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Posts Tagged ‘Library of Congress’

The Real Frank Zappa Book” (1989©)   —   book review
Today’s review is for the autobiography:  “The Real Frank Zappa Book“;  written by:  Frank Zappa and co-written by / with:  Peter Occhiogrosso.
Background:  a network system admin colleague was listening to some music when I approached him for assistance.  I asked about what he was listening to and he said it was Frank Zappa and the “Mother’s of Invention”.  He then proceeded to tell me how great Zappa was and that he listened to a Zappa show on the radio every Friday night where this little station ran a two hour program on Zappa’s music.  My friend said there was nothing more relaxing than sitting in an easy chair with a tumbler of Jägermeister and listening to Zappa to kick off a weekend.  I was familiar with the “name” but (honestly) could not recall a single song or album, but I said I’d check it out based on his (my friend’s) recommendation.
Well, I still haven’t gotten around to listening to the radio and I don’t know if the broadcast is still happening every Friday evening, but I was in the used book store (several years ago) and I saw this book and picked it up to add to my reading list.  I keep seeing Zappa’s name referred to in my guitar studies, so I finally made a point of opening (and reading) it.
Who is Frank Zappa and why should we care about him or his views (on anything)?  Zappa is / was (died 1993) an American musician, singer, composer, songwriter and bandleader.  He self-produced over 50 albums and his estate had published another 30+ albums of “new” material since his death.  He was a self-taught musician and composer.  He claims to not be a very great guitarist, but that is the only instrument I ever knew him to play and he’s said to be one of the top 100 guitarists in history.  His book says he originally learned music on a drum set and picked up guitar later.  He was also reasonably well known for his libertarian political views particularly about free speech and the separation of church and state.  Zappa is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has an album in the Library of Congress preserved for its historical significance.  Zappa’s music is a blend of rock, jazz, fusion, concert / symphonic music with a heavy dose of political / social satire – comedy.  He poked fun at both the left and the right.
What’s in this book and is it any good?  The book is really several parts:  1)  a personal biography;  2)  a discussion of his career and production thoughts about the music industry;  and,  3)  Zappa’s views on various political and social / societal trends.  I didn’t find his biography interesting.  I thought his comments on music and the industry were very insightful.  I was only mildly amused by his political stances and societal observations.  While I might personally agree with much of his stances and observations, I found his sarcasm / humor tiring long before the end of the book.
Part 1)  I grew up poor and we moved around a lot.  My escape was music.  I learned about it on my own by listening to an unfiltered variety of sound(s).  I got ripped off constantly by almost everyone else in the music business.  (Pgs 1 – 137)
Part 2)  Everybody is out to screw the composer / artist.  Including, but not limited to:  all production companies, all music unions, all venue owners, all governments (local and national), most fellow musicians, and, most hangers-on / groupies.  (Pgs 139 – 209)
Part 3)  Small, efficient government is the best.  Taxation should be limited to sales and should not include income – to have some hope of charging taxes on the wealthy as well as the workers.  All organized religion(s) and “church” institutions are corrupt (themselves) and corrupting to governments which allow them to have political influence.  There should be a full separation of Church and State.  Public education is a “mostly” a waste of money.  Education post-high school should be paid for by the individual only.  Special interest groups (guns and religion lobbies) have too much influence in America.  You cannot legislate morality and you should not be allowed to use morality to limit freedom of speech (particularly in the arts and music industries).  (Pgs 211 – 352 / end)
Final recommendation:  moderate to strong.  As stated previously, I didn’t find Zappa’s personal life (growing up or music performing) very interesting.  I found his thoughts about the concept of music (and art in general) VERY interesting.  This section was the strength of the book.  I would have been over the moon if he had devoted the rest of the book to elaborating on his theories of sound / art / artistry / and music production.  Unfortunately, he didn’t.  The final chunk of the book was “really” only moderately interesting.  My impression was:  “this is filler to add 80 extra pages”.  Again, just because I agree with an authors’ statements, doesn’t mean I like / enjoy how they choose to express the statements.  The book was worth the time invested in reading it , if only to gain an appreciation of a historic music figure.  I will be offering up some quotes from it in the future.  – BUT – except for the discussion on music / art, I can’t say the book inspired much after-thought / reflection.  (Actually, I’ve already posted a few of Zappa’s quotes, but didn’t know they were from this book.  I will probably get around to updating those prior posts at some point.)
Afterwords:  I have made an effort to go to YouTube and sample some of Zappa’s performances.  I’ve yet to be impressed.  Mostly, what I’ve heard has been ok.  JUST ok.  They remind me of what you’d hear at a county / state fair.  If anyone reading this can provide specific suggestions, I’d be more than happy to check them out.  I will say, I have found the video’s of his interviews to be much more interesting than the music I’ve listened to.
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On This Day In:
2021 Every Time It Gets Better
Distant!
2020 I’m Persuaded
2019 Hungry For Trust
2018 Mutual Assistance
2017 The Toughest Job
2016 Congratulations!!
Better Yet, Read!
2015 Even If It Kills Us Slowly
2014 Fun To Play God
Of Anything
2013 Legal (Almost)
2012 Great Scots!
2011 The GI Bill – A Simple History Lesson
Breaking Even

