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Archive for the ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Bugs Bunny” (2018).

bugsThis is another single from Los Bitchos.

Of all of their releases, this one is the least interesting to me.  But I like their songs a lot so it’s not like I dislike this one.

I rather like the way the song shifts speed midway through though–it certainly adds some fun to the song.  And the whole ending is a wild ride of excitement.

I’m not really sure what the music has to do with Bugs Bunny, though.

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Single-Handed”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

I feel like Barnes gives the most honest answer to the question of who your Influences are.

He says that when British writers go to Spain they are asked if they are always asked if they influenced by Tom Sharpe–a writer of jocose farce: “student embarrassed by  acquiring large quantities of condoms, inflates them with gas, stuffs them up his chimney, someone lights the fire, the chimney explodes.” Sounds hilarious, can’t believe I’ve never heard of him.  The trick when asked this question is to keep a polite face while pretending to ponder this question. (more…)

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Terry Jones [1942-2020]

Terry Jones died last night at age 77 because of complications from a rare form of dementia.

I was a huge Monty Python fan back in the day.  I’ve seen all the episodes (even the German ones) and the movies.  I have the records and the books and just about everything they’ve done.  They influenced me terrifically.

Terry Jones was a founder of Monty Python and while I tended to not think of him as my favorite on screen person, thinking about all of the amazing characters he played over the years, I think I’ve unfairly put him too low.  Especially as I think of some of the most quotable lines and how he either said them or was in the skit that spawned it (wafer-thin, anyone?).  Not to mention he did some of the best women’s voices in the series.

Most of the Pythons have been slowing down as of late, which is to be expected.  I was supposed to see John Cleese live recently but my plans fell through. Terry Gilliam is making some unfortunate comments in the media lately.  Eric Idle seems to always be about.  Michael Palin has been doing fantastic work travelling and writing no-fiction. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: September 13, 2017] Believe Me

When I saw that Eddie Izzard had a book out I was pretty interested to read it.  I have loved his stand-up since 1997 or 1998 and I was lucky enough to see him on his Circle Tour (on the date they recorded it!).  I have been keeping up with his career and trying to see him in whatever he does (although I like my comedy more than drama and he has certainly made the shift towards drama in recent years).

I thought an autobiography or memoir by him would be pretty interesting (even if he claims to be boring).  But when I saw that he read the audiobook, I knew I had to give it a listen (even if it was 12 discs)!

Amusingly, there was a long delay at the library.  The lady at the counter (who is not the librarian–we librarians know the difference) said if I knew his voice, I could just read the book to myself in his voice.  It was an amusing thought, and I possibly could do that, ….yes, but Eddie’s voice is just so fantastic that it never would have worked properly.  Plus, he throws in easily an extra hours worth of footnotes and rambles that aren’t in the print book!  That’s right, an extra hour’s worth of nonsense if you do the audio.   True you don;t get to see the pictures, but it’s a fair trade-off.

Well the book finally came in and I had plenty of driving time to make short work of this 12 hours behemoth.  And I laughed and laughed.  And cried and cried.

Because while Eddie Izzard is an action transvestite (transgender, now) and one of the best stand-ups around, he is also an extremely warm and thoughtful person. He worked very hard to become the success he is.  And he has used his fame to do some absolutely wonderful things for humanity–including raising millions of dollars.  Not bad for an atheist who is sometimes in girl mode and sometimes in boy mode. (more…)

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sticiceSOUNDTRACK: NEIL INNES-Tiny Desk Concert #127 (May 11, 2011).

innesNeil Innes is one of the musical voices of Monty Python and The Rutles.  He is also the creator of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.  I was delighted to see that he did a Tiny Desk concert.

In addition to creating clever songs, he is big into wordplay.  So, he has some great statements before starting:

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen here and viewer.”

“It’s wonderful to be.”

“You know, not so long ago and its been very lucky for me.”

He plays his perhaps most well-known song, “I’m the Urban Spaceman” on guitar.  It is wonderfully surreal (at the end he describes it as a medley of hit).

For “Democracy” he play a tiny ukulele.  This song is not funny (well a little).  It is political, straightforward and pointed.

For the final song, he play The Rutles’ “I Must Be In Love” (with appropriate accent).  He tries to get everyone to sing the really high Ooooh note and then gives up.

And then he’s gone.  It’s delightful.

