Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Musical interlude.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

It has been a while since I’ve done one of these, so why not now?

But it does bother me a little that I can’t find a version of the song with the original lyrics.

Art update.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

The Jerry Orbach Memorial Art Car is funded.

I’m looking forward to getting my bumper stickers.

Questions: which one should I put on? I’m kind of partial to “My child is a honor student…”, but feel free to argue your case in the comments.

And which one should I take off to make room? Right now, I’m thinking: as much as I liked CHeston, and as much of an NRA supporter as I am, the “My President Is Charlton Heston” one is faded almost to the point of being unreadable. It might be time to let go. (And I’ve got window stickers out the wazoo.)

Obit watch: October 3, 2016.

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Sir Neville Marriner, noted conductor.

Oscar Brand, folkie. I actually do own one of his albums: Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789 – 1996 is kind of fun, if you have a sense of history.

This is one that I also thought was kind of “amusing” (to the extent an obit can be “amusing”): Carroll Wainwright Jr. He was kind of a sensation in 1934.

Wainwright’s mother divorced his father and remarried (“hours later”, according to the NYT) in 1932. In 1934, the family went to Bermuda for the winter.

“Tousle-headed Carroll Jr. didn’t like Bermuda,” the 1935 newspaper article declared. “He had visions of Christmas in America, of sledding at East Hampton, and of a Christmas tree at his grandmother’s Park Avenue home.”

So, one fine late November day, the young Wainwright stowed away on the S.S. Queen of Bermuda, only to emerge when the ship was out to sea and he got hungry.

What he had not bargained for was the effect his disappearance would have on his mother and stepfather. The terrible fate of the Lindbergh baby, kidnapped and murdered just two years before, was still fresh in the public mind, and the couple, fearing Carroll had been abducted for ransom, called in the Bermuda police.
The police were stymied until someone thought to radio the ship. The captain radioed back that Carroll was aboard, safe and sound.

The ship arrived safely in New York, and Wainwright’s grandmother paid his full (first class) fare. I kind of wonder what her reaction was to a) having an eight-year-old show up unexpectedly at her door, and b) having to come out of pocket for his fare. But reading between the lines, it feels like there may have been more going on than a desire for sledding and Christmas trees: Wainwright’s mother died in 1937 of what the paper describes as “alcohol-related liver disease”.

He did not return to Bermuda. In the coming years he would divide his time between the Malcolm Gordon School, a boarding school in Garrison, N.Y., and the home of an uncle, Loudon Wainwright (grandfather of the singer and songwriter Loudon Wainwright III), in Hewlett, on Long Island.

And this is a nice note to end on:

An enthusiastic outdoorsman, Mr. Wainwright was for decades a keen traveler throughout the United States and far beyond. To the end of his life, he paid his own passage.

Obit watch: September 26, 2016.

Monday, September 26th, 2016

There were a lot of deaths over the weekend, but I was away from a computer with an Internet connection for most of it. Getting caught up:

Arnold Palmer, drink innovator, sometime golfer, and good Pittsburgh boy. NYT. LAT. Golf Digest. The prose is a little purple:

He was loamy meadows and smoky skies, river valleys and steel mills, like the plant where his father, Milfred, worked (“Steel, Michaeleen, steel in pig-iron furnaces so hot a man forgets his fear of hell”) until just in front of the Depression, Milfred took a job as greenkeeper and pro (mostly greenkeeper) at Latrobe Country Club. Nobody addressed him as Milfred, except Doris when she was of a fanciful mind. To most, he was Deacon. A few said Deke. Arnold called him Pap.

José Fernández. Miami Herald. NYT.

It may just be me, but the tone of these obits rubs me kind of the wrong way. It seems like they’re saying “José Fernández, noted pitcher, is dead. Also two other guys, but they weren’t famous baseball pitchers, so who cares?” (And, yes, I understand that they’re withholding names until families are identified. But it still kind of reads like the other two guys just don’t matter.)

(Also: strict boat control.)

Buckwheat Zydeco.

