Copyright 2008-2020 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.
A list of my favorite music, books and cinema. My taste is 20th Century eclectic.
John Fogerty taught me everything I need to know.
Thursday night on the wrong side of town.
The best MALE vocalist that I know -- afterhours at a river city blues club.
Established musicians want to avoid a We've heard it all before! audience reaction
during live performances. Here Johnny Rivers presents his distinctly American music
to European audiences.
The best FEMALE vocalist that I know -- Lisa plays 21st Century Dionne Warwick.
Try The #1 Remixes (EP) as a chaser.
People enjoy vocalists for a number of reasons, usually a combination of vocal quality
and the chosen lyrical/musical program. Sometimes it gets personal: the vocalist's style
reminds you of somebody you know (very disconcerting if your later parting is unpleasant).
And sometimes the studio session performance and/or the engineering is remarkably good,
suggesting somebody really enjoyed making this recording.
I first heard Rickie Lee Jones late in the game, watching her 1979 nationwide debut
on a Saturday Night Live DVD rerun. Rickie's voice and style are remarkable, the session
musicians / contributors are incredible, and her selections (original or otherwise) paint
a culturally striking picture. The three listed albums (from 1979, 1990 and 2000) provide
a good introduction to Rickie Lee Jones' artistry.
Lyrical mastery strengthened by LIVE play. PLAY IT LOUD!
This LIVE album was somewhat underappreciated, but the music is great and
the lyrics merit careful listening: the gentlemen of Southern Rock in concert.
LIVE Dan -- out of the studio and swingin'.
Some of my best thinking (Huff! Puff!) happened in the hills surrounding Nashville Indiana.
This 1970 album always was my favorite Grateful Dead album, but its lyrics are fresh
and delicious during the rampant unemployment following The Great Recession. IMO
author Harry M. Caudill's c1962 documentary report Night Comes to the Cumberlands
(A Biography of a Depressed Area) (no ISBN, LCC 63-13450) provides a piquant sauce
for this particular socioeconomic goose.
Women often view motherhood as a post-workplace second career; men's societal
secondary options are less clearly defined. James Taylor's nice album depicts one man's
second time around, surviving small town mundane existence without the pack.
The real thing -- Warren plays for the people LIVE.
'Hate the story. 'Love the LIVE performance.
A happy man looks at divorce.
I truly like Ringo Starr, but this live recording IMO merits a lifetime achievement award for
composer / vocalist / percussionist Phil Collins. Featured composer and keyboard artist
George Duke (no longer with us) also performed with Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention
on their 1970 tour. Lyric enthusiasts can hear similar arrangements on Phil Collin's CD
Serious Hits - Live.
This 1970 album was lost amidst the Watergate chaos but it carries an important lesson:
We are not unique. This has happened before.
This album was somewhat underappreciated, but IMO Sheryl helped redefine popular culture
and this is a top notch LIVE performance: Sheryl and her friends strut their stuff.
Stevie Nicks has a unique voice and this album's selections fit beautifully.
The Feminine Mystique nicely exPLAYned: I gotta strut!
Somehow I completely ignored the band Stealer's Wheel while growing up,
but I enjoy Gerry Rafferty's skilled arrangements and his clever lyrics.
I discovered Savoy Brown late in the game. This 2005 live album IMO is one of their best.
The original and still the best -- Carlos plays in the background and nobody notices.
Frank Sinatra is a wonderful vocalist, and this music CD tells a story
that IMO all young men should hear before they graduate.
I do not speak Spanish, but in Madrid Spain I watched the flamenco and
former Latin students can read between the lines. Volare! is an excellent
introduction to the Gipsy Kings' music. The first CD features humorous lyrics,
while the more traditional second CD includes my favorite version of
Hotel California. When I want energetic music I play this two CD 2000 set.
I have watched bellydancers both in Morocco and in the United States.
This is the best international recording I know.
Reality: no machines. Michener lived in Afghanistan during the 1950s. Michener
understood Afghanistan and Michener understood people. Nothing ... has changed.