[READ: August 10 2015] Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream

By this point (the fourth book) the Stick Dog series has gotten a little predictable.  I mean, basically the dogs want to get food right?  But Watson still manages to keep the stories funny.  I see that for this book the illustrations are “by Ethan Long based on original sketches by Tom Watson”  I have a hard time believing that Watson was too busy to draw these very simple figures, but whatever.

I also find it hard to believe that these dogs have never tasted ice cream before–surely they have scavenged a wrapper somewhere.  But best not to think too carefully, right?

because it is summer time and it is very hot.  The dogs are all looking for something to cool them off.  They go out in search of a nice cool water source.

But the best parts of the story are when the dogs get distracted.  On the way for water, Poo-Poo smells something.  They hope it is hot dogs or pizza, but it is…a squirrel.  Stick Dog is afraid of this because Poo-Poo will be not let the squirrel go.  But Stick Dog convinces him to leave it.  And they are off. (more…)

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june23SOUNDTRACK: MONTY PYTHON-“Rock Notes” (1980).

mpThis skit (more of a monologue) comes from Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album, the first Python album I ever bought.  It’s not my favorite bit from them, but it’s short and wedged in the middle of the rest of the album which means that I know it by heart.  Now, the skit is most famous for naming Toad the Wet Sprocket (Eric Idle says he tried to come up with the most absurd name he could think of and there it was).  The band featured Flamboyant Ambidextrous Rex who fell off the back of a motorcycle.

What I tend to forget is that the rest of the joke is all about one band Dead Monkeys who have just broken up again.  They were together for ten years, but for nine of those years the band had other names.  Primarily, the names are fishy: Dead Salmon, Trout, Poached Trout in a White Wine Sauce, Dead Herring.  Then they ditched the fishy references for Dead Loss, Heads Together, Dead Together and ultimately Helen Shapiro.

This extended riff is rather silly and I’m not even sure it’s appropriate for a joke on bands.  I can’t think of many bands who have broken up and reformed under new names (I mean, yes, there’s a couple, but not enough to warrant this extended joke).

And yet, I still remember the joke, so it must be something, right?

What do I think of Dead Duck? or Lobster?

[READ: September 16, 2014] “Liner Notes”

This Shouts & Murmurs piece begins so strongly that I was super excited to read it.  Saunders riffs on liner notes in albums, specifically failed albums.  His liner notes are for the album 2776: A Musical Journey Through America’s Past, Present & Future which is just another attempt to “engage with the vast sweep of American history” via the musical epic.

The best joke is citing Meat Loaf’s “Ben Franklin Makes Love in a Foggy Grove of Trees” (which failed to translate to live performance).  [I would totally listen to that song].  He then talks about a Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber production of “Johnny Tremain” which was too intellectual for a nineteen-seventies audience.  But I feel like Saunders goes off track when, instead of staying with the slightly absurd realism, he jumps the shark by saying that the songs were too risqué “for a staid culture that, at that time, still believed that babies came when you left a pastel turtleneck rolled up in a wad overnight.”  It broke me right out of the exaggerated realism into the realm of outrageous farce.

Which is a shame because returning to real artists like Tom Waits making a biography of Jesse James called “A White-Trash Rambling Christ Figure Just Shot Your Brother, Amigo” is pretty darn funny. (more…)

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44SOUNDTRACK: WNYC SOUNDCHECK GIG ALERTS (2009-).

soundcheck There are so many places to listen to free music.  But i prefer places where you can (legally) download free music.  So here’s a place I’ve just discovered: WNYC Radio’s website which features a section called “Gig Alerts.”  The feature talks about a different interesting band playing that night (in New York).  After a small blurb, there is (almost always) a free downloadable track.   There’s twenty listings per page and 86 pages.  Do the math and that’s a lot of songs.

The feature covers virtually every genre, although there is a preponderance of alt- and indie- rock (mostly lesser known bands).  If you are interested in new (to you) music and in exploring different artists, this is a great resource for a ton of free music.  So, check out Gig Alerts here.

[READ: May 20, 2014] McSweeney’s #44

I was pretty pleased with myself when I got caught up on the McSweeney’s issues.  But I remember wanting to take a break when this one came in.  I now see it has been almost a year since I read the last issue.  So the break was too long and now I have three issues to catch up on again.  Sigh.  But this one proved to be a great issue to return on.

This is a pretty quintessential issue of McSweeney’s.  It’s got letters, some fiction, a special section dedicated to Lawrence Weschler (which includes a lot of art), and a cool, interesting section of plates with full color art.  It’s also got an interestingly designed hardcover with a kind of raw cardboard in the back, a slightly raised colorful section for the spine and then a further raised section for the giant 44 on the front cover.

