County Fair (2003) – Bruce Springsteen

I love this little known gem from Bruce. The words, the delivery and instrumentals are from someone who knows their craft. It was released as a bonus track on The Essential Bruce Springsteen record which I snapped up with much gusto! County Fair reminds me of when I was based at Creswell and visiting the nearby fair entourage. The song presents great imagery of warm summer nights, love and happiness and his low-key delivery just puts us in ease with our thoughts.

Every year when summer comes around
They stretch a banner ‘cross the main street in town
You can feel somethin’s happenin’ in the air
Well, from Carol’s house up on Telegraph Hill
You can see the lights going up out in Soldiers Field
Getting ready, for the county fair

In the thick of the Pandemic here in Bogotá I can’t help but feel Nostalgic about this track. Imagine for a second how the thousands of theatre and circus performers have been made destitute and wavering lunatics by the lockdowns? There is something wrong in all of this. My children haven’t seen a school since March last year and probably won’t see one until next year. They’ve never seen a County Fair or a Circus – at least Bruce and I have seen one.
I live in a predominantly Catholic country where I thought they learnt ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ – Matthew 18:1-3.
What is happening when authorities deny children from socialising?

Anyway, this song may make you feel like sitting at a porch on a summer night reminiscing of good times.

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Rushmore (1998) – Wes Anderson (Friday’s Finest)

I’m surprised this is the first movie to appear here on ‘Friday’s Finest’ from director Wes Anderson. His eccentric and distinctive visual and narrative styles of film-making have made a great impression on the cinema world. He has created a niche – a brand of movie art that is entirely his own invention. There are no other movies like Wes Anderson movies. He is known by many critics as as a modern-day example of the auteur. Although he hasn’t made many movies – just 9 , each of them exude that irrepressible Anderson charm of direction.

It’s to be expected that actor Bill Murray features in many of his movies because Bill’s unconventional and peculiar manner of performance aligns so well with Anderson’s vision. Today’s featured film Rushmore is one of his less well known movies, but it is a keeper. Murray out does himself in this. I think it’s the funniest I have seen Murray in a minor part. Murray may have overstayed his welcome by leading Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou where his freakish deadpan delivery seemed excessive for a protagonist, here in Rushmore Murray is used perfectly.

Max Fischer played by Jason Schwartzman isn’t the most likeable character. On the surface he seems a precocious little know it all, so self absorbed at high school that he thinks he can achieve and lead anything and anyone. Unlike his classmates who turn up to school and do the drill, he as a teen wants to make a meaningful difference in paving the lives of others towards achieving something extraordinary. Unfortunately Max is not someone gifted or insanely talented in any field and he continually fails at excelling in anything. Even to the point he is threatened with expulsion for his poor grades because of his hell-bent obsession on extra-curricular activities. Fortunately for him Max has important adult contacts and a certain charm which helps him time and time again to get out of the ruts his unfettered exuberance leads him into.

Max isn’t very likeable, but his ideals and endeavours are and as a viewer you might find yourself rooting for Max after a while. His encounters with anyone he comes into contact including his beautiful teacher Rosemary Cross played by Olivia Williams are endearing but offbeat funny in that Anderson mode. I just want to give a shout out to Olivia William’s sublime performance in The Ghost Writer which has featured here on Fridays. As alluded to above Bill Murray’s performance in this, in particular his interactions with the prematurely developed Max is something to behold.

Rushmore is by no way a movie I would expect to be liked by a mainstream audience. It seems to want to offend and be different. It has a lot of things that modern day movie cinema lacks: dry humor, distinct writing and music and a real heart. I used to think that Royal Tenenbaums (2001) was Anderson’s first good film and Rushmore a floored attempt. But Anderson’s vision requires an adjustment period.

I now would prefer to see Rushmore over Royal, as crazy as that may seem. It’s just an easier viewing experience for me. The whole Rushmore thing is seriously funny and somehow seriously real, but at the same time doesn’t always take itself seriously. The idea of the movie doesn’t come off sounding like a very captivating plot: high school geek and middle-aged millionaire fall in love with the same first grade teacher. Not exactly material for a high-grossing box office hit. But I don’t think plot necessarily matters when it comes to making a quality film.

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Countin’ on a Miracle (2002) – Bruce Springsteen

Countin’ on a Miracle is from Bruce’s The Rising record released after the attack on the twin towers in New York. This record was a dedication to the victims and survivors of that terrible day. The Rising was symbolically named to praise the heroism of the firefighters and emergency teams heading up the stairwells of the Towers before they collapsed. Until the release of the Rising I hadn’t heard much of Bruce’s music since his 1992 Human Touch record, but I thought The Rising was an amazing return to form. It was his first studio album in 7 years and became Springsteen’s first to top the US Billboard 200 since Tunnel of Love in 1987. His live Barcelona concert for The Rising is one of my favourite music concerts I like to revisit.

