Bad as Me (2011) – Tom Waits

Tom Waits Bad as Me

You’re the head on the spear
You’re the nail on the cross
You’re the fly in my beer
You’re the key that got lost
You’re the letter from Jesus on the bathroom wall
You’re mother superior in only a bra
You’re the same kind of bad as me

Tom Waits BAd as Me 1Tom Waits’ Bad as Me was released on his critically acclaimed 16th album of the same name in 2011. It was also nominated for a grammy award for best alternative music album. The title track featured today was digitally released as a single on Itunes and he netted his first top 10 album.

The lyrics of Bad as Me are lean and mean, but in typical Tom Waits fashion he presents it with a feeling of loose joy and abandon. The press release at the time of it’s release stated: This pivotal work refines the music that has come before and signals a new direction. Waits, in possibly the finest voice of his career, worked with a veteran team of gifted musicians and longtime co-writer/producer Kathleen Brennan.

I like this song a lot. He presents it in an debauched theatrical manner and he even cackles after he says:
‘No good you say
Well that’s good enough for me!’
I like the pounding percussion and brash guitars. It’s a self affirming song, that’s resolved in the character he has constructed although he’s still keeping himself fresh.
Someone described in the you tube comments below: ‘He’s like a stray cat who was transformed into a man by a genie or a shaman’.

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The Man From Earth (2007) – Richard Schenkman (Friday’s Finest)

The_Man_from_Earth

Imagine you are at an impromptu farewell party for a work colleague and it becomes a mysterious interrogation and the retiring scholar whom you are fare-welling reveals he has a longer and stranger past than you could possibly imagine. The Man From Earth contains one of the most original movie concepts I have ever seen. The screenplay was conceived by Jerome Bixby in 1946 and completed on his deathbed in April 1998. After Jerome Bixby’s death, the script was given to Richard Schenkman to direct on a $200,000 budget. The film was shot in 8 days after a week of rehearsals. The whole movie was shot using 2 Panasonic DVX100 camcorders, which probably explains the overall grainy look of the film.

The problem with reviewing this movie is that I cannot reveal the big mystery and the less said about the plot – the better. The good news is – the movie is available free on you tube (see below). Watch the first 10 minutes and I am confident you’ll be glued to the screen for the rest. There are two other recent low budget independent movies which I admire for their originality much the same way as I do The Man From Earth, namely Another Earth and I-Origins. They all have a science fiction bent, but are not slotted easily into that genre. You could class them as humanist-evolutionary in their exploration of ideas. This trilogy above all else challenge conventional ideas of religion and make us rethink our place in the world.

According to wikipedia: The Man From Earth gained recognition in part for being widely distributed through Internet peer-to-peer networks, which raised its profile. The film was later adapted by Schenkman into a stage play of the same name. The producer Eric D. Wilkinson publicly thanked users of BitTorrent who distributed the film without express permission, saying that it lifted the profile of the film far beyond the financier’s expectations; he encouraged fans to purchase the DVD or donate.

The Man From Earth is one of the most unusual movies I have ever seen. I have watched it countless times and I am already in the mood to see it again. The story always pulls me in like a Black Hole and I find myself wanting more and more.

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Posted in Movies and TV

Backstreets (1975) – Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen 1975

No other Springsteen song springs to mind which encapsulates more fervently the idealism and escapism of youth than Backstreets. It is one of my favourite songs from my most cherished Bruce Springsteen album – Born to Run. It is the second song to appear from The Boss in this music library project. I was so taken aback by Born to Run (the album) I wrote a lyrics booklet in my youth of the whole album complete with a little nice string to thread the pages together. Lyrics weren’t so accessible back then like they are today, so I transcribed what I thought he sung as if I was doing something unprecedented. I felt like a devoted scribe of a great musical sermon.

