Thursday


7
Jul 22

It’s raining macaroni

A few more clips from last week’s Barenaked Ladies show to pad out the week. Why not? After all, you don’t hear enough bass solos these days.

That led to this. It was never released as a single, never had a video, and “If I had $1,000,000” hit 13 on the Canadian and UK charts and made it into the US Top 40 and, of course, is a live show staple.

Also, my mother-in-law quotes it to me now, which is the best part.

BNL does rap covers and medleys and they come off as ad libbed, but this has been done before. No one puts “Just A Friend” and “Coincidence” together on a whim.

And they closed the show with a few covers. Devo is always a popular choice.

And then there’s Led Zeppelin. It is 53 years old and still rocks.

Whole Lotta Love was off II, their second album, which Led Zeppelin recorded on tour. It went platinum 12 times. That song was about Jimmy Page’s instrumentation and legendary bluesman Willie Dixon‘s lyrics. (He sued. They settled.) And now, 53 years later, bands with four-decade pedigrees of their own, are still covering their efforts.

I wonder if they had any sense of the staying power of this stuff at the time. Page was 25 at the time they recorded Whole Lotta Love, Robert Plant was 21; John Bonham and John Paul Jones were in between. They closed every concert with that for four years. Now, BNL does, too.

Well, except for the encore, which you’ll see tomorrow.


30
Jun 22

A patient seeker, musically speaking

Just because I needed to put something here, and because I put up videos yesterday and we’re going to a concert tomorrow, I thought I might as well put up some more videos today. These are from a 2018 Barenaked Ladies show. it was a lot of fun, and tomorrow’s surely will be, as well.

Here’s a bit of Canada Dry, it’s a song full of references about Canada, but it’s really about relationships.

Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo and Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea are also on the studio version. They shipped this song as a pre-release to their 2017 record, “Fake Nudes,” which they were supporting on that tour.

A bit of One Week which, at the time of this show was somehow 20 years old.

(I still miss Steven Page.)

In the US, that song topped the Hot 100, Alternative Airplay and Mainstream Top 40 charts. (Internal contradictions were pretty routine in music charts by then, of course.) It peaked at number two on Billboard’s Adult Alternative and Adult Top 40 charts. It only made it to number three in the Canadian charts.

Light Up My Room, also from that 1998 album, Stunt. It’s one of the best songs on the four-times platinum record, along with maybe six or seven other songs.

And now, of course, it has been four more years. How was that concert four years ago? How is all of this 24 years old?

Anyway, we’ll seem them again tomorrow, with Toad the Wet Sprocket and Gin Blossoms. We bought these tickets in 2019 for 2020. Good shows come to those who wait, I guess.


23
Jun 22

The wizard as a crazy, younger, man

Just some quick Twitter stuff to fill your time today. We wrapped up the new Obi-Wan series tonight. The quick review: worth watching. I say that as a person who wants Disney to explore any other part of this universe beyond the Skywalker saga. But it is good and this is might be the one legacy deserving an exception. Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness always needed a fifth act and here we are.

One nice thing about this being on the app is that the whole catalog is right there. Watching the big dramatic confrontation in the last episode of the miniseries brought me here.

It was the walking Jabba version. And I think that, now, Greedo and Han fired simultaneously. I don’t care about that, not really, but purists do. I only have one strictly held Star Wars belief: the whole series is really only good when Han is on camera. (Much as it pains me to say.)

This could mean he’s forgotten, or he’s sand crazy or he’s lying. The latter doesn’t make a lot of sense based on the rest of Guinness’ arc. He doesn’t seem like he’s less lucid after all of those years in the desert. Similarly, forgetfulness doesn’t make a lot of sense. So I’ll blame the modern writing, here, for not being able to overcome the old Lucas writing.

You could make the same argument as I tried above about the way we’ve seen and thought about Guinness’ Kenobi. But we should also give Lucas’ writing a nod. It’s important to remember how cinematic storytelling can change over 40 years. We didn’t see the whole Kenobi-19-year-old-Skywalker dynamic. Maybe some off-camera things shaped Kenobi’s choices. Maybe I’m giving too much credit to Lucas, but as we know he’s doing a lot of homages here, so why couldn’t that be one?

Hayden caught a lot of grief for his Anakin Skywalker, but if you’re going to create the galaxy’s scariest monster there has to be some rage in there somewhere …

I suppose it is owing to the 1970s vision of the science fiction future in a time long, long ago. But doesn’t it seem odd that Kenobi spent all that time wandering about the Death Star without anyone seeing him? I hate myself for looking this up, but Wikipedia says that

According to Star Wars reference books, the population of the Death Star was 1.7 million military personnel, 400,000 maintenance droids, and 250,000 civilians/ associated contractors and catering staff. The Death Star was defended by thousands of turbolasers, ion cannons and laser cannons, plus a complement of seven to nine thousand TIE fighters, along with tens of thousands of support craft.

… and there’s not a bank of security cameras looking for old guys strolling around in robes?

Which leads us to the big confrontation, and where we stopped the movie, because … the outcome of the Vader-Kenobi confrontation on the Death Star.

Look, it has been 45 years. No one has been working on the Kenobi miniseries that long, but when they wrote the six-episode plot for the series they refreshed their memories of what happened here, and in that last prequel. Between all of that, and this new series, there is room for them to continue working.

