Review: Zappa (The Official Documentary)

Art is making something out of nothing, and selling it.

Frank zappa
Frank Zappa

First i hope everyone is safe.

Second i’ll am writing about something off my usual beaten path and that is a movie review.  Yes once in a while i watch ye  ole “boob tube” as they used to call it back in the day.

This movie is a special movie to me as it is about the life of Frank Zappa the rock and roll guitar player, the composer, the artist, the movie maker, the recoding engineer, the American representative to Czechoslovakia, (or Czecho-Slovakia)  and most importantly a man who fervently fought for free speech.  Mainly at least for me it is a testament to someone who was constantly creating and recording that creation as well as documenting and saving those creations. While i’ve been into Zappa since a teenager i really started trying to understand the magnitude whilst in graduate school at the University of Miami where i was lucky enough to engineer and work with a group called the Zappa Ensemble. The musicianship and complexity blew my mind and it was hilarious all at the same time! It finally clicked!

Kerry Mcnabb and Frank Zappa getting physical in the mixing process (photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

Alex Winter was the main creative force behind Zappa with Frank Zappa’s oldest son Ahment Zappa producing. 

Zappa Trailer:

One of my greatest enjoyments is being part of making or being in deep active listening of this thing human’s call music and Frank Zappa to me is one of the greatest composers of the 20th century of which this movie showcases.  His ability to meld performance, musician ship and lyrical satire i believe will never be seen again in my time or possibly anyones time.

lf you’re going to deal with reality, you’re going to have to make one big discovery: Reality is something that belongs to you as an individual. If you wanna grow up, which most people don’t, the thing to do is take responsibility for your own reality and deal with it on your own terms. Don’t expect that because you pay some money to somebody else or take a pledge or join a club or run down the street or wear a special bunch of clothes or play a certain sport or even drink Perrier water, it’s going to take care of everything for you.

Frank Zappa

The movie deeply focuses on the extreme drive Zappa had to create and duplicate the sound that he heard in his head transferring it from paper to little dots of which we call musical notation then taking it to the studio and attempting to reproduce it as accurately as possible to the sound being heard inside his head.  The recording process to me is truly astounding.  It’s what i term “a perceptual to parameterization to physical transform”.  He was self taught in all aspects of his creative pursuits of which he was what i consider to be an ultimate autodidactic.

This movie starts off with Frank’s last guitar performance then cuts to him  in his Vault of recordings and VHS tapes identifying original master recordings.  I was awestruck.  

You’ve got to be digging it while it’s happening ’cause it just might be a one shot deal.

Frank Zappa

Through my research on the film i found out that alex Winter was Bill in the “Bill and Ted” films although i have no idea what those are as i haven’t seen them only heard about them.  Evidently he has been making documentaries for a decade. He approached Zappa’s widow Gail (the film is dedicated to her as she died in 2015)  for permission on the project.  The result is a a cacophony of a life lived loud with constant feeding the disease of composition and creativity.

Winter was given complete access to the Zappa family archives which as i mention above was called The Vault.  There are many shots of The Vault which is a treasure trove of both audio and video recordings all shapes sizes and formats.  

There is also a ton of footage of his family and how he grew up.  Initially his family completely opposed him getting involved with music and Zappa also notes that they were extremely poor. They also note Zappa was interested chemistry at an early age and tried to blow his school up.

The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.

Frank Zappa

There is a great section of Frank “On The Hill”  testifying before the senate during the PMRC hearings on album and music lyrics which he definitely as i do consider censorship.  The movie then details his pursuit of anything that looks or smells like censorship.  If it weren’t for him doing this at every turn i believe things would be very different even a much a it is now. Then i wonder, today in this environment, he probably couldn’t publish a lot of the music he wrote.

The salient point i was reminded of in this movie is  don’t waste your time go make a dent in this thing we call life and create at all costs even if no one – not one person – views, listens or uses the creation at least one person will and that will be the person of You.  

Never compromise and always choose quality over quantity and remember give “them” a good laugh.  They might not get the joke but at least you can laugh.  

Why do you necessarily have to be wrong just because a few million people think you are?

Frank Zappa

To give you an idea of the sheer output and dedication to the art while alive Zappa released 62 albums. Since 1994, the Zappa Family Trust has released 54 posthumous albums as of July 2020, making a total of 116 albums/album sets.

This dear reader should remind you of one aspect of your life:  Find your passion and dwell on it deeply, daily, hourly, minute by precious minute.  

Personally i hope The Vault is all mined, uncovered, reformatted and converted so that the world knows about the volume and creativity.

If you think that Zappa was all about raunchy lyrics, complex poly rhythms and symphonies most ensembles and orchestras couldn’t play i urge you to listen to this song that ends the documentary.  The documentary ends with amazing shots of his house  and uses a live version that is recorded in 1978 as the back drop. Below are several versions including the studio version from Joe’s Garage album because the comments by the “Central Scrutinizer” are hilarious and are juxtaposed against what i consider to be one of the most amazing pieces of guitar work ever recorded.  The sadness and lamenting of the piece is deafening.  However at the same time as someone who i have met in the land of suspicious coincidence said it is intoxicating.  

For completeness here is the live version in 1978

And here is a version in 2013 by his son dweezil zappa crying while he is playing.  

There is a four “disc” set on itunes of the documentary soundtrack here: Zappa Soundtrack.

Frank Zappa died on December 4, 1993 of prostate cancer.  He is survived by his four progeny: Moon, Dweezil, Ahment and Diva Zappa.  

Until then,

#iwishyouwater

@tctjr

Muzak To Blog By:  Zappa Soundtrack

FLAW: Not Thinking Big Enough or What Is Success?

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

Samuel Clements

This morning whilst trying to motivate myself at 5AM EST to work out and lift weights i had a thought:

We almost never think big enough in our endeavors and when we think we are thinking big enough we hear the word: “No” in some form or fashion.

After finally willing myself to workout I walked into my living room where i have some music stuff and this poster is one of my most prized possessions.  It was given to me when i was leaving apple.  

It was one of only three made during the famous “Here’s To The Crazy Ones” Campaign from Apple:

You might know the narrator of the video.  He was a college drop out and was fired from the company he founded.  Many miss him as I do miss him.  Why is this important?

Let us whittle this back some more. i was thinking when we picture ourselves doing something or in the process of doing something do we stop short of our truest desires?  Better yet if we have a passion why don’t we go after it will a full heart?  Or while we are executing on the said passion we stop short?  

Maybe it starts young.  Lets look at something that seems very innocuous at first.  The simple word NO.

It hath been said words have meanings so let’s search – shall we?

Taken from Online Etymology Dictionary | Origin, history and meaning of English word

NO (adv)

“not in any degree, not at all,” Middle English, from Old English na, from ne “not, no” + a “ever.” The first element is from Proto-Germanic *ne (source also of Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old High German ne, Gothic ni “not”), from PIE root *ne- “not.” Second element is from Proto-Germanic *aiwi-, extended form of PIE root *aiw- “vital force, life, long life, eternity.” Ultimately identical to nay, and the differences of use are accidental.”

Years ago a UCLA survey reported that the average one-year-old child hears the word, No! more than 400 times a day! You might think this is an exaggeration. However when we say  No! we usually say, No, no, no!. That’s three times in three seconds! If that child (or adult) is particularly active then i could see this being a valid statistic.  By the way for any parents out there don’t feel bad we have all done it.

(SIDE NOTE: i do realize there are lies, damn lies and statistics – yet i digress).

What do you do when you are constantly being told what not to do? Or being told NO!  You can’t do that! We then “grow up”.

The passion and wonder of childhood fade.  Yet it doesnt have to does it?

Now more than ever there are ways to monetize that passion unless your independently wealthy then you need not worry at all about such things.

One of my interview questions:

What is your true passion?

i truly want to know. What do YOU WANT?  Whatever it is or whatever the person says i usually tell them to go do IT instead of what they think they should be doing. Caveat Emptor: There are always consequences.

I’ve heard all kinds of answers and more to this question: grow mushrooms, paint, be a comedian, peace corps, build the next (insert Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc herewith), fireman, and yes even a porn star.  

Now why i am referencing the word ‘NO’ with respect to not thinking grandiose, audacious, stupendously – enough?

Because we are told you can’t by those that do not understand YOUR passion or those that cannot do what you do and to be more even more succinct they are probably scared at some level.  

Now did i ever say it was easy?  No in fact when it appears to be completely dire straits (not to be confused with the band) it is usually the most opportunistic situation. Storms never last they say and you will always most certainly feel like you are in some form of a storm. “Ordo Ab Chaos” as the old saying goes.

You will encounter criticism, countless setbacks, and ostracization in some cases, depending on how big your passions and executions are in certain areas.  Do not let these deter you.  The loudest negative voice you will have to deal with is the small voice inside your head at night – Nighty Night, but ya can’t do that….