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Lilies of the Field”  (1963) — movie review
I know.  I know.  I haven’t done very many movie reviews of late…  And, yes, I have been watching (both) movies and streaming series.  Truth be told:  I’ve just been lazy and procrastinating…  (Mea culpa, mea culpa…)
Anyway, today’s review is for the drama (mild comedic moments) “Lilies of the Field” starring Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith, and Lilia Skala as the Head Mother / Sister (that’s Mother Superior to you non-Catholics) Maria.  The movie was nominated for Best Picture;  Skala for Best Supporting Actress and Poitier won Best Actor.  With this win, he became the first African-American male to win for a lead role.  There was a female Oscar winner before him, but her role was “Supporting”, not just “Best”.
The plot is a group of sisters has escaped East Germany and traveled to the United States.  They have inherited a farm, but have no knowledge of farming and only the Mother speaks passable English.  She has been praying to God for someone to help them build a chapel so they (and their parish) can practice their faith (attend Mass and hold Sacraments).  And, along comes Homer…
The rest of the movie is an exposition about the Sisters and Homer and their bonding while building the chapel.
Is the movie any good?  Do I recommend it?  Hmmm…  The movie was up for Best Picture and is currently in the U.S. National Film Registry / Library of Congress designated as:  “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  I think that’s a:  “YES!!”
Do I recommend it?  Hmmm…  Yes!!
The acting is terrific!  Skala brilliant as the Head Mother and she brought back a LOT of memories of my years in a Catholic grammar school.  (LoL)  Poitier won Best Actor, so there’s not a lot to add to that.
The movie as multiple GREAT scenes:  from Homer’s ordering breakfast at a road-side diner, to Sister Maria’s reaction while the priest is thanking her, to the on-going “insurance” dialogue.  And, of course, no review would be complete without at least a mention of “Amen“…  Homer listens to the sisters singing and they ask him to join them.  He proceeds to teach them a “down-home go to meeting song”, which has become quite famous in cinema.  I was surprised / disappointed to find out (while researching for this review) that Poitier lip-sync’d the song.  It’s a little bit sad, when things you thought you knew (for most of your life) turn out to be incorrect. (LoL)
Final recommendation:  Very Highly recommended!  This is a terrific movie which I have watched multiple times and still find little details to enjoy.  (IMHO – it’s very reminiscent of “Casablanca” and “Inherit the Wind” in this regard.  All classics!  All in black and white.)
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On This Day In:
2021 I Should Have Started Earlier
To Soothe Your Soul
2020 Let’s Make It So
2019 Today’s Question
2018 A Moment Of Union
2016 Symptoms
2016 Tossers
2015 Hunger
2014 Outside Dependence
2013 Doing Right
2012 A Short Course In Human Relations
If Death Be My Future
Strive
Such A Fool
2011 I’m Working For A Living

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Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb”   —   movie review
Today’s review is for the 1964 “comedy “Dr. Strangelove” starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden and Slim Pickens.  This film is directed by Stanley Kubrick and is considered a classic as both a movie and as a comedic movie.  I think it is a “classic”, but I don’t find it particularly funny.  I guess there are a few amusing moments in the movie, but, I found them “almost smile” moments, not “Ha-ha” laugh out loud moments.
This movie was one of two movies to deal with worldwide nuclear war which came out within a twelve month period.  The other was “Failsafe” (which I reviewed here).  In this movie, an American Air Force general (named Jack D. Ripper [LoL!  I get it!] played by Hayden) goes crazy and orders the strategic bombers under his command to attack the U.S.S.R.  All but one of the planes is successfully re-called (or shot down), but with its radio damaged the single jet manages to initiate the end of the world.  This result is because the Soviets have determined they cannot compete with the United States and therefore (instead) developed a “weapon” which will blowup and spread poisonous nuclear fallout around the world destroying all life on the planet.  The fallout cloud is meant to be toxic for a minimum of 93 years.
One of the distinctive things in the movie is that Peter Sellers plays three different characters in the film: the President of the United States, a British Air Force officer assigned to the U.S. air base, and a “crazy” German (ex-Nazi) scientist who advises the Americans in the War Room.  Sellers was originally contracted to play four roles in this film, but he managed to get out of one of them (the bomber pilot) and the role was given to Slim Pickens.  It’s not uncommon for an actor to have multiple roles in a single film, but normally they are passed off as twins or generational relatives or clones.  As far as I know, until Eddie Murphy came along, this was a fairly unique niche which Sellers played in a number of films in his career.
So, if this is a comedy which isn’t funny (to me), is it any good?  Is it entertaining?  Is it worth worth watching?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes!
As mentioned above, this movie is considered a true “Classic” and has been voted onto the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.  It makes satirical comments about nuclear weapons, the Pentagon / National Defense, the President, Texan manliness, and the communist plot to neuter the American public via water fluoridation.  (Yes, we even had conspiracy theories in the movies way back then.)
The movie is pretty entertaining with particularly noteworthy performances by Sellers (in all three roles) and by George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson.  It is easy to see how Scott went from this role to his Best Actor role as General Patton in 1970.
Final recommendation:  Highly!  Both “Dr. Strangelove” and “Failsafe” are anti-war movies.  The former is the mostly unfunny bookend to the tense drama of the latter.  But, both are very good to excellent movies which (I believe) not enough people are aware of, let alone have seen.  In this day and age, where we are just getting past our own “Nightmare In The Oval Office” (aka: #IncometentTrump) and we are almost 30 years from the collapse of the USSR, we (IMHO) have forgotten what horrors could happen if there is a “hot” war with either North Korea or with Iran.  A war may not result in the mutual destruction depicted in this movie, but the results would be frightening to imagine.
Art, just like history, can caution us about the path(s) to not follow if we are wise enough to remember it and to listen to their lessons.
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On This Day In:
2019 Looking For A Republican With A Profile In Courage
2018 Hammers, Bells And Songs
2017 My Friends
2016 In Need Of Some Work
2015 Elections Have Consequences
2014 An Ear Of Happy Accidents
2013 Powerful Substitute
2012 Heroes Restored
2011 As You Should

