Star Wars (and Other Galactic Funk)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on March 12th, 2016 by bill

In May of 1977 I was about nine and a half years old – dead center in the middle of the perfect demographic for Star Wars, which premiered on the 25th.

I wish I could say I vividly remember the first time I saw it. In fact, all of the viewings – and there were many – blur together in my mind. For awhile there my highest priority in life was watching Star Wars over and over again. I had no interest in seeing any other movie, at least until Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out six months later.

No obsession that I’ve had as an adult rivals my complete fixation on Star Wars over the last years of the 1970s. And though at this remove it seems a little over the top, I don’t guess I can really blame myself. Star Wars had everything a boy that age could want: sci-fi whiz-bang, the hero’s journey, an overlay of mysticism to give things a certain flavor, and a cute brown-haired princess.
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R.I.P. George Martin

Posted in Dancing about architecture on March 10th, 2016 by bill

There is no off position on the genius switch.

Sir George Martin passed away yesterday, which is certainly worth noting, though I don’t have anything particularly original or useful to say about it. I think we can safely say that without his guidance, the Beatles as we know them would not have existed, and for that alone we all owe him a vast debt of gratitude. And I think he deserves a tip of the hat, as well, for his underrated contributions to the field of comedy; as producer of key British comedy records by the likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, he had his influence on the Beatles of comedy – Monty Python’s Flying Circus – as well.

Fare thee well, George. You served well and long.

Amen, Sister Janet

Posted in Dancing about architecture on March 6th, 2016 by bill

Frequent commenter Merle pointed me to this video, which I find delightful on many levels:

First off, it’s a pretty good tune, surprisingly funky with nice guitar tones. But the video really makes it. The nuns – are they nuns? – in short white dresses. Some of the worst miming of playing instruments I’ve ever seen. The creative/trippy editing style. Whatever weird ritual they’re doing at the end there. And the 70s-porn-quality production values, which keeps making you think a whole different kind of scene is about to break out. Or maybe it’s just me.

Happy Sunday, everybody.

The Album Project: Prologue

Posted in Dancing about architecture on February 25th, 2016 by bill

So in the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, I am reviving a long-dormant project: writing about my favorite albums by way of saying a few things about, you know, life, the universe, and everything. But first, a bit of (pre)history.

Having been born in 1967, I have no real memories of the 1960s. My earliest musical memory is of CCR’s “Looking Out My Back Door,” recorded in 1970, heard by me somewhere in the next few years. Coincidentally, this song would turn up much later in one of my favorite movies:

I also remember B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” which apparently I used to sing in a manner that some considered cute. I did not know at the time that this song came from the soundtrack of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it still strikes me as odd. But facts are facts:

On the whole, I was not in any way in control of my musical environment for the first half of the decade. My exposure to music came through my parents or the radio. My mom favored pretty things like John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel; my dad liked gospel and a bit of soul, and had a pretty decent collection of rock records spanning 50s 45s (Little Richard, Bill Haley) and 60s LPs (Dylan, The Beatles).
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Bowie Odds and Ends

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on January 22nd, 2016 by bill

Bowie flanked by Cook and Moore, 1973.

A few random thoughts about David Bowie, before I begin to think about considering the possibility of maybe turning my attention to other topics.

1. The wonderful actor Alan Rickman had either the misfortune or the great good luck to die just a couple days after Bowie. I guess you have to say that dying is always a misfortune. But speaking strictly in terms of timing – on the one hand, his demise was completely overshadowed by DB’s; I only just learned he was dead a few days ago. On the other hand, he gets to go down in history as part of Bowie’s Celebrity Death Triad (the third, according to my calculations, is legendary soul singer Otis Clay, who died on Jan. 8). That’s quite an honor.

2. Earlier this week I came to the horrifying realization that, even as we speak, producers are pitching Bowie biopic projects to movie studios. There is only one, very specific way in which such a project could go right: an “I’m Not There”-style film where many different actors play many different Bowies, directed by someone who’s properly empathetic to the subject (perhaps Bowie’s son Duncan Jones). There are about a million ways it could go wrong, some of them obscene; imagine someone like, I don’t know, Justins Bieber or Timberlake being cast in the role. Any attempt at such a travesty will have to be stopped, by any means necessary.
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Let the thousand Bowies bloom

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on January 16th, 2016 by bill

As I’ve worked through the seven stages of Bowie grief this week I have been pondering how best to respond to the departure of the Great One from this bardo. (I may have done the stages out of order; I hit Depression earlier in the week, then Anger after listening to one too many shallow “tributes” from people who had no idea what they were talking about.) And today I think I finally reached the last stage, Hope/Acceptance, and found the right attitude, which goes something like this:

Yes, the singular human being we call Bowie is gone. But the spirit of Bowie will be with us always (not unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi). He was one of the most recorded, most photographed, most documented people in the history of the world. The art, the evidence, the inspiration is all still there. And more to the point, a little bit of Bowie lives on in every one of us who loved him.

So. It is our turn to be Bowie now. And it’s going to take all of us, because we can’t do it as well as he could – maybe not even a millionth as well – but if we all work together, we can at least take a shot at it. And that means, starting today, being the most creative, confident, generous, and glamorous version of yourself.

Start that project you’ve always wanted to do but been afraid of. Or think of a new one and get cracking. Give your self-doubt a rest, and when inevitably it rears its ugly head again, think of David – who always and above all else believed in himself. If ever you find you can’t believe in yourself, believe in the Bowie that lives inside you.

And when I say glamorous, I don’t mean wear glitter makeup – though by all means do that if you want to – I mean hold your head up, put your best face forward, and walk out proudly into the spotlight that is the world. Help others to do the same.

David would have wanted it that way.

So softly, a super-god dies

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on January 11th, 2016 by bill

So long, Mr. B.

In my logical mind, I knew that someday David Bowie was going to die. But in my heart, I believed that he would live forever – or at least find a way to outlive me, even though I’m 21 years younger.

Instead we are faced with the dreary prospect of a world without Bowie in it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that his music, image, and influence have pervaded the world so thoroughly that he will always be with us. Which is of course a cliche thing that gets said about every artist who dies, but in his case it is very true. Bowie is all around us, all the time; you just need the eyes to see.

When I walked into the coffee shop in Eureka this morning, “Space Oddity” was playing on the stereo. The one barista who’s always a little glammed-up was especially so, with bright pink hair and a colorful shirt and pants. As I walked in he was telling someone, “David Bowie taught me how to be myself.” Pointing to his plumage, he added, “He’s responsible for all this.”

Can it be true?

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on January 11th, 2016 by bill

People are telling me that David Bowie is dead. I find this hard to believe, for many reasons, but perhaps it is so. More later.

I Can’t Answer Why

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on January 10th, 2016 by bill

So…two days later and I have listened to each of the new Bowie songs a couple of times, but I still haven’t sat down and listened to the whole album all the way through. I’m going to do that right now.

1. “Blackstar”: This is a monumental piece of work. Ominous and grandiose, but also kind of sly and funny. Although I’m led to believe that’s a human drumming, the percussion makes obvious reference to the drum’n’bass stylings of Earthling (not to mention “Sunday”).
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He’s a Blackstar

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on January 8th, 2016 by bill

It’s a big day for Bowieists today: David turns 69 and releases his 26th studio album, Blackstar.

There may or may not be time for a detailed consideration today. Consider this a placeholder. Or, if you prefer, a black spot – an empty space to be filled in later.

In the meantime…