Backstreets was released in 1975 and concluded side one of the record. The minute long piano introduction by E Street band member Roy Bittan is undoubtedly my best-loved introduction of a Springsteen song or just about any song for that matter. It seems to operate on this theatrical level and elevates the song beyond just that pertaining to rock n roll garb. Actually the whole album has this delineating theatricality which sets it apart from the standard.

Around this time when the album was released Springsteen was already being anointed as the future of Rock’n roll and Bob Dylan’s successor. Interestingly wikipedia states: The melody and organ (of Backstreets) bear some resemblance to “Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan, an influence of Springsteen’s. Rolling Stone claims that it echoes mid-1960s Dylan, especially the organ part reminiscent of Blonde on Blonde.
I personally don’t see the connection, but it’s wiki and Rolling Stone – so what the hell do I know? But I’ll give credit where it’s due because Rolling Stone rated Backstreets to be the sixth greatest Springsteen song of all time, which is just about where I’d have it.

Below are two interpretations of Backstreets from songfacts which I found interesting:

  1. Asked where this song came from in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Springsteen replied: “Just youth, the beach, the night, friendships, the feeling of being an outcast and kind of living far away from things in this little outpost in New Jersey. It’s also about a place of personal refuge. It wasn’t a specific relationship or anything that brought the song into being.”
  2. Terry is a female character in the song. It is about Diane Lozito, who was Springsteen’s girlfriend from 1971 to 1974. She is also Sandy in 4th of July, Asbury Park, Crazy Janey in Spirit in the Night and Rosalita. Her parents were not so thrilled that Springsteen was a musician. Her mother did not want her to move in with Springsteen. Her father was himself a musician, but he said that “All musicians are bums”. There is a line in Rosalita:Now I know your mama she don’t like me ’cause I play in a rock and roll band. And I know your daddy he don’t dig me but he never did understand.This is were the ‘Hiding on the Backstreets” comes from. It is about a relationship that starts a friendship, but later evolves to love:One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends …In the late 70’s Springsteen used to play Backstreets live with an interlude that later became the song ‘Drive All Night’. This is known as the ‘Sad Eyes’ interlude. In this version it is very obvious that Backstreets is not just a song about friendship and loyalty, it is a song about friendship that becomes love and about the struggles to maintain the relationship.
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Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes (Introduction)

Don Quixote.jpg

I am currently reading Don Quixote. It was recommended to me by the bookstore clerk who stated it was the greatest book in Spanish literature. His opinion isn’t without company as wikipedia affirms that Don Quixote is the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. A founding work of Western literature, it is often labeled “the first modern novel” and is sometimes considered the best literary work ever written.

Don_Quijote_and_Sancho_Panza

Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré.

It was published in two parts in 1605 and 1615.  The plot revolves around the adventures of a noble (hidalgo) from La Mancha named Alonso Quixano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind and decides to become a knight-errant (caballero andante) to revive chivalry and serve his nation, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. He gets caught up in a fictional world created by his imagination and truly believes that not only is he a knight, but the inns he encounters are castles, the prostitutes are princesses, and the windmills are… giants.
The context is important here because, at the time of the novel, chivalry romances like Amadis De Gaula had become so popular in Spain that monarchs of the time feared the influence of them on the impressionable minds of young people. Cervantes responded by writing a parody of these knightly adventures.

To set the scene for today’s book quote – Sancho and Don Quixote fall in with a group of goat herders. Don Quixote tells Sancho and the goat herders about the “Golden Age” of man, in which property does not exist and men live in peace. The goatherders invite the Knight and Sancho to the funeral of Grisóstomo, a former student who left his studies to become a shepherd after reading pastoral novels (paralleling Don Quixote’s decision to become a knight), seeking the shepherdess Marcela. The following monologue by Quixote about what it means to be a ‘Knight Errant’ provides an illuminating, albeit amusing insight into the mindset of our protagonist. Also anyone unfamiliar with the novel will gain an appreciation of Don Quixote’s audaciousness; the tone, writing style and humour of this classic novel.