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The Grapes Of Wrath (1940) — movie review
Today’s review is for the John Ford directed movie: “The Grapes Of Wrath” starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and John Carradine as Jim Casy.  The movie is based on the novel written by John Steinbeck which was published the year before the movie (1939).  The subject of the movie is the move by the Joad family from Oklahoma to California – what causes the move and what happens during the move.  This is the first time I’ve seen this movie and I never had to read the book while in high school and haven’t read it since.  Yes, I know it’s a “classic”.  Mea culpa, mea culpa.
It seems I’ve been watching a number of Henry Fonda movies lately, so I thought I’d do this review next (after “Once Upon A Time In The West“).  In OUATITW, Fonda plays a cold blooded killer named (only) Frank.  I was surprised to find he is also a killer in this movie.  At the start of the movie, Tom is released from prison (convicted of murder which he claims was in self-defense) and he makes his way to his family’s farm in Oklahoma.  He finds the farm abandoned, but is able to meet up with them at his uncle’s farm nearby.  Unfortunately, his uncle’s farm has also been repossessed, and the family is being forced off of it.
Repossessed is probably not an accurate description, because they don’t actually own the farm.  They are sharecroppers.  As long as the land was productive, they could scrape by enough to feed themselves and pay their rent.  But, when the world was hit by the Great Depression and most of the mid-west was hit by the “dust bowl” of the mid-1930’s, the land was unable to support the families let alone pay for the rents.  Many families were forced to move or starve.
Like many families, the Joad’s decide to move to California on the “promise” of well paying jobs.  The majority of the rest of the movie is about the difficulties of the trip and the eventual realization that “the promise” was merely a means for the owners of the land in Oklahoma to get the sharecroppers to voluntarily move off the land without the owners having to use force.  And, during the course of the movie, Fonda’s character kills again.  This time Tom kills a “deputy” who has just killed Fonda’s friend (Carradine / Casy) for no reason except that he (the deputy) can get away with it.
This movie is a powerful indictment of capitalism, fascism and authoritarianism in the United States during the 1930’s.  It has strong political (anti-communist) undertones which touch on both the “red scare” and anti-unionism as the wealthy, in California, try to take advantage of their fellow Americans who have been driven into poverty and into migrant worker status by weather and economic forces beyond their control.  The movie also uses two specific scenes to demonstrate that average Americans have charity in their hearts – in sharp contrast with those with economic power / wealth.
The movie is generally considered to be one of the greatest American movies of all time – and I agree it one of the most powerfully disturbing movies I’ve ever viewed.  According to Wikipedia: “this film was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” “
The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards (1941) and won two:  Darwell for Best Actress and Ford for Best Director.  Fonda was nominated for Best Actor, but did not win.  He lost to James Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story“.
Final recommendation: very highly recommended!  Disturbing, yes!  Powerful, yes!  If there is ANY downside to the movie, I’d say the weak attempt at an optimistic ending detracted from the overall power of the movie.  Fonda’s “Joad as everyman” in the prior scene was barely believable.  Ma’s “we’re gonna get by cause that’s what we’ve always done” – far less so.  In any case, this is a great / classic movie and well worth viewing in our day due to its message about our own economic / political time.
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On This Day In:
2021 Well Within Our Power
Hammer Time
2020 3 November Is Coming!
Bee Gees’ing
2019 Senate Republicans: Impeachment – Because It Is Right!
Dave’s Not Here, Man!
Mixing Business And Pleasure
2018 Intensity Doesn’t Make It Correct
HF2: 1940’s Grapes
2017 Proof Sits In The Oval Office
2016 Tragic Determinism
2015 Maybe It Should Be Clearer
2014 Make It Your Strength
2013 Four Score
2012 The Ruler
2011 Forever
2010 Just Cuz
How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?
It’s Alive!! (3rd Pair Shoe Review)

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