards, all in all it's not bad, and better than many other offerings available at present. The series could have used a wee bit of lightness to contrast so much darkness, the odd joke or touch of wit, a one-liner or two would have helped anchor the tale in viewers' memories.

The dish garnished with ~

A pinch or two of Pratchett
Most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally evil, but by people being fundamentally people.

Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.
~ Sir Terry Pratchett.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mid-week Movie ~ Desierto and Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Around a couple of weeks ago (HERE) I was scribbling about allegory and mentioning how it is often used in movies - sometimes without simple-minds like mine being aware of that intention, until prompted. I, all unknowingly, happened upon this circumstance again last week. As a change from undiluted Netflix we decided to rent a handful of DVDs from our local video store. One of these, chosen purely due to its leading man, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, turned out to have been allegory.

We first came across Jeffrey Dean Morgan (hereafter referred to as JDM) in his part in the later seasons of The Good Wife when he joined the cast to play an investigator, and a new love interest for leading lady Julianna Margulies. Very engaging, thought I! He'll go far! He has, but in what I consider the wrong direction - but then, I'm old, what do I know?

I backtracked in JDM's career and found on Netflix (or maybe Amazon?) a series in which he had played the lead in 2012/3: Magic City. We watched both seasons of that - not bad! He was sans beard back then, and a tad heavier I think. I also read that he had a minor part in Grey's Anatomy (season 9) but so far we've not caught that one, not being big fans of hospital series. However, though JDM has said, in interview, that he could probably have spent his career playing romantic-comedy-type roles, when he was offered a change he gladly took the opportunity to widen his range. He has now played, and quite unromantically I guess, The Comedian in Watchmen and Negan in The Walking Dead. In Desierto, the movie I began to write about earlier, before falling down the JDM rabbit hole, JDM is the arch-villain.

I wasn't expecting to actually enjoy Desierto or admire the character JDM depicted, but decided I ought to sample this one to catch up with the arc of his career, as my stomach would probably not take kindly to either Watchmen or The Walking Dead.

In a nutshell, and basically that's what the theme of Desierto amounts to - a nutshell's worth of plot, with a very nasty nut in the lead! "Sam" [Uncle?] is a seriously obsessed murdering vigilate-type who lives near, or stalks around, the US/Mexico border, with a beautiful dog called Tracker, who has been cruelly trained (I blame not dogs - ever!) Tracker will, by the way, before the film ends, comply with my "Rule of Dog in Film".

David Sims' review in The Atlantic: Desierto Is a Horror Movie for the Age of Trump is a good and, for me, an enlightening read as to the film's allegorical intention. Maybe the heat is getting to me, but I hadn't connected the vigilante's name, Sam, to the US iconic avuncularity thing.

Jonas Cuarón’s film sees a racist vigilante stalking and murdering Mexican migrants as they cross the border. Sims' review begins:
The premise of Desierto is simple, and blunt. A truck full of Mexican migrants, attempting to cross the U.S. border illegally, is attacked in the desert by a lone gunman. For the next 90 minutes, the truck’s occupants are hunted by this demented figure toting a sniper rifle, a horror-movie villain who mumbles to his dog about keeping his country safe. If the metaphor seems obvious, well, it’s supposed to be — the Mexican director Jonas Cuarón has manifested a villain out of recent anti-immigrant sentiment, and is terrorizing viewers with it.

Desierto is not a good movie, but it’s an interesting pop-cultural footnote, especially given its release in the final weeks leading up to a U.S. presidential election in which Donald Trump seized the Republican nomination partly on the back of his extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s a horror movie first and foremost, although not a particularly original one.
Later in the piece:
Perhaps that’s Cuarón’s larger point — that viewers can reconcile themselves to this awful violence, especially when it’s presented in a genre format via an action thriller playing out in the landscape of a wide-open desert. But the film’s battle lines are drawn so quickly, and its point made so unsubtly, that it’s hard to go much deeper. Yes, the rhetoric of politicians like Trump, who tar Mexican immigrants as monstrous rapists and murderers, is worth investigating, and Cuarón’s obvious anger over it is both palpable and understandable.

