August Pieces Of My Mind #3

Not a lot of wind.
  • Listening to Planet Money about recessions and stock market crashes, I recall the father of my brother’s classmate. They lived two houses over in our leafy suburb. On Black Monday in 1987 he opened the window of his office and jumped to his death.
  • Disproportionately happy about having replaced the broken TV remote.
  • “As we move back into the 20th century, the musicological source material becomes notoriously weak and patchy. We have only 197 preserved unique compact discs, globally. 196 are from the great gamelan trove found during excavations in Jakarta. The 197th is Billy Idol’s poorly received 1993 album Cyberpunk.”
  • Movie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Western outlaws in the Civil War. Hardly any women, hardly any dialogue. Ages and ages of close-ups of sweaty, bruised, unshaven faces. Grade: OK.
  • Where do all these fads come from? All our friends are suddenly throwing “50 Years Parties”!
  • Dropped a wine glass when putting it on the drying stand. With lightning reflexes honed by much teenage video gaming, my hand shot out to keep it from falling on the floor. In that split second, the glass broke against the countertop and I slammed my fingers onto the shards, cutting two and bleeding like a pig. Yay, fucking Tetris. /-:
  • Suddenly I remember an early-80s ad in one of my grandma’s weekly magazines for the quack professor Per-Arne Öckerman’s alternative pills. He was posing in a white coat in the ad, extremely wall-eyed and with unkempt grey hair, and I laughed at the idea that if you took his pills, you would end up like him.
  • I know being bald looks awesome and is a universally admired hair style. But really people, before you shave the tops of your heads to look more like me, consider the increased risk of wasp stings. My pate hurts now.
  • Is the Tokay gecko the only species that has named itself? Its Linnaean name is Gecko gecko, and it spends the nights calling “gecko gecko gecko gecko gecko”.
  • There should be more country rock songs about mescaline-taking, Esperanto-speaking Utopian Socialist communes in California.
  • Studying chemistry with Jrette, I find occasion to check why silicone has this confusing name. Turns out “silicone” is short for silicoketone. There are silicon atoms in the compound but it is very far from being a chemical element.
  • I just finished my translation into English of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s 1667 Asian travelogue! 34,000 words and hundreds of explanatory notes. Now I need to hit the Royal Library to double the number of notes.
  • Somebody told me about a farmer they knew. He was bipolar and had once bought four large tractors that he could neither use nor afford when he was off his meds.
1780s tiled stove at Herrängen manor house.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

32 thoughts on “August Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. >>Billy Idol’s poorly received 1993 album Cyberpunk.
    For some reason, that would sound less dystopian if ONLY the Gamelan CDs had survived. I wonder what happened to all the vinyl though, it has a reputation for lasting much longer.

    >> There should be more country rock songs about mescaline-taking, Esperanto-speaking Utopian Socialist communes in California.
    Google led me to Frank Black whom I wasn’t familiar with. I guess Gram Parsons died too young and David Crosby was too stoned at the time. But then again, maybe “Hotel California” is about Llana del Rio in some oblique way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Both Gram Parsons and the early incarnations of Poco really pre-dated the MTV era, so it is near impossible to find good quality videos of them performing with adequate sound quality, which is a real pity. I was once opinionated enough to claim that Poco were the best band ever, and for once my disagreeable and excessively pedantic friend agreed with me, which qualified as a major victory. I think it is reasonable to claim that they were one of the best country rock bands never to achieve real commercial success. Whether you accept Richie Furay’s claim that they invented country rock is another thing – a lot of people could claim that.

    They never forgave the Eagles for luring away Timothy Schmidt, and for what they saw as the Eagles’ crass commercialism and dumbing down that cashed in on the genre that they believed they had invented. I don’t know about that, but in my opinion Poco were vocally and instrumentally better than the Eagles, and their song writing a bit more cerebral and creative, but maybe thereby they were the architects of their own failure to achieve the commercial success they felt they deserved. If you want to make millions playing music, you need to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I speak as a musician who barely made enough money to cover my membership dues for the musicians’ union – we were very popular with the folkies, but then we were very cheap and often just played for crowd appreciation, which is addictive. Groupies are a lot less addictive; I used to wish they would go away and leave me alone, or take whoever was my current girlfriend with me as a deterrent to them. They’re like bloody barracudas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some (including themselves) would claim that the Byrds invented country rock. I disagree: at first, they played electric folk (they electrified Dylan songs before Dylan himself did), but then they switched to country—not country rock, but down-home, clod-hopping, tear-in-my-beer country.


      1. It is Don Henley in particular that Rusty Young and Paul Cotton bear a massive grudge against, and he seems to be widely despised in the music industry, although he has had some notable collaborators.


    2. I have a vague recollection that Poco had a minor hit sometime in the early 1980s, but I don’t remember without looking it up what song that was. They would hardly be the only example of a talented band that never made it big while contemporary mediocre acts did, e.g., Rupert Holmes with “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”, which is among the most hated songs of the era (and often misattributed to Jimmy Buffet, whose style is nothing like Holmes’).

      As for the Eagles, they had everything align just right for the Hotel California album, and especially the title track from that album. The pressure to recreate that success eventually led to their breakup–it took them several years to release their follow-up album, The Long Run, with a substantially different lineup (Schmit replaced Randy Messer on bass, and Joe Jackson also joined the group somewhere along the way), and the Eagles pretty much broke up after the ensuing tour. I can’t fairly compare the Eagles to Poco because I know so little of Poco’s work, but I can say the Eagles had some clunkers along with their good songs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Randy Meisner.