I’m runnin’ through the forest
With the wolf at my heels
My king is lost at midnight
When the tower bells peal
We’ve got no fairytale ending
In God’s hands our fate is complete
Your heaven’s here in my heart
Our love’s this dust beneath my feet
Just this dust beneath my feet
If I’m gonna live
I’ll lift my life
Darlin’ to you

Springsteen said he got the inspiration for the album a few days after the 9/11 attacks, when a stranger in a car stopped next to him, rolled down his window and said: “We need you now”. I was not directly impacted by the events of September 11, 2001, apart from having viewed the events (like nearly all of us) and seeing something so terrifying and evil occurring. For me the event took a long time to process. The Rising album was instrumental in allowing me to grieve and empathize with those unfortunate individuals that were directly impacted that day. Songs from his Rising record projects my mind back to the impact of the events of that fateful day.

Countin’ on a Miracle contains about the best ‘bridge’ in any song I have heard. Normally I loathe these fillers as they seem to labour the song, but in Countin’ the bridge is the part of the song I like the most. Mind you the layout of this song is unconventional to say the least. A bridge if you are unaware is a musical passage that connects two sections of a song. It could connect the verse to the chorus of a song or it might sit between the last two chorus sections to add variation. The bridge as I have presupposed here in Countin’ lifts the song into the stratosphere:

Your kiss, your kiss, your touch, your touch
Your heart, your heart, your strength, your strength
Your hope, your hope, your faith, your faith
Your face, your face, your love, your love
Your dream, your dream, your life, your life

When Bruce delves into that section (from 1:40 in the video below) it sends shivers down my spine every time. Perhaps this song is written from the perspective of someone who lost a loved one in the World Trade Center. Not knowing whether or not they’re alive and they’re praying for the intervention of some kind. And then they find out that they have passed … “There’s no fairy tale ending..” and “Sleeping Beauty awakes from her dream with a kiss from her lovers lips”. And all that remains are memories. This song is really hard to write about because of what it elicits in the mind. To be honest, I feel fortunate to be able to listen to it. Below is the version live in Barcelona:

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The Kookaburra Moment Part III (Final)

This Wednesday’s literature extract resumes from Part 2:

I realise that all things good about myself are not in me but others close to me. 

After a while Susan wandered over.
She opened the door and wiped a tear from my cheek, inspecting the wetness on her finger – surprised as I was to see it.
We paused.
She smiled, her scarlet lips and white teeth.

Susan drifted the sliding door slowly across her face staring into my glassy eyes. Then I noticed a tear running slowly down her cheek. The intensity in her eyes as she probed our long silence, I’ll never forget.

“Mummy look at this,” Jessica trumpeted.
Susan half-heartedly turned around and looked back at me longingly. Her lips motioned the words “I love you”.

She understood where I was. 

Susan rejoined the children and became lost again in kookaburra land.

The moment could have got lost. But it hasn’t. I reclaimed it. The story did not die that night. It is a picture already complete. Never forgotten. Fact. Old men forget. I haven’t. I won’t. Even though in time this family left Creswell, this place that was once ours became someone else’s. But I will never leave this moment behind.

This was finally the Good Life. A wondrous slowness of time, which can’t be undone even though the kisses are all but spent. This is how the story must end because of the realization of ‘I finally got it right’.

No matter what I do; where I go, for all the beer I drink, the people I upset and stupid things done, at least I can say to myself in the end: I once had this thing that enabled me to stand up tall and give meaning to my life.

But tonight like a lost tribe they dance without me. Gone. I let it slip this thing I had. It fell apart. It cannot come back together again. I found out, when people walk away they do so forever. 

The spell snapped and the world rushed back in.

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Cooksferry Queen (1999)- Richard Thompson

I was put onto Richard Thompson by a work colleague when I was based at Creswell (kookaburra territory) on the south coast in Australia. He was so enamoured with Richard Thompson’s music and recommended the album Mock Tudor that had just come out. I listened to it a lot, but one track that caught my attention was today’s featured song Cooksferry Queen. I still love hearing it. If someone was to ask me ‘right now’ what is my quintessential folk-country track, then it would be a toss-up between Cooksferry Queen and Josh Turner’s version of Wagon Wheel (Take 2).