LETTERS (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-Legend (1984).

I’m white, so that means I own a copy of this CD (according to the book below).  And I do, because it’s mandatory in college that you play “Jammin'” at every party.

Now, I like ska (yup, still).  I know that ska came from reggae, but to me reggae is just boring ska.  I couldn’t agree more with Barney on How I Met Your Mother:

Ted: Oh, get this, she plays bass in a reggae band. They’re having a show this Friday. How cool is that?

Barney: Oh, does she know that one song? Mm-hm chaka, mm-hm chaka. What’s that song called? Oh, right, it’s called every reggae song.

Although in fairness, listening to this again, it is a rather nice album (I guess I know every song).  I have a personal aversion to some of the really overplayed songs, like “One Love” (because if you go to any Caribbean location they all act like it’s the official slogan of hot weather.  We even have a Christmas ornament from St. John that says “One Love”  WTF?  And I don’t think anyone needs a 7 minute version of “No Woman No Cry.”

But some of the lesser played its (“Could You Be Loved” and just about anything with The Wailers backing him are pretty great).  Although I’ve got to admit I can’t take more than a few songs.  I had to skip through some of the last songs (thank goodness I don’t have the 2 disc version).

[READ: July 26, 2012] Whiter Shades of Pale

Christian Lander created the blog Stuff White People Like.  It was very funny (it hasn’t been updated since Feb 2011, so let’s assume it has run its course).

Lander had released a first book of SWPL back in 2008.  I didn’t read it (blog to book deals were overwhelming in 2008), but I had seen enough of the site to assume it was funny.  One of the funnier jokes when the blog first came out was wondering if the creator was white or not.  (Well, the author photo gives that away, but I won’t).

We grabbed this book at a Borders going out of business sale (sorry Borders, you are missed).  This book continues where the first book left off (I gather).  I don’t know if every entry from the blog made it into the book (the thanks at the end of the book lead me to think not), but I have to assume most of them made it (and maybe there is new stuff in the book too?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK-“Interjection” (1975).

I can’t get over how much information I learned from School House Rock.  And, conversely, how kids don’t have exposure to this kind of educational material.  In part because it’s not made anymore, but also because we TiVo everything, so there’s no interstitials.  I’d love to be able to insert some of these into their shows that they like.

Interjection has got to be one of the best of the bunch (I have a top ten which is very different from the Best of CD that came out–where’s Verb?).  We were listening to this CD in the car the other day trying to get them excited about the songs (which definitely work better with the videos).  But since Clark’s story has an interjection, this was the obvious choice.

Relive the glory:

Darn.  That’s the end.

[CREATED: June 2012] The Book of Hi’s

Today is Clark’s 7th birthday!  Happy birthday, sweetheart!

I have told my kids that if they tell me stories, I will make them into books for them.  I even have a digital recorder if they want to recite stories that we can make together.  They are always coming up with stories that their toys play (mostly about jail and monsters and whatnot), but they don’t seem to want to record them for posterity.

Then one day Sarah and the kids were doing a craft that involved writing out stories (Sarah had stapled pages together).  Clark wrote this story.  And it cracks me up, primarily because I know he thinks it is very funny, but also because it is weirdly funny (if ever there was a kid who was almost ready for Monty Python, it’s this one).

He wrote it out very fast on one page of the book, so I decided to make a proper book out of it.  For your enjoyment, I present, in full, The Book of Hi’s. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-the final cut: a requiem for the post war dream (1983).

My college experience seems very unlike many people’s (especially the stories I hear from you young kids today).  And I’m just talking musically.  I went to college in the late 80 and early 90s.  And my freshman year, the most popular albums on campus  were Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits, Squeeze’s 45s and Under and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  My friend John also loved this album.  And I think we listened to it hundreds of times, blasting out of dorm room windows.

It’s kind of strange that college freshmen would embrace an album about (more or less) Roger Waters’ father dying in WWII, especially since none of our fathers had died at all, much less in WWII.  But angst finds its home I suppose.

This album is not a sequel to The Wall, but it has echoes (see what I did there) from that album.  There were touches of WWII in The Wall.  And sonically a lot of this album sounds similar.  The big difference is that Roger Waters wrote pretty much the whole thing, long time keyboardist Richard Wright left the band and David Gilmour, sings on only one song.  So, it’s practically a solo project (and it fees a lot like Waters’ solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking).

This album seems to have alienated fans of Floyd. But I happen to like it quite a lot.  And, I it a lot while reading Gravity’s Rainbow.