Kenneth C. Davis has written a good liberal synopsis for busy humans. IMO one reason
the Bible survives is that the Bible is classic human literature, a source of historic allegory.
Example: How long will it take to solve your problem? In Exodus 32:15-34:17, Moses
walks down Mt. Sinai after talking with Jehovah. Moses finds the tribe worshipping a golden
idol. As a result of that idol worship the tribe wanders forty years through the wilderness.
Example: IMO the descriptive adjective ruthless is based upon the humble story told in the
Christian Old Testament's Book of Ruth. Example: IMO I will not join your tribe summarizes
the Christian Old Testament's Twenty-third Psalm.
IMO Frank Herbert's c1965 Dune and c1969 Dune Messiah are great science fiction because they
present ideas that haunt me years and decades later. The ideas are: 1) Control a superior intelligence
by warping his / her social environment with deliberate misinformation [a corollary is A shilling
costs little to implement]; 2) The Bene Gesserit [Latin translation: S/He will bear it well] sisterhood's
human multigenerational controlled-breeding program designed to produce superior (e.g., physically
attractive, but that gets old fast) offspring; 3) The desert planet Arrakis has a name pronounced
somewhat like Iraqis. Arrakis is a prize planet because it produces the empowering but addictive spice
melange. Whoever controls Arrakis' melange has a stranglehold on interplanetary travel and commerce.
My reading experience is that authors often have plot strong ideas for one or two volumes, but lose
momentum when producing a trilogy or longer book series. Regrettably, this is my impression of c1976's
Children Of Dune, the third novel in the eight novel (six written by Frank Herbert) Dune Chronicles
series. Nine years have passed since the end of Dune Messiah; and Arrakis has been transformed with
environmental greenery while the Fremen religion has become an inflexible government bureaucracy
under Paul Atreides' sister Alia. Circumstances have totally changed the characterizations developed
within the first two novels: the reader deals with an essentially different cast of characters. Simultaneously,
Children Of Dune's slow-moving plot wallows in Bene Gesserit musings and intra-family palace intrigue
instead of depicting meaningful events.
My disappointment extends to c1981's
God Emperor Of Dune,
the Dune Chronicles fourth novel.
God Emperor Of Dune brings another paradigm shift to the Dune saga, occuring 3,500 years into
the reign of Paul Atreides' son Leto II. The greening of Arrakis is complete; only desert small regions
are allowed to exist and most of the sandworms are gone: the melange resulting shortage absolutely
empowers Leto II's government. Leto II rules with an iron hand; his reign is predictably peaceful
but human society has lost its aggressive edge. And God Emperor Of Dune fills its pages with
Leto II's governance philosophy musings, resembling Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince as enacted
by Lewis Carroll's egotistic Red Queen; the novel does not resemble fantasy or science fiction.
A c1969 tale of increasing societal agoraphobia. IMO The Jagged Orbit is equal with
John Brunner's award-winning c1968 Stand On Zanzibar. Author Clifford D. Simak's
c1952 City and author Isaac Asimov's c1957 The Caves Of Steel also depict increasing
In the mid-1970s I first read these classic short stories and novellas from The Golden Age Of Science Fiction.
In the 21st Century they helped me understand the inexplicable. Who dealt this mess, anyway?
In Volume One, c1963 A Rose For Ecclesiastes goes down smooth, c1938 Helen O'Loy stresses the
social triangle's stability and the Dutch uncle's credulity (BTW, ... love the one you're with ... can express
exasperated disbelief), c1948 Mars Is Heaven! sticks in your throat, c1948 Scanners Live In Vain
will not nourish you and c1940 The Roads Must Roll will ditch you.
