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Lileks @ Lunch

James Lileks writes about everything - except sports and gardening

Crankshaft is both meta and prescient

Let’s see what’s going on in the zany, malaprop-infested world of Crankshaft today. Looks like the Fat Cats down in City Hall have learned of the mayoral bid that’s convulsed readers for the last fortnight:

At least the comic is a tacit admission that the comic pages provide no actual laughs. It’s something of a non-collegial zinger at the Beetle Bailey world, though. Granted, Sarge does beat Beetle into a pile of bones from time to time, but every strip has a running gag, and it’s a safe bet that Beetle himself, a few months hence, may ask whether Zero is laughing at Crankshaft backing his bus into Keesterman’s mailbox again.

But here’s today’s Beetle Bailey, which I went to immediately after seeing Crankshaft.

What are the odds? About one in three, honestly. I forgot to mention this last week: the world’s most poorly drawn comic strip, which is, adds “Computer Monitor” to the list of things it is singularly incapable of rendering with any degree of competence.

SPACEAlien invasion? NASA cuts live feed showing three UFOs leaving Earth, and the Daily Star asks if this is the footage that proves the truth of UFOs. (Hint: no.)

INCREDIBLE footage reveals UFOs flying over Earth before space station camera is taken off air.

If you don't believe in UFOs then wait until you watch this. The live feed, which is reportedly from the International Space Station, caught these three glowing lights speeding from earth's atmosphere and it's got conspiracy theorists buzzing. What's really got them excited is why the live feed cuts to an error message soon after the UFOs were spotted.

Not on the YouTube video, it doesn’t. Anyway, if all this is true, someone’s in trouble at work.

"You there, Johnson, you’re tasked with cutting the live feed the moment you see a UFO."

”Fine, sir, but may I suggest running the live feed on a 10 second delay? No one would notice, and it would be easy to pass off as lag. That would give us ample time to switch to stock footage, and no one would be the wiser.”

”Are you mad, Johnson? It’s live feed or nothing. Now watch closely for UFOs or the whole jig is up.”

The Daily Star article notes: "One posted on YouTube by user Streetcap1 shows what appeared to be a small white disc flying near to the space station," and the link goes to . . . another story on the same video, this time headlined “Space experts baffled as mystery object filmed passing space station.” Those space experts being the sort of people who peer at gauzy artifacts and deduce the existence of extraterrestrial civilization.

Or the guys who speak on behalf of the aliens themselves.

Music to make you misty

In the WSJ, a paen to the pleasures of a bygone derided genre: Beautiful Music.

Easy-listening music and its maestros never had to worry about screaming teenage fans or long stadium tours. Ridiculed in the 1960s and since as “elevator music,” the gentle genre was marketed then as music for frazzled adults run ragged by the decade’s social upheavals, argumentative kids and rock’s blare. Unlike other forms of music, easy listening wasn’t meant to be analyzed or even heard.

The article discusses the origins of the genre, which might send you to YouTube looking for Paul Weston. I did. It’s almost indistinguishable from Mantovani. Or Mantovani is indistinguishable from him. This isn’t meant to damn the whole genre for Miltown-induced uniformity - I’m a big fan of the stuff. (Yes, I know. There’s a big surprise.) But there were some that did it better. The article name-checks Bert Kaempfert, whose “Wonderland by Night” fat trumpet warble drifted through the background of my grade-school years - distinctive, and not as somnambulant as others. The article mentions Ray Conniff, who must have been driven some people nuts with the wordless daba-daba vocals. Only a passing mention of the Jackie Gleason Orchestra, which let Bobby Hackett wander through a luscious bower of reverb strings. Gleason had nothing to do with it, but his name lent a certain boozy late-night mood.

This comment is notable:

Easy listening is what destroyed jazz for most rock-age Americans.  This dr3ck oozed out of dentists offices and our moms' clothing stores - places boys hated.  It was similar enough to modern jazz that the two became inseparable, at least in our minds.  Rock music became chocolate- - -jazz became broccoli.

Agree with the first point, not so much the second. While it may be associated with dentists and stores, I also associate it with grocery stores, which were fun. In any case, I never connected the music with modern jazz. It was just that treacly stuff that tricked out of tinny speakers. Discovering the good stuff was a revelation.

Played it at a party a few days ago; the guest who was most impressed was 24. So there’s hope.

SPACE A pyramid has been found on Mars. This changes everything.

Or, it’s just a rock.

MUSIC Damned shame about James Horner. From the Times piece:

“Sometimes it ends up sounding great, and that’s what movies are about, but sometimes you work so hard on something, it gets so beat up by a film director about making every atom perfect and you hear it in the final mix, and you can’t hear any of that stuff,” he continued. “What was the point of getting beat up for a week to get that sequence perfect? It’s covered up by car crashes. It’s insane!”

A perfect example of that: the sinking of the Titanic. If you listen to the soundtrack, you hear this terrifying wordless chorus, rising like the voices of everyone ever drowned in the sea. It ascends as the ship knifes down - would have been comical the other way around, of course, but it’s harrowing.

Completely drowned out in the noise of the movie.