Monday, December 22, 2008

People's Liberation Big Band

A new version of the Nutcracker and a new Christmas tradition. The People's Liberation Big Band once again performed their wild-eyed version of the Nutcracker in Kansas City last night. They first unleashed this alternative jazz version with its unusual time signatures and creative re-harmonizations in 2006. One of their next projects is a soundtrack to the 1925 silent film, Battleship Potemkin. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Train For Winter Survival Like The Cosmonauts

The following is no joke ---a German company called Space Travellers, "the first commercial Space Agency of the world," offers zero-gravity flights, jet flights, space flights and astronaut training for earthbound schlubs like you and me. Reading through the text of their website is surreal. It prods you to sign up for outlandish tours:--"you would like to fly a supersonic jet to feel the g-forces?"---using awkward English to comical effect: "the successor of the MIG-25 kidnaps you in a modern jet with Mach 2.4 into the stratosphere, so that you will see the earth with other eyes!" "You will be weightlessness!" "You will never forget in your life this experience!"

One of their many packages is their "Original Cosmonaut Winter Survival Training" in Russia, as pictured above. Oooo, yes! Sign me up! Those blue boots are so worth it.

As cold as it is here, you probably don't have to travel to Siberia to get the full training experience. But for those who are tempted to jump at this offer, I've provided the details of the program below, straight off the Space Travellers website:

Original Cosmonaut Training - Winter Survival Training - Russia

How to feel like an Cosmonaut:

This means first of all hard training, before he is able to be ready for his journey into the orbit. Cosmonaut training is a very long duration training, which requires, that the cosmonaut-participant first of all has to adjust himself into the perfectly new enviroment.

Since that the International Space Station ISS is constantly manned, a docked Russian Soyuz spaceship also always is in the orbit, with which the astronauts and cosmonauts can leave the space station in an emergency.

If it comes to such an unforeseeable event, everything must go very fast and the crew withdraws themselves within hours into the command capsule of the Soyuz spaceship and docks off. Here it can come to another landing point than in the Kazhakh quilts, the cosmonauts can land with the Soyuz into equatorial, water or all possible ice- or very cold areas.

You can learn in winter training with international crews a surviving in the eternal ice. This training is part of the original cosmonaut training, you will be a real team member. It is not a touristic event only for you, it is really a hard training, where you can have the completely experience of surviving after a emergency-landing in icy areas on the world.

You train with the cosmonauts and get from the outset your task: Handling the different rescue assistance of the Soyuz spaceship, building of an emergency accommodation, establishment of contact with the rescue team, which can arrive maximally in 36 hours at your landing place. You and your comrades are alone, posed so long on yourself and must furnish itself, so that you will have the chance to survive, and it does not come to more emergencies in your crew.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Burl's Pearl's -- Burl Ives' Surprising Oeuvre

Tis the season for everything Burl Ives. As the Burl Ives My Ass Coalition (BIMAC) launches its predictable boycott against holiday favorites like "Holly Jolly Christmas", let us more high-minded folk celebrate the legacy left behind by America's best-loved entertainer. What better place to start than Burl Ives' prolific catalog of song and verse, as captured on these stunning discs of vinyl. Some of them may surprise you. This is Burl, as you've never seen him before.

The album cover that BIMAC doesn't want you to see. BIMAC's anti-Burl propoganda doesn't stand a chance against such heart-warming collections as these.

Burl released this album in anticipation of the mockery he'd later receive. He followed it up with "Funny way of Singin' ", "Funny Way of Talkin' ", "Funny Way of Dressin' " and "Funny Way of Burpin' "

This confusing studio effort earned mixed reviews. Burl Ives sings and narrates quasi-Biblical stories about all God's creatures in a salty seadog vernacular, pausing frequently to puff on his pipe and curse a blue streak.

A departure from his regular Christmas fare, this collection is widely regarded as his "psychedelic" album. Conceived and recorded during his experimentation with hallucinogens.

From Burl's squatter/drifter period. Burl wrote all the songs for this album while living on his brother's porch.