Vivaldo asked Don Quixote what was the reason that led him to go armed in that fashion in a country so peaceful. To which Don Quixote replied, “The pursuit of my calling does not allow or permit me to go in any other fashion; easy life, enjoyment, and repose were invented for soft courtiers, but toil, unrest, and arms were invented and made for those alone whom the world calls knights-errant, of whom I, though unworthy, am the least of all. “The instant they heard this all set him down as mad, and the better to settle the point and discover what kind of madness his was, Vivaldo proceeded to ask him what knights-errant meant.

“Have not your worships,” replied Don Quixote, “read the annals and histories of England, in which are recorded the famous deeds of King Arthur, whom we in our popular Castilian invariably call King Arturo, with regard to whom it is an ancient tradition, and commonly received all over that kingdom of Great Britain, that this king did not die, but was changed by magic art into a raven, and that in process of time he is to return to reign and recover his kingdom and scepter; for which reason it cannot be proved that from that time to this any Englishman ever killed a raven? Well, then, in the time of this good king that famous order of chivalry of the Knights of the Round Table was instituted, and the amour of Don Lancelot of the Lake with the Queen Guinevere occurred, precisely as is there related, the go-between and confidante therein being the highly honourable dame Quintanona, whence came that ballad so well known and widely spread in our Spain.

For never sure was any knight
So serv’d By Damsel, or by dame,
As Lancelot, that man of might,
When he at first from Britain came:

With all the sweet and delectable course of his achievements in love and war. Handed down from that time, then, this order of chivalry went on extending and spreading itself over many and various parts of the world; and in it, famous and renowned for their deeds, were the mighty Amadis of Gaul with all his sons and descendants to the fifth generation, and the valiant Felixmarte of Hircania, and the never sufficiently praised Tirante el Blanco, and in our own days almost we have seen and heard and talked with the invincible knight Don Belianis of Greece. This, then, sirs, is to be a knight-errant, and what I have spoken of is the order of his chivalry, of which, as I have already said, I, though a sinner, have made profession, and what the aforesaid knights professed that same do I profess, and so I go through these solitudes and wilds seeking adventures, resolved in soul to oppose my arm and person to the most perilous that fortune may offer me in aid of the weak and needy.”

By these words of his the travelers were able to satisfy themselves of Don Quixote’s being out of his senses and of the form of madness that over mastered him, at which they felt the same astonishment that all felt on first becoming acquainted with it; and Vivaldo, who was a person of great shrewdness and of a lively temperament, in order to beguile the short journey which they said was required to reach the mountain, the scene of the burial, sought to give him an opportunity of going on with his absurdities. So he said to him, “It seems to me, Senor Knight-errant, that your worship has made choice of one of the most austere professions in the world, and I imagine even that of the Carthusian monks is not so austere.”

“As austere it may perhaps be,” replied our Don Quixote, “but so necessary for the world I am very much inclined to doubt. For, if the truth is to be told, the soldier who executes what his captain orders does no less than the captain himself who gives the order. My meaning, is, that churchmen in peace and quiet pray to Heaven for the welfare of the world, but we soldiers and knights carry into effect what they pray for, defending it with the might of our arms and the edge of our swords, not under shelter but in the open air, a target for the intolerable rays of the sun in summer and the piercing frosts of winter. Thus are we God’s ministers on earth and the arms by which his justice is done therein. And as the business of war and all that relates and belongs to it cannot be conducted without exceeding great sweat, toil, and exertion, it follows that those who make it their profession have undoubtedly more labour than those who in tranquil peace and quiet are engaged in praying to God to help the weak. I do not mean to say, nor does it enter into my thoughts, that the knight-errant’s calling is as good as that of the monk in his cell; I would merely infer from what I endure myself that it is beyond a doubt a more laborious and a more belaboured one, a hungrier and thirstier, a wretcheder, raggeder, and lousier; for there is no reason to doubt that the knights-errant of yore endured much hardship in the course of their lives. And if some of them by the might of their arms did rise to be emperors, in faith it cost them dear in the matter of blood and sweat; and if those who attained to that rank had not had magicians and sages to help them they would have been completely baulked in their ambition and disappointed in their hopes.”

