I Ended Up With A Broken Fiddle

“And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle—
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.”
Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology

Fiddler, Denton Texas

It’s Time For Tina

Skipper Jonas Grumby:

Ginger, I’ve got a problem… I’ve got a real problem… Now you’re a girl, right?

Ginger Grant:

Well, if you’re not sure about that, you have got a problem!

—-Gilligan’s Island

time_for_tina

I wrote about a weird radio program, available over the internet, The Retro Cocktail Hour a few days ago. Today, I received a notice that a new show was up, technically a rebroadcast, and something in the playlist caught my eye. One song was by Tina Louise, recorded in 1957 (the year I was born) – seven years before that fateful three hour cruise. She recorded one album, It’s Time For Tina… and what do you know? She can sing.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds (even if you like Mary Ann better).

Tina Louise singing Embraceable You from her album. If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing – jump up to about 2:33 – That’s the Jazz God Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax.

The Retro Cocktail Hour

“Sex and a cocktail: they both lasted about as long, had the same effect, and amounted to about the same thing.”
― D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The bartender pouring the absinthe, note the clear green color.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

 

I’m not a very neat, organized person – I live in a constant battle with chaos and increasing entropy. I’m a Marie Kondo failure.

This failure does not only apply to the real world – but to the digital one as well. Still, I try.

I have been cleaning out old computer files, found on a dizzying collection of old hard drives and USB sticks. I try the Marie Kondo test – if it brings joy, I keep it, otherwise I throw it out (delete). I don’t delete much. I do come across a treasure or two, though.

Yesterday I found a reference to a website I had forgotten about that used to bring me joy – and I am glad to find out it is still there and think I’ll visit it some more. This is an old streaming music program, produced from Kansas Public Radio, based in Lawrence, where I went to school. That is surely how I stumbled across the program, though I don’t remember.

It’s called The Retro Cocktail Hour and it features… stuff you don’t hear everyday. Let me see if I can find a description…. Ok… from the Facebook Page:

The Retro Cocktail Hour serves up the music that’s “shaken, not stirred” every Saturday at 7:00pm Central on Kansas Public Radio stations. Pour the Mai Tais and join in for two hours of exotica, crime jazz, bossa nova, Now Sound, space age pop, groovy soundtracks, Bollywood weirdness and other incredibly strange tunes. Hosted by Darrell Brogdon. Visit http://www.retrococktail.org/ to stream shows from our program archive.

Think Mad Men. I love to listen to this stuff. It is so cool and so uncool at the same time. I’m not old enough to remember hearing this stuff but I’m old enough to have heard the echoes.

So make yourself a tray of Martinis and kick back and listen to an archive or two. If you want one to start with, try the All Exotica Show from January 19. From the show – “Exotica is the fantasy music of the South Pacific and the Orient, music of a make-believe Shangri-la, white sand beaches, warm breezes, and tropical libations.”

It doesn’t get any better than that.

As Sure As Kilimanjaro Rises Like Olympus Above the Serengeti

As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

—-Toto, Africa, the most awkward song lyrics

Yesterday, I wrote about three colossal, iconic works of art that I hope to see after they are finished. Today, I found out about a small work of art in a very remote location that I’m certain never to see.

 

German artist Max Siedentopf,  set up a sound installation in the remote Namib desert that will play Africa by Toto on a loop forever.

 

 

It seems pretty silly – but that oh-so-familiar music wafting around those dunes while the wind blows sand through the scene – it has a strange beauty.

My only complaint is the “forever” part. Those boxes, wiring, and speakers don’t look very indestructible. The first sandstorm roaring past will scatter everything.

If it were my installation I would put it in an armored canister buried in the sand with only the speakers and solar panels exposed. That might last at least a couple weeks, if not “forever.”

As a matter of fact, I would bury it, hide it, and add a sensitive motion detector that would turn off the sound if anyone approached. It would only make sound if nobody was there to hear it. I would call it “A Tree Falls In the Desert.

Mac Finds His Pride

“We immediately escalate everything to a ten… somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another! Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home!

—- Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

For years I was aware of a television show called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” but I didn’t watch it. No real reason – there is so much on… maybe I was turned off by the odd theme music.

One evening I was too tired to pick up the remote and actually saw a show. I enjoyed it. Basically it is the story of five people, related to each other in confusing ways, managing a shithole bar in Philadelphia. The actors are good, the jokes are funny, but mostly I liked it because the characters are such worthless, narcissistic, amoral, debauched, drug-addled, idiotic, lazy pieces of shit that it made me think better of myself. I may have my faults – but I am not as bad as these people.

Over the last year I’d watch it off and on. Mostly I’d scan the TV listings and DVR the episodes I hadn’t seen. That way I could binge watch them at odd times when I wasn’t missing anything important. With the DVR, I could fast-forward through the commercials or boring bits and see the whole episode in a few minutes.

There were a dozen seasons (It’s currently tied with Ozzie and Harriet as the longest running live-action sitcom – the only thing it shares with Ozzie and Harriet) so there was plenty to watch. I’m not sure how many episodes or seasons I’ve seen – more than a few. There isn’t much of a long-term arc, so there’s no reason to watch the shows in order.

It is fun to speculate about how dark each episode is capable of going. Usually the show doesn’t disappoint and ends up going darker than you thought possible.

And then came the thirteenth season and, especially the final, 10th episode (144th overall), Mac Finds His Pride.

And everything changes.

I was home, exhausted after work, and noticed the DVR was recording the show. I thought I would check it out and realized that there was something else on – some sort of a dance program. The stage was dark and covered in water and a muscular man and athletic woman were doing an amazing dance number to Sigur Rós music.

It was entrancing. As I watched, I suddenly realized, “Shit! That’s Mac dancing.” It was indeed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I immediate rewound and watched the whole show. It started out like any episode – The gang was trying to get a float in the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade to bring in business and wanted someone to dance on the float. Mac was the best candidate, but didn’t want to do it – having trouble relating to his imprisoned father and his sexuality.

One of the running “gags” of the series is the character Mac (full name – Ronald MacDonald) and his struggle to come to terms with being gay.  At the beginning of this episode Frank (Danny DeVito) had broken his nose and was constantly shoving nasty stuff up his nostrils to staunch the bleeding.

All well and good – then it happened. Mac and Frank went to Mac’s father’s prison and Mac put on a dance with a woman to try and explain how he felt.

It was transcendent.

I was gobsmacked. This piece of artistic beauty came so far out of left field and was so unexpected… yet it was so appropriate and inevitable. I some unexplainable way it summed up everything. It was the moment that thirteen seasons – 144 shows – of unmitigated nihilistic worthlessness is redeemed by one moment of excellence.

It was the most audacious, brilliant thing I’ve seen on television since Part 8 of the new Twin Peaks.

 

 

Check out this article about how much work went into this. The actor, Rob McElhenney, can’t dance – more accurately, he can only do one dance. He spent a year learning it. And you can’t help but love his incredible partner, professional ballerina Kylie Shea.

I have always loved Sigur Rós. They sponsored a series of films of their music – The Valteri Mystery Film Experiment. There are several videos of the song in the dance, Varúð. Here’s a particularly good one: