Saturday Odds & Sods: Machine Messiah

The Twittering Machine by Paul Klee

Welcome to the heat dome. Make that: you’re welcome to the heat zone, get it the hell away from me. It’s been sitting on us all week: no cloud cover, no rain, no relief. It’s hot enough that our central AC struggles to keep up. I wish someone would re-index the high heat index. Bottom line: it’s fucking hot.

I said what I had to say about the overruling of Roe and Casey in a series of posts after the draft opinion leaked: May 3, May 4, May 5, and May 6.

Back to our regularly scheduled Odds & Sods programming:

This week’s Paul Klee featured image The Twittering Machine obviously has nothing to do with the Tweeter Tube as it was executed in 1922. The title makes it timely and the pairing with Machine Messiah is perfect if I do say so myself and I do.

The Klee painting hangs at MOMA. Here’s how their web site describes it:

“A violent marriage of nature and industry, the crazy contraption in Twittering Machine mechanizes the songs of birds. All but one bird are tethered to a perch that can be turned by a handle over a pit, a potential trap for the latest choir member. Constructed with Klee’s characteristic wiry, agile black line, the birds lurch and cry out, their tongues resembling both musical notes and fishhooks. Klee described drawing as “an active line on a walk, moving freely” and connected his liberated line to his belief that “through the universe, movement is the rule.” In this drawing, humans turn movement and song against nature, making them activities of enslavement.”

That brings us to this week’s theme song. Machine Messiah was written by the whole damn band for 1980’s Yes album Drama. It’s the album’s opening track and features some of Steve Howe’s finest guitar playing and that’s saying a lot.

We have two versions of Machine Messiah for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a 2009 live version.

That concludes the Yes-Paul Klee part of the post. I’ll have more Yes shtick tomorrow in the Sunday Dozen.

Speaking of machine songs, The Commodores:

I wonder if Lionel Richie considers his solo success to be a promotion to admiral. Beats the hell out of me. I prefer his funkier early stuff.

We begin our second act with a visit to the heyday of Top 40 radio.

The Worst Radio Promo Ever: Comedy writer and blogger Ken Levine worked as a DJ at KYA in San Francisco before joining the MASH writing staff. His radio name was Beaver Cleaver. Like this guy:

I don’t know if Ken ever slicked his hair back like that, but it’s a good look for the Beaver. Golly, Wally.

Before I became too cool for Top 40 radio, I listened to both big SF stations: KYA and KFRC. I don’t remember hearing Beaver Cleaver, but I have fond memories of KFRC’s Dr. Don Rose who introduced us to songs by one-hit wonders like Daddy Dewdrop:

Don’t ya just love it?

Back to Ken Levine. He’s written a swell post about the worst radio promo ever. Dig this description:

“But the creepiest promotion I ever did was when I was a jock on KYA in San Francisco in 1974. Dean Goss, one of my fellow jocks on the station I’m sure can confirm this story. He gave me shit about it for months.

Here’s the contest: High school girls were asked to send in postcards and I would take one of them to her spring prom. Can you imagine? What parent would let his 16 year-old daughter go out with a 24 year-old disc jockey? I happened to be a nice guy, but on the scale of depravity, disc jockey is just below sex offender.

A winner was selected. I had to rent a tuxedo and buy a corsage. By the way, I loathed proms when I was in high school. I asked if the station was going to provide a limo or some cool mode of transportation? No. I had to drive her in my beat up Mustang.”

That’s some weird and creepy stuff, Ken. Imagine what the QAnon Lady would say about that.

Let’s creep away from this creepy segment with one of the biggest hits of my Top 40 listening days:

Documentary Of The Week: There’s a swell documentary airing on HBO. It covers the 40 some odd year career of the great American humorist, George Carlin. I call him a humorist because he was not just a standup comedian but a social commentator in the tradition of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Robert Benchley, Lenny Bruce, and Gore Vidal.

George Carlin’s American Dream is a two-part film directed by Judd Apatow of bro comedy fame and documentarian Michael Bonfiglio. They have a wealth of material to work with because Carlin was a ubiquitous presence on teevee even before the advent of his HBO comedy specials.

The best talking heads are those who knew George well: his daughter, his brother, and his second wife. There are way too many comedians explaining Carlin’s work. The directors should have let the work speak for itself. Carlin spoke in clear and direct language. We don’t need Jerry Seinfeld to explain it to us.

Carlin’s comedy grew increasingly strident and cranky at the end. I’m not a fan of his “yay, people are suffering from a natural disaster” period. It went down like the proverbial turd in a punchbowl in post-Katrina New Orleans. Kicking down is not funny.

Fortunately, most of Carlin’s comedy involved kicking up. Word play was his thing. Since it’s my thing as a writer I admire bits such as this:

I write this in a room full of my stuff that’s menaced by the presence of the giant kitten, Perry Mason. Get off my stuff, dude. Go sit in a box; that’s your shit, man.

Here’s the trailer:

I thought George Carlin’s American Dream was 30-45 minutes too long. They should have let Seinfeld stay in his car instead of being one of the dominant talking heads in this movie.

It’s grading time: I enjoyed George Carlin’s American Dream and despite its flaws, I give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+.

Since I mentioned talking heads in that review, the last word of our second act goes to Talking Heads with a song that didn’t make their Sunday Dozen.

We begin our third act with our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth Casting Edition: Sigmund Freud is out of fashion in the 21st Century but remains a fascinating figure both onscreen and off.

The best Freud of the bunch was Alan Arkin. In Freud, Monty Clift looked more like a patient than a therapist. I haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen as Freud, but he strikes me as being too burly for a Jewish Viennese shrink but what the hell do I know?

There are many songs that mention Sigmund Freud. This is one of them.

The Classic Movie List: I realized the other day that I’d never done a Spencer Tracy top ten. It’s time to rectify that omission. Rectify that Omission is my new band name. I somehow doubt Beaver Cleaver would have played us on KYA. So it goes.

My Top Ten Favorite Spencer Tracy Movies

  1.     Inherit The Wind
  2.     Bad Day At Black Rock
  3.     Fury
  4.     Woman Of The Year
  5.     Libeled Lady
  6.     The Last Hurrah
  7.     Pat and Mike
  8.     Adam’s Rib
  9.     The Seventh Cross
  10.    Boys Town

I only include one of Tracy’s Oscar winning performances: Boys Town. It’s schmaltzy but moving. It’s certainly better than his hammy turn as a Portuguese sailor in Captains Courageous. Not an old movie that holds up well. I’ll take Mickey Rooney over Freddie Bartholomew any day.

The Best Of Johnny: George Carlin was a frequent guest and occasional guest host on The Tonight Show. Heeere’s Georgie:

Saturday GIF Horse: Tracy and Hepburn in George Stevens’ Woman Of The Year. Say no more.

Tweet Of The Week: Consider this lagniappe catblogging.

Let’s close down this virtual honky tonk with some more music.

Weekly Vintage Video: I call the version of Yes with Trevor Rabin, Yes West. This is my favorite song from Big Generator:

That’s all for this week. It was a long one. The last word goes to Spencer Tracy in Fritz Lang’s Fury: