Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 5

My favorite actress in the business, Oscar winner Kate Winslet, is 34. It's not just her beauty, talent and fearlessness that get to me, it's her intelligence. I mean, she's got a plan. The girl knows what she's doing.

See what I mean? Actually, that's a clip from the TV series "Extras," which is that hilarious in every single episode.
Not easy to find a video of music featuring Winslet. I was worried I'd have to show a clip from that painful film "Romance and Cigarettes," (she was the best part, of course) and then I learned that she did a duet with Weird Al Yankovic (!!!) for some children's book/CD set. That's like putting two great tastes together!

Yup... that's like chocolate-covered macaroni. We're going to leave the music to the professionals for the rest of today....

Lee Thompson
, saxaphonist for Madness, the most successful 2nd wave ska band ever. They made me fall in love with ska before I knew what it was. Hearing Lee's wailing
on "One Step Beyond" takes me back to Friday nights St Louis community radio, getting my weekly dosage of ska and reggae.

Something's in the air; so far, three seminal ska bands have returned to the stage this year. In fact, Madness is getting some of the best reviews of their career, even if their work's 'maturing'. Judge the new stuff for yourself...

Brian Johnson, vocalist for AC/DC. Some still call him 'the other vocalist', but Brian's the one that's sang their biggest hits. [Did you know that the "Back in Black" LP is the second best-selling album of all time?] He gives hope for every band that tries to get together its second act.

This year's tour might be it for the boys. Six dates last month were cancelled while Brian was recovering from surgery, treating typical 'old man' problems. No word if they removed that hernia that's the source of Brian Johnson's vocal power; that would be like giving Macy Gray a lozenge...

Finally, I'm posting a Velvet Underground track because it's Vaclav Havel's birthday. In 1968, Havel was a playwright in communist Czechoslovakia, while the Velvet Underground was another band whose music was being smuggled in and share in the Prague underground. People started their own bands, despite government efforts at suppresion. The arrest of several musicians in 1977 inspired the Charter 77 manifesto, which would be the guiding principles of the Velvet Revolution, the bloodless regime change that would see the end of communism in Czechoslovakia and the beginnings of free elections. Havel, who was sent to prison several times for speaking out for human rights in his plays and in public, would become the first president of the Czech Republic. When he welcomed Lou Reed to a democratic Czechoslovakia in 1990, Havel said to him, "Did you know that I am president because of you?"
Havel's retired from public office, but not from public life. He continues to work with human rights organizations, and speak about those issues. He's returned to playwriting, and parlaying that into directing his first feature film.
Havel's life story reminds me that art, even in inherently disposable forms like 3-minute rock songs, can affect and inspire others; the Velvet Underground's fearlessness in the realm of music inspired Havel and his peers to seek that fearlessness in their own lives.
So, here's a video of the Velvet Underground track "European Son", to salute Vaclav Havel and hope that we tap into the fearlessness in our own hearts that we need to change our world for the better...
The Velvet Underground - European Son

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