Inhuman Swill : Page 63
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

The Bad Plus
Sunday evening Laura and I went to see jazz trio The Bad Plus play at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. First of all, that theater on Lincoln Avenue is a great place to see a show—comforable, intimate, and acoustically welcoming (though it would be even better if people weren't coming in late all the time and if the ushers would keep their voices down). Second, I knew I liked these guys on wax, but holy shit they're great live.

The Bad Plus are masters of intricate time signatures, with an interplay that seems (clich´ though it is to say) telepathic. Ethan Iverson on piano hardly breaks a sweat, indeed hardly moves, as his two hands blur off in opposite directions performing contrary tasks and pounding out dangerous decibels, only to jump up from his seat just when you think he's too cool for school. Reed Anderson anchors things in the middle with a fat, woody bass sound that gives the music a fulcrum even as it hares off in unexpected directions. But the real show is drummer David King, who looks improbably awkward holding a pair of sticks but still manages to emulate the world's craziest clock mechanism, holding the beat in his teeth while it seems to explode with a flurry of jabs and kicks in every impossible directions, maybe even at right angles to spacetime itself. Laura said, "I've never understood before this how drums could be a voice of their own."

The band was excruciatingly tight, nowhere moreso than on their cover of the Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny freakout "Song X," with its nervewracking periods of long silence. The originals were idiosyncratic and strong—and it was nice to be able to match each of the three players with his compositions in person—and the rock covers, including "Life on Mars?" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," turned the source material inside out to expose the pulsing life inside to the light. (Was that sweat they wiped off their faces, or was it blood?) One of two enthusiastically received encore numbers was Neil Young's "Heart of Gold." You could have heard a pin drop as the players took their hands off their instruments and sang the chorus in sweetly hushed three-part harmony. A startlement on top of a surprise wrapped in citrus rind.

The Bad Plus are justly famed for their cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and while I'm sure many in the audience were hoping to hear it, my only mild disappointment was that they didn't play their version of "Tom Sawyer," from their new album Prog. But maybe that's for the best. Having heard Rush play it two weeks earlier, and with the harmonic disturbances still lingering in the ether, The Bad Plus adding their take might have set up sympathetic vibrations of awesome that would have melted Chicago to a plain of bratwurst-colored glass. We should simply give thanks for the miracles we did witness, and lived to tell.

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A terabyte and a quarter
Pardon me while I indulge in some geek talk. So I'd been needing a couple of much larger external hard drives for some time, one to hold the music collection that had long since overspilled the Maxtor 200 Gb drive, and one to backup the entire system. After some hunting around, I found a great price on a couple of Seagate FreeAgent Pro FireWire drives, one 500 Gb and the other 750 Gb:

Looks good in the light...

...looks even better in the dark!

That's a terabyte and a quarter! Right there on my desk!

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I'll take mine straight

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You know, Neil Diamond's "Love on the Rocks" is ripe for a good, over-the-top-but-unabashedly-sincere heavy metal remake.

Laura and I concluded this as we were singing along. At the tops of our lungs.

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September's CD mix of the month

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I'm not sure how good the turnout was at this past Thursday's CD Mix of the Month Club meeting in New York City, but attendance was 100% at the Chicago chapter—me. My mix, providing my own idiosyncratic take on Muzak programming, was Rock Paper Jazz, a collection of various jazz versions of rock songs.

I'll send you a free copy of the mix if you're the first to identify the provenance of the hand drawings in the album art.

(The story so far.)

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On the literary map

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Laura and I were walking Ella the other evening when we ran across a sign indicating a historical landmark. I suppose we hadn't noticed it before because we usually walk Ella down the grassy greenway on the other side of the boulevard's frontage road, not down the sidewalk.

In any event, what we learned is that L. Frank Baum is our neighbor. He lived three blocks from us in 1899 when he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

One hopes there's still something in the air.

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It's quizzing its users

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Via [info]affinity8:

You Scored an A
You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

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For all you sci-fi musical theater fans—and you know you're out there!—I thought I'd share this official press release about The Last Starfighter: The Musical I received from Skip Kennon...

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE                 August 28, 2007

Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper and Broadway veteran Adinah Alexander join cast of THE LAST STARFIGHTER at NYMF



Music and Lyrics by SKIP KENNON.
Choreography by DAVID EGGERS

THE LAST STARFIGHTER is pleased to announce that Tony Award Winner CHUCK COOPER and Broadway veteran ADINAH ALEXANDER have joined the cast of The Last Starfighter at NYMF.

Chuck Cooper won the Tony Award for his performance in The Life, and has been part of many Broadway casts including Caroline, or Change; Chicago; Lennon; Passion; and Getting Away With Murder. Adinah Alexander was part of the original Broadway casts of The Wedding Singer; Wicked; Urban Cowboy; and Parade.

Chuck Cooper will play Otis Wright, a character similar to the Stage Manager in Our Town, genially guiding the musical's audience through the day-to-day activities in an idyllic town, but with an intergalactic twist. Adinah Alexander will play Mrs. Miriam Rogan, the manager of Starlite Starbrite Trailer Park, mother of title character Alex Rogan, holding down more jobs than she can handle while being the confidante for Alex's cherished girlfriend Maggie.

Joining CHUCK COOPER and ADINAH ALEXANDER in The Last Starfighter are previously announced cast members JOSEPH KOLINSKI (Titanic, Les Miserables, Dance A Little Closer, Brigadoon, A Christmas Carol) as Centauri -- the role played by Robert Preston in the 1984 film, DANNY BINSTOCK (High School Musical at NSMT; Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare Theatre Co.; My Fair Lady At Signature Theater) as title character Alex Rogan, JANET CARROLL (Aunt March in Little Women) as Granny, TOM TREADWELL (the 20th anniversary Broadway revival of Annie) as Rylan leader Enduran, MARY ELLEN ASHLEY (whose many credits start with the ORIGINAL Broadway Annie Get Your Gun) as Elaine, MICHAEL CONE (Broadway's La Boheme, Rags, Brigadoon, A Christmas Carol) as Hugh, JESSE J.P. JOHNSON (a standout as Luke in the Altar Boyz tour) as Marty, JONATHAN RICHARD SANDLER (Nat’l Tour of Dr. Dolittle) as Jerry, LAUREN MARCUS (Hello, Dolly at Paper Mill Playhouse; Our Town at Provincetown Playhouse) as Darlene, RYAN JESSE as Blake and the villain Zur, NATALIE HALL as Jenny, SEAN MONTGOMERY as Toby, and JESSICA BLAIR as Lynn.

From JONATHAN BETUEL’s screenplay for the beloved 1980s sci-fi film comes the cosmically entertaining romantic musical fantasy THE LAST STARFIGHTER. It’s Spring 1983 in a Sierra Nevada trailer park. High school senior Alex Rogan’s hardworking, unrewarded life takes an unexpected turn when he breaks a video game record and is spirited away by the game’s inventor, the alien huckster Centauri, to fight for the Star League in a faraway galaxy. Centauri leaves behind Beta, a body double droid of Alex, to cover Alex’s absence with his mother, brother and beloved girlfriend Maggie while Alex is off fighting the evil Zur and the Ko-dan Armada. Beta’s comic mishaps on Earth with Maggie and the neighbors in the trailer park, and shape-shifting alien assassins in pursuit of Alex on his home turf, alternate with Alex’s heroic starfighter achievements. Alex must reach inside himself to discover his true potential – the universe and his life depend on it!

Composer/Lyricist SKIP KENNON wrote the music for the one-man musical HERRINGBONE (June 2007 at Williamstown starring B.D. Wong, Playwrights Horizons, Hartford Stage starring Joel Grey, Edinburgh Festival, Prince Music Theater, St. Nicholas Theater) and for the one-act AFTERNOON TEA (INTAR, August 2007 at 59E59); and the music and lyrics for BLANCO (Goodspeed, National Music Theater Network), FEATHERTOP (WPA Theater, Pennsylvania Stage Co.), and TIME AND AGAIN (Manhattan Theatre Club, Old Globe, O’Neill Center).

Book Writer FRED LANDAU is a member of BMI and an alumnus of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. He wrote the book and score for THE HAPPIEST OF TIMES, which was seen in production at New York’s Triangle Theater and as part of BMI’s Festival of Musicals in Miniature, as well as in workshop presentations at ASCAP and Circle Rep.

Director ELIZABETH LUCAS has previously directed two new musicals for NYMF, CAPTAIN GRAVY'S WAVY NAVY and THE VIEW FROM HERE, and is currently directing two feature films, the rock movie musical CLEAR BLUE TUESDAY and the teen slasher RED HOOK. Her multi-award-winning short musical film ISABELLA RICO has appeared in 33 festivals worldwide.

Choreographer DAVID EGGERS can currently be seen on Broadway in the cast of CURTAINS, and is also the Dance Captain for that show. David was previously Dance Captain for the recent Roundabout revival of THE PAJAMA GAME, and the Broadway show THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE.

The design team includes lighting design by HERRICK GOLDMAN and costume design by MARK RICHARD CASWELL. Technical Director is KEITH TRUAX. Production Manager is JULIE MILLER. Casting is by MICHAEL CASSARA CASTING. JULIE MILLER is the Producer.

"THE LAST STARFIGHTER" is an official selection of the 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Images, sound clips, and bios can be found at

Visit the show's website and join as a friend:


NYMF Publicity Contact:
Charlie Siedenburg / Sam Rudy Media Relations (212) 221-8466

Now in its 4th year, The New York Musical Theatre Festival is the largest musical theatre event in America. NYMF premiered 99 new musicals during its first three seasons, with more than a dozen of these shows transferring to successful off-Broadway and regional productions. Hailed as "the Sundance of Musical Theatre," NYMF is widely regarded as the premier source for new material and talent discovery.

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In a silent way

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R.I.P., Joe Zawinul. Hope the weather report is good on the other side.

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Japanese Fine Burger & Coffee


We brought home a lot of great souvenirs from Japan, but I think the best are the two rubber drink coasters Laura lifted from a Mos Burger in Mitaka....

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Consigned to the Pit

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Akiko Grace
Jazz shakuhachi? That's what we heard tonight at the Shinjuku Pit Inn, one of Tokyo's legendary jazz clubs, and Doi Keisuke's playing was awe-inspiring. But the real revelation of the evening, to us anyway, was Akiko Grace, whose piano trio anchored the evening's set. Incredibly supple playing, every note clear as a jeweler's hammer tap, but with enough power behind it to blow the audience through the back of the club. After the set, I think Laura was a little taken aback to return from the women's room and find me chatting with Ms. Grace herself. The pianist had signed a CD for me, and we had moved on to talking about New York and science fiction. I think I have a little crush. Laura poked merciless fun at me on the ride back to Roppongi and our hotel.

Much more to post about Japan, and a lot more pictures too, but it will wait until we're back home. Our flight leaves first thing tomorrow morning, and we arrive in Chicago two hours earlier than we leave Tokyo.

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William Shunn