“The Post War Dream” opens with military sounding horns and funereal organs, as befits an album about the war.  It also has an intriguing assortment of sound effects (I wonder where he gets most of this stuff).  It sounds very Pink Floyd–Roger Waters’ voice is pretty unmistakable).  But “Your Possible Pasts” sounds even more Pink Floyd.  Evidently this album has a number of songs that were cast offs from The Wall.  If that’s true, this is probably one of them, as it sounds like it could easily fit on that album–especially when the keyboards kick in during the second chorus (even if Richard Wright wasn’t on the album).  And the guitar solo is so David Gilmour–that’s what you call a signature sound.

“One of the Few” has something I love from Floyd–whispered vocals (“teach”) and creepy laughing; it works as a nice transition to the louder “The Hero’s Return.”  This track is very complex–all kinds of tonal shifts, echoed vocals and bitter lyrics.  It explodes into “The Gunner’s Dream,” a gentle piano ballad about a soldier being shot down.   It’s a surprisingly tender song (although not really given the topic of the album) and lyrically it is really impressive.  I don’t really care for the saxophone solo–it’s not my thing, but I think it actually works well for the song.  And, again the end sounds like it came from The Wall (Waters is amazing at angsty screams).

“Paranoid Eyes” is a delicate song that works, for me, as lead in to the wonderful “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert” a short, string-filled somewhat goofy song that is very bitter under its seeming jocularity.  It’s followed by “The Fletcher Memorial Home,” a really dark track about old age with a lot of current political commentary thrown in (although the “group of anonymous Latin American meat-packing glitterati” always confused (and amused) me.  So even though it is “about” WWII, there’s plenty of anger at current political climate, right Maggie?.  Boom boom, bang bang, lie down, you’re dead–take it away David…

“Southampton Dock” is another gentle song, more of a story with musical accompaniment.  It segues into “The Final Cut” a fitting piano end to a sad album about death and loss, that also happens to reprise song elements from The Wall.

But that’s actually not the last song.  We get the incongruous “Not Now John.”  It really doesn’t fit with the album at all (I happen to love it, even if it doesn’t).  It’s way over the top, including the how-in-the-hell-did-they-think-this-would-be-a-single? opening lyrics: “fuck all that we gotta get on with this. (fuck all that).”  And yet, single it was, reaching #7 in the US.  Man it rocks.  Oi, where’s the fucking bar, John?

The album ends properly with “two suns in the sunset” a mostly acoustic track that returns the mood to more sombre feelings (except for the rocking section where you drive into an oncoming truck).  Never has futility felt so upbeat.  For an album as personal as this is, it really draws the listener in.  Of course, if you don’t want to be drawn in, it’s easy to resist, as many have.

The reissue (which I don’t have), includes the cool song from The Wall movie, “When the Tigers Broke Free.”  Which I imagine would work quite well contextually.

[READ: Week of April 30] Gravity’s Rainbow 4.7-end

And the book ends with a bang and a lot of leftover questions.  My first reaction is that I can’t get over Pynchon spent so much time in the last 60 pages talking about things that had nothing to do with the “plot” per se.  I never really felt like the story was all that hard to follow until the end, when Pynchon let loose the dogs of war on his writing.  There are several pages of stream of consciousness reverie where I was completely at a loss.  Of course, this has been true for much of the book–Pynchon would talk about something and then cycle back into it, filling in the gaps that he left open.  The whole book seemed to have this kind of coiled effect (perhaps a slinky). He would set up a scene as if you had been there all along.  And while you were puzzling over just who the hell he was talking about, he would flashback to whatever you needed to fill in the missing pieces.  And he is still doing that as the story comes to a close.

And although it starts out with a familiar figure, he quickly takes something and has a massive hallucination.  Is this even true? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRIUMPH-Just a Game (1979).

When I was a kid, my love of Rush was followed closely by my love of Triumph (I had a thing for Canadian power trios).  I’ve recently read a bunch about Triumph and was surprised to hear how acrimonious the band was.  Of course, I didn’t care about any of that back in the 80s.

This album was my favorite (even though Allied Forces was their major breakthrough).  In my gate-fold album the inner foldout was an actual board game.  How thoughtful!

It’s funny listening now, how much I liked this album back then because there is definitely some cheese here.  And I could never decide if I liked drummer Gil Moore’s songs or Rik Emmet’s songs best.  “Movin On” is a great hit but the backing vocals and “on and on” parts are kind of wimpy 70s rock–I must have blocked it out while jamming to the guitar solo.