But because of its one-note message, this film isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind about anything. Desierto succeeds in portraying the savagery of racism, but in the end, it’s completely cold.
Without at first being aware of the wider, allegorical, intention of the movie, I hated Sam anyway, which was the whole simple point of this movie. I suspect that JDM was offered the part of Sam due to the rather unromantic reputation he has been gathering from Watchmen and Walking Dead - obviously not from his yummy, and rather believable character in The Good Wife! Sadly, it seems that JDM could go the way of another of my early romantic favourites, Bruce Willis, with whom I fell in love aeons ago in Moonlighting; then fell out of love with a clatter after seeing him in his Die Hard evolution - as well as discovering that, politically, he's a Republican supporter. I don't know whether a similar fate awaits JDM, but I shall be watching for clues and evidence!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Enter Anthony Scaramucci (And Exit Scaramucci -see update below)

By now most people in the USA will have become aware of the name Anthony Scaramucci, President Trump's newest addition (at the time of writing!) to his team. Scaramucci is to be the new Communications Director for the Trump administration.

I spent some time reading around to get an idea about the kind of guy Scaramucci is - or is seen to be by those who've met him. By all accounts he's charismatic, practical and charming - and that alone makes a change! He's a smooth talker, Harvard educated wealthy financier and entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, but did come from a Long Island working class background of Italian immigrants.

With new WH  Press Secretary, Sarah  Huckabee Sanders
A few other boxes ticked in his favour: several of his political opinions do not chime with others in Trump's administration. Some of his old Tweets show that he has embraced several liberal-leaning policy stances during recent years, just as President Trump did before he committed to running as a Republican. "I am not a partisan just practical. I voted for Clinton and Obama", Scaramucci wrote on Twitter in November 2011. He has also supported gun control, gay marriage, and unlike his new boss, Scaramucci believes the climate is changing. "You can take steps to combat climate change without crippling the economy. The fact many people still believe CC is a hoax is disheartening", he wrote in March 2016, weeks after the GOP primaries started. (See Washington Examiner, HERE).

I had to chuckle at the astrology reference while reading these paragraphs from a piece by Jessica Pressler, Long on Trump


When, to everyone’s disbelief, Donald Trump actually won the presidency and became someone to take seriously, so did Scaramucci. Since the election, Mooch’s stock has been way up: Yahoo Finance named him its “Wall Streeter of the Year,” despite the fact that his flagship fund had been performing poorly over the past two years. He has been a constant presence at Trump Tower, squiring bigwigs to meetings with the president-in-waiting. When I found him mixing a margarita for himself in an empty bar downstairs at the Hunt and Fish Club, his face still waxen with makeup after a day on TV, he told me it’s about to go even higher.

“Scaramucci, Exploring Government Post, Weighs Sale of SkyBridge,” he said triumphantly, reading a headline from Bloomberg off his iPhone. Then he launched into a sequence of stories about the first time he saw The Godfather (he was 8) and his uncle Orlando’s Perry Como impression, before returning to the subject of his new position.

“So I said to Vice-President Pence, who was here tonight,” he went on, “I said, ‘I’ll do whatever the hell you guys want.’ I know you probably think that’s, like, me being passive-aggressive,” he said to me, “but it’s not, it’s me being even-keeled. My best service to him is acting as a fair broker for the situation, because what happens in Washington is they will stab you right in the chest with a smile on their face. It’s like the Game of Thrones and the Hunger Games screenwriters got together with the writers of House of Cards and they made a story. And the other thing I have learned about these people in Washington, Nelson,” he said, turning to his partner, who had settled in at the bar, “is they have no money. So what happens when they have no fucking money is they fight about what seat they are in and what the title is. Fucking congressmen act like that. They are fucking jackasses. Do you know how many congressional liaisons we are going to have? I don’t either, but I told Pence, it should be four times whatever Obama had. I don’t know how many he had, but I’m telling you that didn’t work out. I’m telling him if you want to decrease the government, you gotta increase it in certain ways. Pence was great, right, you met him, Nelson, he was great.”