In Volume Two A, author John W. Campbell, Jr. (writing as Don A. Stuart) depicts fear of the evolving
unknown in his c1938 novella Who Goes There? (later adapted by director John Carpenter in his 1982 film
The Thing starring Kurt Russell). Author C. M. Kornbluth's c1951 novella The Marching Morons depicts
the ethics of persuasion. Author C. L. Moore (writing as Lawrence O'Donnell) and author Henry Kuttner
depict exquisite detachment skirting impending disaster in their c1946 novella Vintage Season. Author
H. G. Wells' c1934 novella The Time Machine (and director George Pal's classic 1960 film adaptation
starring Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Alan Young and Sebastian Cabot) illustrates how societal poverty
might channel individuals' lives and destinies. Author Jack Williamson's c1954 novella With Folded Hands
submits his notion of a safe, secure claustrophobic residential future: end of (credit) card play; societal
bankruptcy; nothing left to do; accept socialism.
In Volume Two B, author Algis Budrys' c1960 novella Rogue Moon depicts the yin and yang of
reinventing yourself. Author James H. Schmitz's c1949 novella The Witches of Karres depicts
the mixed blessings accrued from rescued witches. Author Frederik Pohl's c1954 novella
The Midas Plague and author Jack Vance's c1961 novella The Moon Moth both depict
individual struggle in extremely structured affluent societies, while author E. M. Forster's c1928 novella
depicts increasing human dysfunction when The Machine Stops as a mechanized internetworked society's
infrastructure first predominates and then crumbles.
The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame: Volume III edited by Arthur C. Clarke and George W. Proctor is not
one of my favorites. Containing the 1965-1969 Nebula award winning stories, author Anne McCaffrey's
c1967 novella Dragonrider dominates the volume. I acknowledge Dragonrider as significant literature; and
I understand why Dragonrider was written with the theme even when burdened with comparative poverty,
destroy the threads that fall from the sky lest they overcome our world (an adversarial relationship instead of
a complementary relationship). But Dragonrider shares literary DNA and shares plot themes with author
John Norman's (currently) 36-book fantasy odyssey Gorean Saga that began with the 1966 publication of
Tarnsman Of Gor; and the Gorean Saga has languished in cultish obscurity. Harlon Ellison's Strangelovian
c1969 short story A Boy and His Dog IMO is the best story of the lot within The Science Fiction Hall
Of Fame: Volume III.
Volume Four contains the 1970-1974 Nebula award winning stories and apparently is this series' last volume.
Volume Four IMO strongly depicts modern feminism's impact upon science fiction. Johnna Russ's c1972 short story
When It Changed illustrates that expectations evolve when society evolves. James Tiptree, Jr.'s c1973 short story
Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death provides an alien depiction of intergenerational and cultural conflict. Then a man
seeks closure after his wife crosses the street in Robert Silverberg's c1974 short story Born with the Dead.
This c1962 novel is for men of all ages. Author Ray Bradbury also wrote the screenplay
for director Jack Clayton's (IMO excellent) 1983 film adaptation starring Jason Robards,
Jonathan Pryce, Pam Grier and Diane Ladd. Many authors have addressed the theme
innocents lost but IMO Ray Bradbury is particularly insightful: Don't get whirled on the
marry-go-round; you might not recover!
Wonderfully written c1959 novel about a monastic order coping with post-atomic Armaggedon
society where daily life is a mortal struggle against lucifer's chaos. The old tomato woman (generic
to all disasters) is the sleeper: initially you deal charitably with Mrs. Grales (gray ills); afterwards
you are forced to deal with Rachel.
Throughout my life I knew people who referenced Ayn Rand's books but nobody had read them;
finally I read several. The writing is old-fashioned and sometimes ponderous, but the characterizations
are strong and the message is memorable: struggle in eras of declining expections. Atlas Shrugged
depicts personal struggle to maintain infrastucture while the United States' impoverished society crumbles.
[I discuss the Atlas Shrugged film version later in this webpage.] We The Living depicts the politicization
of employment (That's not gonna work!) and the forced takeover of private real estate during the
impoverishment following Russia's Bolshevik (Communist) Revolution.
In 1999 The Guardian (UK) described
William Gibson as probably the most important novelist of the past
two decades. Gibson's novels and his biography have been analyzed exhaustively; I cannot top that coverage.
My goal is to direct engineers and technologists towards Gibson's novels because IMO Gibson's perspective
is professionally valuable, conveying a lesson never taught in engineering school.
