Friday, November 30, 2007
Friday Jazz: Frank Zappa
"Frank Zappa was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. He was a brilliant composer, an incredibly unique guitarist (with one of the best tones ever) and one of the funniest people the world has ever seen. His music combined elements of jazz, rock, classical and vaudeville.
His various bands read like a who’s who of music. They include (home site, followed by BR's favorite disc):
and many others.
Zappa’s bands were basically a training ground for some great musicians. In this regard, Zappa played a role in the rock world that was similar to Art Blakey in the jazz world. In short, he was one-of-a-kind.
I think there are two reasons why Zappa is a bit difficult to get into. The first is his music is dense and very multi-dimensional. While he would adhere to standard musical formulas (like a basic I - IV - V blues progression) he would add odd-metered rhythmic runs right in the middle of a piece.
Basically, Zappa’s music throws the listener tons of curve balls; you literally do not know what will happen next. In addition, Zappa was one of the first progenitors of serious and effective cross-pollination of musical forms. This is a really fancy way of saying he used ideas from a ton of musical forms in a very unique way. As an example, the album Hot Rats (more on this below) is one of the first really successful jazz-rock albums, meaning the musical ideas were a combination of rock concepts (usually meaning a more aggressive musical attitude and distorted guitar tone) and jazz ideas (usually meaning a more advanced harmonic or chord background). In short, Zappa’s musical ideas come from a variety of places making his overall style very hard to pigeon hole.
The second reason why Zappa is not the household word he should be is, well, humor. While some find his lyrics offensive, others (such as myself) find them to be incredibly funny. Hell – his song titles are funny. Who else could write “The Illinois Enema Bandit” (which is based on a true story) and then have Don Pardo add a voice over on a live album? Or how about “Titties and Beer”, “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?”, "Bamboozled by Love”, "Don’t Eat That Yellow Snow” or perhaps his most famous song, “Valley Girl”?
The bottom line is Zappa’s music is really funny. If you like to laugh at the absurdities of life (or are a die-hard Monty Python fan), then this is music right up your alley.
Zappa’s recorded history is daunting, especially for someone who is looking for a good introduction into Zappa’s music. For those of you who are looking for a general overview, I would highly recommend six albums, titled:
• You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volumes 1 through 6. Each album is a two CD collection of various Zappa performances from his almost 30 year career. This gives you 12 CDs of great Zappa music. You’ll hear most of his more popular songs. You’ll also hear several version of the same song arranged in drastically different ways (Zappa was constantly rewriting his tunes for each of his bands. In fact, he would often rewrite songs while he was on tour).
There are two other live Zappa albums that deserve serious mention. The first is Zappa in New York. This is one of the best live albums ever recorded. His band is in fine form and Zappa even enlists Don Pardo to perform some of the funniest voice-overs in the history of music. Pardo is especially brilliant on “I Am the Slime”. There is also a great version of “The Torture Never Stops” where Zappa does some of his best guitar playing ever (his use of feedback rivals Hendrix on machine Gun. No, really – it does).
Finally there is "At the Roxy and Elsewhere”. This has some great versions of Cheapness (which is about really old and poorly made horror movies) and “Penguin in Bondage” (which is about, well, just listen to the opening monologue). These is also a fine version of “Trouble Everyday” which again has some of the best guitar playing on record.
I should add that I am personally a much bigger fan of Zappa’s live work. Zappa would take big chances on stage. Some would work, some wouldn’t. But the fact that he would take chances in the hopes of creating something truly remarkable makes his live work stand-out that much more. In addition, his bands were always top-notch.
There are three studio albums that I will mention, all personal favorites. Remember, Zappa put out tons of studio albums, so picking and choosing can be very difficult.
I mentioned Hot Rats above. This album has some incredibly written tunes like Peaches in Regalia and Son of Mr. Green Genes. Peaches is a jazz-rock tour de force.
Joe’s Garage is a biting satirical look at the rock and roll business that also pokes fun at the religious right. I listened to this album in its entirely on a road trip a long time ago and I have never been the same since.