        Poco’s highest ever charting single, at a pathetic No.50 on the Billboard Hot 100, was Schmit’s acoustic Keep On Tryin’, a song I detest. I actually don’t like Schmit’s voice as a lead vocalist, only for harmonies or backing vocals. That rounds out the irony – a song I hate by a band that I love was their most successful. That would have been in around 1975, though. Early ’80s, that would have been Under the Gun, which you might have heard.

        I don’t loathe Keep On Tryin’ as much as Hotel California, though. I cannot stand that song. The Eagles song I like the most is Already Gone, which isn’t saying much.

        Poco’s best lead vocalist was Richie Furay, although he needed to be prevented from being too dominating. Jim Messina left because of Furay, which was a shame (Randy Meisner also left because of Furay). It was a tragedy that Furay later became a born again Christian. He couldn’t understand why his bandmates kept distancing themselves from him when “I just wanted to talk to them about love.” Because you were boring the shit out of them, Richie.


      2. Actually, I’m wrong – they had two Top 20 hits, the Rusty Young song Crazy Love and the Paul Cotton song Heart of the Night, both off the 1978 Legend album, but it’s questionable whether that was Poco; it was just Rusty Young and Paul Cotton with some fill-in musicians. They wanted to record it as Cotton-Young, but the record company would only agree to release it if they said it was by Poco. By that stage, those two basically owned the name, so there was nothing to stop them from doing that, although it seems like they didn’t really want to. Whatever. Line-up changes were hardly new for a band that had changed members 3 times during the release of their first 4 albums. The one constant throughout was Rusty Young.

        See if this rings any bells:


      3. I was scratching my head trying to figure out how Joe Jackson fit into the Eagles. Too trusting, me. Always have been.


      4. “I don’t loathe Keep On Tryin’ as much as Hotel California, though.”

        In the German progressive-rock magazine eclipsed, each issue has a short interview on the last page. The questions are always the same. One is “What is the best pop song ever written?” Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson replied “Hotel California”. I don’t know how many people got the joke. Over the years, Ian has claimed—whether seriously or not it is hard to tell—that “Hotel California” resembles Tull’s “We Used to Know” too much. There is a strong resemblance. Ian points out that the Eagles opened for Tull back in the day. However, this is probably a red herring, since the music was written by Don Felder, who was not in the Eagles at the time. (On the other hand, of course, this doesn’t rule out any influence. If true, I suspect that it is of the unintentional “My Sweet Lord” variety rather than intentional plagiarism.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This could be the big new ancient DNA paper I have been hearing about. It is titled as a ‘methods’ paper, but obviously contains some interesting new insights on ancient admixture, which are not mentioned in the Abstract. It is in Nature, and therefore paywalled, so I am linking to Razib Khan’s initial reaction to the paper, because he quotes some of the relevant stuff:


  4. Another ‘methods’ paper in Nature which likely contains new insights is this one – not being able to get at the thing to read it is irritating. I guess I could try to access it via the constantly moving site run by that Russian woman, but have yet to overcome my inertia (and wariness) to doing that. Interesting quote from the Abstract: “Highly diverged lineages are present in all groups, but most frequent in Africa.” According to Chris Stringer, a lot of hot new insights are going to start coming out of Africa, now that people have turned their attention much more to that continent.

    A method for genome-wide genealogy estimation for thousands of samples.


  5. A big part of the Sergio Leone western films is the music by his old friend Ennio Morricone.
    I would argue that a film salon is the preferred place to get the full experience.
    The way music and film are joined at the hip is especially obvious in Once Upon a Time in the West, where the harmonica mimics the sound of a faraway train whistle – both the train and the harmonica play important roles in the film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know it well. Starring that much loved Cantonese actor Cha-lee-see Be-lon-son as the harmonica playing good guy, with Henry Fonda cast as the bad guy for once.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As Pete Townshend wrote, all the best cowboys have Chinese eyes. I always thought that he looked Chinese.

        My mother once met Bronson briefly as, for some bizarre reason, for a short time, she and his wife (whom I remember as seducing Mr. Spock) were seeing the same oncologist.


      2. Those looks could have come from him being descended or partly descended from Lipka Tatars, who migrated to Lithuania and sought asylum among non-Christian Lithuanians at the beginning of the 14th Century. The Lipka Tatar origins can be traced back to the descendant states of the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate and Kazan Khanate, so they must have had some East Asian ancestry.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. His wife who seduced Mr Spock (not really) would have been Jill Ireland, his second wife, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984 and died because of it in 1990. She appeared in one episode of Star Trek in 1967. Bronson and his first wife were divorced in 1965, and the first series of Star Trek debuted in 1966.

        Because of his looks and colouring, Bronson was cast in some roles as a Native American.

        It’s all coming together, innit?

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Today’s bit of trivia – when Charles Bronson was a kid, his family were so poor that once he had to wear his sister’s dress to school. I bet that hurt. And he only spoke Lithuanian and Russian – he only learned to speak English as a teenager. He didn’t do badly, considering.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. He was the 11th of 15 children – that’s huge. His mother was born in America, yet he couldn’t speak English until he was a teenager. First member of his family to graduate from high school. It all sounds unreal. But then, I knew a Croatian guy who migrated to Australia in the 1930s but never learned to speak English – he survived his whole life among a Croatian community.

      Liked by 1 person

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