Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2009 July 27 • Monday

The seventy-first Soundtrack of the Week is Hajime Kubaragi's music for the Japanese television show Doberman Cop.

Doberman Cop immediately goes into my Title Hall of Fame.

As far as the music goes, there's lots of cheesy keyboard sounds on here, coming perilously close to C.H.I.P.S. territory. You'll also hear great fuzz guitar and trumpet playing, too, as well as a few rather beautiful and lyrical pieces. One of them prominently features the timpani, perhaps my favorite instrument after fuzz guitar.

The CD has 52 tracks, many of them only a few seconds long.

2009 July 25 • Saturday

It's summer and I'm from New England. I want lobster rolls!

The lobster rolls at Pearl Oyster Bar and Mary's Fish Camp are excellent, it's true. Brooklyn Fish Camp, Mary's sister restuarant, is not too far from our house and the lobster roll there is just as good.

But their lobster rolls cost $33.

The lobster roll at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central is only a few dollars cheaper and not as good. (I go there just to have their excellent New England clam chowder and maybe a couple of oysters. You can do that for about $10.)

In desperation I decided to make my own lobster roll. I purchased a container of lobster meat from our local fish shop, brought it home, made lobster salad, toasted a hot dog bun and made my own lobster roll.

It was excellent. It also cost a little more than $20. Not a bargain.

Today I finally went to check out the flea market on Vanderbilt Street, somewhere just north of Atlantic Avenue. I didn't realize that there would be food there. Really good food, in fact. The Red Hook Lobster Pound, for instance.

Delicious and only $13!

Also on sale at the market was one of my favorite childhood toys. I haven't seen one of these in thirty years or so.

2009 July 22 • Wednesday

2009 July 21 • Tuesday

Park Slope has two faces:

2009 July 20 • Monday

The seventieth Soundtrack of the Week is this CD with the soundtracks to two movies, Sharaz and Ragan, both by Nico Fidenco and Gianni Dell'Orso.

The two scores have a strong exotica flavor, very reminiscent of Les Baxter and Martin Denny. Both benefit from the participation of singer Edda Dell'Orso, famous for her work with Ennio Morricone. (Her voice is the one you hear on the Once Upon a Time in the West soundtrack.)

Sharaz has a killer main theme, a soaring and beautiful piece with a middle eastern feel to it. The instrumentation throughout is very satisfying, with lots of percussion and something that sounds like it could be a tres or an oud or some other guitar-like thing.

Ragan is more in a jazz lounge mood but manages to combine marimba, woodwinds, brass and percussion with snarling fuzz guitar. I fall for that everytime. There's also some sick organ combo stuff.

2009 July 16 • Thursday

Here's an issue of Argosy with a cool cover.

I opened it to a random page and read this, from the cover story.

Watching her, Peter tried to keep his thoughts in order. The attempt to rescue her must be made soon. He darted a glance at Lotus Burma. The smile at her vampire lips had brightened. Her eyes were avid with expectancy. Clearly, Peter could see into her twisted mind—could see there the gloating hideous soul of this woman, could glimpse her insane joy in seeing this innocent, delicate girl clasped and devoured by the hungry sea monster.

Sounds good.

Did you notice the NRA logo in the top right corner?

It's on the cover of five of the seventy issues of Argosy I have.

2009 July 14 • Tuesday

2009 July 13 • Monday

The sixty-ninth Soundtrack of the Week is the Tribute Film Classics recording of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's music for The Prince and the Pauper.

Korngold was one of the most influential composers of Hollywood's golden age. He's remembered best for robust action and adventure music, such as you'll find in his famous music for The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Like Robin Hood, The Prince and the Pauper also stars Errol Flynn. In addition to the powerful and romantic writing one expects, there are also moments of humor, mystery and wistfulness. There's a theme—you can hear it in "Mirror" and in "Prince Outside Palace— that might remind you of Maurice Jarre's music for Lawrence of Arabia. Other parts of "Mirror" could make you think of John Williams, a composer who must admire Korngold's work.

As usual William Stromberg conducts the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. The music was recorded at MosFilm, a studio I visited in 1989. (I remember seeing a set for a historical drama, with an actor playing Lenin seated behind a desk.)

The music quality and recording quality are as good as it gets. This is another score that benefits from a close listening with headphones. Shouldn't the people behind Tribute Film Classics get a MacArthur grant or a Pulitzer Prize or something like that?

2009 July 08 • Wednesday

I just got back from the reception for and preview of the Japan Society's latest exhibition, Buriki: Japanese Tin Toys from the Golden Age of the American Automobile.

I loved the cars and wished I could have played with them. Check out these remote controlled Ford Fairlanes.

And these surely inspired Adam West's Batmobile.

This Greyhound bus has passengers inside, hard to see in this photo.

Check out the Japan Society's image gallery here and/or buy this book:

2009 July 07 • Tuesday

Alice and I gave Dexter his first haircut last weekend.

That photo is from this morning. A mere half an hour or so after it was taken, I noticed an old leather case in somebody's garbage. I thought it might be a camera.

It turned out to be a 16mm film projector, a Filmo Diplomat by Bell & Howell.

It originally came with splicing blades.

I suppose that explains the Amateur Cinema League sticker.

We've found so much stuff in the garbage out here. Most of our furniture, for example.