Burl's ground-breaking, "coming out" album

Just a few from Burl's Disembodied Floating Head Series

Friday, December 5, 2008

Next To Godliness

My sister asked about dry cleaning the other day. She wanted to know what really happens to your clothes at the dry cleaner. I said it had always been a mystery to me. My brother said there was nothing mysterious, except how they got out the solvent they used to soak your clothes. So maybe dry cleaners aren't places of mystery, even with all their chemicals and steam. But sometimes their storefronts are:

If you don't need dry cleaning you can see Prince Okwina for a shoe shine

The name is so clever I can't get over it

A dry cleaners that cares more about justice than the rules (this Australian shop thinks its the Clint Eastwood of dry cleaners)

I would dirty my clothes just so I could come see this sign.

....Or this one

No, Really --The r Open

They clean clothes but will they clean their windows?

For all those soiled hours of yours

Drop off your clothes and get the weekly special

Kind of going overboard with the "green" concept.

Lots to like: Catchy name. At night - a big neon hangar. And that drive-in door must be huge.

You can't see it from here but there's surely a dry cleaners in there somewhere

Gets the award for best dry cleaners name ever

The only cleaners with a woman encased in glass. Also known as the WTF? cleaners

Have pants will travel

The dry cleaners that wishes it were a nightclub

Appeals to customers who can't settle on one color scheme

Dry cleaning with a little tongue

When only the very best will do

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Blog Goes In For Some Navel-Gazing

I didn't know what to write about today and was poking around in the administrative side of my blog when I noticed the accumulated list of labels I've used on previous posts. After staring blankly at them for awhile, I decided to list some of them here. Taken out of context, these labels are random and confusing ---all the more reason to reprise them.

And so, without further ado --Labels from my blog:

afterlife, archipelago, axis of evil, azoic, bad hair, badass hair, baked Alaska, Bee Gees, big red cat, biologists, blocked creativity, bottom mud, Burl Ives My Ass Coalition, caffeine tremor, catfish, danish, Donovan, Eishenhower, Emma Peel, Eugene Debs, fungi, Gamma Ray (rock band), happy meat, Harpo Marx, hell, hemp intelligence, high altitude flight, HotPoint appliances, june bug, keffiyeh, lawn care, marrying the Beatles, Mashed Potato Hut, math nightmares, mediums, Mexican jumping beans, moderately gifted, Nick Drake, Noche de los Rabanos, non-violent civil disobedience, Obama, October, Pilgrims, poplars, pressure suit, Reinhold Niebuhr, sea-monkeys, Shatner, Srinagar, Stella Artois, tap-dancing, Tupperware Liberation Front, ways to transport plutonium, Wiley Post.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Shepheardes Calender: December

Ægloga Duodecima.

A R G V M E N T.
THis Æglogue (euen as the first beganne) is ended with a complaynte of Colin to God Pan. wherein as weary of his former wayes, he proportioneth his life to the foure seasons of the yeare, comparing hys youthe to the spring time, when he was fresh and free form loues follye. His manhoode to the sommer, which he sayth, was consumed with greate heate and excessiue drouth caused through a Comet or blasinge starre, by which he meaneth loue, which passion is comenly compared to such flames and immoderate heate. His riper yeares hee resembleth to an vnseasonable harueste wherein the fruites fall ere they be rype. His latter age to winters chyll & frostie season, now drawing neare to his last ende.

From the Renascence Editions - an online repository of works printed in English between the years 1477 and 1799, courtesy of the University of Oregon.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I'm thankful I'm not a Pilgrim
I'm thankful this will be my last post about Pilgrims for awhile
I'm thankful I was too busy feasting yesterday to update my blog
I'm thankful I'm spending Black Friday in the warmth of my bathrobe and not in a mall
I'm thankful I still have a half gallon of milk in the fridge and don't need to run to the store
I'm thankful it's 11:15 am and the kids haven't asked for breakfast yet
Im thankful for my pinon incense that makes my house smell like a wood fire; I think I'll go light some right now
I'm thankful for anyone who reads this post
I'm thankful that 53 days ago I was in Colorado and I can still remember it like it was yesterday
I'm thankful I'm blogging right now and not working on my grant proposal or my 3000 word paper, which will soon dominate my every waking moment over the next ten days.
I'm thankful I can blog even when I have absolutely nothing to say
I'm thankful for the feelings I have felt deeply, am one who feels deeply, that I'm free to feel, and am deeply thankful for deep feelingness for which I freely thank
I'm thankful for knowing things in my heart and soul that no one can dispute or take away from me
I'm thankful for many things I will not express openly, but when no one's looking they make me smile

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pilgrim Or Gypsy?

