Author Archives: todd

Big Swifty, fusion, and the full circle

From 1988 to 1992, nearing the end of his life, Frank Zappa released a series of CDs made from live recordings of his bands from the 70s and 80s. He had compiled a huge library of recordings, and scoured them for the best, most significant performances of much of his catalog of rock and jazz music.

One of these recordings was an instrumental track called “Big Swifty”. The studio version of this took up the entire front side of the “Waka/Jawaka” album from 1972, and featured Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Soul Music Hall of Fame member George Duke on keyboards. But I was drawn to the live recording of the piece that was released on “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 1“.

Sometime in the late 1990s, I was obsessed with that recording of that piece of music, in particular the middle improv section. You see, every time they played this track, the band improvised for several minutes in the middle. So no two recordings of it sound the same. The music in that section sounded unlike anything I was familiar with at the time, so I took the CD to work and played that track for a coworker of mine who was a bass guitarist and teacher with a serious background in jazz. “Where can I find other music that sounds like this?” I asked him. He listened to the recording once, maybe twice, and gave his answer, which was something like this:

“Yeah, that’s early- to mid-1970s fusion. Go listen to Weather Report and Herbie Hancock from that period.” So I did. At the time, I had never heard either except for Hancock’s weird track from the 80s called “Rockit” that they played on MTV. I started buying up Weather Report and Herbie Hancock albums, and grew a library of and appreciation for a whole new genre of music I’d never heard.

A few years later, I sold my turntable and gave away all my records, as part of what I call “the great downsizing of 2011”. But then I bought another better turntable (American made) in 2016, and rebuilt a small record collection. One of the first vinyl albums I bought? Herbie Hancock!

You still with me? Here’s where the story gets even better.

Now it turns out that in addition to making audio recordings of a ton of his live shows throughout the 70s and 80s, Zappa also filmed some of them. One film project was a set of shows his band did at the Roxy Theatre in 1973. The Roxy had just opened in the fall of 1973 and was the hot thing in West Hollywood. Tons of cool bands were playing there, and Zappa was booked to play on December 8, 9, and 10. The film crew filmed all of them on 16mm color film and made audio recordings (of course).

Unfortunately, there were some technical problems with the film reels they shot, preventing them from being synchronized to the audio correctly. And so the video was written off as a loss.

The audio recordings slowly made their way public over the course of the next 41 years. In 1974, Zappa released some of the recordings from the Roxy shows on the album “Roxy & Elsewhere“. But these recordings had overdubs of some parts. In 1988, some more recordings of those shows were released on “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 1” as I mentioned before. Those probably also had some edits and overdubs. In 2014, the album “Roxy by Proxy” was released that had original recordings of some of the other tracks from those performances, without any overdubs.

And then, in 2015, something wonderful happened. The technology of audio and video editing had advanced enough that they were able to go back to those 1973 film reels and repair them so they could be synchronized correctly with the audio recordings, which led to “Roxy – The Movie” being released. It’s a Blu-ray video from those shows, accompanied by a CD of the audio of those same recordings (without overdubs).

As of yesterday, I knew almost none of this. But then I found the video on Amazon Prime Video. So I decided to spend my Saturday night watching this 46 year old live performance, which I was pleased to discover included “Big Swifty”.

Can you guess what else I learned? The performance that’s in “Roxy – The Movie” is the exact same one that I heard 20 years ago on the live compilation CD from 1988. Now I can see all these amazing things I’ve only been able to hear for the past 20 years…

  • Ruth Underwood’s mind-blowing mallet work
  • the incredibly tightness of one of Zappa’s greatest bands at the height of their abilities
  • George Duke and the rest of the band finding the groove instantly and staying in it for the duration
  • Frank’s wildly unpredictable guitar solo that somehow just works

Thanks for bearing with my long gushing blog article.

If you want to hear the recording of this specific performance I’ve been talking about, it’s here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAe3_O3vZzQ

And if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch the movie right here: https://www.amazon.com/Frank-Zappa-Live-at-Roxy/dp/B07JMX2Q7Q

 

 

Alien double header

The local art cinema is playing “Alien” as the midnight movie this Friday and Saturday night. That gave me the idea of how to spend my Independence Day evening. I’m now watching a double header – “Alien” (Ridley Scott) and “Aliens” (James Cameron).

I’d forgotten how many big name actors there were in the first one – Sir Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton – along with Sigourney Weaver.

Well, it looks like I chose well since I think the Denver fireworks display is likely to be canceled. We are under a severe thunderstorm warning with lots of wind and rain, and had a tornado watch a little bit ago. It’s a good night to stay inside and watch movies.

visit me more securely now

I just finished upgrading all my websites so they use HTTPS, and automatically redirect people to the https:// URL. So now when you come visit Todd Bradley’s Galaxy, your browsing experience will be more secure. Here are my sites that have been securified:

Speaking of security, are you using Firefox (or Tor) yet? You should. Here’s why:

https://www.expressvpn.com/blog/best-browsers-for-privacy

firefox

MacBook Pro battery recall

Earlier this week I learned about a recall of MacBook Pro computers from 2015. So I went here to read more:

https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall

And I learned that my personal laptop is part of the recall! I wonder if they were going to proactively contact me, since Apple know that computer belongs to me and where to find me. Regardless, I contacted them and am now taking it in to the Apple Store next Tuesday for warranty service to have the battery replaced.

