The Universe and Me

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Stuff you, Bret!

Some of the very cool posters they use in Murray's office on Flight of the Conchords.

  • New Zealand: Why not? 
  • New Zealand, take your Mum
  • New Zealand: Ewe should come 
  • It's not boring in New Zealand
  • New Zealand: Like Scotland but further
  • New Zealand: only 18 hours from New York
  • New Zealand: Don't expect too much - you'll love it!
  • New Zealand: It's Not Going Anywhere
  • Woolcome to New Zealand
  • New Zealand: It's not part of Australia
  • New Zealand: Come visit us down underer
  • New Zealand: It's better than Old Zealand
  • New Zealand: Cool!
  • New Zealand... Rocks! 
  • New Zealand: Like Lord of the Rings
  • New Zealand: 100% further than you think. 
  • New Zealand: Worth a go

Monday, April 25, 2016

Escape now, hug later

Movie: Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens. Pretty sure I'm the last person in the universe to see this, but if that's not true: spoiler alert. What I've liked about Star Wars from the original was how it puts you right there. I've always felt like it could truly be happening and that's not an easy feat for SF. This episode had lots of action, excellent repartee (especially between Leia and Han, some between Finn and Poe), old characters we liked, new characters we like or fear (what kind of makeup and/or lighting did they use on Adam Driver? He hardly looked like himself. Maybe it was the hair gel.) One particular unfortunate event I didn't like. Harrison must not want to continue in the franchise which is a real bummer because no one has the same swagger, snarky attitude and clever lines. A horrible loss to the future movies and, knowing Star Wars's past "daddy issues" themes, rather predictable. The Rey character is a good addition, however Kiera Knightly twinny at times. I really liked Maz but fear she may have bit the dust. It was not clear. Finn has we'll see potential, though it's a bit disconcerting he was raised/trained to be a storm trooper and his original name was FN-#. Really? Effin? Luke did not show up until the last couple minutes which made me wonder how much Hammill got paid for that. Like, five dollars? And he didn't even have any lines. Not one word. Could have at least said. "Thank you." I say bump him down to four dollars. Maybe three fifty.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Separated at birth?

Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat
and Jimi Hendrix?

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The world is going to put you under the spotlight

Movie: Spotlight. 2016 Academy Award winner for Best Picture. Before viewing, I was concerned this would be cringe-worthy due to the subject matter but they avoided showing personal experiences in favor of focusing on the journalism involved. As in: discovering a news story, investigating it, finding leads, corroborating evidence, gathering facts. How a story develops from idea to publishing. Underlying that was the theme of the power of the Catholic Church. Priests revered to the point of deification, their thoughtlessly breaking sacred vows and laws, the church's decades or longer systematic cover up, and what seemed like a nonchalant attitude of oh well, these things happen. Unanswered may have been questions like: What leads anyone to this? and If priests were allowed to marry, would these crimes nearly stop?

Friday, April 01, 2016

There's surely something to it all

When I first bought Steve Hackett's second solo record, Please Don't Touch, it was back when cassettes were replacing vinyl. So I bought the cassette. Back then, a lot of record companies didn't add much packaging so only the song titles were listed on the little slip of paper inside the case. I've listened to this record so many times since then but never knew many details about it. Thanks to the marvelous world of the internet and especially Wikipedia, I decided to learn more.

Side one starts with "Narnia," obviously based on CS Lewis's book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and features vocals by Steve Walsh and drumming by Phil Ehart, both of Kansas. The band, not the state. The song was considered to be released as a single but Kansas's record company wouldn't allow it. Sad, because it's catchy and cheery enough to have been a big hit. "Carry On Up the Vicarage" is a tribune to Agatha Christie with Hackett on vocals, however distorted, so he's singing both very high and low at the same time. The lyrics mention many ways one could die, particularly if one was a character in a Christie novel. I always thought the second line was "People die from circumstance all the time" but it is "People die from sudden strokes all the time." Lots of effects in this song: choir, musical box, glockenspiel, church organ, laughing gnome, distorted echo at the end. "Racing In A" is the fastest and rockiest song on the album and one that I often find playing in my head, even if I haven't heard it for years. The lyrics (again sung by Walsh) describe getting away from it all, to the sun in the warm country air. Always a dream of  mine! After 3:50 the rock part ends and the guitar plays a classical finale.  "Kim" is an instrumental inspired by Erik Satie's "Gymnopédie No 1" and Hackett's then wife, Kim Poor. His brother John plays flute. "How Can I?" is a slow folk ballad with Richie Havens's smoky deep voice singing. Apparently Hackett and Havens met in 1977 when Havens opened for Genesis. Hackett wanted to work with him and brought up the idea. I didn't know that this song was released as a single, complete with a video with  Hackett and Havens. Was it not released in America?

Side two starts with "Hoping Love Will Last" featuring R&B singer Randy Crawford who Hackett saw perform in a bar in Chicago. Hackett wrote this for Genesis but wanted a female singer for it, so the band couldn't use it. Hackett said: “It was the kind of song that I wanted to do that could become a standard, that even Frank Sinatra could sing.” The guitar at the end moves into "Land Of Thousand Autumns," an instrumental ending with a drum fill that moves into "Please Don't Touch" which was also written for Genesis but they rejected it. The song was apparently a variation on a theme in "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers..." "Please Don't Touch" is driven by a bass pedal that John Hackett hammers with his fists. Add hypnotic keyboards and Chester Thompson's driving drum beat. Hackett advised: “For maximum effect this track should be listened to as loudly as possible with as much treble and bass as your system can muster. - Not to be played to people with heart conditions or those in severely hallucinogenic states of mind.” Steve and John then play a merry tune as duet of flute and guitar in contrast to the rest of the piece. Steve wanted to include "Please Don’t Touch" on Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering. The band rehearsed it but the others rejected it. "The Voice of Necam" carries on with an organ and noises of whirs and steam. The computer enters and grows louder, pushing all other instruments aside until the guitar plays a calm, classical piece that moves into the last song, "Icarus Ascending" where Havens again guest vocals.  He is accompanied by choirs, a flute solo by John and an ensemble of instruments.The song fades away, like walking into the sunset or a cloud.

Kim Poor designed the album cover after visiting a shop in London that sold old automats and toys. It portrays a Victorian couple attacked by wind up dolls, small robots and other toys in a toy shop, and inspired a scene in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner where Harrison Ford's character is attacked by living toys.