From Cooks..
Well, there’s a house in an alley
In the squats and low-rise
Of a town with no future
But that’s where my future lies

It’s a secret, but no secret
It’s a rule, but no rule
Where you find the darkest avenue
There you’ll find the brightest jewel

Now my name, it is Mulvaney
And I’m known quite famously
People speak my name in whispers
What higher praise can there be

As you might of gleaned by the song’s opening above, the lyrics are exceptional. The following is paraphrased from Songfacts:
It’s a love song about a local hard man enraptured with a young woman, who most likely drank in the CooksFerry Inn, Edmonton (at which many bands possibly including Thompson/Fairport) played. To the singer the object of his desire wears “dresses that float in the wind” with “Pre-Raphaelite curls in her hair” (she’s a hippy, and he would swap his smart clothes for tie-dyed shirts and jeans if she wanted). Even more, he says she can perform New Testament miracles, to the extent “she can make a believer out of me”. It is a truly brilliant song.

Mock Tudor is the ninth studio album by Richard Thompson. According to wiki: In this album Thompson draws predominantly on the musical styles of 1960s England—the time and place of his youth. The lyrics have a nostalgic tinge and are rich with allusion to fairy tales and children’s books as well as to Shakespeare and T. S. Eliot.

By the way Richard Thompson’s son Teddy does a wonderful version of Leonard Cohen’s Tonight, Will be Fine at his tribute concert. He also appears with his father in the live version of Cooksferry Queen below.

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Contigo (2017) – Mariana Vega

Mariana Vega (born 11 February 1985) is a Venezuelan singer / songwriter. I am unaware how I came across today’s featured track, but I always love listening to it. Born in Caracas, Venezuela Mariana moved to Canada when she was 15 and learned to play the guitar. At 16 she started to write songs and three years later decided to dedicate her life to music.

She graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Industrial Relations and Psychology, and decided to dedicate herself fully to music, because she had also taken music classes there, guiding her into this profession. She first appeared at local venues, and then larger rooms.

She visited her native land to attend the wedding of a cousin, and it was there that a record executive listened to her, accompanied by an electric guitar, and asked for a demo, for his later musical production. In 2014 she received a Latin Grammy for best new artist.

Whenever I hear Contigo (With You) it provides me with a sensation of serenity – covering me like a warm blanket. Mariana writes well beyond her years and the melody is to die for. The words below are brilliant:

And I want this same soul,
so as not to forget what I learned
I want to live a thousand times and a thousand times with you
I want to live a thousand times
And when we say goodbye I promise not to cry,
it’s not goodbye or thank you very much
It is, I will find you
And I know well that some lives
They will be harder than others
Maybe it will take us more time
But that in the end doesn’t matter

Because I take my soul so I don’t forget what I learned
And it is that I will live a thousand times and a thousand times with you
Is that I will live a thousand times

(loose english translation)

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Locke (2013) – Steven Knight (Friday’s Finest)

If you just want to see one movie that demonstrates what a powerhouse Tom Hardy is as an actor then see Locke. Forget the Revenant which in he was nominated, or Mad Max, Locke is the go-to Hardy movie with respect to his acting. Why? The whole movie is set with him talking in a car. Sounds exciting huh? Hardy turns us voyeurs into emotional wrecks in no time by just watching him talk to his wife in a car. He’s the only character seen on screen, but you can’t help but be engrossed.

According to wiki Locke received critical acclaim, particularly for Hardy’s performance. It’s one of those movies where you wonder if it’s best to reveal or hide the plot. Locke is better when one goes into it without any preconceived ideas of what will take place, but what the hell – If you want just a smidgeon of an idea how seeing an entire movie a man talking in his car might actually be so entertaining, then read the following:

The evening before he must supervise a large concrete pour in Birmingham (the largest non-nuclear facility, non-military concrete pour in European history), construction foreman Ivan Locke learns that Bethan, a colleague from a job in Croydon with whom he had a one-night stand seven months before (which resulted in her becoming pregnant), has gone into premature labour. Despite his job responsibilities and although his wife and sons are eagerly awaiting his arrival home to watch an important football match, Locke decides……

The plot is best allowed to unfold at its own pace. Knight’s screenplay is tight, meticulous, and infused with low-key wit. Shooting took place over eight nights, with the crew only taking breaks to change the three cameras’ memory cards. The others heard on the vehicle’s speakerphone were recorded in real time (Locke’s vehicle and road noise included).

The weird thing is about this one scene scenario is you don’t even notice it after a while. Everything flows so smoothly and Tom Hardy’s performance completely captures everything you’d expect from this character as he’s experiencing these dilemmas – you believe every word out of his mouth and every subtle nuance in his expressions. Tom Hardy owns this movie and Locke really is the perfect vehicle (literally) for showing off his barebones acting chops.

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Congratulations (1988)- The Traveling Wilburys

The Traveling Wilburys 1988

There are supergroups and then there are the Traveling Wilburys (TW). It’s a shame they made just 2 records – Volume 1 and Volume 3. Today’s song Congratulations is the first song to appear in this music library project from them. I imagine all songs from their impeccable Volume 1 record will appear here. The Travelling Wilburys consisted of some of the greatest talent in contemporary rock history – George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.