References:

Don Quixote wikipedia
Emily May book review (Good Reads)

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Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 – Heitor Villa-Lobos

Heitor_Vila-Lobos_(c._1922)

Heitor Villa-Lobos. Conductor, cellist, pianist, and guitarist described as “the single most significant creative figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music”. Villa-Lobos has become the best-known South American composer of all time. – wikipedia

Today we explore Brazilian composer’s Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 of his 9 suites written between 1930 and 1945. Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 was scored for soprano and orchestra of cellos and is the most famous of his suites. Villa-Lobos made a number of recordings of the Bachianas Brasileiras, including a complete recording of all nine compositions made in Paris for EMI in the 1950s, with the French National Orchestra and Victoria de los Ángeles (recording provided below) as the soprano soloist in the no. 5 with 8 cellos.

The musical form is embolada (a rapid poem/song) of the Brazilian Northeast. It is a poem of nostalgia for the birds of the Cariri Mountains, in the state of Ceará. The lyrics contain a list of species of birds: ben-te-vi (Pitangus sulphuratus), sabiá (Turdus fumigatus), juriti (Leptotila rufaxilla), irerê (Dendrocygna viduata), patativa (Sporophila leucoptera), cambaxirra (Odontorchilus cinereus). The music imitates birds singing: “La! liá! liá! liá! liá! liá!” “Sing more”, the words say, “to remember Cariri” (“Canta mais! canta mais! prá alembrá o Cariri!”).

The English translation of the Portuguese lyrics is as follows:

In the evening, a dreamy, pretty cloud, slow and transparent, covers outer space with pink. In the infinite the moon rises sweetly, beautifying the evening, like a friendly girl who prepares herself and dreamily makes the evening beautiful. A soul anxious to be pretty shouts to the sky, the land, all of Nature. The birds silence themselves to her complaints, and the sea reflects all of Her [the moon’s] wealth. The gentle light of the moon now awakens the cruel saudade [nostalgic or melancholic longing] that laughs and cries.

Victoria_de_los_Angeles_Allan_warren Victoria de los Ángeles (1 November 1923 – 15 January 2005) was a Spanish operatic lyric soprano and recitalist whose career began after the Second World War and reached its height in the years from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. She studied voice under Dolores Frau and guitar with Graciano Tarragó at the Barcelona Conservatory, graduating in just three years in 1941 at age 18.

In 1941, while still a student, she made her operatic debut as Mimì in La bohème at the Liceu, afterwards resuming her musical studies. In 1945, she returned to the Liceu to make her professional debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro.

I am indebted to various wikipedia pages (see links above) for the aforementioned information.

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19/11 – 25/11 incl. Elton John, Down Under and Wild Geese

news on the march

Welcome to Monday’s News on the March – The week that was in my digital world.

Book review by Richard Williams at thebluemoment:

Big disappointment, that Elton John. I’d been expecting his autobiography, Me, to contain a chapter gratefully acknowledging all the people who wrote about him with warmth and enthusiasm in the British music weeklies at a time when he couldn’t get arrested on Denmark Street. I’m thinking of Penny Valentine, Lon Goddard, Caroline Boucher. And, yes… me.

How soon, how completely, they forget.….… (read more).

Article by Sheree at View from the Back:

Driving around Australia has often turned into much more than driving from A to B as quickly as possible. It’s given us a fine appreciation of the varied and beautiful landscapes, land use and crop cultivation, the rigours of life in the Outback, distances, and how difficult it must have been for those early settlers – convicts or otherwise.