Also to that point remember your passion is just a thought until you execute on it. Ideas are cheap.  Everyone has ideas every day that they never act on because of homeostasis or they create a reason not to act upon thier passion.

One of my all-time favorite guitarist is Steve Vai. He was 17 years old when he played with Frank Zappa.

In this video he talks about what it takes to be successful.

The only thing that is holding you back is the way YOU are thinking.  Again – What is it you truly want?

Whatever it is imagine yourself being there.

All of a sudden the reasons you can’t do it flood in and the word NO is echoed.

In the worst of times go to the larger big audacious outrageous picture of you executing your passion.

Hold it and make it precious.

Then move Ever Forward toward the next step closer to that vision as you become a NO Collector from all of the naysayers that say it cannot be done. For every NO you collect you are one step closer to your success.

Muzak To Blog To: Rome “Flight In Formation”.

Until then,

Be safe.

#iwishyouwater

@tctjr

Remembering 9.11

“We are dust in time and space.”

~ Of The Wand & Moon.

Today is a day that will live in infamy for many as a testament to what extremist beliefs can conjure into reality. To those who lost loved ones on 9.11.2001 – peace be with you. To those who survived 9.11.2001 – again peace be with you.

For me a different year 9.11.2005 is etched in my mind. It is a strange phenomenon to me as i spend much of my life always optimizing or at least making myself believe that i am optimizing. While i did not lose a father or husband i lost a dear friend and comrade – Steven Swenson.

Today 9.11.2020 one of my true friends and comrades was returning from a freediving trip with his lovely wife and i could hear the joy in both of their voices performing an activity that my comrade Sven died doing what he loved doing on this day in 2005 – freediving. Living underwater on #OneBreath.

i realized through them on this day the essence of it all came to fruition – The_Human_Do_Loop in action and it is ok to truly feel for without the depths we know no true joy.

to roma, leif, and gage – tell him i said hello – again.

i think he would have liked this song.

And I held the breath inside my lungs for days
And I saw myself as one of many waves
When I knew I’d become the ocean’s slave
I just stayed

And we carried far with all the waters past
Of the waves

I was not first I was not last
And if we saw a boat afloat we took the mast
So fast

There’s a part of it, that I’ll miss
At the heart of it, your cold kiss
From the start of it, I know this
Always apart of it

And before too long the waves grew out of hand
And they worked to keep the sea at their command
And the only thing they feared it seemed the sand
And dry land

There’s a part of it, that I’ll miss
At the heart of it, your cold kiss
From the start of it, I know this
Always apart of it

From the water there was born a bright blue roar
As it rolled and formed and calmed the ocean’s floor
And it finally rose and broke upon the shore
No more

There’s a part of it, that I’ll miss
At the heart of it, your cold kiss
From the start of it, I know this
Always apart of it (I know this)

There’s a part of it, that I’ll miss
At the heart of it, your cold kiss
From the start of it, I know this
Always apart of it
Always apart of it

i know at least one person who freedove today loves that song.

until then,

#iwishyouwater

tctjr.

COVID-19 Complexity Relationships

As most are probably aware and i hope that you are at this point COVID-19 appears to be a very serious worldwide concern. From a complexity systems relationship standpoint there are several interesting aspects here that for some might be self-evident and for others might not be so self-evident. First, let us start with some observations concerning health and wellness in general:

Your wellness and health are the most important aspect of your life:

  • by definition, it is distributed
  • by definition, it affects others – eg its networked
  • by definition, it involves proximity – human caring and empathy

Given that it is a networked system and can have very non-linear behaviors. i was just having a discussion of an issue that could have a great effect (and affect) upon seemingly unrelated entities. Paper money is a fragile medium and also can carry chemicals and pathogens. Of interest:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to wash their hands and stop using cash if possible as the paper bills may help spread coronavirus.

here is the link:

https://www.ktvu.com/news/contaminated-cash-may-spread-coronavirus-world-health-organization-warns

The other happening is large corporations are canceling travel and conferences.

This brings me to the non-linear relationships which are two-fold (for now) but there will be several others: (1) cryptocurrency usage will skyrocket (2) “De-Officing” will start a trend in remote telecommuting work which will cause teleconferencing companies stock to increase.

Just some observations.

Until then,

Be safe and I wish You Water.

@tctjr

Under Re-Construction!

Hey Y’all!

I decided to finally stand up a full site. Hosting on AWS and all that stuff. I am going to start writing on several different subjects.

Until Then Remember!

$$\ H(X) = -\sum p(X)\log p(X)\\Information\ Gain\; I(X,Y)= H(X)-H(X|Y)$$