Congratulations is sung and written by Bob Dylan and performed in his irrepressible nasally tone. This album was played incessantly in our household. I remember my mother mocking me constantly singing Congratulations by accentuating Dylan’s nasal delivery. She had me in stitches. My next door neighbour who happened to be my Geography teacher and table tennis coach at high school also played the Volume 1 record on repeat in his van driving us on long trips to tournaments. This record certified triple platinum you could argue helped revitalise the careers of Dylan and Petty.

Congratulations for bringing me down
Congratulations, now I’m sorrow bound
Congratulations, you got a good deal
Congratulations, how good you must feel

I think what I enjoy most about this song is Dylan’s repetitive delivery of Congratulations and its morbid fascination bordering on grim humor – like he’s taking the piss. Congratulations wasn’t released as a single, but it was one of 4 songs from the album which Dylan was credited as writing for the album. The others were Dirty World, Tweeter and the Monkey Man (which was apparently intended as either a parody of or tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s early, verbose songs), and the bonus track “Like a Ship”.

Since many other songs will appear from this Grammy Award winning album, I will not over extend this post. Much more will be discussed about the legendary Volume 1 album as subsequent songs pop up. If you can’t bide your time I recommend you take a look at the insightful ‘making of’ documentary about the Traveling Wilburys below, preluding today’s featured song – Congratulations.

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Stop the Press – Pierre Kory & Bret Weinstein

I have repeatedly mentioned about Dr. Pierre Kory’s pleads to congress (which were subsequently treated as Fake by Facebook and banned from You Tube) and Brett Weinstein and Heather Heying’s discussions about alternative treatment to COVID.

Now finally the two have come together to discuss the path that was taken by authorities and how Pierre’s authority and expertise was treated since the Pandemia hit. I’m unsure how much time this video will stay on You Tube since his testimony to congress has been pulled repeatedly.

As Dr. Pierre Kory says here ‘where in history has censorship been a good thing?’

For a breakdown: at 33.00 Kory talks about Ivermectin and its origins.

Ivermectin was discovered by Satoshi Ōmura. One soil sample collected near a golf course southwest of Tokyo, was remarkably effective against worms. The new compound, called ivermectin, was commercialised as a product for animal health in 1981 and soon became a top-selling veterinary drug in the world. What’s remarkable is the source, the soil in this location – you can only find it in that place. You can’t find it anywhere else.

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The Kookaburra Moment Part II

This Wednesday’s literature extract resumes from where Part 1 left us:

Susan and I peered from inside, praying the kookaburra didn’t fly away. I looked at Susan as she smeared her hand across her mouth in a vain attempt to suppress her giggles. It was the most buoyant I’d seen her. Susan watched with care, but never with a face so radiant. She was glowing. Susan normally dressed with care too. That was Susan. Rarely in jeans or sloppy jumpers. But tonight she dressed like that, hair up, no make up – lively, but at home. She even pushed me with a laugh seeing our kids. We were in the same sphere.  My eyes became as wide as hers gazing at the kids.

I was not sure if I was seeing her for the first time. May be she had been like that before, but I hadn’t noticed. Perhaps it was hidden in the dark when we first woke or went to sleep at night or when she was kissing me more than I was kissing her. Did I have my eyes closed?

The kookaburra stuttered along the wooden rail above my daughter’s arms, pitching up pieces of meat with its pointy beak and catching them halfway down its throat.  Trying to get a better vantage point suddenly Johanna fell over Jessica’s leg. The bird jolted fluttering its wings, but didn’t fly away. My heart was in my mouth. Johanna eventually leant up on her arms and muttered to us, about to sulk. Susan stood up, threw open the sliding door and ran to Joh scooping her up into her buxom chest. I wondered how the sliding door still remained on track and the kookaburra kept persisting.

I was now the gawking bird perusing the scene; their excited voices muted by the sliding door in front of me but their body language and facial expression spoke more than words. I knew “I was lucky to have her”. I reminded myself.

I glanced at the kookaburra wondering how it still felt safe. It meandered the ledge maybe frustrated by all the human commotion delaying its main course. Joh then kicked her legs against Susan’s torso. “Please put me down now Mummy”!

Mesmerised, I watched this and merged two inner parts of myself, my child and adult self. They came together at this spot. I planted my hands against the sliding door – splotching the glass. At any other time Susan’s blood would have boiled about my smearing the glass, but she was engrossed like the kids and bubbling at the kookaburra’s feather-brain antics. Every few seconds she turned to me through the glass door laughing.

I noticed her eyes welling up with tears of unbridled laughter.
My eyes became glassy too as I looked at her and the children. 

A tear rolled down my cheek. “What is this?” I asked myself.
Soon, I immediately understood. Everything has culminated up to this point in time to let me know – that this is my summit.
My Everest.

Next week Part 3 (final).

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