If someone held a gun to your head and you had to choose between being a pilgrim woman or a gypsy, which would you be? Remember, saying "yes" to one means saying "no" to the other, so choose wisely. As you can see, both wore long skirts and some form of flimsy cotton hat. Obviously the gypsy was better accessorized. But the pilgrim women carried a mean basket loaded up with squash and hedge apples, and their upper arm strength was second to none. Still, gypsies knew how to dance and sing and cavort, and cavorting is in much too short a supply these days. (Ca-vort: To bound or prance about in a sprightly manner; caper. ) And many a gypsy played violin. Keep in mind though, that gypsies were often reviled by young children who were taught to fear them, while Pilgrims have been fashioned out of construction paper and made into centerpieces for the Thanksgiving table since time immemorial. Certainly, Pilgrim women were known for their cooking of sumptious meats, they with their open hearths and rolling spits. It was their deft plucking of turkeys that led people to declare them "full of pluck," hence our modern-day expression. However, one need only remember Hester Prynne and her big scarlet "A" to know what happened to plucky Pilgrim gals. Personally, I would rather be born on the wagon of a travelin' show to a family of gypsies, tramps and thieves. That is, if a gun were put to my head.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goin' Incognito

At last my quest for anonymity has ended! I'm so tired of being recognized and greeted everywhere I go. But help is on the way, now that I've found the Pilgrim Lady Instant Disguise Kit. In just seconds, this kit will transform me from the 21st century denizen of cool that I am, highly sought after and admired, to a seventeenth century bonneted matron, who warrants nary a second glance. And no one will be the wiser. Just think of all the places I can go unhindered, while dressed like a pilgrim lady. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. With this new freedom, I can slip unnoticed into clubs, bars, gay bars --all manner of dens of iniquity, and I'll be totally disguised. I'll be that proverbial fly on the wall. I can help myself to any event I please --crash snobbish parties, stroll through local parades with cavalier ease, take umbrage in protests and rallies, without ever risking arrest. Yes, a whole new life is opening up for me, now that I've found the Pilgrim Lady Instant Disguise Kit. I can hardly wait to get started.

Friday, November 21, 2008

So Long Analog

Okay, Confession: I have a hard time letting go of 20th century electronics. I'm sorry to see the end of analog TV--and the boxy, rabbit-eared TV’s that went with it.

I know, I know --digital will give us better sound and picture quality. Those of us without cable will get more channels, blah, blah, blah. But digital seems somehow less…human. It’s slick and computerish and lacks the endearing clunkiness of analog. I remember when CDs replaced LP's. My new CDs were shiny and compact but they gave none of the sensory satisfaction of vinyl. No more dropping the tonearm on the turntable by accident, or gazing hypnotically at the grooves going round and round at 35 rpm. Gone were the discomfiting cracks and pops, the wax blisters, the mechanical action of gears and belts. The highly individualized experience of listening to records that might skip or warble as a reaction to moisture in the air or dust in the groove, was a thing of the past.

Now the powers that be want to replace our continuously-variable electromagnetic waveform with digital for TV broadcasts. Think what this means: No more rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil or bulky channel knobs with numbers. No more standing next to the TV to help the signal come in better. Back in my day, when Mom ran the egg beater, the TV in the living room buzzed loudly with snow until we begged for mercy. Our set was frequently visited by "ghosts", whose pale images floated across the screen, and if we were lucky, we could even bring in two channels at once. Well, soon those days will be gone for good.

