Sunday, April 20, 2014

Brown Shoes Don't Make It

I recently discovered this duo. Two classically trained musicians from Florence, Italy,  Pierpaolo Romani, clarinet and bass clarinet and Andrea Pennati, classical guitar, who call themselves Inventionis Mater. They have an recording called, Does Humor Belong In Classical Music?. 
In their own words from their website: 
They have arranged many compositions by Frank Zappa as duets for classical guitar and clarinets The Inventionis Mater Duo is a project born of the encounter between the clarinetist Pierpaolo Romani and the guitarist Andrea Pennati. The purpose is write down the Zappa gigantism for a duo so little frequented as the clarinet and guitar duo is. To the question of what meaning Frank Zappa had for rock music and what for classical music of the late twentieth century Inventionis Mater certainly does not answer. But they take the bright and eccentric rock of Frank Zappa and return it back to the audience in a duo transcription reduced to the need of essentiality. A transcript that is translation, never distortion. A trip between stylistic and timbre versatility, from rhythm 'n blues to dodecaphonic atmospheres. A duo that tells a story in which the protagonist is an American composer who was able to draw from rock music of the XX century what the great romantic composers drew from folk music. One of the few who knew how to use the difficult simplicity resulting from the purification of complexity. The Inventionis Mater tells you about Zappa: an acrobat on the thin line between Art music and Pop music. A genius who has managed to create a language - a truly contemporary music - mirror of the postmodern eclecticism, not forgetting the pleasure of irony and intellectual taste for hearing.

In my opinion, they have transcended their purpose magnificently. Faithful transcriptions of the original pieces that never alter the original melodic intent, but only illuminate the real compositional originality and playfulness of Zappa, the composer. I chose this performance of Brown Shoes Don't Make It, which Zappa referred to as an Oratorio from his second record, Absolutely Free because if you are familiar with the original, you will understand the high level of humor that Inventionis Mater operates on. It's a piece you would never have expected anyone to try to cover or reinterpret in any event, but their rendition is incredible. I would suggest you check them out, here is a direct link to a page with their YouTube channel, Facebook, Sound Cloud and Google Plus. I think Frank would have like them very much and to quote his favorite quotation from Edgar Varese, his musical hero:
"The modern day composer refuses to die!"
Holy Cards for the XXI Century
Happy Easter from Ikea
(some assembly required)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Beginning Of The End

No, really, what is this shit? I was in line at a checkout in the big Carrefour store ( a huge shopping center type store we call a Grand Surface like an upscale Walmart) in Brive-la-Gaillarde and the couple in front of me were buying a typical load of garbage. I always find it a kind of socio/anthropological research project to try to profile the people in line in front of me at grocery store check outs by the contents of their shopping cart. You know you've pegged a serial killer when you see a cart containing only 10 giant economy size cans of bargain brand manicotti and 6 bottles of cheap scotch. I should talk. I went into the big shopping center to get organic unbleached flour for my wife, but you get into the store, go into a sort of twilight zone trance and a simple 2 Euro purchase magically expands to 45 Euros. The flour, a box of the very hard to find Schwarzkopf Ultra Violet hair color that is part of my wife's life support system, a box of dwarf haricot vert seeds, 2 doggie IDs...(my dog, J.Edgar is extremely creative in making his dog IDs mysteriously disappear!) Listerine Mouth Wash, some kind of l'Oreal face cream that is also part of my wifes life support system and a bag of frozen artichoke hearts which I have been looking for so my wife can make a pasta recipe our buddy Enzo sent us.  I realized what I had done as I was unloading the contents of my shopping basket on the checkout belt. There was actually another woman in front of me in the line, a kind of butch, but very friendly looking woman with 2 big bottles of Italian red wine. She saw me checking out the strange pile of goods on the belt in front of us and smiled as if we were sharing a joke. I was transfixed by a can at the end of the procession, something I had never seen before or could have even imagined existing. The label said Panzani Ravioli Dessert, sauce chocolat, fourree a la banane. The picture on the can didn't help at all. In case you need an English translation, that would be, Panzani Dessert Ravioli, with banana filling in chocolate sauce, in a can. I started to giggle and the woman in front of me saw what I was giggling about and started laughing as well.  The folks making the purchase seemed to be ignoring us and we stowing their purchases in their shopping cart. The woman in front of me said she could not imagine what it was. I said I had never seen anything like it before and I was both horrified and intrigued. I don't know what you would do with this stuff. I
wouldn't take it on a camping trip to feed bears with. It probably has a long shelf life if in case you were stocking your survival bunker. In fact, I realized that I had witnessed one of the signs of the upcoming apocalypse. Forget Reverend Hagee and his dire predictions about the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse last week. That don't mean shit! I went home and googled the product and found out that it was a new product made in France being test marketed at the Carrefour chain. It comes in Vanilla sauce with a strawberry flavored filling as well. The product revues I read all said that it was basically unedible chemical flavored glop. The couple buying the can were probably one of the first purchasers of these cursed cans as yesterday was the first day it went on sale. As far as I'm concerned, yesterday marked the beginning of the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Untitled, unreleased jam of just Bootsy Collins and Eddie Hazel.
No drums, just bass thumping by the amazing Mr. Collins, the guy I still wanna be if I ever grow up.

Eat Your Tardigrades or You Don't Get No Dessert!

You know this little guy, right? It’s the mighty tardigradeTardigrades, also known as water bears, also known as FREAKIN’ MOSS PIGLETS, are microscopic eight-legged animals that can withstand temperatures from near absolute zero to boiling water, absorb extreme doses of radiation, go without food or water for ten years, and even survive the vacuum of space. They can even be completely dried out and ride on the wind to a new home, where they rehydrate and go about their tardigrade type business. Tardigrade rain, folks.
In other words, they are BAMFs (bad-ass microfauna).
Oh, and you’ve probably eaten them.  These water-dwelling super-critters live not only on wild mosses and wet plants, but on grocery store produce like lettuce and spinach. Do you think that a mere rinse or shake under the faucet (or even cooking) is enough to dislodge a radiation-eating space pig? Ha! Not by a long shot. 
So yeah… trying to go strictly vegetarian? You’ve almost certainly eaten some tardigrades. Sorry. Don’t worry, though. They’re totally harmless. I like to imagine that when I eat them, I absorb their power, and become a little bit mightier.
New motto: For strength, eat your vegetables and eat your tardigrades.

Here's a great link about your local tardigrade friends. Science is for everyone!
Update: In the comments I received a visit from Mike Shaw, the man known as The Water Bear Hunter, who has made the study of tardigrades his passionate speciality. To learn more bout these little guys, check out his web site, Tardigrade USA!

Jesus, The Easter Bunny and Mommy's Hoo Hoo

There are a lot of factors contributing to the demographic shift in this historical map but the rapid shift in the last decade might have a lot to do with the crisis of education in America. This map shows a relative center of economic "gravity". As Eastern Asians become more affluent and upwardly mobile, they have expanded the educational opportunities for their young population who will create the economy of the future. Meanwhile, back on the ranch, this study, published in the latest edition of Evolution: Education and Outreach, actually attempts to illustrate the utter failure of the religious right shackled curriculum of High School biology in say, uhhh, Oklahoma. Students come out of the system actually knowing less than they did when they started it.
The authors of the study, Tony Yates and Edmund Marek, tested biology teachers and students in 32 Oklahoma public high schools via a survey the pair called “the Biological Evolution Literacy Survey.” The survey was administered to the teachers first, to get a benchmark of their grasp of evolutionary theory. The survey was then administered twice to the students — once before they took the required Biology I course, and once after they had completed it.
Yates and Marek found that prior to instruction, students possessed 4,812 misconceptions about evolutionary theory; after they completed the Biology I course, they possessed 5,072. Of the 475 students surveyed, only 216 decreased the number of misconceptions they believed, as opposed to 259 who had more of them when they finished the course than before they took it.
“There is little doubt,” they argued, “that teachers may serve as sources of biological evolution-related misconceptions or, at the very least, propagators of existing misconceptions.”

Despite holding more misconceptions about evolutionary theory after completing the course, students “presumed themselves to be more knowledgeable concerning biological evolutionary concepts following instruction as opposed to prior to instruction.” They were more confident, then, that they understood evolutionary theory, even though they completed the course more confused about its basic tenets than they were when they began it.
This may be
because “about one-fourth of Oklahoma public school life-science teachers place moderate or strong emphasis on creationism.” In fact, two students scored higher initially on the Biological Evolution Literacy Survey than their respective teachers.“There is little doubt,” they argued, “that teachers may serve as sources of biological evolution-related misconceptions or, at the very least, propagators of existing misconceptions.”
So, the results? A generation of students who at least have the privilege of attending schools being brainwashed and manipulated for political/economic motives by a deluded conservative system into actual intellectual incompetency. Could you imagine a kid who was totally manipulated by creationists to actually want to become an astronaut? Could you imagine a creationist astronaut? Your assignment: tell me if there have ever been any astronauts who are anti science creationists! Just having a belief in god doesn't count here. I can only imagine this conversation between a kid from this faulty Oklahoma uneducational system trying to get into a real university and major in science:

College admission counselor: I see you're from Oklahoma and you want to major in science. Why is that? 
Oklahoma teenager: I want to learn more about how Jesus helps the Easter Bunny make a baby in a mommy's hoo hoo. 
College admission counselor: I see.......wait, what?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Just Wanna Testify

What is soul? I don't know. Soul is a ham hock in your cornflakes. Soul is the ring around your bath tub. Soul is a joint rolled with toilet paper. 

This is the original Parliament Funkadelic thing back in 1969! With the forgotten guitar genius, Eddie Hazel! He's the fellow biting his guitar strings at the end of the show! I got to see them on the same stage with The Stooges in Michigan!
 Vcls: Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas, Calvin Simon, Ray Davis, George Clinton Gtr: Eddie Hazel, Tawl Ross 
Keyboard: Mickey Atkins 
Drums: Langston Booth
Bass: Billy Bass


I watched Letterman off and on for years in the USA and I liked his humor...stupid, surreal but bottom line subversive. I really respected the way he totally destroyed George Bush Jr. when he had him on his program.  I missed being able to watch him here in France. He's retiring, but this recent rant is one of the reasons I liked him! Here to you, Dave, this one's on me!


"The poor and the underclass are growing. Racial justice and human rights are non-existent. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices." - They Live (1988)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Too Much Spring

April 16, 2014. One year ago we were suffering from a pretty drastic cold snap that was a real catastrophe for most of the fruit tree growers and I wondering if I would ever be able to plant a vegetable garden. It did warm up, but we didn't get the plowing done until May. This year it was quite the opposite. It never really froze here last winter and there was non stop rain. Then the sun came out and it really hasn't rained in 2 weeks! I have had to mow the grass 3 times already! All the flowers are blooming at the same time and I began to worry about getting the garden started. My neighbor Dede Tochport has been plowing the earth with his tractor for me almost every year for the last 12 years and I hadn't seen him around lately. I broke down and called him last night and he showed up after lunch with his old Massey Ferguson and first cut and leveled the ground, Then he came back around a half hour later with the plow on the tractor and turned the earth. It was dry enough for him to come back with the cultivator and, voila, c'est fini! Here is Dede on the tractor with the cultivator and my buddy, J. Edgar is supervising the procedure. Tomorrow, I plant potatoes. My house is totally green!