Finally comes Zoot Allures, which has a studio version of “The Torture Never Stops” and some great guitar work on “Black Napkins”.
Finally, Zappa was one of the best guitarists around. He had an amazing tone and his phrasing was simply incredible. There are two albums of note in this area: Shut Up and Play Your Guitar, and Guitar. Both have nothing but Frank Zappa guitar solos. Together these collections have five albums worth of material for the Zappa Guitar fan. I highly recommend both.
I am really only touching the surface of Zappa’s recorded legacy. There are tons of great albums out there. As I mentioned above, I personally prefer his live recordings because his bands were just incredible. But his studio work is also awesome.
So – quit reading my swill and go buy some Zappa albums!"
Great stuff, thanks Hale!
This is now Barry writing, and I would add a few discs to consider. Over-Nite Sensation -- a tale of sexual depravity and bovine perspiration -- was originally panned by Zappaphiles as too commercial. It is a tight satirical masterpiece. And, after Joe’s Garage, it is amongst the most accessible of his albums. This is the album to begin your Zappa experience with.
Apostrophe (') is another brilliant set of highly polished jazz-rock. It too, achieves a degree of greatness -- and actual radio airplay -- with songs such as "Don't Eat that Yellow Snow," "Cosmik Debris" and "Stink-Foot."
Lastly, for those of you who only want or need a passing glimpse of greatness, there is Strictly Commercial -- its Zappa's "Best of."
Where ever you start with FZ's work, prepare to experience music unlike anything else you have ever heard before . . .
Frank Zappa on Crossfire
Titties & Beer
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Top Ten (10) Reasons Not To Go To Law School
The Bar results were out this past week. For those of you who passed, congrats.
For those of you considering going to law school, go for it. I found it to be an extremely rewarding, disciplining educational experience. What you put into it is what you get out of it.
However, not everyone feels that way. Here is the opposite viewpoint: Top Ten (10) Reasons Not To Go To Law School.
"I am a former practicing attorney, graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA ) and the George Washington University School of Law (GW Law). Law school was one of the best experiences of my life and my experience practicing law has certainly been a learning experience. I quickly learned that the practice of law was not for me, but the information and knowledge garnered was exceptional. My law degree remains to be one of my biggest assets in business and as I pursue my entrepeneurial endeavors, I have been very fortunate to not have been srapped to working 100 hour weeks to pay back law school loans. Following are the top ten (10) reasons not to go to or attend law school and how each has effected my life."
1. CLIENTS: The best reason not to go to law school and not to become a lawyer is this: CLIENTS. Clients destroy the practice of law and in fact destroy the enjoyment of most businesses, however in law, clients are the worst. Clients hardly ever pay their bills, insist on running the show, though they know nothing about the law, and torment you with incessant calls and emails...
2. COST: Law school is absurdly expensive. Most of us don't realize how much money we have just borrowed until we are forced to make our first payment. It's ridiculous! Generally speaking unless your parents subsidize your studies, then plan on paying back your student loans for the rest of your life or for the next 45 years, whichever comes first. Also, whatever salary you may make with your new "firm job" will be severely cut into while making these law school payments. I am a student loan baby totaling over $120,000 for three years and these loans are strapped to my back for quite some time.
3. TOP JOBS ARE HYPER-COMPETITIVE: The top jobs at firms out of law school are some of the highest competitive jobs in the country. Sure these jobs can often offer you starting salaries of upwards of $120,000, but remember you have significant law school loans to pay back and you are competing for a job that 0.00001 percent of you will get.
4. INSANE HOURS: Practicing law is far from a 9-5pm job, in fact at the bigger firms it's far from a 9-7pm job. Breaking it down further, based on an excellent salary of approximately $120,000 per year, which can only be garnered at the larger firms, you will work approximately 70 hours a week, probably more. Over the course of the year this equals approximately $33.00 an hour. I know some retail managers that make this.
5. BILLING: For those of you who don't know, Attorneys bill each client per hour of work or even bill for partial increments of time spent on the client. Therefore, if you spend 10 hours at work, most firms require you to bill 8 hours a day. That's 8 hours of work for a client in which your firm is billing that client $300 to $750 an hour. The hours you bill are always too much for your client, but never enough for the firm. This is why extra hours and Saturday's and Sundays become important days in the office -- so you can do more billing.