It is supposed to take 1 to 2 weeks, but I guess that’s better than having the battery explode while I’m using it.

all the names in The Odyssey

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of “The Odyssey” and there are so many cool names in it. Some of them, I’ve heard before and some I haven’t. And I thought it would be fun to use some of these names in role playing games. But how can I get a list of them?

I did some googling a while back for things like “list of names from the odyssey” but all it turned up were pages that listed some of the main characters. I wanted all the names. So, I wrote a script. Or rather, I chained several Unix commands together on my Mac to print out what I wanted.

Here is the command:

 http -p b GET http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/odyssey.mb.txt | grep -o -E '\w+' | grep -w '[^ ]*[A-Z][a-z]\+' | sort | uniq | aspell list

If you’re not familiar with Unix/Linux/MacOS command line, this:

  1. downloads the text of the book from MIT (since it’s in the public domain, you can find text versions all over the internet)
  2. prints out all the individual words
  3. removes words that don’t start with a capital letter
  4. sorts them and removes duplicates
  5. runs the result through a spell checking program to print out only words that appear to be misspelled – words that don’t appear in the dictionary

And here is the resulting list of 379 proper nouns from “The Odyssey”, alphabetized for your enjoyment.

Acastus
Achaeans
Acheron
Acroneos
Adraste
Aeacus
Aeaean
Aeetes
Aegae
Aegisthus
Aegyptius
Aegyptus
Aeisthus
Aeoli
Aeolian
Aeson
Aetes
Aethon
Aetolian
Agelaus
Alcandra
Alcinous
Alcippe
Alcmaeon
Alector
Aloeus
Alpheus
Alybas
Amnisus
Amphialus
Amphiaraus
Amphilochus
Amphimedon
Amphinomus
Amphion
Amphithea
Amphitrite
Amphitryon
Amythaon
Anabesineus
Anchialus
Andraemon
Anticlea
Anticlus
Antilochus
Antinous
Antiope
Antiphates
Antiphus
Apeira
Apheidas
Arceisius
Arete
Arethusa
Aretias
Aretus
Argive
Argives
Arnaeus
Artacia
Arybas
Asopus
Asphalion
Asteris
Atomics
Autolycus
Autonoe
Blest
Boethous
Cadmus
Cauconians
Cechalian
Cephallenians
Ceteians
Chalcis
Chios
Chloris
Chromius
Cicons
Cimmerians
Cleitus
Clymene
Clymenus
Clytius
Clytoneus
Cnossus
Cocytus
Crataiis
Cretheus
Crouni
Ctesippus
Ctesius
Ctimene
Cydonians
Cyllene
Cythera
Damastor
Danaans
Deiphobus
Delos
Demodocus
Demoptolemus
Deucalion
Dia
Diocles
Diomed
Dmetor
Dodona
Dolius
Dorians
Dulichium
Dymas
Echeneus
Echephron
Echetus
Elatreus
Elatus
Elis
Elpenor
Enipeus
Epeans
Eperitus
Epeus
Ephialtes
Ephyra
Epicaste
Erechtheus
Erembians
Eretmeus
Erinyes
Eriphyle
Erymanthus
Eteocretans
Eteoneus
Euanthes
Euboea
Eumaeus
Eumelus
Eupeithes
Euryades
Euryalus
Eurybates
Euryclea
Eurydamas
Eurylochus
Eurymachus
Eurymedon
Eurymedusa
Eurymus
Eurynome
Eurynomus
Eurypylus
Eurytion
Eurytus
Evenor
Geraestus
Gerene
Gortyn
Gyrae
Halios
Halitherses
Halius
Halosydne
Hellas
Hermione
Hippodamia
Hippotas
Hylax
Hypereia
Hyperesia
Iardanus
Iasian
Iasion
Iasus
Icarius
Icmalius
Idomeneus
Idothea
Ilithuia
Ilius
Ilus
Ino
Iolcus
Iphicles
Iphimedeia
Iphitus
Iphthime
Irus
Ismarus
Ithacus
Itylus
Lacedaemon
Laerceus
Laertes
Laestrygonian
Laestrygonians
Lampetie
Lampus
Lamus
Laodamas
Lapithae
Leiocritus
Leiodes
Lemnos
Leocritus
Lesbos
Leto
Leucas
Leucothea
Maera
Maia
Malea
Malean
Mantius
Maron
Mastor
Medon
Megapenthes
Megara
Melampus
Melaneus
Melanthius
Melantho
Memnon
Mentes
Mermerus
Mesaulius
Messene
Messenians
Mimas
Minyan
Moly
Mulius
Mycene
Naubolus
Nausicaa
Nausithous
Nauteus
Neaera
Neleus
Neoptolemus
Nericum
Neritum
Neritus
Nisus
Noemon
Noman
OEdipodes
OEnops
Ocyalus
Ogygian
Oicleus
Orchomenus
Ormenus
Orsilochus
Ortilochus
Ortygia
Ossa
Otus
Paeeon
Pandareus
Panopeus
Paphos
Patroclus
Peirithous
Pelasgi
Peleus
Pelias
Pelion
Periboea
Periclymenus
Perimedes
Pero
Perse
Phaeacian
Phaeacians
Phaecian
Phaecians
Phaedimus
Phaestus
Phaethusa
Pharos
Pheae
Pheidon
Phemius
Pherae
Pheres
Philoctetes
Philoetius
Philomeleides
Phorcys
Phronius
Phrontis
Phthia
Phylace
Phylacus
Phylo
Pieria
Pirithous
Pisander
Pisenor
Pleiads
Poias
Polites
Polybus
Polycaste
Polyctor
Polydamna
Polyneus
Polypemon
Polypheides
Polytherses
Ponteus
Pontonous
Pramnian
Procris
Proreus
Prymneus
Psyra
Pylian
Pylians
Pylos
Pyriphlegethon
Pytho
Rhadamanthus
Rheithron
Rhexenor
Rumour
Salmoneus
Samos
Sardinian
Scheria
Scyros
Sicania
Sicel
Sicels
Sidon
Sidonia
Sidonians
Sintians
Solymi
Stockman
Stratius
Sunium
Syra
Taphian
Taphians
Taygetus
Tecton
Teiresias
Telamon
Telemus
Telephus
Telepylos
Telepylus
Temesa
Tenedos
Terpes
Theban
Themis
Theoclymenus
Thesprotian
Thesprotians
Thetis
Thoas
Thon
Thoon
Thoosa
Thrasymedes
Thrinacian
Thyestes
Tithonus
Tityus
Trito
Tydeus
Tyndareus
Tyndarus
Zacynthus
Zethus

