Saturday, April 29, 2017

Abyssia ‎– Gwekana : Afro Funk Disco Soul Fusion Cameroon Full Album LP ...

This is some kind of semi-informal project put together by musicians from the Cameroon back in the 1980s. That's about what the notes say on the YouTube anyway.

It was posted by a fellow called sunnyboy66, who seems to be a man of eclectic tastes who works tirelessly in the pursuit of human happiness. The CDs that he has posted to YouTube would, if laid end to end, reach to the moon and back, at least. I often wonder if he's retired, or perhaps independently wealthy, because the volume of his posting must take up a huge amount of time. Maybe he has a staff! It's a mystery.

But thanks, sunnyboy66. By now you're right up there with Soulphisticate, of the OG Napster, as a musical co-conspirator of mine.

Not A Movie Review: Baby Cart By The River Styx

This is the second movie in the Sword of Vengeance series. Ito Ogami, "Wolf with Child," and his cute little son Daigoro travel around Japan cutting people down like there was no tomorrow. I love these movies. 

I was surprised to see Kumamon show up outside of a noodle shop. We now know Kumamon as the mascot of Kumamoto, a city in the middle of the island of Kyushu in southern Japan. Evidently the image has been around for a while. 

There are three groups of more-or-less bad guys in this movie. A group of about ten ninjas, led by a Yagyu stooge; a group of eight female ninjas led by a demented boss lady ninja; and three brothers who are described as "Shogunate escorts." 

The escorts are interesting. They travel around Japan to pick up and deliver people to the Shogun. They seem unstoppable, until the end. They're not bad guys, not really. They only kill people that attack them. That's their stated policy and they stick to it throughout the movie. Lots of people attack them, though, so they get many chances to show off. They are the Hidari brothers: Benma (who straps on a claw hand when it's time to go to work); Tenma (who uses a mean looking studded club); and Kuruma (spiked fists). 

After Ogami cuts down eight of the Yagyu ninjas and all of the female ninjas except the boss, the remaining bad guys decide to kidnap Daigoro. They figure that will cause Ogami, who is already wounded, to lose heart. They figured wrong. 

In one of the great swordsploitation scenes of all time, the Yagyu boss has Daigoro tied up and suspended over a "bottomless" well. His two henchmen stand between Daigoro and his dad. The boss tells him to drop his sword or else "I'll let go and he'll die for sure." Ogami makes a little speech, which includes, "my son and I have chosen a life of evil. If this is the day that we lose everything, we're prepared . . ." 

Then he turns and addresses Daigoro: "Daigoro! Your mother is waiting for you at the River of Sanzu (Styx). Do you understand?" That's the way it was on this DVD anyway. The way that I remember it, in the theater long ago, Ogami said, "Daigoro! Your mother awaits you! And I'll be joining you both soon." I like my remembered version better. 

Then dad kills the three Yagyu in a heartbeat and grabs the rope before Daigoro gets too wet. All this time, Boss Ninja Chick has been standing over to one side with an expression of mixed fear, horror and admiration. She's never the same after this scene, the starch has just been knocked out of her. 

After some more action on a boat, Ogami and Daigoro end up swimming underwater to clear a bad situation. Who come along with a blade? Boss Ninja Chick. Ogami grabs her and she drops the blade, and then he drags her along to a shack next to the water. He first takes off Daigoro's wet clothes, and then his own, and then he rips her clothes off as well. She's terrified, thinking it's a rape scene, but no, he just wants them all to snuggle together to keep Daigoro warm. He's such a good dad! Daigoro mischievously plays with her nipples and she loses even more starch.  

There has to be a big murder-fest at the end of these movies and this one's no exception. First to die are a bunch of samurai buried in the sand who came along to help Ogami kill the object of his contract, as though he needed help. They just succeed in getting themselves killed by the three brothers. Ogami is another story. The three brothers spend an unpleasant last day on earth.  

Contract fulfilled! 

The actor who plays Ogami is Tomisaburo Wakayama, the brother of Shintaro Katsu, the actor who played Zatoichi in that earlier series. The Sword of Vengeance movies were directed by the same fellow who directed the Zatoichi movies, Kenji Misumi. I never get tired of these movies. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vocabulary Alert!

I read a nice article the other day and came across the word "risible." I had no immediate recognition of the word, but in context it seemed to mean something like "arguable," or "possible."

No cigar, Mr. Fred!

"risible (adj)  such as to provoke laughter;
risibility, risibly
Late Latin: risibilis; Latin: ris, ridere (to laugh)"

In the context of the article, laughable made great sense. The word was used in reference to an element of the current administration's foreign policy regarding Mexico, which is hysterical in general.

I thought, this is an important word for our times! So much of our daily flow of information concerning the current presidential administration, and our current congress, and each of them, is ridiculous. We need to buff-up our vocabularies to keep up with the necessary derision.

Tim Hardin "Misty Roses"

I put up this song by Astrud Gilberto a couple of years ago, with a few kind words about Tim.

Astrud is hard to keep up with as an interpreter of songs, but Tim does his usual great job here. Boy, Tim wrote some great songs.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Twiliters - Move It!

