Saturday, August 16, 2014

From the Vaults: Satryicon

Satyricon. The film: Much anticipated. Maestro Fellini has promised to visit our planet, as if it were an alien one, by going back to the time before Christendom.

I for one cannot remember the world too well in the time before Fellini’s Satyricon. It has been with me since I first heard the music of this film – Fred’s friendly sound genius Nina Rota at hand using BBC-style colonial world field recordings Gamelan and such -- to help conjure the dream.

Exposition - It was a much anticipated film not movie, says I. Movie was an American thing. Our invention. But Fellini was the great film artist, and he had a love for the low culture of movies, and this could be viewed as a movie. And I would be there firstly if I could, in this case, making the 25-mile drive to the big city of Milwaukee in Dad’s Buick Wildcat. Awaited, Satyricon was, as film, the form, was in its flower; as a Hemingway novel was awaited in the 20s, a play by Williams in the 50s, or like a Dylan record still somewhat today. [I asked my high school girl friend E. -- this being after high school, my sometimes girl friend, to the flick -- and she had to accept. She had to! It was Fellini.] Read the rest of the story.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Honk,blare, bleet, flomm. Bonk, geesh, frang, blong, ra-toot!


To Jim Haas: Looking at this picture of Big Jay McNeely ignites a flying moon traveller firecracker in my brain.  There is this place there - where a legendary rhythm & blues saxman is wailing and honking forever.  My brother Michael and I saw Jay at the Night Stage club in Cambridge in the early 1980s, and it was a gas -  A funny thing though – it was all incendiary. But I cant, when I sit down and try, remember all that much. Anyway here goes…What I remember was we won tickets to see him. I'd been studying blues like a mad monk, and had to know more and more. Had seen Cleanhead Vinson, for example, who'd recently thanks to Harry Duncan's brilliant slate making, had gigged with Sunnyland. This honking sax-oriented feverish R&B was part  of Sunnyland's area of interest – back in the days, days with JT Brown, Jump Jackson, Oiver Alcorn. Was glad to win the tickets. Also knew him as composer of I Know There Is Something on Your Mind*  – a killer track recreated by Professor Longhair on his last record. Was excited to motor over the river to Cambridge.  Had missed Longhair's last Boston gig cause I wasn’t on the ball, so was up for this -  who knows we may not pass this way again. And the story at the time was that Jay McNeely had plug shut his career down, cause things were so slow in L.A. in the 1960s and 1970s, and had gone to work for the Post Office. This was familiar territory! The story I heard was he retired from the U.S. Post**, and, as interest in R&B history resumed, had gone back into performing. How good would his chops be? He came on and all doubt fled. Honking in the style of the honkers which he was very foremost among. He blew away the audience which was mostly unprepared for incredible intensity.  Was it his Deacon's Jump? Honk, blare, bleet, flomm. He started into screeching. Bonk, geesh, frang, blong. He was wailing. Now he weren’t no Miles Davis with his back to the audience. He was confronting the audience, and audience into which he soon was wading. You see this picture here with him in an insane limbo pose, and playing? It was just like that, and he was an old man!. He played tenor sax but to me it looked as big as a bass sax – all in the dark of the Night Stage night club.  He was a honkin' blast – but sure enough not from the past. It was all right there. He started walking through the crowd. He walked out on the street. We were in the narrow balcony, from where that old club provided a great view, and damn if he didn’t come playing the sax up to our table there too. This all took more than a half an hour. And he was playing, blowing, honking, playing jazz all the time. And looking you in the eye too. I'd seen Albert Collins with his 100-yard long guitar chord already by then – saw him in Eureka (on night Elvis died) walk out of the club, playing, and go across the street, and maybe, light a cigarette, while playing on – but – I never saw anything like Big Jay McNeeley! The legend is he went on the street while playing at Berlin's Quasimodo club then nigh the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Honk if you like Ornette Coleman, cause the connection was there.  A whole essential part of jazz is this honk. Ask Albert Murray (who adds 'shouters' to the equation . Remember, Jack Kerouac famously described the honking fever sound in The Beginning of Bop.*** This is my homage alike here. Seeing the picture popped a synapse or two. And the news is good. Big Jay walks terra firma still. Says Wikipedia, Big Jay McNeely is 87, and has released recordings as recently as 2011. ***

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*This is not typical of McNeely, but shows his great talent. He didn’t sing the ballad (Sonny Warner did) but it is just beautiful, and can be done and redone. King Curtis cut it before he passed on.

**Did he work with Bukowski?

***"Skidilibee-la-bee-you, --oo, --e bop she bam, ske too ria -- Parasakiliaoolza -- memoriastibatioyait -- oon ya koo." The Beginning of Bop.

****http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Jay_McNeely

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lunar Trainer Mishap, 1968



Before the moon, before Projects Gemini and Apollo, Armstrong was already a famed test pilot. His coolness when a prototype model LEM blew up [he ejected from the Lunar Landing Test Vehicle (LLTV) with not much time to spare] was part of his legend.There are arguments as to how the accident occurs - I defy you looking at the video to place yourself in his shoes - as it turns out the test pilot lot is a snipey one - it goes with the territory - to argue about what could have been differently - chewing on the cud of catastrophe, ultimately, to gain insight that might save your own behind one day.  


Sunday, July 20, 2014

First Man - On the Moon

trayMoon

Every once and a while is time to remember why this site is called Moon Traveller Herald. It is a nod to the first lunar landing. It occurred on July 20, 1969, and for me, there are things that happened before and things that happened later, but that moment was the great pivot point of the modern world as it was a certain apex of technology. Hasn't really been surpassed, has it? Those days brought pictures not just of the moon, but of earth as seen from the moon. And that has been a repeating theme of Moon Traveller Herald – to look at things as at the remove of the moon.

This summer I have been "at a remove" - reading a biography of the Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong: First Man. Not just a remove, it has been a walk in time, as my friend Sam Burkhardt would say.

The book is a look at a man who was something of a cypher. He was a technical hero - but in his era you had to be literally brave too.  First Man was an able survey of the mix that was Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong had the Midwestern pilot drone attitude down cold. He was seen as cool but there also burned a fire. Both cool and hot was the first human on the moon.

Coming in for a landing did he think of his landings - not all pretty - as a boy in Ohio?He'd been at it since he was young, getting a pilot's licence and a driver's license at about the same time. No, he would not be thinking of Ohio, the airport, and phone or electrical lines to avoid - but what he learned there, in Korea, at Edwards Air Force Base in the California dessert - it all no doubt was with him on that moon landing. 

Uninterruptible, he was deep thinking as always on the fateful night , and going to land that thing come hell or high water. There were alarms going off - fuel was running short. And he wouldn't look at any of those things too intendly - not to be distracted. For me, this book is the story of how he got there. 
Before the moon, before Projects Gemini and Apollo, Armstrong was already a famed test pilot. His coolness when a prototype model LEM blew up [he ejected from the Lunar Landing Test Vehicle (LLTV) with not much time to spare] was part of his legend.There are arguments as to how the accident occurs - I defy you looking at the video to place yourself in his shoes ( and tell me what you would have done ) - as it turns out the test pilot lot is a snipey one - it goes with the territory - to argue about what could have been differently - chewing on the cud of catastrophe, ultimately, to gain insight that might save your own behind one day.  

One of many surprises: Armstrong saw his trip and its meaning in the light of the ecology thinking of the day - as a call to think in terms of the Spaceship Earth.(To be continued.)

If find myself on the old Interstate this summer I actually am not reading "First Man" but am instead listening to it as book on tape (actually, a CD) as I commute. Interesting Mittyesque moments, those!

[[[[[[[[[[[[[ Note: This post is underconstruction....]]]]I am starting this post as a placekeeper to mark the date...45 years after the moon landing .. and I will peck away at finishing it, and adding pictures and such subsequently.

i.

>50,000 ft up when the PDI commenced.
>Yaw right 10deg.
>Go for PDI.
>Powered Descent Insert.
>Buzz focused on the readouts.
>From the Nav computer.
>Eagle started down.
>One minute to ignition.
>13 minutes to landing.
>Neil, ever enigmatic.
>Buzz, on other hand, chattered all the time, "like a magpie".
PatchMoon
http://moontravellerherald.blogspot.com/2012/08/neal-armstrong-from-tranquility-base.htm

His coolness when a prototype model LEM blew up [he ejected] was part of his legend. From this transcript I detect a call out that I take it as his descent engine had 30 sec of fuel left about 26 sec before he landed. Armstrong himself was a thinker, an engineer first, a pilot second, except when the opposite order was required. A difficult read. Isolated. On a mission. Norman Mailer, almost unable to describe Armstrong, the essential cypher, cam to the insight that he was "extraordinarily remote."

 Related http://www.digitalsky.org.uk/lunar/Apollo11/Finding-Tranquility-Base.html http://history.nasa.gov/40thann/wav/ap11_landing_audio.wav http://moontravellerherald.blogspot.com/2012/08/neal-armstrong-from-tranquility-base.html

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Gospel of Calvin 3 of 3

Moving, yknow. What can I throw away? So many books. Some never opened, I admit. Here's this Calvin and Hobbes book (Yukon Ho!) Well maybe I will just look at it a bit before I dumpster it. What I will find is what I forgot - Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest daily comic of my era.

First things first: There is Peanuts, right? Which was totally transmogrifying great. I give Bill the nod because his drawings are just incredible, especially in their frame by frame motion, which is essential to comics. I am not faulting Charles Schultz, and you have to give him a big plus for doing it over many many more years that Watterson. But, well, got that out of the way… here goes….

It's a lot more than just drawings that make Calvin and Hobbes so great. There is his Mittiesque imagination. Which allows him to conflate anything into an oversized adventure. There is the perfect confection that is this world. That is betrayed deftly every time we see a glimpse of Hobbes as stuffed animal toy.

For Calvin there is the frame to frame movement – a favorite theme, a kid's red wagon going downhill ( through time warps, into the future, faster and faster) – a sudden loss of gravity (that destroys his homework) – the jump into the mudhole followed by the equally adventurous trip to the bath – arriving home to be attacked by his tiger (again and again) – his abrupt loss of the third dimension that causes him to cavort like a piece of paper across the house and the episode.  The hurricane dust cloud backyard sandbox fights always made new yet on a Katzenjammer Kids' level. The trips to other planets. Drop of hat trips. Constantly trying his parents' patience.  Often exacerbating Hobbes the Tiger. The youthful exuberance: Today, something wonderful is going to happen! As it ever should. Good stuff. 
- Jack Vaughan on The Art of Bill Watterson 

post 1 of the series
post 2 of the series
post 3 of the series