The Conan of the Future

This afternoon devoured Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987. May have more to say but I must get in that Riad and his buddies obsession with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie was an utter surprise hoot (Sattouf does a marvelous job of capturing the kids’ imitation of the Schwarzenegger scowl).

The Edgar Rice Burroughs reissued paperbacks had been thrilling me since Junior High School and the same Frazetta cover art drew me to Robert E. Howard’s Conan books when they first appeared. And it was a serious graduation — Howard was more modern, more violent, more weird, more fevered than ERB.

I outgrew Howard and his hero (who I started calling “Onan the Barbarian”) before the reissue series finished up. I needed fiction characters with interiors. I knew little about Howard’s life except that he was from Texas and most of his Conan material had appeared in the sacred Weird Tales. Everything came flooding back when I saw the captivating and wonderfully realized 1996 film The Whole Wide World (Vincent D’Onofrio performance of a lifetime). I immediately tracked down the Novalyne Price book One Who Walked Alone (more apt title, but I see why they didn’t use it). Both the film and the memoir are hugely recommended for their presentation of the value fantasy had for certain isolated souls trapped in the vast Western horizons. The Price book makes a more explicit case for Howard’s fatal fixation on his mother.

Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #65: Reggae From Guam

Always Love by the For Peace Band survived the serious first round of listens, which means it will be that (nowadays) great rarity, a reggae album I will keep. Bit platitudinous, bit recycled riffs and hooks, but with enough catchy inventions and surprises on vocals and instrumentals (percussion and guitar especially) and warmhearted love songs that you will want to slap it on every so often.

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #26

[On some sort of classical kick here …]

Alan Hovhaness, Fred the Cat: Half a Century of Piano Music (Koch, 1992); Marvin Rosen, piano.

The titles alone show the pointed, playful personalities of each track here.

I mean, you know, catchy and smart and lyrical and compact. Well, my only hesitation is that the three longest tracks are the last ones, which slows down the finale, but the opening sequences of dances and “Sonata, Fred the Cat” itself can’t be beat.

I play this about every other summer. Has some of the same seduction as Mompou, swirls in abundant early sunshine.

Screamin’ J

I see that Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s ’90s albums are going to be reissued. Back in the day I had a real mixed response: I was glad they were out there because he could use the moolah; these numbers were just (sometimes good) jokes — his earlier renditions had been both jokes and not-jokes. And this is one of my all-time favorite Hairy Who paintings (very sad to see it is not on display — first discovered it visiting the museum in Chicago):


Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #64: Catching Up with Brad Mehldau Trio

Seymour Reads the Constitution (Nonesuch) came out more than two months ago, but it got lost in a pile until this weekend. Wish I had the smarts to take it to Montana, or at least Montreal. I thought this same group’s Bach project earlier this year worked as music but was emotionally opaque. This set churns and simmers with the despair, anxiety and outrage apt in these times while it makes the Beach Boys’ “Friends” and Paul McCartney’s “Great Day” into full-bore jazz workouts the way so many others try and fail to achieve, then throws in amazing reworkings of a pair of my favorite players and writers, Elmo Hope (“De-Dah”) and Sam Rivers (“Beatrice”).

But the apex is that the title tune original goes on such a slightly melancholic frolic. You should read Mehldau’s explanation of how the number came about, though it does involving talking about dreams and the death of Seymour Hoffman.