Pride Parade 2019

In Denver, this was pride weekend. I was invited to walk in today’s parade as part of the Employees of the State of Colorado group, which I did. It was good fun. I got to meet the governor, wave a sign, and get in a nice walk on a nice day.

Here is a photo of Brooke and me, in front of some others in our group. We met up at Cheesman Park before walking out behind a state trooper patrol car that was decorated with rainbow stripes.

After we started moving, we then had to pause just outside the park for about 20 minutes until the parade actually began. Here is the group behind us, Rainbow Alley. The Celebrate Pride sign in the middle of the photo shows the State of Colorado’s new logo, modified for the rainbow theme.

The parade ended at Lincoln and Colfax, and we then went to the festival going on in Civic Center Park. Brooke spotted a tent of people from CSU so had to stop for a photo op, as a proud alum. I kept my mouth shut, being a wise CU alum.

Also, I didn’t take a photo but we were surprised to see my cousin Nashira, who just returned from college two days ago, and is working at NARAL for the summer. She and one other young woman were running the NARAL booth at the festival. I told her how proud I am of her.

Another tent we found was for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It’s my favorite museum and I’ve been a member for decades. So we had to get this photo.

According to my iPhone, we walked 4.3 miles. That includes walking to the start of the parade, walking in the parade, wandering around the festival, and walking home from the end of the parade.

how I spent my Sunday

After they cancelled my flight, they automatically booked me on one leaving Tuesday morning. Tuesday? There’s no way American can get me to Denver any sooner? Well, a couple phone calls later, I’m going to get back to Colorado today after all! Barely. Hopefully.

I met Larry Elmore today

I met the famous fantasy painter Larry Elmore today. We were both waiting for the same late airport shuttle and then rode together on the bus. I got to talk to him for 30 or 45 minutes, about everything from cars to meth to air travel to retirement to the draft. He’s 70 and says he’s never retiring, because he wouldn’t know what to do other than paint.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Elmore

I thanked him for all the great art he’s made that has enhanced fantastic role playing games since the 70s.

Cowboy Chicken

A couple of the locals at the game convention said I need to check out Cowboy Chicken, a restaurant with really good rotisserie chicken. And I needed a walk and had a three hour gap in my schedule. So I walked here.

My order: “quarter white” with green beans, okra, and a glass of ice water. It’s pretty good. The place is a little more fast food-ish than I expected. And their use of Texas cowboy-ness in the decor is a little excessive (like a lot of things in Texas). But I like the food.

first “win” of the con

I’m in Irving, Texas for a small four-day gaming convention called North Texas RPG Con. I attended last year and it was fun enough I came back. The convention is at the Westin hotel by the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, so it’s easy and pretty cheap to get to.

I arrived early this afternoon and got in two games so far. One was Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and the second was a tournament game of a DCCRPG variant called Umerica, which is mostly modeled on the TV show “Thundarr the Barbarian” and related fantasy and sci-fi shows of the 80s.

I got second place in that second game. Here is my medal and my award-winning character, named Diana Ross.

The back of the medal reads “2019 NTRPG TOURNAMENT – BLOOD BATH AT ALLSVIL”.