Rik Emmet has since gone on to a successful solo career.  But on “Lay It On the Line,” the song that got me into them (thanks MTV) Rik rocks like he loves this band and this music.  The song features some serious guitar workouts and some impressive vocal acrobatics.

Perhaps, in hindsight, I like Rik’s songs better, as “Yong Enough to Cry” is pretty cheesy (it was fun to sing along to when I was 13 though–even if I never understood Gil’s pain, man).  But all of that was forgiven for the majesty of “American Girls.”  Sure, it’s also a cheesy song, but man it rocks.  As a young kid, I loved hearing the national anthem in the middle of the song.  And that solo is non-stop.

“Just a Game” is a powerhouse of a song although it’s a little long for what it is.  But then there’s the amazing “Fantasy Serenade” just over 90 second of beautiful classical guitar (a direction he’s go in much more after leaving Triumph).  It’s wonderful as a solo and it works as an amazing intro to the majestic “Hold On” (a song about music that doesn’t suck).  Although admittedly, the single version is better without the weird disco instrumental in the middle that really kind of puts a kibosh on the flow of the song.

The album ends with the strange (and quite long for what is it) “Suitcase Blues,” a 3 minute slow blues about touring.  But hey it showcases diversity, eh?

Even though many people compare Triumph to Rush, I think the more likely comparison is actually Kiss.  “American Girls” has a real Kiss vibe towards the end, and the opening chords of “Movin’ On” have a real Kiss feel.  Regardless, they played great metal/rock/prog and I’ll always love them for it.

[READ: February 12, 2012] Ready Player One

Do you like Rush? Do you like Monty Python?  Do you like the 80s?  (not those 80s, but cool 80s like Blade Runner, coin op video games, Family Ties, Square Pegs?)  Then you absolutely must read this book.  Especially if you like Rush, because how often does Rush form a plot point in a book?

Sarah was reading this book and she insisted that I read it (she has really been passing on the good suggestions lately!).  And when I heard her playing Rush a few days after reading this book (and she doesn’t like Rush), I knew I had to read it.

But what is it?  Well, It is basically the story of an online quest to find a secret egg and win a massive fortune.  The egg was placed in a virtual world by its creator, James Halliday.  Halliday was “a nerd uber-deity on the level of Gygax, Garriott, and Gates.”  He created amazing video games and ultimately the most amazing virtual reality space ever: OASIS.  (For Atari geeks, his inspiration for getting into creating video games in the first place was the Atari game Adventure).  Halliday was obsessed with the 19080s (the decade he grew up in), with technology and with geeky movies.  The only way to find this egg in OASIS is to know a thing or two (or 1,000,000) about the man who created it and the decade he loved.

If you were hooked by the first paragraph, you’ve already put this book on hold.  If you were hooked by the third paragraph, you know you have to put this book on hold.  If you’re not convinced yet let me back up.

It is the year 2044.  The earth is in a hellish state–there’s no fuel, there’s no jobs, people live in trailers that are stacked on top of each other.  Life sucks.  Except for OASIS.  OASIS is the virtual world created by Halliday.  At this stage in the world, OASIS is where most people go to school (cheaper and easier to do virtual teaching) and where many people spend most of their lives.  It’s depressing and horrible (and I actually didn’t enjoy the opening chapters all that much because it was really horrible and at a times a bit more caustic than I was expecting–but that changes quite a lot).

So Halliday invented OASIS as an idealized pace.  It was originally a multi-player game but soon became a new place to live, a kind of Eden.  It was free to join and you didn’t have to pay to play.  Although you needed credits to travel (or to build your own buildings or planets or whatnot), you could stay on the main world (which looks a whole hell of a lot nicer than the real world) and just hang out for free.  You can earn points through various achievements which would let you travel (or you could always hitch a ride with a friend) around the worlds.

Anyhow, when Halliday died, as his last will, he created a contest in OASIS.  Anyone who could find the three keys and unlock the three gates would win his entire fortune (billions of dollars) and total control of OASIS.

The protagonist (Wade in the real world, Perzival in the OASIS world) is telling his tale because he was the first avatar to find the first key to Halliday’s Hunt (it took over five years to find the first key).  If you played D&D, this section will make you smile.

When Perzival found the key he was suddenly famous because everyone on OASIS knew it was found.  Prior to this moment, the “leader board” which previously listed only Halliday, now suddenly lit up with Perzival’s name.  (Good thing OASIS avatars are anonymous, right?) (more…)

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