I spend hours researching where to stay and for how long and it was satisfying that as the trip unfolded I’d largely been proved correct. I say largely because there’s always places where we could have tarried longer or towns en route where I would have happily stopped and further investigated their charms…..Read Entire Article

Poem at House of Heart:

This is a day of sun kissed
stones and blustery winds,
of wild geese adorning river banks
their graceful necks and gilded feathers
remind me that I am nothing more than
an observer to that enchanted world.
Moss covered arms of oak reach across
slanted waves to weightless clouds
passing by.
Dipping my fingers into green and amber
circlets I hold my reflection in cupped palms..… (View Original Post).

Story by the Intellectual Shaman:

The beach is where people go to get away from the world. They lounge in the sand, their whale bodies, white, and wrinkly. And concession sellers walk by offering overpriced drinks. My van is parked 50 feet away. It’s my life; and periodically my family visits.

“What are you doing here? A vacation is one thing, but you’re wasting your time.”

“The waves are having an effect on me; they’ll bring me something good.”

“Have you lost your mind?”…..…. (Read entire post)

Post the grizzly grist:

What does it mean to be a good neighbor?

Is it simply smiling as you drive by the house?

Is it raising your hand with a wave as you pass them in the street corner?

Is it picking up a valuable and returning it to their doorstep?

Is it holding open the door as he wobbled in on the cane?

Is it helping her take one more step with her feeble pace?….(Read entire post)

news on the march the end

Posted in Music, News, Reading, Sport and Adventure

Bachata Rosa (1990) – Juan Luis Guerra

Bachata Rosa

Bachata Rosa is an iconic modern Latin song by one of my favourite Latin artists – Juan Luis Guerra. It was released in 1990 on his 5th studio album of the same name. The record has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. Bachata Rosa is derived from a genre of music called ‘Bachata’. In fact the success of his record brought ‘Bachata’ music not only into the mainstream in the Dominican Republic where Luis Guerra is from, but gave the genre an international audience.

In Spain, the album spent eight weeks at number one. Even in the Netherlands, the record peaked at number two on the Mega Album Top 100 and was certified gold. Music critics have cited Bachata Rosa as one of Luis Guerra’s most important works due to his songwriting and the record production.

Bachata music originates from the Dominican Republic and is played with guitars and percussion (bongos, maracas amongst other instruments). The principal themes of this genre are love, betrayal and jealousy. Due to the motives surrounding this form of music they are known as ‘Bitter songs’. Bachata was defined as music from the rural areas of the Dominican Republic with lyrics considered too crude and vulgar to the public’s taste. You could say that the Bachata of today’s song ‘Bachata Rosa (Rose)’ is a refined version of the original Bachata music by having endowed the form with more melody and softer lyrics.

The lyrics are superb even in their loose English translation:

I give you a rose
I found her on the road
I don’t know if she’s naked
Or has only one dress
No, I do not know
If you water it in summer
Or if it gets drunk to oblivion
If she was ever loved
Or has hidden loves

Ay, ay ay ay, love
You’re the rose that gives me warmth
You are the dream of my solitude
A lethargy of blue
An eclipse of the sea

The version of Bachata Rosa below is performed live and with english subtitles no less. It gives someone unfamiliar with Luis Guerra’s music a glimpse into not only what a great singer / songwriter he is, but what comprises Bachata music. Don’t fret, more songs will feature from Luis Guerra in this music project.

References: Wikipedia – Bachata Rosa

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Remains of the Day (1993) – James Ivory (Friday’s Finest)

Remains_of_the_day

Stevens: In my philosophy, Mr. Benn, a man cannot call himself well-contented until he has done all he can to be of service to his employer. Of course, this assumes that one’s employer is a superior person, not only in rank, or wealth, but in moral stature.

Remains of the Day is an American British drama based on the novel of the same name by Nobel prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. It currently sits at number 4 on my all time favourite movie list. In my opinion Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson give their career best performances here. It contains my favourite acting from any one movie. I have also seen this movie more times than any other movie. I’m in love with this movie. Fullstop.

IMDB Storyline: Rule bound head butler Stevens’ (Sir Anthony Hopkins’) world of manners and decorum in the household he maintains is tested by the arrival of housekeeper Miss Kenton (Dame Emma Thompson), who falls in love with him in pre-World War II Britain. The possibility of romance and his master’s cultivation of ties with the Nazi cause challenge his carefully maintained veneer of servitude.