In 1978, though, he fell into the orbit of Clifton Chenier, “The King Of Zydeco,” who invited the young musician to play organ in his Red Hot Louisiana Band. “I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton,” Dural later said. “We played for four hours and I wasn’t ready to quit.”

Bill Nunn, actor. NYT. A/V Club. He was Robbie Roberston in the Raimi “Spider-Man” movies (none of which I’ve seen) but was perhaps most famous as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”.

Obit watch: September 23, 2016.

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

The NYT had an obit the other day for Deborah S. Jin, who died way too young (47).

She was not someone I knew personally, or had ever met, but she sounds like an interesting person who I would have enjoyed talking to. She won a MacArthur fellowship in 2003; her specialty was ultra-low temperature physics. Ultra-low.

Dr. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman, then a physics professor at the University of Colorado, had recently succeeded in cooling a gas of rubidium atoms to less than one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero, at which matter comes to an almost complete stop. The individual atoms melded together, acting as a single coherent particle.

This is what is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

The rubidium atoms in Dr. Cornell and Dr. Wieman’s experiment acted like bosons — a fundamental class of particles named after Professor Bose — which cozy up to each other to form the condensate. Dr. Jin wanted to do a similar experiment with fermions, the other class of fundamental particles (named after the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi). Fermions, which are inherently antisocial, are loath to meld together like bosons, but they can pair up and, coupled together, act like bosons.
Dr. Jin succeeded in making what she called a fermionic condensate in 2004.

After creating fermionic condensate, Dr. Jin began collaborating with Jun Ye of JILA to move beyond atoms and study ultracold molecules. That involved cooling two types of atoms and then finding a way to bring them close enough to bond, without the atoms heating up from the energy of the collision.
Lasers and magnetic fields carefully braked and steered the atoms, siphoning off energy as they bound together into molecules. That achievement has opened up a new field of research into chemical reactions: Scientists can now start to study quantum effects that are obscured at higher temperatures.

Also among the dead: John D. Loudermilk, noted country singer and songwriter.

Art, damn it, art! watch (#52 in a series)

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

I am backing the Kickstarter for The Jerry Orbach Memorial Art Car.


1) He’s not asking for a (relative) lot of money, and the rewards tiers are reasonable. $10 for four bumper stickers? I don’t think you can get bumper stickers for that price at the gun show.

2) Brandon Bird, who I have written about before in this space, is the person behind it. I have faith in his ability to deliver.

Consider this an endorsement. Let’s make The Jerry Orbach Memorial Art Car a reality. You’ve probably blown $6 this week on a bad lunch: why not brown bag it one day and throw a few bucks to the memory of Jerry Orbach?

(Shame he lives in LA, though. There’s a pretty active art car scene in Houston, and he could get an old DPS car from the state surplus store.)

Edited to add: Mike the Musicologist made a good point to me: Orbach seems to mostly be remembered for his LawnOrder work, but he did a lot of stuff before that (as the true cognoscenti know).

On the one hand, I understand why Brandon Bird focuses on Lennie Briscoe (and I find his story about how Briscoe changed his life oddly touching). On the other hand, I agree with Mike too, and wanted to find something non-Lennie to throw in here: I just couldn’t find anything I liked.

Fortunately, Mike saved me the trouble.

(And I’d really like to see that production of “Chicago” with Orbach as Billy Flynn.)

Random notes and a whole bunch of obits: September 19, 2016.

Monday, September 19th, 2016

I didn’t have much to say about the Mew York attack because:

1) I was busy Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday.
b) It was an emerging situation that I don’t think blog posts could have done justice to.
III) I didn’t have anything to add.

I still don’t have much to add (except that I went “Holy s–t!” when I read about this morning’s shootout), but I did think this was kind of interesting: the NYT on the finding of the second device and taking it away in a “total containment vessel”:

The total containment vessel is essentially an inside-out diving vessel, Lt. Mark Torre, the commanding officer of the department’s bomb squad, said in an interview in July. “Instead of keeping the pressure out and keeping you alive in five fathoms of water, it keeps the pressure in,” he explained. Should a bomb explode inside, tiny vents allow pressure to escape. “It sounds like a hammer hitting a piece of steel,” he said.

