If You Don’t Have Everything Bessie Smith Recorded You’re Missing Out

“Blue Spirit Blues”

Had a dream last night
That I was dead
Had a dream last night
That I was dead

Evil spirits
All around my bed

The devil came
And grabbed my hand
The devil came
And grabbed my hand

Took me way down
To that red hot land

Mean blues spirits
Stuck their forks in me
Mean blues spirits
Stuck their forks in me

Made me moan
And groan in misery

Fairies and dragons
Spitting out blue flames
Fairies and dragons
Spitting out blue flames

Showing their teeth
For they was glad I came

Demons with their eyelash
Dripping blood
Demons with their eyelash
Dripping blood

Dragging sinners
To their brimstone flood

“This is hell”, I cried
Cried with all my might
“This is hell”, I cried
Cried with all my might

Oh, my soul
I can’t bear the sight

Started running
‘Cause it is my cup
Started running
‘Cause it is my cup

Run so fast
Till someone woke me up

Mervyn Peake — A Major Lapse By Me

Captivated by Lord of the Rings in junior high, I discovered the Ghormenghast Trilogy early in high school and spent a good deal of my sophomore year reading Titus Groan. Some of my (ahem) less intellectually-evolved classmates thought it was weird that I read thick paperbacks alla time and would ask “You still readin’ Tight Groin?” (hyuck hyuck hyuck). Perhaps because of all the shit I got, I never did finish the three books, but went crazy about the illustrations, which I thought were a superb example of a writer who was also an illustrator being the ideal person to do the visuals.

Then I screwed up and forgot about Peake for decades until after his passing I learned he was primarily an artist. Then I continued to screw up and only got a version of Alice in Wonderland that he illustrated (since he seemed like an unquestionable descendant of John Tenniel).

Just a while ago I stopped screwing up and got a copy of Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art compiled by Sebastian Peake and Alison Eldred, Edited by G. Peter Winnington (Peter Owen, 2006). I am beyond enchanted. Among dozens and dozens of prized new pictures, I think I now have the definitive rendition of Algernon Blackwood’s Wendigo.

Unquiet Thoughts About “A Quiet Place”

Watched twice on HD TV.

It’s been a bit overpraised, though you can sure understand why reviewers would be grateful for a horror movie that wasn’t screaming in your ear and slapping you in the face relentlessly. Nevertheless, Get Out or Arrival it is not.

I say it would make a dandy Saturday matinee at my Dad’s old movie theaters. First-rate Creature Feature. What most bugged me the initial watch is that I detected no clue where these superpredators came from. Can’t just come out of the Monster Hole. And because they’re beasts with no technology, it’s impossible to imagine them invading from UFOs.

Second time through I noticed a headline I had missed in the Dad’s War Room: “METEORITE HITS MEXICO.” The idea being that these monstrosities could be hibernating inside a smallish Asteroid, which would explain why there are not so many of them.

Horror highlights:

the opening sequence, which is perfectly paced, terrifying, believable and unforgettable.

the scenes with the grain silo, which center on one of my favorite little-known deadly dangers of the things and reveal that the predators are hard and strong enough to rip right through metal.

the clever climax which showers posthumous honor on Dad and shows Mom has unlimited courage. Once again, I believe it was A.E. Van Vogt who came up with the idea that a particularly deadly quality of an alien being would be its ability to remain perfectly silent and still and then attack with supernatural speed.

Prediction:

Millicent Simmonds is going to be a superstar. I was in her power after the first five minutes.

Need To Cheer Up, So, Good News on Weight

One of the ways I lost more than 40 pounds over the last few years is sticking to a pretty regulated eating schedule: breakfast (sometime around 8 AM), lunch (sometime around Noon), afternoon snack (sometime around 4PM) and dinner (sometime around 7-9PM). And that’s IT! No other munching or snacking or eating unconsciously.

I know from experience that even two weeks of travel does not disrupt the works. But this summer has been different. For going on six weeks we’ve been hitting the roads and skies and rails with a trip to New York City, a trip to Montana and a trip to Montreal. There is no freaking way to keep a meal schedule tight when you have to attend timed exhibitions, weddings and parties, and a batch of music concerts.

So, I was worried when I stepped on the scale this morning.

I had gained only one pound.

Even better news is that I am having no trouble falling back into my routine with the clock. Doesn’t feel like a struggle or unsatisfactory. But I’m not going to make one of my old mistakes and decide I can throw things on autopilot. Must. Consciously. Stick. With. The. Plan.

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #25

[Just a reminder, this is the general title for posts where I want to do a quick plug of an oldie (or several) that’s too little-known, according to me.]

Bela Bartok, The 6 String Quartets (Lindsay String Quartet) (ASV, 1981)

This requires a shout-out to my long-gone half sister, Betty Jane, who, when she heard I was becoming captivated by music, said something like: “Pay attention to Bartok — my favorite — he’s not like anybody else.” And that his intelligence radiated from everything he wrote.

I’m not music-tech illiterate, but as close as I can be to get by (stopped taking lessons in grade school when an ignoramus told me I couldn’t play if I couldn’t read scores) so all I can say is that every moment of these three discs runs a marvelous abstract movie in my mind that’s different each time through. (Yeah, it’s not in chronological order and I wouldn’t have any other sequence than this one.) I had not played it for a long, long time because (I was reminded a couple months ago) this weird glitch had developed about two minutes into the Second Movement of Quartet No. 1, one of my most beloved passages in the whole thing. I cleaned the disc but it still wouldn’t play right. I understood I better hurry up and replace the OOP set if I didn’t want to shell out a fortune. So I did and every morning this week has featured supernatural sunshine as a result.

Reflections on Types of Tech in Music

The end of hectic travel means organizing and sorting CDs and vinyl that have been laying around for months.

Before we get to tech and types, two albums that sounded tremendous on the road:

David Bowie, Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) (Parlophone) Bowie was not a driven professional in all senses. I was furious at him for years because I felt he’d become lazy making albums and he mailed in the final time I saw him perform. But, as you know, if he knew something serious was on the line, he could unleash the torrents on stage. These two particular performances (June 30 and July 1) were intended to become a film and fortunately were mixed and produced. Then Bowie decided he couldn’t stand the visuals and the whole project got shelved. The band sound a tiny bit distant at times but that’s the only reason I wouldn’t say get this before Stage even.  Although the material and song sequence are very similar, the impassioned, even slightly crazed vocals here create a stand-alone work.

Gorillaz, The Now Now (WB/Parlophone). Only heard this twice, but let me just cite one marvelous long shot: “Humility” (feat. George Benson) really clicks.

I feel a key richness of design and depth of thought and feelings are lost if the unit of music slides from albums into single songs and playlists. And I’m not some sort of Mr. Natural Sound — I believe the right sort of extensive production can work wonders. But certain things have holes in their soul: almost all piano-roll recordings; new vocals tacked onto the music of dead people; and the latest, hi-tech Frankenstein’s monsters where music from all sorts of eras can be bolted together. Yargh.