He suddenly stopped and squinted at me. “How old are you?” he asked. “You look good. No lines on your face. What are you, a Sagittarius?”

I told him I’m a Leo.

Scaramucci nodded approvingly. “Fucking king of the jungle!” he said, lifting his drink.

Which leads me neatly into Anthony Scaramucci's own natal chart - it has to be set for 12 noon as I haven't, yet, found any time of birth for him. He was born on 6 January 1964 in Long Island, NY.

He's a triple Earthy Capricorn (Sun, Mercury and Mars) - that's not at all surprising with his business and Wall Street background. His natal Venus and Saturn are next door in Aquarius, fairly close together, close enough to be termed conjunct in fact. Bear in mind here that Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, and also rules Capricorn. Therefore his Earthy Sun's ruler, in the Airy sign of Aquarius will modify, somewhat, both traditional Capricorn attributes and traditional Aquarian attributes.

Scaramucci's Moon in mid-Libra, at noon, means that whatever time he was born, Moon would have to be somewhere in charming Libra. I see this reflected in his facial characteristics - he's an attractive guy with, by all accounts, an attractive personality. I'm surprised not to find any Gemini planets in his chart, as he seems to be a good communicator (he'd better be - in this new position in the White House!) Perhaps he has either Gemini or Virgo rising.

Natal Jupiter (planet of expansion and publication) is in Aries, and in a helpful sextile aspect to Venus in Aquarius; interestingly these two sextiled planets also link by 150 degree aspects (quincunx) to conjoined generational outer planets Uranus and Pluto in Virgo. Bearing in mind that Uranus is modern ruler of Aquarius, the usual scratchiness of the quincunx, with Venus, could be somewhat softened by this sextile with Jupiter. I'm not sure, though, exactly what to make of this Yod formation, with its apex at Pluto/Uranus in Virgo. The Uranus/Pluto conjunction was signature of many of the born-in 1960s generation.

I'm guardedly optimistic about President Trump's latest addition to his team. It will be interesting to watch Mr Scaramucci's progress, or lack of same. I've read that both Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus were against his appointment - and Sean Spicer appeared to resign because of it. Perhaps their reasons were related to a dislike of the socially liberal attitudes Scaramucci has hinted - or maybe they are simply jealous of his good looks and charisma!

Hey - but it's Music Monday!

I forgot to mention, above, that Anthony Scaramucci's nickname among his friends is "The Mooch" - there's a jazz number with the same name (+ an "e"):

The Mooche - Duke Ellington


UPDATE 31 July 2017

EXIT Scaramucci!

Well, well, well...that didn't last long! I'm quite disappointed.

From (and we certainly are seeing plenty of variety!)

President Donald Trump is removing Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, just 11 days after he was announced for the job.

“Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best.”
Scaramucci was under fire after the New Yorker published an expletive-filled conversation he had with one of its writers, Ryan Lizza.

Sanders told reporters that Trump felt that Scaramucci’s comments were “inappropriate.” She said that Trump did not want to “burden” Kelly with a communications director who reported to the president, not the chief of staff.

Scaramucci was not scheduled to officially begin his job until Aug. 15.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Taking the 5th (House, that is!)

 Leo by Ronald Searle
The Sun is about to leave zodiac sign Cancer and begin its transit through the sign of Leo. Leo is associated with astrology's 5th house. 5th house represents, among other things, childhood and child-like activity.

We all, no matter how sophisticated or knowledgeable, retain remnants of childhood/child-like fantasies within our nature. As this summer progresses and nothing at all in current news cycles has much ability to improve a dismal mood, it might be wise to simply "5th-house-it", at least for a short interval, before heading back into the gloom.

Authors of books intended for children often had timeless wise advice to offer, for us all, whatever stage of maturity we have or haven't reached. The following wee snippets always cheer me during times of worry, and wondering about what could possibly come next:

Think (laterally) about A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh ~~~

'Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?'
'Supposing it didn't,' said Pooh.
After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.