I don’t remember if the APD has one (or even if we talked about that during the bomb squad presentation) but I’ll try to ask next time around. I keep thinking I should do a post on the APD bomb squad, bomb squads in general, and the weirdness thereof. (Did you know: you can’t just have a bomb squad? Even if you’re a police force. In some cases, even if you’re a major metropolitan police force, as opposed to East Podunk that has six officers and makes their entire budget off of catching speeders where the limit drops from 70 MPH to 25 MPH. Nope, no bomb squad for you.)

I made note of most of the big obits over the weekend, but there are quite a few others that I think are worth observing and commenting on.

NYT obit for W.P. Kinsella.

Charmian Carr, who was the eldest von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”, was in “Evening Primrose” with Anthony Perkins…and that was pretty much it. No snark intended, but I bring this up because: I keep thinking about a new series spotlighting actors and actresses (but most of the ones I’ve found so far are actresses) who had very short careers – like one, maybe two, at most a small handful of credits – and then left Hollywood for whatever reason. I’m thinking the first entry may be sometime in October.

James Stacy, TV actor. He was in a series called “Lancer” that ran for three years and which I have no memory of. Not long after “Lancer” ended, he was hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle: Mr. Stacy lost a leg and an arm, and his passenger was killed. He kept working in what the NYT describes as “specialized” roles, though his career was interrupted by a suicide attempt and prison time for child molestation.

Howard E. Butt Jr.. oldest son of the founder of the HEB grocery chain. HEB is huge in this part of the country, and Mr. Butt, Jr. was in a position to take it over. Except…

But Mr. Butt, a Southern Baptist, who as a college student and lay minister had led a Christian youth revival movement, wrestled with the dual pressures of the business and his spiritual pursuits. That struggle led to severe depression, which he later discussed openly.

He ended up turning leadership of the chain over to his brother, ran the family foundation, and continued his ministry.

At the same time, he continued to encourage the evangelical movement to engage other Christians, even those unaffiliated with a particular church. In 2000, he began giving a one-minute radio homily, a segment he titled “The High Calling of Our Daily Life,” which highlighted the role that faith has played in the successful careers and personal lives of ordinary people. His homilies were carried on 3,000 stations in every state, reaching millions of listeners.

I used to catch this on KLBJ-AM when I was driving to work at Dell and still listened to the radio.

Duane Graveline, who I’d never heard of before. And neither had my mother, who was an adult during this time. Dr. Graveline was an astronaut:

With much fanfare, the space agency named Dr. Graveline one of six new “scientist-astronauts” on June 26, 1965. The group included two physicians, two university teachers, a research physicist and a geologist, Harrison H. Schmitt, who would later walk on the moon and become a United States senator.

He was in the program for about two months. A month in, his wife announced she was divorcing him. Shortly after that, he “resigned”:

In his memoir, Donald K. Slayton, one of the original seven astronauts and a longtime NASA official, said: “The program didn’t need a scandal. A messy divorce meant a quick ticket back to wherever you came from — not because we were trying to enforce morality, but because it would detract from the job.”

I don’t recall Dr. Graveline being mentioned at all in any of the histories of the space program that I’ve read (and I’ve read several). It sounds like he had some issues: he was married a total of six times and lost his medical license twice. The first time, it was suspended for two years after “a large number” of Demerol went missing. The second time, it was revoked permanently “over allegations that he had sexually abused children” (though not, apparently, ones that were patients of his).

C. Martin Croker, animator and voice actor. I was most familiar with him as the voices of Zorak and Moltar on “Space Ghost Coast to Coast”. I’d include a clip here, but the one I want to use is actually on the A/V Club page. And: according to the A/V Club, most of the “Space Ghost” episodes are now up for free streaming on the Adult Swim website.

Don Buchla, one of the early electronic music innovators. I’d never heard of him (perhaps because Bob Moog got all the press). I’ll try to remember to ask Todd next time I see him if he was familiar with Mr. Buchla’s work.