Once we make the big switch to digital, the fine art of interpretive TV watching will be a lost art. No more toughing out bad reception to see the latest installment of Wife Swap. If the digital signal fails, you can't jimmy with the antenna or turn the TV on its head to coax a clearer picture. Digital signals either come through or they don’t. Analog signals deteriorate gracefully, it's said. They'll leave you with a shred of something, even if it's just a fleeting shadow on the screen, or some staticky audio. But when digital signals fall apart, you get nada. Bupkis.

I have an old TV I bought at a garage sale for $35, and I have a hunch it's not digital. So today I went online and ordered my coupon for a converter. With a heavy heart. Those who have cable have already joined the other side, and can't comprehend all my wailing. But those who, like me, have always taken their TV raw and over the analog airwaves, know this is the end of an era.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Moment of Zen - Don't Be Afraid

From the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Random Thoughts Of November

We've pushed off from the shore of October. Heading for the high seas of December.

This winter, how cold will I be?

If I wear a coat that makes my shoulders look bigger than my head, will I command more respect?

Can I get a coat long enough to hide my bathrobe?

If I leave my car outside, I'll have to scrape my windows in the morning. On the other hand, if I park my car in the garage, the flame from the
water heater might mix with the gas fumes and blow everything to kingdom come. I'll probably go with the scraping windows plan.

I got some "pinon" incense at a Native American shop.
It makes my house smell like a wood fire. Awesome!

As the days grow shorter and darker, I am developing
a new past-time: Soup

Monday, November 17, 2008

Keep On Rockin' In The Free World

Neil Young has mounted himself into the engine block of his 1959 Lincoln Continental to create a new form of hybrid car. Way to go green, Neil. By the way I love this fine hunk of Motown metal. See photo below. The front grill gives me the jingly-janglys.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Son Of A Beatle! Dhani Harrison's Regrettable Fashion Spread

While waiting for my appointment at the women's health clinic, I browsed through a copy of a magazine called Fashion Rocks. It was either that or settle in with an issue of Conceive! Uh, thanks, but no thanks.
Twas whilst I was flipping pages that I happened upon a fashion spread so lavish with unhinged fantasy that I could scarce look away. It featured Dhani Harrison, son of my favorite Beatle, George.
Why was George my fave? Let's review: spiritual Beatle, played sitar, put garden gnomes on an album cover. Put out delightfully weird music video "Crackerbox Palace" years before music videos became commonplace. (Back then it was called a "short film" and it was directed by Eric Idle.) I saw the video debut on Saturday Night Live on November 20, 1976, and it said "Come! Join us! You belong in Crackerbox Palace with the rest of us oddballs." I couldn't find a way out of my livingroom in western Kansas, but I cherished the invitation.
But back to Dhani. Son of George is all grown up now, and he says his father told him he looks more like George Harrison than he, George Harrison did. Indeed, the sight of Dhani's soulful eyes and Beatlesque moustache makes it seem like 1969 again, and I'm six years old, in Mrs. Zitnick's kindergarten class learning to tie the big red shoe.

But I digress. With Dhani channeling George, it was inevitable that some fashionistas would descend on him and use him as a prop for their own diabolical retro-exploitative fashion schemes. And sure enough, that's what happened and the results are all over the pages of Fashion Rocks. See for yourself:

 Is this a Monty Python skit? No, it's  just Dhani Harrison enjoying a bit of sport in his back yard. If you think his hat is badass, just check out his belt. My life is so plain.

OMG. Dhani Harrison is lost in the wild with a fur creature who resembles Patti Boyd!

"Weeeee! We're young and rich and obnoxiously photogenic! Also stoned out of our minds! Cuz who really runs like this?

He's so Britsy. She's so Patti Boydishy. Together they're so creepy. Hmmm... Do you really want to evoke the relationship your Dad had before he hooked up with your mum?


Please, God. Make it stop.

Okay, that's it. This has gone on long enough. The woolly animal hides were bad. The Patti-George thing-- disturbing. But this purple pimped out cowboy hat? Dhani, you've become a fashion victim.  Get out now, while you still can. Get out of there. Flee! Go find a sitar, a tabla, a banjo, a Jew's harp, ANYTHING and reclaim your soul!

As an antidote to that hot mess, I give you George Harrison's "Crackerbox Palace":