Buh-bye 2018

Zappadan 2018…Day 17. I Knew You’d Be Surprised

Zappadan always goes so fast.

I didn’t do as much here as I had thought I would. I haven’t in recent years. It’s difficult to blog about a single topic for 17 days straight and to do it with a new angle.

But, Zappadan these days is not so much about the blogging. I spent some time watching some really great kids doing some serious vlogging, and they managed to make it to pretty much every blessed night. I learned much from these vlog sessions and will probably revisit them. You should note that these two sometimes got chat from some weird old guy. They were extremely nice to their party crasher.

Lot of activity over at the @zappadan Twitter. And, I tried to document the activity over at zappadan.com. I will be adding more stuff and cleaning it up as I have time, and I think I’m going to try to blog over there year-round.

I like the Zappadan thing. It’s weird. But it makes me expand my appreciation. I ended up taking on a few more albums, including Sleep Dirt, which I managed to find on vinyl; The Roxy Performances, Chicago ’78, Little Dots, the Road Tapes albums, Finer Moments. All highly recommended listens, and all brand new to me this year.

And I think if I realized something about Frank this year, it’s that yeah, he was a great musician, a spouter of various wisdom, a brave stalwart versus authority’s fists, and just plain altogether an attitude.

I think the greatest thing about Zappa was that he was the ultimate music fan.

And I think that’s what makes Frank Zappa so undeniable to those of us who revere him.

Merry Zappadan.

Solo and The Favourite

I finally watched Solo: A Star Wars Story last night, and I’m utterly annoyed that I didn’t go see it in the theater. I had avoided it because

  1. General disappointment in the direction taken in The Last Jedi
  2. Not really feeling the need to have Han Solo’s background story fed to me with a spoon

That it was somewhat acclaimed critically but considered a failure at the box office didn’t help lure me, either. However, I watched the thing this past weekend, and it’s good! It hits your fan service bone just enough, it offers a fine story with familiar elements, and it manages to be a groovy heist pic as well. It’s so enjoyable, I’ve already made plans to watch it with Dear Old Dad this weekend. Yes, I shall watch it again.

We also managed to trek out to see The Favourite. This is a period piece in the court of Queen Anne, who ruled from 1702 to 1714. Here. I cribbed this bit of history from the Vox review (cuz Dad and I were wondering…):

Anne was queen when the Acts of Union were signed and England and Scotland were united to form Great Britain. She also ruled during the War of the Spanish Succession, and waged war with France in North America for control of the continent, in what would become known as Queen Anne’s War.

Not that this is what the film is about. No, The Favourite is a power struggle, and it is, above all, Breaking Bad set to Bach. Mr. Chips to Scarface. It incorporates ribald and often dark comedy and employs it effectively.

It also has a final scene that might be offputting. I’ve seen commented that the ending felt incomplete. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The symbolism used here isn’t hinting anything, and I’d like to take a moment to perhaps clarify.

Spoiler ahead. You’ve been warned. Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know how The Favourite ends.

Abigail in one moment feels buoyed, triumphant, powerful, and, sadly, cruel. She sets her foot upon one of the Queen’s rabbits, threatening its suffocation.

In a few moments, she finds herself kneeling beneath Queen Anne, providing her relief while the Queen is fully leaning upon Abigail. This is the last scene of the film. This is how it ends.

Many might find this ending unsettlingly murky. However, this ending offers a meaning I found to be crystal clear: Abigail is trapped. She is as trapped as one of the Queen’s rabbits and will similarly spend the rest of her life caged. Just as she held that bunny under her foot, she is to be held underfoot of the Queen. The power and the freedom she felt she’d achieved were illusory.

It’s bleak, but it’s all there.

Hope that helps.

Miley Cyrus Gets It

Last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live was surprising. It was you know, actually funny.

The cold open presented Trump in an “It’s A Wonderful Life” scenario. Matt Damon’s monologue was a great reflection from his early years trying to stay up late to watch SNL, a familiar memory. The first sketch was a well-crafted love letter to Monty Python’s “Upper Class Twit of the Year,” then a spot-on Christmas sketch. I’ll never understand how they can miss on all cylinders so often and then for an entire show get it completely right. But, suffice it to say, if you catch one episode this year, make it the one that aired on Dec. 15.

And I hate it when I like Miley Cyrus, but she was fabulous. Rare is the musical guest who eschews the backing tape, but Cyrus’ performances are clearly all hers. And especially touching was her version of “So This Is Christmas,” where near the end she brings the background vocals—which Lennon meant as the nut of the song—into the foreground. War is over, if you want it, war is over now. This, and realizing that Sean Ono Lennon is her accompanist, lends this performance some real gravitas.

And of course, guess what President Sippy-Cup is blathering on about on the Tweeter: Trump freaks out over SNL’s ‘unfair news coverage’ and threatens legal action (Raw Story)

The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution

It’s day nine of Zappadan good people, and this morning was a crisp clear mid-30s that makes you draw a breath when you first encounter the naked air. Gorgeous day. Just gorgeous.

I reckon I’m focusing on a cut from Sleep Dirt because it’s the one Zappadan’s newest stars, Alex and Alexa, reviewed on night eight.

What a weird album, but that figures, as it was one of those released by the record company to settle a contract. Probably issued a bit out of the oven too soon. This track, however, is pretty astonishing. I might have to look for this on the original vinyl though to make sure I’m hearing the original poop.

The Marvelous Frank Zappa

I don’t know if many fans of Frank Zappa’s music are likely also to be fans of the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. If you’re not, why aren’t you? Why aren’t you watching it right now? If for nothing else then to see Kevin Pollak play the role of a lifetime as Moishe Maisel?

Anyway. If you do watch the show, then you know a frequent character is a fictionalized Lenny Bruce. And, if you’ve gotten as far as I have in the second season, you know that they have Lenny Bruce appear on The Steve Allen Show, where he sings a weird lonely little song. And, as much as you wonder via watching this show if Tony Curtis ever actually compared smooching Marilyn Monroe to smooching Hitler (he did), you wonder if Lenny Bruce ever actually got on The Steve Allen Show and sang this weird lonely little song.

He did:

Now, if you’re a fan of the album We’re Only In It For The Money by The Mothers, then there’s another Lenny Bruce bit you might want to hear.

Madge, I just couldn’t help it, dog-gone it.

Oh No

Today is Dec. 8, 38 years since the bizarre assassination of singer-songwriter John Lennon and, incidentally, 14 years since the bizarre assassination of Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell.

There are interesting places in the Zappa story where John Lennon and Frank Zappa’s points meet. One of the most intriguing that I discovered this year was the intent and meaning of a song I’ve been listening to for most of my life: “Oh No.”

Zappa did not dig the “love song” much. He called it “the ultimate form of absurist comedy.”

In fact, the song “Oh No,” as presented with lyrics on the album Weasels Ripped My Flesh, is a general refutation of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” which was initially released as a non-album single in July 1967.

I think it’s pretty straightforward in the lyrics…

Oh no, I don’t believe it
You say that you think you know the meaning of love
You say love is all we need
You say with your love you can change
All of the fools, all of the hate
I think you’re probably out to lunch

Oh no, I don’t believe it
You say that you think you know the meaning of love
Do you really think it can be told?
You say that you really know
I think you should check it again
How can you say what you believe
Will be the key to a world of love?

All your love
Will it save me?
All your love
Will it save the world
From what we can’t understand?
Oh no, I don’t believe it

And in your dreams
You can see yourself as a prophet saving the world
The words from your lips
I just can’t believe you are such a fool

Archived Comment:
Al Stone on December 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm said:
Another link is the mixing of 4/4 and 3/4 time. While the Beatles track is basically in 4 with with 3/4 at the end of phrases, Zappa alternates to give an essentially 7/4 feel.

Over The Camp In The Valley

Frank Zappa and his family moved to California in 1952. He was 12.

The practice of putting Japanese-Americans into interment camps in California and elsewhere ended in 1945.

Frank Zappa likely spent many of his formative years profoundly aware of the quite recent history of Japanese-American internment during World War II. In Monterey, where the family first moved, he would have been 6 minutes away from the Manzanar War Relocation Center. He would have grown up in his formative years with a profound understanding of the history.

Trust a kid who grew up in Kent Ohio. That shit becomes you.

So it should come as no surprise that the song “Concentration Moon” is in some respect about these camps.

Here is how Frank Zappa explained it to an interviewer named Studs Terkel:

FZ: Well, we have a song coming up, called Concentration Moon which is … ah … a make-believe story about some very real concentration camps, that the US government built to house Japanese people during World War II. These people were snatched up out of their homes …
ST: Relocation camps.
FZ: Yeah. You’re doing them a favor you’re relocation ’em … the American government’s so nice to get them a place to stay during the War, and they snatched these people off of the street and they stick in these camps and I guess they turned them loose later but the camps’re still there, and it was a popular myth – let’s hope it’s a myth – among the hippies on the West coast, that very soon … ah … any dissatisfied, potentially non-conforming person person in the US is about to be rounded up by the government and stashed away in these camps. That doesn’t mean just hippies, but they’re probably thinking that militant Blacks and militant Latin and militant anybody or even passive people …
ST: … pretenders …
FZ: Yeah, anybody, who doesn’t go along with the main stream of the hokum of the government is speeding to you is gonna be stashed away, so … ah …
ST: It starts with the concentration camp …
FZ: It starts with that and then goes on to the story of Mom & Dad, which is a … ah … middle class couple, who have been informed by one of their children, that … ah … their daughter has been killed in the park, by the cops, because she just happened to be there laying in the grass with a Hippie. And, ah, the attitude of the song is, that the parents say, well, it served her right, that she had associated with such trash. And then we have Bow Tie Daddy, which is another song about those same people, who are … didn’t care when their child was killed by the police, because they were embarassed that their child should have anything to do with a Hippie, and we have Harry You’re A Beast, which is a song about the sexual attitude of the parents, giving a little insight into why these people should feel that way about their child, finally winding up with What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?, a song about … the intelligence of the parents.
ST: The Ugliest Part Of Your Body turns out to be …
FZ: … the mind.
ST: The mind.

…and now you know the rest of the story…