Mr. Buchala and Mr. Moog were contemporaries:

In the early ’60s, the better-known Robert Moog, who died in 2005, and Mr. Buchla arrived independently at the idea of the voltage-controlled modular synthesizer: an instrument assembled from various modules that controlled one another’s voltages to generate and shape sounds. Voltages could control pitch, volume, attack, timbre, speed and other parameters, interacting in complex ways.

Part of the reason Mr. Moog may have gotten more press was that he put keyboards on his machines. Mr. Buchla “wanted instruments that were not necessarily tied to Western scales or existing keyboard techniques. To encourage unconventional thinking, his early instruments deliberately omitted a keyboard.”


Mr. Buchla’s instruments had modules with more colorful names, like Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator, Quad Dynamics Manager and, for his random-voltage noise generator, Source of Uncertainty.

Damn. I want a “Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator”.

In 1965, with $500 from a Rockefeller Foundation grant made to the Tape Music Center, the composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender commissioned Mr. Buchla to build his first voltage-controlled instrument, the original Buchla Box.
It included a module that would transform both avant-garde and popular music. Called a sequencer, it vastly expanded the concept and functionality of a tape loop by generating and repeating a chosen series of voltages, enabling it to control a recurring melody, a rhythm track or other musical elements. It would become an essential tool of electronic dance music.


Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Two things I found on the YCombinator Twitter feed that I want to bookmark:

“JavaScript Systems Music”. I’m not really good at music in general, nor am I the audio guy of my group of friends (Hi, Todd!). But I am kind of generally interested in computer audio, and the subtitle of this one sucked me in: “Learning Web Audio by Recreating The Works of Steve Reich and Brian Eno”. Yes, you can do in JavaScript what Steve Reich did with tape loops in 1965.

To say I actually enjoy listening to this piece would probably be stretching it. It wouldn’t be among the records I’d take with me on a desert island. But it is certainly fascinating and kind of hypnotic too. If you allow it to, it does evoke a certain kind of mental atmosphere.

I like “It’s Gonna Rain”, but, yeah, this.

YComb also linked to an article here, but I actually find the whole site interesting and want to bookmark it: Gary McGath’s “Mad File Format Science”. Or everything you ever wanted to know about file formats, identifying them, and recovering data from them.

As you know, Bob, I’m not a “Star Trek” fan, but I did find this interesting:

Some time after his death in 1991, Roddenberry’s estate discovered almost 200 floppies of his. They went to a company called DriveSavers Data Recovery, which took years to recover the documents due to the unusual challenges.

The floppies were written on CP/M systems custom built for Roddenberry with special disk drivers.

“DriveSavers took three months to reverse engineer the disk format.”

Anyway, I want to spend more time exploring this site. I’m also tempted to spring for his udemy course: $20, open-source tools, and hey! I can actually make a case that it is job related!

Obit watch: September 12, 2016.

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Bobby Chacon is dead at the age of 64.

His death was confirmed by the Riverside County coroner and attributed to a fall while he was being treated for dementia, which had been linked to brain injuries from boxing.

Mr. Chacon won the featherweight title in 1974 and the super featherweight title in 1982. He was 59-7-1 over his career (1972-1988).

In 1984, Chacon was stripped of his title in a dispute with boxing officials and promoters over his next opponent. By then 32 years old, he moved up one weight class to challenge the lightweight champion Ray Mancini, known as Boom Boom.

This inspired one of Warren Zevon’s best songs:

Also among the dead: Eddie “Crazy Eddie” Antar.

Cary Blanchard, NFL placekicker. He was 47.

Alexis Arquette, character actress and member of the Arquette acting family.

Cahiers du cinéma: September 11, 2016.

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

We were watching movies last night, and a question came up. I don’t remember the exact context, but basically: was The Paper Chase actually John Houseman’s first film?

The answer turns out to be: yes, and no, and it’s interesting.

Before The Paper Chase, Houseman is listed as having an uncredited (and I assume small) role in the film adaptation of Seven Days In May.

But before that, in 1938, Houseman was in something called Too Much Johnson. Just the name sparked immense hilarity among our little group (though to be fair, it was also late) but there’s an interesting story here. Too Much Johnson was never shown in public while Houseman was alive…

As most of my readers probably know, long before he was Professor Kingsfield, Houseman had quite a stage career. Among his other credits, he was a leading member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. Welles had an idea: he wanted the Mercury Theatre to do an adaptation of a 1894 comedy, also called “Too Much Johnson”, by William Gillette. But he also wanted to integrate a silent film into the stage production.

Welles planned to mix live action and film for this production. The film was designed to run 40 minutes, with 20 minutes devoted to the play’s prologue and two 10-minute introductions for the second and third act. Welles planned to create a silent film in the tradition of the Mack Sennett slapstick comedies, in order to enhance the various chases, duels and comic conflicts of the Gillette play.

There’s some very funny stuff about Welles editing the film, in his hotel suite, while up to his knees (according to Houseman) in nitrate film. Another of Welles collaborators recalls the film catching fire in the projector, Welles being so absorbed in the editing he didn’t even notice…

“What I remember, most remarkably, is me running with the projector in my hand, burning, trying to get out of the door into the goddamn hallway, and Houseman racing for the door at the same time … while Orson, with absolutely no concern whatsoever, was back inside, standing and looking at some piece of film in his hand, smoking his pipe.”

Anyway, they put the film together and went to stage “Too Much Johnson” at a place called the Stony Creek Theatre in Connecticut before they took it to Broadway. But there was a problem: the ceiling in the Stony Creek Theatre was “too low” for film projection. So the Mercury Theatre staged “Too Much Johnson” without the movie part. Depending on who you believe, the audience reaction was poor. In any case, Welles shelved the “Too Much Johnson” project before he finished editing it: in later years, he claimed that he’d looked at the stored footage, and it still looked pristine. But that footage was destroyed in a 1970 fire at Welles home, and the movie was presumed lost…

…until 2008, when a copy was discovered in Spain. The film was restored and shown for the first time in late 2013. In 2015, the combined film/stage production was staged for the first time. And now you can watch the 66 minute work print and reconstructed 34 minute edit of “Too Much Johnson” at the National Film Preservation Foundation website.

This is probably too much “Too Much Johnson” for most of you, but I make no apologies for my interest in Welles and his work, and I think this is a great story even without Welles and Houseman.

After the jump, topic changes…


Obit watch: September 1, 2016.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

There’s a nice obituary in today’s Statesman for Tom Anderson, who passed away a few weeks ago.

Mr. Anderson was the carillon player at the University of Texas since…well, since Jesus was a private:

He played from 1952 until 1956 while a graduate student. In 1967, a year after he returned to UT to work in the international office, where he was assistant director, UT President Harry Ransom asked him to serve as carillonneur, and he continued to play until about three years ago.

I never met Mr. Anderson, but I remember when we toured the Tower some years back, he came up in conversation: the tour guide told us that he always said he was going to keep playing until he could no longer physically make the climb.

He was 93 when he died.

Marvin Kaplan has also passed away. He is perhaps best remembered as Henry Beesmeyer on “Alice”. though he was also in “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “The Great Race”.

Finally, I intended to note this one earlier in the week, but the past few days have been hard. Jeremiah J. O’Keefe passed away on Tuesday. He was 93.

Mr. O’Keefe was a Corsair pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, the “Death Rattlers”. During the course of his first combat mission, on April 22, 1945, he shot down six enemy planes.

The squadron claimed 23 of the 54 Japanese planes downed that day. Two other Death Rattlers also scored five or more kills. Maj. Jefferson D. Dorroh Jr., the squadron’s executive officer, downed six planes. Maj. George C. Axtell Jr., the commanding officer, scored five. An article on the battle in Time magazine carried the headline “One Deal, Three Aces.”

Obit watch: August 21, 2016.

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Convicted Ponzi scammer and boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman.

(Remember O-Town? I do, but only because I had a friend who was into “Making the Band” at the time.)

Jack Riley has also passed away. He was in a whole bunch of stuff, including some of the lesser Mel Brooks movies, but he was best known and regarded (at least to me) as Elliot Carlin on “The Bob Newhart Show”.

I can’t really find a clip I like, but this one comes close: