Hold on, no. It wasn’t. It wasn’t fast at all. It seems like a long time ago we were in the Baltics, and it seemed like a long time between the Baltics and the end of school. The summer was as long as the ones I remember from childhood, and there’s still a week to go. Right now I’m out in the gazebo, crickets chirping, the nighttime air perfectly warm without humidity, and everything smells as fresh as a morning in June.
Daughter is excited. Packed her stuff, made her lunch, laid out her clothes. Seventh grade. That’s the start of the next phase, isn’t it? A new set of possibilities. Last year: wake me up ten minutes before the bus.
This year: wake me up an hour early. I have to do my hair.
I remember when I was a kid heading into the teens; the atmosphere in the house was a combination of evasion and embarrassment. Not here. Not this g-around.
Worked in the dirt today. As you may have detected, I hate working in the dirt. Last week’s dirt episode hasn’t produced a bumper crop of grass, either. No matter: on to another spot that needs fixing, then up to the side where the hydrangeas are going in.
Why are the hydrangeas going in? Because the bushes came out. Why did the bushes come out? Because the Roto-rooter men put a board on top of them, then put all the paving stones on top of the boards. Why did they do this? Because they didn’t care. So when the snow I saw the bushes all bent and flattened, and thought “they’ll come back. They’ll stand proud once more.” A year passed, and they still looked like an invisible elephant was sitting on them. So out they went. Dug the holes for the hydrangeas on Sunday, and came across that thing you just don’t want to find when you dig: WIRE IN THE EARTH
Well, I’m not dead, so it wasn’t live. But what the heck? A length of black plastic with white wire inside, severed on both sides, down about 7 inches in the earth. It doesn’t belong to anything. It’s not phone wire. It’s not coax wire. Just a spare piece of plastic in the earth, divorced from purpose or agency, a mystery even to the hand that dropped it.
Via someplace I can’t remember I found this:
. . . which lead to the WAMU piece on the album. It's the Ultimate in Transistorized Stereophonic Hi-Fidelity Sound! Note how the idea of using "Computer" as an atttibute of the future hadn't entered the picture yet.
I have a passing interest in Exotica, as the music’s called - strange spooky music of other places, be it Tahiti or outer space. When I was a kid I got a cassette tape player for my birthday, and included was “Quiet Village” by Martin Denny, a simple tune with jungle noises. Caw-CAW! Caw-CAW! It seemed very mysterious, and I was captivated. Perhaps the remnant interest I have in the genre comes from a memory of my affection for it; I certainly don’t feel any need to listen to much Exotica today.
Like a lot of the stuff that had a brief late-90s vogue, you listen to it for archeological purposes. You don’t really enjoy it. You think of some fellow sitting in a bachelor pad with a mixed drink nodding along, appreciating how the music took advantage of the Stereophonic sound, imagining that one day he’d put it on when some sultry redhead came over for cigarettes and cocktails, and she’s remark on his sophistication.
Then he thought: she’d probably have the same reaction as I’m having. What is this crap? No, stick with the Gleason. Can’t go wrong with the Gleason.
This piece is interesting, though - no, you don’t have to listen to it all. Just see if you can pick out a few notes of a subsequent “space” theme. There’s some Stravinsky in there, too. Mostly there’s just weirdness. The Space Age was going to be almost unimaginable.
And so it was, at first. Before enough movies and TV shows gave us the idea that the majority of aliens were bipeds who were our size and had the same number of fingers but unusual hues or forehead indentations. At first, space was going to be terrifyingly strange, and mostly beyond our ken - at least that’s what I get from a cursory recollection of sci-fi covers. If someone was red here, it would be blue there. Water would be alive! Rocks would speak! Everything would have a property that was different from its familiar analogue.
You hear that in the “Lost Souls of Saturn.”
As for the composer: that’s Russ Garcia, who died last November. He did the soundtrack for “The Time Machine” - George Pal version - and was the orchestrator for Charlie Chaplin’s “Limelight.” Got his break when he filled in for a sick guy, and impressed the show’s producer, Ronald Reagan. In 1966 he looked at his bank account, calculated what he’d earn in royalties, and walked away from the business. Went to New Zealand and sailed around and promoted world peace.
But before that: he arranged and conducted a Mel Torme album, “Swingin’ on the Moon.” All the songs had “moon” in the title. This has that crime-show swing that’s a genre all its own.
By crime-show swing I mean:
Lee Marvin’s cop show. I’ve been grooving on this album for a few weeks, and I never say “grooving” because it’s embarrassing, but it’s true. Drive around listening to this in a Prius and you feel you’re in some two-ton black squad car in Bigtown USA, looking for a hype to roust so you can get some squeal on the outfit that’s pushing goofballs.
By the way, the last piece of crime-show swing was probably this, which owes something to M Squad, no?