I am informed by a fifteen second Google search, and tend to believe, that the Twiliters were a band from upstate New York in the early-mid-1960s.

My hunch is that they could get a room wound up pretty good. They're probably retired by now, and I mean retired from the Post Office or something. My guess is that they retired from music at least forty years ago. I wish you well, guys. I hope y'all are doing fine!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Ahab Ceely

Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab, in extremis.  

Little known fact: in the first movie version of “Moby-Dick,” Captain Ahab’s full name was Ahab Ceely. Same spelling, usually. Kind of amazing, when I think about it. (Ahab was played by John Barrymore. I should be so lucky.)*

Yesterday I wrote 1,500 words about the story arc of my life, but if I ever post it, it won’t be soon. It all looked like a lot of complaining to no purpose. I had a less than perfect childhood . . . so what? I underperformed throughout my adult life . . . so what? I was overtaken by events upon the eve of my retirement . . . so what? Those tragicomedies are probably best kept personal. But are there lessons in there somewhere that might be useful to a general readership? There could be.

I’ve read Moby-Dick three times. The first time was at the age of twenty-something and I thought that it was a very good book. I read it as an exciting story of a young man at sea, and I remember thinking that there were a lot of digressions that seemed to go on for a long time without actually contributing to the story. How many pages do I have to read about the color white? But a good book, nevertheless. I chalked up the digressions to Nineteenth-Century literary peccadillos.

The second reading came when I was in my thirties, and I got a lot more out of it. I realized that the exciting story was grafted on top of clarifying information and some great hints regarding human motivation.

I read it a third time in my late-fifties. This reading was in the Norton Critical Edition, and boy, it’s an amazing book. Half of the book is Moby-Dick; the other half is background information, contemporary articles about related subjects, reviews and criticism all through the intervening time, just a load of great stuff. On the third reading I realized that Moby-Dick is a profound meditation on the nature of human existence. That, and a terrific adventure story, and several other things in between.  

The Ahab symbology is critically important. In a nutshell, Ahab had had an encounter with the white whale when he was a young man, and the event had cost him a leg. The experience had been terrifying in the extreme. Poor Ahab must have spent a rather considerable time sure that he was going to be killed that very day. Drowned and missing forever! Poor Ahab!

It was so terrifying, in fact, that ever since that day Ahab could think of nothing else but the white whale. Although he has stayed in the whaling business, and made captain, all of that is grafted on top of his hatred, and terror, of Moby-Dick. The trick is that this terrible fear does not cause him to spend his time at sea avoiding Moby-Dick; when he alerts the lookouts to keep an eye out for the white whale he does not mean to turn tail in the other direction if the whale is spotted. No, he wants to close with the whale for a second time!

The question, the philosophical and psychological question, is whether he is really interested in finally killing Moby-Dick. Is it all about Ahab’s rage? The strong hint is: no. He is probably only desperate for Moby-Dick to complete the job of killing him, killing Ahab. It’s about Ahab’s fear. You’ve got my leg! Take the rest of me, you seagoing-son-of-a-bitch! Get it over with! I’m tired of waiting!

It is a truism to say that literature has been examining human psychology very effectively since at least the days of Gilgamesh and his buddy Enkidu. What’s that? 3,500 years? Melville’s suggestion is that we may become so overcome with fear of a certain thing that we take concrete steps to hasten its arrival.

I would bet my teeth, my gums and my tattoo that this scenario actually pans out for many people. The very story arc of my life would be exhibit “A” for the proposition. I’m past the “climax” point in my version of the story. My white whale, with a lot of help from me, has laid me low.

All that’s left to be filled in on my Frytag’s Pyramid is the “catastrophe.” That comes in the last few pages. That would be when the whole ship is destroyed and everyone dies along with me. There are no nominees for the role of “Ismael.”

The moral of the story, dear reader, is that when you find yourself terrified of a certain eventuality, probably based upon prior exposure to the phenomenon, please avoid focusing on the terror in a manner that causes you to rush to greet it.

*Re: Ahab Ceely. In Melville's novel Captain Ahab has no family name. My understanding is that the surname Ceely was first used in “The Sea Beast,” the first movie version of Moby-Dick in 1926, a silent film starring John Barrymore. Rendered in the IMDB entry as “Ahab Ceeley.” The IMDB entry for “Moby-Dick,” (1931) simply says, “Ahab.” (Barrymore played Ahab in the 1931 movie as well.) On the Wikipedia pages for those movies it’s down as “Ahab Ceeley” once and "Ahab Ceely" once, and I’ve seen it without the final "e" elsewhere over the years. Most people wouldn’t notice the difference. At least they didn’t call him Ahab Sealy, like the mattresses. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

CORNELIUS - Like A Rolling Stone

I have often referred to Cornelius as the "Hieronymus Bosch of Pop music" or something like that. Both of those gentlemen created works of art that were somehow simultaneously within a particular artistic tradition and definitely outside it. I love them both.

In this video, Cornelius, either consciously or unconsciously, is echoing the style that Bosch used in the composition of "The Garden of Earthly Delights." So, even more Bosch than usual.