Three Little Pigs – like you’ve not heard it before

If you need a laugh (and who doesn’t these days?) listen to John Branyan regale you with the account of the porcine trio in a manner most unaccustomed.

Video

“One Night in Bangkok” – video, back story and lyrics

One of my favorite music videos is “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head. The title might raise eyebrows, but it’s not what you think. It is a tale about a world chess tournament in Bangkok and the speaker’s opinion about the location and what goes on outside of the tournament. I am fond of music that tells a story, and this video does it well. (If there are any problems with the video here, just leave a comment and I will do my best to fix it.)

HISTORY / BACK STORY:
The song was originally sung by the British actor and pop-dance singer Murray Head (verses) and Swedish singer and songwriter Anders Glenmark (choruses) on the 1984 concept album for the musical “Chess.” Its music was composed by former ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn K. Ulvaeus, and its lyrics were written by Tim Rice and Ulvaeus.

In the musical for which it was written, it is sung by the former American champion, who lost the previous year to the Russian. He is now in Bangkok as a TV commentator on (some say the referee for) the tournament between the defending Russian champion and a new Russian contender.

Tim Rice was interviewed about “Chess” and they asked about the location. He replied that he had noticed that other major world competitions were held in either the great capitols of the world or big cultural centers, while world chess tournaments seemed to be set in fairly unfashionable places or, at least on first glance, slightly odd places for events of such importance.

His aim was to contrast highbrow intellectual chess culture with the distinctly lowbrow attractions of Bangkok. Thus the American actor mocks those who only come to Bangkok for the sexploitative nightlife and other mundane attractions, looking down on what goes on, for he is there for the beauty of the game. This is shown by at least one double-entendre about Chess compared to the Bangkok nightlife -“I would invite you, but the queens we use would not excite you.” After all, it does seem a rather unusual place to have such a tournament if you understand that, at the time, chess was seen as a metaphor for the Cold War superpower struggle.

LYRICS:
Bangkok, Oriental setting,
and the city don’t know what the city is getting –
the crème de la crème of the chess world,
in a show with everything but Yul Brynner!

Time flies, doesn’t seem a minute
since the Tirolean Spa had the chess boys in it.
All change, don’t you know that when you
play at this level, there’s no ordinary venue.

It’s Iceland,
or the Philippines,
or Hastings,
or, or this place!

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster,
the bars are temples, but the pearls ain’t free.
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister,
and if you’re lucky then the god’s a “she.”
I can feel an angel sliding up to me.

One town’s very like another
when your head’s down over your pieces, brother.

It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity,
to be looking at the board, not looking at the city!

Whaddya mean?!
Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town…

Tea girls, warm and sweet, (warm, sweet)
some are set up in the Somerset Maugham Suite.

“Get Thai’d!” You’re talking to a tourist
whose every moves are among the purest.
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine!

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble;
not much between despair and ecstasy.
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble;
can’t be too careful with your company.
I can feel the Devil walking next to me.

Siam’s gonna be the witness
to the ultimate test of cerebral fitness.
This grips me more than would
a muddy old river or reclining Buddha!

But thank God, I’m only watching the game, controlling it.

I don’t see you guys rating
the kind of mate I’m contemplating.
I’d let you watch, I would invite you,
but the queens we use would not excite you.

So you’d better go back to your bars…
your temples…your massage parlors…

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster.
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free.
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister,
a little flesh, a little history.
I can feel an angel sliding up to me.

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble;
not much between despair and ecstasy.
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble,
can’t be too careful with your company.
I can feel the Devil walking next to me.

========

For anyone who is interested, here is a link to the Musical: Chess, the original recording (audio, not videos, and has more storyline). A different production from the next link.)

This link is to a playlist which is just the music (the Broadway version is different than the original): Chess – Original Broadway Cast

And finally, here is a link to a review of the musical: AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann

The “Woman in the Window”

This isn’t a tale of fiction, or about the 1944 Edward G. Robinson “film noir,” but an explanation of Elizabeth, the woman who watches.

She’s familiar to neighbors, delivery people, the mailman, many who come up our driveway and (especially) the local kids, but they mostly just call her creepy. That’s fair enough because you can usually see her in the window even from across the street. It’s what she does, but not exactly why she came to be here.

We have a two-story, two-car garage, which is our only “attic” since the house has none. Built in the early 1900’s, it once stabled a few horses but was never finished up or downstairs. When we bought our house the garage windows facing the driveway looked sad and naked, so I put up curtains, added silk flowers in vases and, voilà! It looks proper enough from outside that most people think it’s functional space or even an apartment, though I tell all who ask that it’s just storage.

And so I unknowingly set the stage for the entrance of our unplanned “tenant,” the watching woman.

Time passed. One day I wanted to put away a dress form I wasn’t using, so I took it to the attic. I decided to put an old dress on it, and then added a cape, stabilizing its wobbly light wire structure, reducing its chances of being knocked over, and making it look more respectable. I was pleased with the result, and that was that. Then, some months later, it all came to a head.

When my daughter was young a neighbor gave her a beauty school practice head. She had a lovely time with it, but as she grew older she lost interest but still wanted to keep it, so when I took it to the “attic” I affixed it to the form because it seemed the logical place, Elizabeth came into being, and I became a kind of accidental Dr. Frankenstein.

Halloween came around, and on a whim I put her in a window facing the driveway–not so close to the front that she was completely obvious, but not too far back because most people don’t look up often. The effect was pretty much what I had hoped – she startled some and alarmed others. Even when they came up close and I explained her, she was still disturbing.

Part of the effect is the dark blue eye shadow that enhances her large eyes. Light and shadows of the passing day also change how well you see her. Then we have a solar-cell spotlight inside the window that shines up at her at night (it’s the only place we could physically put it), so the shadows cast look very spooky!

(If your computer can play it, set the video’s resolution to HD 1080)

Halloween came and went, and she was left to watch people come and go. However, time and familiarity hasn’t tempered her unsettling influence. In fact, in the last two weeks four people have mentioned her to me with nervous laughs as they glance furtively at her window.

Elizabeth’s debut was gratifying, but I never intended to make our neighbors wonder about us; I just didn’t move her because I got busy. But her continued presence provided unexpected benefits we didn’t want to give up. We have a security system, but that won’t prevent kids (and some adults!) from running up our drive, cutting through our yard and hopping the fence to get to the private street that abuts our back fence. Most of the time stopping them and politely asking them not to do that kept things fairly well in check, but you can’t very well sit in the drive all day! After she took up residence (so to speak) I pointed her out to some of the local boys and how it looked like she was “watching them.” The word got around, and shortcuts dropped dramatically!

I could share amusing stories about people’s reactions, but one was particularly dramatic. One evening our daughter rode home with a friend. They pulled up the drive, she got out, and as she walked in front of the car to the door her friend looked up, noticed Elizabeth in the window behind her, and screamed! My daughter says she doesn’t remember the specifics beyond that since “a lot of people…are scared of her,” but that one was most memorable.

A neighbor suggested putting up a second sign, next to the ADT sign, saying “Watch for Elizabeth, she’s always there,” but that could be a bit heavy-handed, so our “creepy” tenant is now a part of our security system.

You know, if it weren’t for her, I would mount our bat house on the wall facing the drive. It’s not only the best side for mosquito control, but also because it gets the hot afternoon sun that brown bats like. It’s true!

But…then we might have fewer guests, and the newspaper man might refuse to deliver to our door, so for the time being she retains the exclusive status of being our most interesting, if rather unsettling, topic of conversation.

She’s really not that bad. Come visit sometime and I will introduce you.

(Am I enjoying all this just a little too much?)

“Punch, Brothers, Punch!”

twainFor those who read widely, those words may have a familiar (even ominous?) ring. Mark Twain was a gifted writer, but this short “story,” if you will, is intended (as much great literature is) to be read aloud. It’s not long,  but it is…entertaining, and worth the unaccustomed effort of loosening up your jaws and tongue to speak someone else’ words and inhabit his tale.

But as you do, please speak “with care,”
for you may become another “passenjare.”

Source: Punch, Brothers, Punch by Mark Twain

Digital Graphic Novel: Mercury – Endless Winter

Sharing a digital graphic novel published here in Rochester, NY (a little local pride, folks. Enjoy.). Sorry, I can’t embed it but, trust me, it’s nicely done.

Mercury – Endless Winter

 

That small act of compassion could have far reaching effects…

“They Came By Two’s” – A sur-real story

It had been a sultry early summer day in the city, and we had spent most of it in air conditioned comfort. My husband was asleep upstairs because he worked nights. The children had been outside playing in the sprinkler and wading pool, occasionally coming in, but usually remembering to close the screen door of the foyer each time before opening the kitchen door to keep the cool air in and flies out.

I went out to pick vegetables for dinner, brought them in, finished final preparations, and then called the children to eat. While cooking, nothing had been unusual so as I prepared to serve dinner and saw two fat flies buzz by, it wasn’t out of the ordinary – this kind of thing sometimes happens in warm weather – but they would disrupt dinner.

I got the swatter, killed them in the windows, hung it up and prepared to serve dinner…and two more flew by.

Annoyed, I got the swatter and hunted them down. I put them in the garbage, turned to the stove…then two more flew by.

Odd, but it was only two. Perhaps we hadn’t been careful enough with the door, but why hadn’t I seen them before? I grimly pursued and eliminated them, and as I dropped them in the garbage…two more flew by.

I rapidly searched the air. Where had they come from? How many was that now – eight? With that many flies they should have been buzzing everywhere before! I pursued them with mounting intensity.

In the midst of the fray an idea I had been suppressing became a conscious thought: a few days ago we had found a particularly large slug in the garden and, instead of killing it we brought it inside and put it in a terrarium with a lid to observe it. Somehow (??) it had escaped and we hadn’t located it yet. No… I dismissed the thought.

The uncanny pattern continued. They came by two’s. Relentlessly.

I would eliminate a pair…then two more would fly by.

I moved plants and other items away from the windows to allow for clear shots. As my eyes darted around the room after each skirmish, I started muttering “OK, where are the next two?” for they appeared without fail.

The children were now crying that they were hungry, but I was past attending. It all became a blur. When my husband came down at 8:30 p.m., the remains of over 20 flies were in the waste basket…then two more flew by.

I paused just long enough to quickly serve the children, but for me there was no time; the battle wasn’t over. I strove on. My husband grabbed the other swatter and joined the fray by taking a position in the living and dining room.

By 9:30 p.m., darkness was nearly total and we were up to 30…then one more flew by.  Just one.

Victory was within our grasp! I chased it up into the fluorescent fixture where it became trapped inside. I left it to die of starvation – that was good enough for me!

The children had long since gone up to their rooms, and as I finished my own long-delayed dinner and cleaned up I wondered, not for the last time, how there could have been so many without me seeing any of them before. Just where had they come from – a bad potato, onion, or something I had missed? I had checked everything. Certainly not the windows, they were new. The enigma remained, but the onslaught seemed to be finally over.

As the trapped fly buzzed futilely in the fixture up above, one more flew by and vanished into the darkened living room.

Oh, no…

(C) 2005

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