6. BAR EXAM IS BRUTAL: This beast is two or three days, depending on your state of hypothetical hypotheticals and nonsensical nonsense questions that you will never be confronted with again in your life let alone career. When you fail -- and 40% of you will -- you have to do it all over again in six months.
7. YOU LEARN NOTHING PRACTICAL: Law school certainly isn't designed to teach you how to make money, however its focus is to make you think like a lawyer. Thinking like a lawyer doesn't necessarily translate to success in the real world.
8. THREE LONG YEARS/BREAKS ARE HORRIBLE: I know that college went by extremely fast, but that was college. Law school is a different beast, with a poor social scene and students who are so competitive that they do not leave the library ever.
9. SOCIAL SCENE IS PATHETIC: Law school students are competitive, anal, nerds. They certainly are not the guys and girls you had a blast with drinking, dancing and partying all night. Your new friends and classmates will live in the library and will not find much time away from their books.
10. FINAL EXAMS ARE BRUTAL: For most courses, your entire semester grade will depend on one final exam right before Christmas and one final exam right before summer break. Imagine the stress that will ride on your back as you prepare and then await your grade with no indication as to where you stand.
For the entire post, go to: Top Ten (10) Reasons Not To Go To Law School
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Mocean Worker, 'Shake Ya Boogie'
Mocean Worker's nu-jazz pairs with old-school animation in the eye-popping new video for 'Shake Ya Boogie.' Mocean Worker told Spinner, "I wanted the video to be a tribute to a 1930s-style Max Fleischer cartoon." The song is from his new album, 'Cinco de Mowo,' and the video began as an experiment with Polish art student and animator Czarek Kwasny. Kwasny took Mowo's ideas and direction for the video exclusively over AIM and email. "Neither of us have actually ever spoken on a phone or heard each other's voices," Mocean Worker explained. Eleven months and countless IMs later, 'Shake Ya Boogie' comes to life.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Don't Give Up on Vista!
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Strawberry Fields Forever
Promotional release of the the song Strawberry Fields Forever
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
The Lovely Mistresses of George W. Bush
via boing boing
Thursday, November 22, 2007
A few Thanksgiving factoids:
- Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year: Between 1993 and 2002, it cracked the top five just three times, never rising higher than the fourth-busiest day of the year. Americans love to procrastinate: Eight years out of 10, the busiest day fell on the Saturday before Christmas.
- The song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (aka "Alice's Restaurant") by Arlo Guthrie's is based on a true story that began on Thanksgiving Day. The song lasts 18 minutes and 20 seconds, and occupied the entire A-side of Guthrie's 1967 debut record album, titled Alice's Restaurant. (full lyrics here)
- Another myth: The US invented Thanksgiving. Turns out that humans have been holding harvest festivals for ages. In ancient times, Middle Eastern peoples offered wheat to "The Great Mother" or "Mother of the Wheat." In medieval times, central Europeans celebrated their harvests at Feast of Saint Martin on November 11th.
-The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11. Unlike our modern holiday, it was three days long. The event was based on English harvest festivals, which traditionally occurred around the 29th of September. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941). Abraham Lincoln had previously designated it as the last Thursday in November.
-And if you think your family is crazy, remember this: each year, the Aztecs would behead a young girl representing Xilonen, the corn goddess.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Enjoy your Thanksgiving
Think you know what a typical Turkey Day meal looks like? Well, look closer. No — much closer. Wired
asked Mike Davidson, a biologist and expert photomicrographer at
Florida State University's National High Magnetic Field Lab, to turn
his lenses on the all-American meal. The images aren't particularly
appetizing, and they probably won't help you keep your gobbler moist
this year (try brining), but at least you'll be more intimate with the
stuff that's making you loosen your belt as you collapse on the couch:
Wired Puts Your Thanksgiving Feast Under a Microscope
10.23.07 | 12:00 AM