It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

The old gray donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

Then think about the Sesame Street story:

There's a Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

Grover is horrified to learn that there is a monster at the end of the book, and begs the reader not to finish the book, so as to avoid the monster.
Fearful of reaching the end of the book, Grover constructs a series of obstacles, such as attempting to tie pages together and laying brick walls, to prevent the reader from advancing. Increasingly frightened (and also in awe of the reader's strength at overcoming the obstacles), Grover pleads with the reader to stop reading as the book nears its conclusion. However, the monster turns out to be Grover himself, making the story self-referential.

OR: the Harry Potter tales~~~

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light." - Albus Dumbledore.


If You Give a Moose a Muffin, by Laura Joffe Numeroff ~~~

If a big hungry moose comes to visit, you might give him a muffin to make him feel at home. If you give him a muffin, he'll want some jam to go with it. When he's eaten all your muffins, he'll want to go to the store to get some more muffin mix.


But, it's always good to remember that:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ From Hopper House to McMansions to Rapunzel & Pringles

The Sun will soon leave zodiac sign Cancer, for this year, but before it does I notice there'll be an important American painter's birthday anniversary tomorrow, that of Edward Hopper. I've blogged about this artist on three past occasions: HERE, HERE and HERE, between 2007 and 2013. Today I'm drawing attention, again, to just one of his works:

The House by the Railroad (1925)

Edward Hirsch wrote a poem about that painting, it begins:

The House by the Railroad

Out here in the exact middle of the day,
This strange, gawky house has the expression
Of someone being stared at, someone holding
His breath underwater, hushed and expectant;

This house is ashamed of itself, ashamed
Of its fantastic mansard rooftop
And its pseudo-Gothic porch, ashamed
of its shoulders and large, awkward hands......

Full poem can be read HERE

It ends:

...This man will paint other abandoned mansions,
And faded cafeteria windows, and poorly lettered
Storefronts on the edges of small towns.
Always they will have this same expression,

The utterly naked look of someone
Being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
Again, and can no longer stand it.

I was reminded of this particular Hopper painting after spending much time nodding and chuckling though a website/blog McMansion Hell. There's a section devoted to the 50 States of McMansion Hell, where the author, Kate Wagner, has begun taking readers through the architectural horrors and decor mis-demeanors of high-priced modern mansions in each US state. There are also sections devoted to architecture, McMansions 101, history, as well as some of general arty-farty type interest. A visit is highly recommended. From the home page, to access heading links to all the good stuff available, just click on the three little lines in the very top left-hand corner of the screen.

Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad wasn't, of course, a McMansion, but many of today's over-priced, piles, filled with pretensions to opulence and historical relevance do owe a lot to similar styles from decades past - it's just that they their designers didn't know when to stop - or where!

I've wondered if, in decades long past, builders used a common catalogue of styles available as "sets" - a bit like a Lego set. The customer would pick one from the "menu" and could also order from a list of "sides" - as happens in restaurants. Perhaps the same things happen today, in the case of McMansions, but menus now have a wider variety of sides, and McMansion customers have bigger appetites and fatter wallets.
 "Rapunzel Towers"

 McMansion "Pringle Can of Shame"
As we drive around, just through some of our neighbouring "fly-over" states, we often spy much older houses, either left unoccupied, or currently owned by people of fairly modest means, sporting what we've come to call "Rapunzel Towers"; Ms Wagner calls these "Pringles Cans of Shame". Kansans, especially, during past decades, seem to have had a liking for this "side" of architectural kitsch.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Doggedly Plodding through the...

Dog Days. The Old Farmer's Almanac, a venerated publication first on the streets of the USA in 1792, tells that we in the Northern hemisphere are currently experiencing "the dog days" of summer - summer's hottest, most sultry days, spanning dates between mid to late July and mid to late August, depending on source, but generally around a 40-day span. Whichever dates are involved there's a link to the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of Sirius, known as the the Dog Star from its Latin name, Canis (=dog) Major.

Movements of the star Sirius have been noted by inhabitants of planet earth from as long ago as records exist - and probably long before. Sirius is a binary star system composed of Sirius A and Sirius B; there's supposition of a third star involved, but no proof of this. Sirius shines brightest of all bodies in the night sky. In case of difficulty pinpointing Sirius just look for the three stars in a row, forming Orion's belt, extend the line southeastward - there it is.

For some lucky people the dog days of summer are welcome - like a friendly cuddly puppy, eager to be taken for walks. For others (we in south-west Oklahoma included) the dog days come on, often in triple digits, more like a snarling, angry guard dog, ready to adversely affect any who dare cross the line. But, as Jonathan Swift once wrote/said:
"Every dog must have his day."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

From Summer of Love to Mars (and back?)

Another 2017 anniversary has been noted by several writers and columnists this month: the so-called Summer of Love's 50th. Here's one writer's take on it - Todd Gitlin: Summer of Love and Rage.

Hippie-dom, and Summer of Love were something I only read about, back in England, and, otherwise engaged in my own throes of marriage, separation and frustratingly attempting divorce in an era when it was nowhere near as easy as it is today. I did fleetingly enjoy a few of the LSD-induced songs drifting through my transistor radio, but back then the other side of the Atlantic seemed as far away as Mars - and as alien.

Commenter "Rodmacd", in a thread below the linked piece had this to say:
The hippie era was pretty brief. The Summer of Love, followed 2 years later by Woodstock; thought, with breathless anticipation, to be an "OMG, What's Next?!" event -- and, as we all now know, "next" turned out to be a few years of a whole lot of not much until the hippies traded in their tie-dyes for tie clips and pasted over their "War is not healthy for Children and other living things" bumper stickers with ones that read "He who dies with the most toys wins". Mighty Mammon took a shot or two back then, but it rallied strong and remains the heavyweight champion of the American Dream.

Oh - and speaking of Mars... dragging myself back to 2017 again, here's an interesting piece by Tyler Losier:

The race to the red planet: How NASA, SpaceX are working to get to Mars.

Well then...speaking of space travel, and potential future ways to do it, or aid it: here's another interesting piece, this by Tom Spender:
Teleportation: Photon particles today, humans tomorrow?

As the always quotable and much lamented Sir Terry Pratchett once wrote:
“This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier. (Except that of course you can't have a final frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier to, but as frontiers go, it's pretty penultimate . . .)”
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Monday, July 17, 2017

Music Monday ~ GUEST POST

GUEST POST by "anyjazz" (my husband)

I felt badly about not caring for rap performance because it destroyed my status of being able to enjoy and appreciate all forms of music. I finally rationalized, “How can anything be music if it is not musical?”

Most (and I feel safe in saying “most”) rap performance is merely inflammatory, profanity-filled, roughly rhyming couplets, set to a rhythmic background of raucous and thumping sounds. It is seldom musical.

How can that which is not musical be termed “music”? Simply put, rap is not music.

I don’t know what it is. Some kind of performance art I suppose.

And there’s something else that worries me: We hum and whistle the songs and music of our youth. That’s what makes them so eternal, so legendary to us. Just what are people going to be humming 20 years from now? It’ll be slim pickings surely. Will it be “bomtiddy bomtiddy bomtiddy bom”?

I have pawed through the cut-out bins, the pawn shops and the abundant thrift stores for cast out and cast away recordings, 8 track, cassette, 45rpm, LP and now CD. Years of doing this taught me (among many other things) that the music that is temporary and disappointing in our lives ends up there in the discard bins, reverting to dust.

Sometimes it was heart-throb entries like David Cassidy or Michael Parks there in the bins. Or maybe classical albums like Ravel’s Bolero or Handel’s Messiah orchestrated and played by small town bands in Europe or Alabama somewhere and bought from magazine ads. There were stacks of stand-up comedy albums, played once and never touched again. I found lots of vanity albums from show-biz personalities hoping to supplement their income in the music business. But, “William Shatner Sings?” or Robert Mitchum’s “Calypso is Like So” although treasures to the collector now, were turkeys when released. The used boxes contained albums by one hit wonders and head bangers. Never a Sinatra, never a Brubeck. It was seldom any jazz album would appear in the charity shop or garage sale. A used Charlie Parker album? Get real.

Today what do you find? Rap CDs. Lots of them. LOTS of them. It seems they do not stand up to repeat plays. The rap protagonists listen to the recording once and then move on. They must. Apparently there is not enough pith in the helmet to wear it repeatedly.

Of course in any art there are exceptions to every premise and medium. I make no judgments here; it’s only an observation.

Since the advent of recordings, one generation of parents grew up listening to jazz and show tunes. That was the popular music of their time. They listened to songs with fine poetry and indelible melodies. They also carry the guilt of the “Charleston” and the “Lindy Hop” and other dances of that ilk.

Along came Bill Haley and Little Richard. Parents were wary because they couldn’t understand the lyrics and thought the dances too sexually symbolic. Turns out they were right and well … wrong. Rock didn’t promote sexual activity any more than the crooners and the snuggle dances of the ‘40’s.

Rap is not the same story. The older generation may just be completely right. The current younger generation may just be the victims of the emperor’s new clothes. The next BIG thing might just be the cash-cow of corporations, eager to exploit the markets with a product that is transitional and must be replaced often; another edition of the planned obsolescence ploy, geared to selling the same product over and over.

The jury is still sequestered on that and ordered Gulf Shrimp today. It's going to be a long session.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Week That Was... or wasn't

I cannot bring myself to even think, never mind write, about the never-ending feeding frenzy the mainstream media has been engaged in for months on end. I don't give a flying fnyeh if Donald Jnr. interacted with a Russian, or if Donald Snr. has Russian business ties, a peculiar handshake, or...whatever. So, I shall concentrate on my personal week; it included a rare visit, one afternoon, to our local cinema.

Wonder Woman, or any superhero tale, wouldn't usually be our choice of fare, but a chance to get out of the house and into another cooled environment for a few hours was tempting. The film had gathered some good reviews, a quick read of its theme wasn't too disagreeable, so off we went. We were the sole audience members for a late afternoon showing of Wonder Woman. The movie is in its second, maybe third week here, maybe everyone else has already seen WW and moved on to Spiderman Homecoming, Transformers or Despicable Me 3.

Wonder Woman, we decided, on the way home, isn't bad, and it's message and heart is definitely in the right place. Too long, though - trimming around 20 minutes off its 2 hr 21 mins run-time would lose little of importance.

The film's first segment gets into some fairly shallow waters of Greek mythology, so as to "begin at the very beginning...a very good place to start" (as Julie sang in a long ago blockbuster). We meet WW, real name Diana, as a small child. We also meet WW's mum, Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, and her mother's sister, General Antiope. They live on the mythical isle of Themyscira. The Amazons, all female, all gymnastically adept and A+ grade in self defence, were created by the gods of Mount Olympus, allegedly to protect humankind. Ares (aka by Romans as Mars) god of war, who we shall be meeting later, killed all the other gods, but was struck down by Zeus, his father. More at Wikipedia.

A couple of time jumps bring us to the year 1918, when Diana, by now a beautiful young woman, rescues American pilot Captain Steve Trevor from the sea, his plane having crashed off Themyscira's coast. And...we're off! Off to war - the one we know as World War I - and to find Ares who, Diana knows instinctively, has to be at its source.

There are some mildly funny exchanges, between WW and Steve the pilot, and others in the 1918 scenario at various points, as WW encounters human nature at its worst, but also at its best. Some more serious exchanges come later between Ares and WW, as he explains to her why humans must be destroyed because of their many and varied failings. They are a failed experiment, he declares. WW does not fully disagree but also points out that humans are capable of good things too, as she has experienced, and there is a choice they all make, some good, some bad - importantly not always bad. She adds that it's love, and only love, which will save them (us!)

So, you see, though this movie might be a tad shallow in places, a tad overdone, though cleverly and stylishly so, the message young (and older) audiences should receive is a good one - the best, in fact. Gal Gadot, as WW, was excellent by the way - I doubt there'd be anyone, anywhere, who could better portray the Wondrous One, in looks plus athletic ability.

