Thursday, December 07, 2006

Random Notes

1. I got cast in “Witness For the Prosecution” by Agatha Christie, being produced by this company. I got the part of Myers, the prosecutor, one of the two parts I wanted. I guess that fits my “hang the bastard” mentality. When I see a defense attorney on TV I assume he is a liar and probably an America-hating hippie to boot. Rehearsals begin in January. This will slow down my blogging some, but won’t stop it.

2. I am 156 pages into R.R. Bolgar’s The Classical Heritage. It is great. I would call it a history of education from late Rome through the Renaissance. Even the chapter on Byzantium was fascinating. Now, history of education and Byzantium are not two topics that make my blood race. Put them together and you’ve got a soporific cocktail, right? No, Bolgar makes essential identifications; he pulls the empirical facts of history together to find the principles and trends.

This book is not for everyone. It is learned and advanced, written in a dense style with long paragraphs. 25 years ago it would have bored me to tears, but now I’ve read enough about the history of philosophy to get something out of Bolgar. It is thrilling to see a brilliant mind with a first-rate understanding of the material induce the essential and the important from the facts of history.

3. When I watch the Lakers I see a TV commercial for a WWE (professional wrestling) video game. This might be the only sports related video game that is actually more realistic than the sport. At least the outcome of the video game is in doubt.

4. If you want to hear a good pop song, check out this Christmas video by Heidi Klum on Trey Givens’s blog. The melody is catchy and Heidi Klum is easy on the eyes. She is married to someone called Seal. What does Seal have that I don’t have? I mean, other than talent, wealth, fame and sex appeal. Those things are so shallow.

Warning: This video is pure, happy pop. It will nauseate hard rockers and send Metallica fans and Gwar fans into convulsions. Fans of Slayer risk an agonizing death, which come to think of it, might turn them on.


EdMcGon said...

Regarding "The Classical Heritage", I am looking for a book to get my dad for Christmas. He loves history, but he is a staunch conservative (much more than me). Do you think he might like it?

Myrhaf said...

I would not give this book as a gift because I myself would not have liked it years ago. It's about philosophers in the Dark Ages that no one has heard of. You would be safer with Paul Johnson. If he has not read Winston Churchill, that would be a good choice. If your father fought in WWII, a book about his unit or any battles he was in would surely be appreciated. I've also heard that the memoirs of Grant and Sherman are terrific.

Billy Beck said...

You just can't miss with Winston Churchill's six-volume history of World War II. I've seen new boxed paperback editions that are moderately expensive, but if there are any decent used bookstores in your area, they certainly might be worth a try. I put together the whole set in hardcover for about thirty dollars, I think.


"Warning: This video is pure, happy pop. It will nauseate hard rockers..."

Not me. You might be surprised at what I can enjoy. Remember: I was raised on big-band swing, Dixieland and bluegrass/country. I have photographs of me when I still had hair, playing rhythm guitar in my Dad's cowboy band. The second CD I ever owned was Paula Abdul's "Forever Your Girl" (1988), which I still think is a fine record.

I'd give Heidi's video a 7.7 or so, I think. I'm not entirely knocked out with the composition or her vocal track on the thing, but it's not rotten at all. Good for her.

Myrhaf said...

You have wide musical tastes. You mentioned elsewhere that you like Chet Atkins, a brilliant guitarist who is mostly forgotten these days. I'm with you. It really depends on my mood.

Billy Beck said...

Chet is among the earliest musical sounds in my memory. My father was an enthralled fan almost as far back as I can remember: he wore those records out, and then sat around practicing and playing a lot of those licks for the rest of his life.

They're some of the sweetest sounds that ever went to vinyl. If you're a guitar player, sooner or later you just have to give it up for that guy. No way around him.

Myrhaf said...

My father also had Chet Atkins records and I spent a lot of time in the '60s listening to him. With distortion and sustain, anyone can sound good enough, but to play clean, that's another thing entirely.

Billy Beck said...

"My father also had Chet Atkins records and I spent a lot of time in the '60s listening to him."

"Swedish Rhapsody". "Country Gentlemen". "The Bells of St. Mary's". These are essential sounds of my childhood and youth. To listen to him playing "Dixie" and "Yankee Doodle" together at at the same time is astounding. There is no one like him.

"With distortion and sustain, anyone can sound good enough,..."

I wouldn't agree to that, necessarily. Doing that naturally -- at very high volume levels and without electronic artifice -- is a serious exercise in power management. I once worked with a guitar player who played through four 100-watt Marshall amplifiers running out to eight 4x12" speaker cabinets (four full stacks), and the whole rig was turned up to 10. Now & then I would sound-check that rig, and it was almost positively dangerous. Without knowing how to simply touch that guitar, the volume and feedback would quickly become completely overwhelming, and someone who didn't know what they were doing would just have to run for cover. It's a different sort of touch to manage something like that, but it is definitely a touch.

However, there is no question but that Chet was a grand master. What he did was very special, and certainly against the prevailing trends of electric guitar, and I don't know when we'll ever see anything like him a gain.