2009 July 06 • Monday

"The rain rained."

That's the first line of Ted Lewis's novel Jack's Return Home, better known as Get Carter, the name of the succesful movie adaptation starring Michael Caine.

I love the movie but I always thought that Carter's train ride home in the beginning was much too cozy. There he is, sitting placidly with other passengers and reading Farewell, My Lovely.

A Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novel? The book Get Carter is written in a laconic and often witty hard-boiled style that could be mistaken as Chandleresque, but Carter is no Marlowe. I can't imagine Chandler's boy-scout detective ever telling us something like "I punched his face until my fists got slippery. Then I turned him over and gave him some in his kidneys".

Carter goes down mean streets and is himself mean, meaner even than the streets. That's why he's alive and his brother, Frank, who was not mean, is dead. Carter became mean enough that he left the mean streets of Doncaster (Newcastle in the movie) for the meaner streets of London.

So the Carter of the book does not read Chandler on the train. Here's what he tells us about his rail journey.

I was the only one in the compartment. My slip-ons were off. My feet were up. Penthouse was dead. I'd killed the Standard twice. I had three nails left. Doncaster was forty minutes off.

Short sentences are Jack's usual way of expressing himself. Contemplating his brother's death, the reason for his return home, you can hear his thoughts speed up and get out of his control. This happens only a few times and Lewis uses semi-colons to suggest the acceleration of Carter's heart and mind.

Carter's brother Frank has died in a car crash. He apparently drank too much whiskey and lost control of his vehicle. Carter mulls over the fact that his brother never smoked.

He didn't drink scotch either.

I picked up the flask from off the Standard and unscrewed the cap and took a pull. The train rocked and a bit of scotch went on my shirt, a biggish spot, just below the collar.

But not as much as had been down the front of the shirt Frank had been wearing when they'd found him. Not nearly so much.

They hadn't even bothered to be careful; they hadn't even bothered to be clever.

That's the angriest semi-colon I've ever seen. I think these surges of emotion are the only places you'll find semi-colons in the book. Of course Frank has been murdered. A grief-stricken semi-colon appears when Carter, reflecting on a scene from his youth, notes Frank's meekness, how like a sheep among wolves he was.

For a minute I'd thought Frank was going to stick up for himself. But he hadn't tried to do anything. Albert had given him three or four quick punches that had put him on the floor and made his nose bleed. Frank had sat up and taken out his handkerchief and wiped his nose. I remember that seeing him do that made me realise something I'd always been aware of but never thought about; Frank always carried a clean handkerchief.

Probably we should hear a single sob of rage and sorrow everytime Carter's thoughts use a semi-colon.

In another scene an absent comma tells us that Carter's voice suddenly becomes a lot less gentle, in the last line of this dialogue with Doreen, Frank's daughter (or Carter's daughter: another detail that complicates matters).

"Doreen," I said. "I know it's not a good time."
She just stared in front of her at the wall.
"But I'm, you know, I'm a bit puzzled. You know, about what happened."
I leant forward.
"I mean, was your dad worried about anything?"
She shook her head.
"Don't you think he'd have to be, or annoyed or something, to get drunk the way he did?"
"I don't know."
"Well, something like a row with the boss or something?"
"I didn't see him Sunday night. He was at Margaret's. I was in bed when he got in."
I took another drink.
"Did you like Margaret?" I said.
"She was all right. She was good fun."
"You didn't mind what was going on between her and your dad?"
"Why should I?"
I shrugged.
"How do you mean, she was good fun?" I said.
"She just was. When we went out and that."
"Did you and her ever talk? When Frank wasn't about?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, just talk."
"What about?"
"All sorts."
"Like what?"
"Nothing in particular. She used to tell me what she'd got up to in London and that."
"When was she in London?"
"I don't know, years ago."
"What was she doing down there?"
"I don't know."
"Yes you do."

There's a big difference between "Yes, you do" and "Yes you do". A friendly chat officially becomes an interrogation. (Unless it's just a typo.)

The book goes much deeper than the movie into Carter's past and his complex relationship with his brother. Lewis builds tension for about 100 pages before releasing it with the first violent scene. From then on the gloves are off, as they say.

The movie benefits from excellent casting, locations, photography, the works. Also crucial to its success is the score by Roy Budd. Carter's theme, deployed in the opening train ride, is a masterpiece. Harpsichord, electric piano, bass and tabla play the catchy tune and then improvise. It's one of the greatest themes of all time. (Laika and the Cosmonauts covered it on their Amazing Colossal Band album.)

The rest of the music is perfectly suited to the seedy and corrupt world (really an underworld) of the movie. This was apparently Roy Budd's first film-scoring gig and I think it was probably his best.

Get Carter is the sixty-eighth Soundtrack of the Week.

2009 July 01 • Wednesday

Apparently I'm the only one with the chart for Chris Cawthray's tune—it's really a suite—"Ocean, Grass, Polar Bear Mountain". It wasn't in the first place I looked for it, or even the second. Like everything else, it was in the last place I looked.

In that same place was the sheet music for the themes from Dragnet. I had forgotten that I owned this and don't remember acquiring it. (Late night eBay browsing probably accounts for it.)

I was interested to learn that the famous Dragnet music (dum, da DUM dum) is actually called "Danger Ahead", not "Theme from Dragnet".