Also this week, and staying with the movie theme, while returning momentarily to last weekend's
mention of the re-make of Robo-Cop. The original movie was said to have had allegorical links to the story of Jesus Christ. Having now watched the Robo-Cop re-make, via DVD, I'm convinced that any allegory has been either purposely smothered or lost in translation.

The basic re-make story in the 2014 film directed by José Padilha, remains as was, with detail adjusted for modern-day sensibilities, and census requirements. Producers did not want younger viewers excluded, of course - ka-ching! See this list of horrors from the 1987 original movie. Horrific events are not entirely cleaned up in the newer version, but there's more "at a distance" viewing, and instead of the brutal beating of the cop, upon which the story rests, in the new version we get a car bomb, and can view the scene only at a distance, in the dark too.

My somewhat hazy memories of the original are, oddly enough, pleasant ones. I felt engaged and I cared about the characters. In spite of the tale's dreadful events, I clearly remember coming away with a good feeling. Not so in the case of the re-make. Even Joel Kinnaman's face under the Robo-helmet couldn't engage me sufficiently to fully enjoy the film. He's such a good, nuanced, actor, far too good for this role, which basically entails an actor lending/renting his face to the show. Peter Weller did the same in 1987 of course, but back then the film's director, Paul Verhoeven, had managed to inject more warmth, humanity and eventual good feeling into the story.

For a good assessment of all the differences between the 1987 version of Robo-Cop and the 2014 version see THIS article at Screenprism.

Neither Weller nor Kinnaman could have driven the movie's "feel" one way or t'other from their swaddled-in-metal situation. I look forward to seeing Joel Kinnaman in future roles commensurate with his talent.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Wenceslaus Hollar & His Etchings

 Portrait of Wenceslaus Hollar by Jan Meyssens
Wenceslaus Hollar, (1607-1677) Bohemian etcher whose works are a rich source of information about the 17th century. His work is still much appreciated by connoisseurs. He illustrated a number of books and produced the celebrated Views of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Some 3,000 plates are credited to him. He died in extreme poverty.

By the 17th century it had become established practice to issue books with engraved title pages and portraits. The process required a different printing process and led to an increase in the use of the copper plate press. The popularity of etching in Britain was predominantly due to one man, Wenceslaus Hollar, who was born in Prague. He arrived in Britain as a member of the household of the Earl of Arundel, one of Charles I’s Ministers of State who was a great patron of the arts. Less than 10 years later both the Earl and Hollar had to flee due to the Royalist defeat in the Civil War.

More at:

Hollar was a contemporary of famous astrologer William Lilly. His portrait, from Hollar's etching:

As for Hollar's astrology, there's a question mark over the exact date of his birth, according to our modern calendar:


I've taken a quick look at both dates, Sun remained in Cancer, Moon could have been in Cancer too on 23 July. I like 23 July chart for Venus in Virgo - that Virgo practicality and meticulous attention to detail would be needed in etching on copper plates, and Saturn in Capricorn (whichever date is correct) also echoes the kind of solid practical application etching on copper would require.

As well as illustrations of London and portraits of the so-called Great and Good, Hollar produced several etchings relating to traditional fables, which are referenced, still, in the 21st century:

The Fox and the Sick Lion is one of Aesop's Fables: "fable against trust in kings" - SEE HERE

"The implications of accepting the State’s desired monopoly of violence are perhaps best illustrated by one of Aesop’s fables "The sheep and the Wolves" " - See HERE:

The Belly and the Members is another of Aesop's Fables and is numbered 130 in the Perry Index. It has been interpreted in varying political contexts over the centuries. Wenceslas Hollar's illustration from John Ogilby's version of the fables, 1668. (Wikipedia)

There's a nice explanation of this fable at a blog called Rock Your Paper SEE HERE.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tag Lines

Seen last week in local supermarket car park:

As it happens, neither do I!


I like this one, an oldie but goodie

Now yer talkin'! Impeachment, then, would have been really something to wish for!