So, again, worth watching.


16
Jun 22

The world’s steepest cogwheel

For this extra Thursday post we’re looking back at our trip two weeks ago today. Enjoy the photos (and the two videos!) that tell the tale of this recent, amazing, adventure …

In the last post we went to the top of Mt. Pilatus, a journey which took a bus, and two separate ski lift cars to get to the long, winding stairs that wound around the top and, finally, showed us the summit at 6,949 feet.

When you’re that high up, how do you get down? Well, this is the Golden Round Trip, so you do something a little bit scary and superlative.

You ride in the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. The gradient is, at one point, 48 percent! The steepness was a cost-saving measure from when the railway was built in 1889. The system was a special design because engineers worried the steepness would make the gear teeth jump. Most of the railway, in fact, is that original hardware.

The cars were steam until the 1930s, and these went in over the course of the ’70s. The spare controls are a giveaway. This is all that keeps this descent under control.

New cars are going in right now, and the upgrades will be completed in 2023. As for this day, I like to think that the engineer was a bit nervous about all of this.

This is the track he was peering down. His car travels from 5-7 miles per hour.

The descent takes about half an hour, and I’ve got three minutes of highlights for you here.

And here are two shots of the rock faces from the cogwheel car’s descent.

I must say, I enjoyed that an awful lot more than I thought I would. It was a unique sort of experience, to be sure.

I wonder who’s been up and down the mountain on the cogwheel car the most.

Near the end of that video, you caught a glimpse of a boat coming ashore. That was our next stop, and how we wrapped up the Golden Round Trip — aerial cableways and gondola to summit Mount Pilatus, world’s steepest cogwheel railway and, finally — a beautiful ride on Lake Lucerne, one of Switzerland’s largest lakes.

And here are two views from on the lake.

It’s difficult to believe, and more than a little sad, that our vacation was coming quickly to it’s end. After the boat ride it was back on the bus, and back to Zurich. There was dinner (we had barbecue, hipster-almost-Texas barbecue) and got ready for one last day of fun.

But you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out what we did. (It’ll be worth seeing.)


16
Jun 22

Luzern, Mt. Pilatus

For this Thursday post we’re looking back at our trip two weeks ago today. We’re catching up, you see, so sit back, enjoy the many photos (and the two charming videos!) that tell the tale of this recent, amazing, adventure …

We took what they call the Golden Round Trip, in this part of the world. This part being central Switzerland. We caught a bus tour out of Zurich to Luzern. It’s the most populous city in this part of the country, there are 82,000 people in the city, and 220,000 in the metro. We had a great lunch sandwich there, but it was just a quick stop in the round trip. The first feature being the Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, which is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the Reuss River. The bridge is named for the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel.

The tower is a few decades older than the bridge, and has been used as a prison, torture chamber, and later a municipal archive as well as a local treasury. Today, it’s a gift shop. The bridge was a city fortification. But, hey, you say, what’s that white building in the background?

That’s the Château Gütsch, built in 1879 and turned into a hotel, before being destroyed by fire in 1888. Rebuilt in 1901, the current version is inspired by a Bavarian castle. Today, it is owned by a Russian oligarch.

Back to the bridge, which contains a number of paintings that reach back to the 17th century. It felt odd that they were just … there … semi-exposed to the elements. The paintings depicted the local history. Many of the surviving 147 existed were lost in a fire in the 1990s, but 30 were restored and displayed once again for foot traffic. The Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, and the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge.

Like I said, we just stopped here briefly. We got a sandwich at a deli, where I had the world’s best panini, and where we saw these incredible treats.

It’s called erdbeertörtli here.

We took the first of two lifts. This first one was a 20-minute ride in a private car up and away from Luzern.

We met this guy at the stop waiting for the second lift.

The second lift took everyone in our little tour group, a thoroughly crowded affair, but everyone had an opportunity for a great view.

Then we moved through the lower level of clouds. That’s how high we were going. We were looking down on clouds.

And as we climbed higher the views got more impressive.

At the top we had a few choices. There are three peaks here, and two of them were open. We opted for the slightly more challenging, slightly higher one. Which meant that, despite taking two lifts, we still had to do a bit of walking.

The stairs wrapped all the way around the back of that little outcropping and beyond the photo’s margin. But at least they were sturdy and sensibly safe.

Up there, on Esel, we were rewarded for the effort. And, for a few brief moments, we had the whole thing to ourselves. Because people decided they’d seen enough and went elsewhere. I do not understand that decision. Anyway, here’s a bit of video giving you a quick tour.

These are the Swiss Alps.

It’s a splendid, glorious place.

This is another day trip that The Yankee found. Give her all the credit for bringing us to places like that.

If dragons live up here, like one of the legends says, I think they’re right down there.

Maybe the switchbacks on that path over there were carved into place by the dragon’s wings!

Anyway, get to the top of a mountain when you can, however you can. The time you have at the top is worth the planning and the burning leg muscles.

And here’s a time lapse video showing the clouds moving across the top of Mt. Pilatus.

Finally, this is the Golden Round Trip. There are two more parts of that experience, but I’m breaking this into two posts. The mountaintop experience deserved it’s own treatment, but so does what comes next!