It figures here in Friday’s Finest because when critics and public alike cite great cinema classics Remains fails to get a mention. It’s also a real shame that young audiences are by and large unfamiliar of its existence. I understand the solemn and restrained performances and the seriousness of the plot could be off putting to some, but to me it remains the best story of unrequited love in cinema history.

The excerpt below of sdillon’s IMDB movie review of Remains of the Day reflects my own sentiments regarding the picture, but I was so impressed by the manner he expressed them:

It’s a masterpiece of understated emotion. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) absurdly repressed personality gently takes the audience from laughter to tears in the most emotionally devastating finale I have ever seen. Remains effortlessly embraces complex themes such as misguided loyalty, dignity, pride, wasted lives, and unrequited love. It would be all too much to bear if it weren’t for the film’s genuine good-humoured understanding of English culture. In fact, humour is an important element in the film. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, which make the tragic part of the story all the more real and poignant. All in all, The Remains of the Day is a milestone film; an unforgettable tragedy of a man who pays the terrible price of denying his own feelings.

IMDB Trivia about Remains of the Day:

  • Sir Anthony Hopkins, as a guest on Inside the Actors Studio (1994), said that he got tips on how to play a butler from real-life butler Cyril Dickman, who served for fifty years at Buckingham Palace. The butler said there was nothing to being a butler, really, when you’re in the room, it should be even more empty.
  • The part of Miss Kenton (Dame Emma Thompson) is one of only three movie roles for which Meryl Streep has ever been turned down.
  • This movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium, Best Original Music Score, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, but the movie failed to win an Oscar in any of these categories.
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Babylon (2000) – David Gray

David Gray - Babylon

When a friend in Melbourne introduced me to the music of David Gray, I was puzzled why I’d never heard of him before. It was music that struck an immediate chord and drew me in. Babylon is a good appetizer of his music in general. “Let go of your heart, let go of your head, and feel it now,” he sings in the chorus. He’s simply just a guy trying hard to say what’s going on in his heart and the world around him. There’s real passion in his voice; the sense that David is compelled to open up his soul and shout, to declare something.

David Gray is a British singer songwriter who came to world-wide prominence after the release of his White Ladder album in 2000. Babylon – his second single from White Ladder would be his highest selling single to date. It peaked at number 5 in British charts and became a minor hit in Australia and Germany. The album White Ladder is the biggest selling album to date in Ireland having sold over 100,000 copies there alone. It spent a whopping 2 years and 5 months in the UK albums chart.

His 3 three albums before White Ladder comprised of  mainly folk-rock music. Starting with the release of White Ladder, Gray began to make significant use of computer-generated music (folktronic) to accompany his voice and acoustic instrumentation. He has been dismissed by some as making middle-of-the-road soft rock, but that’s ultimately a matter of taste. I can understand that criticism but there’s no denying he is a talented singer-songwriter. This music library project will feature other songs from David Gray.

The version of Babylon below is a softer acoustic (classical) version on KFOG Radio, San Francisco.

Sunday all the lights of London shining
Sky is fading red to blue
Kicking through the autumn leaves
And wondering where it is you might be going to
Turning back for home
You know I’m feeling so alone
I can’t believe
Climbing on the stair
I turn around to see you smiling there
In front of me
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Wet Ghost – Chris Wallace-Crabbe

I had a lot of memorabilia recently forwarded to me from Australia. That included newspaper clippings I found interesting. One such clipping is of the poem below called Wet Ghost by Chris Wallace-Crabbe. You’ll have to excuse its state of disrepair, but it has traveled many miles to be here.

Wet Ghost

For more information about the Australian poet and professor Chris Wallace-Crabbe, click on the image from Australian Poetry Library below :

Chris Wallace-Crabb

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Posted in Reading

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