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24 October 2018 @ 01:05 pm
When I Heard a Richman  
Celebrity Death Watch: Peggy McKay was an actress, primarily in soap operas. Carol Hall was the composer and lyricist for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Sue Hubbell wrote books about natural history. William Coors was an executive of a company that makes something that passes for beer in Colorado. Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft and then used the money he made to buy sports teams. Todd Bol invented the Little Free Library. Anthea Bell was a translator, notably of the Asterix comic books. Charles Wang owned the New York Islanders. Earl Bakken invented the pacemaker. Dorcas Reilly was a home economist who invented the green bean casserole. Apparently the original recipe card is in the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.


Jonathan Richman: I fulfilled a musical bucket list item on Saturday night by going to see Jonathan Richman at the 9:30 Club. (Hence, the punning title for this entry.) I was reasonably intelligent and went upstairs right when I got there, enabling me to snag a seat on the balcony level. That and an Irish coffee (hey, it was a cold night out!) made for a relaxing evening.

Anyway, I have listened to Jonathan since maybe 1980 or so, back in the days of the Modern Lovers and his early punk efforts with silly songs like "Pablo Picasso (was never called an asshole)." As time went on, he pretty much focused on acoustic music, apparently to protect his hearing. Every now and then there is some song that completely grabs me and I listen to over and over for hours. "Give Paris One More Chance" (from the album, Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow) was one of those songs and I probably listened to it during every waking moment for three or four days in a row. I have no idea why that song speaks to me so deeply, but it does and I still end up playing it over several times in a row when I listen to that CD. Which is all a bit besides the point, as he did not play it Saturday night.

What he did play ranged from "No One Was Like Vermeer" to "He Gave Us the Wine to Taste" to "People Are Disgusting" to "Dancing at the Lesbian Bar." And songs in French, Spanish, Italian, and what I assume was Sanskrit because it was based on the works of Kabir. Seeing him live, with just Tommy Larkins on drums as accompaniment, I felt a greater appreciation for Jonathan’s actual musicianship. That is, I had usually thought of him as a bit of a novelty act, with some great songs but more known for weird lyrics and concepts. But in person I could appreciate that he really can play the guitar damn well. There are flamenco and jazz influences. And, most of all, he was having fun, as was I.

I am so happy I went to see him and I hope I will get the chance to do so again.

By the way, top of the music bucket list now is Luka Bloom. But he doesn't appear to have anything scheduled that I can get to in the near future. Maybe next year.


Profs and Pints – Origins of Vampires: I like the concept for Profs and Pints, which puts on lectures at bars in the D.C. area. I finally actually made it to one of these Sunday night. The topic was vampires and the speaker, Bruce McClelland, emphasized the linguistic origins of the word, which he said originally referred to outcasts, rather than to the undead. He was rather disorganized, though reasonably interesting. For example, there were reports of flying bags of blood, but nobody could verify them because seeing one would kill you instantly. Most of the evidence for early belief in the undead has to do with mutilation of corpses. Which makes it interesting that he didn’t cite Lawrence Durrell’s account of the burial of a vampire in Corfu (in Prospero’s Cell) but I gathered that his literary knowledge was not up to his knowledge of Slavic languages as he attributed a lot of things to Bram Stoker that Stoker borrowed from John Polidori, who wrote "The Vampyre" nearly 80 years before Dracula. One would expect a vampirologist to be familiar with Polidori.

As an aside, Dracula is not really about the supernatural if you know anything about Stoker’s background. What makes it an interesting book is that Mina, as the modern woman, is the only complete character, while Lucy’s three suitors together each have only one aspect of success. Stoker’s mother was an early feminist and that almost certainly led to his rather conflicted views on femininity. But I digress.

McClelland’s other interesting point was that the association of outcasts with the supernatural came to be associated with live women (witches) in the West versus dead men (vampires and werewolves) in the East. That was something I’d never thought about before.

Overall, even with a few quibbles, it was worth going to the talk. And, as I said, I like the concept behind the event and will certainly try to get to other Profs and Pints lectures in the future.


Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was at some sort of spa. But, instead of staying at the main hotel, I was at some cheaper accommodations on the other side of the town square. There was a fountain in the middle of the square and a lot of spa-goers were standing around, dressed in white bathrobes, watching the fountain.

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