The best science fiction IMO follows a recipe: The author posits a technology (perhaps without any inkling
how the technology might be implemented) and then predicts the societal future consequences of that technology.
William Gibson pioneered cyberpunk, the combination of low-life and high-tech, recognizing that people
(especially impoverished people) culturally evolve slowly, while technology evolves rapidly and sometimes
evolves chaotically as driven by marketplace desirability and affordability. [Have you ever asked yourself
Working that job, how can he afford that freshly-detailed monster pickup truck? or asked yourself How can
that kid afford a $500.00 smartphone?]
Gibson's initial notice as an author followed his defining cyberspace (i.e., widespread, interconnected
digital technology) in his 1982 short story Burning Chrome (later elaborated in his 1984 novel Neuromancer).
Gibson is the first to acknowledge that he did not predict the Internet: Gibson's cyberspace was corporately
controlled; and totally lacked the individual conversations, the texting and the ubiquitous photography generated
by individuals' personal computers and smartphones. These works gained William Gibson a reputation as a
futuristic genius and formed the foundation for his dystopian (not utopian) Sprawl trilogy. Gibson then wrote his
Bridge trilogy about an even later dystopia where the have-nots cope while living within a digitally-enhanced and
nanotechnology-enabled post-industrial society lacking good-paying manufacturing employment. September 11th
occurred while Gibson was writing the first novel of his Blue Ant trilogy, forcing a major rewrite so the trilogy
depicts wealthy multinational players steering contemporary culture and technological society for their own benefit.
Above all else, Gibson's novels are a good read packed with detail that allows the reader to visualize actually living
in that culture. And Gibson's thinking IMO is remarkable: Where does one individual acquire that wealth of diverse
ideas? Reading Gibson's novels is an enjoyable adventure that IMO probably will alter engineers and
technologists' professional perspectives.
This 1979 film POORtrays Indiana high school graduates learning about life; I particularly enjoy
this film because the avid cyclist (Dennis Christopher) escapes from hometown mundane life
after high school. IMO the 1963 classic film The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen,
James Gardner and Richard Attenborough also is remarkable because the successful, least dramatic
escape is achieved on a bicycle by Australian Sedgwick (James Coburn).
Director Norman Jewison's 1975 film depicts a sports celebrity seeking personal worth in a future
United States that is devoid of personal initiative and is governed by controlling multinational corporations
whose motivation techniques include providing employees' housing and spouses. A good action film
wrapped around social commentary: Rollerball is roller derby elevated to warfare.
Never make a deal with the devil -- you'll get more than you requested.
The local girls seek a bigger and better deal, and Scotty Palmer seeks quarters
while three middle-aged men party on the beach and pay the cost in this 1984 film.
(Guys, avoid the Candy Rappers!)
The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful go for the gold in this 1967 film.
The 21st Century is awash in (sometimes foolish) adversity. When I feel flooded, director
Mike Nichols' all star 1970 film helps keep me afloat. (IMO screenwriter/actor Buck Henry
generally is underappreciated.)
This 1983 film depicts arms dealers out to make a killing ... but first ya gotta wait!
This 1983 film (4 Academy Awards) chronicles pioneering human achievement. Yet even
after the dramatic salvage of the Apollo 13 mission, some of the public began losing interest
in the space program.
Classic quality cinema. Brainwashing and dumb obsession REPLAYsays ultra-violence.
The film ending depicts why You can't go back.
This 1997 attractive action film teaches a lesson about organized reaction to dissent.
Oddly I associate this film with the c1986 book The Triumph of Politics: Why the
Reagan Revolution Failed by former President Reagan's first term Office of Management
and Budget director David Alan Stockman.
A different role for Mr.
Die Hard: Bruce Willis POORtrays a musically-inclined cat burglar who
reluctantly saves the world. Director Michael Lehmann's 1991 film features wonderful settings
and strong character development.
Director George P. Cosmatos' 1993 film depicts Western life as a messy yet IMO attractive masculine society.
In this 1985 film superbly muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an ex-Army officer whose
daughter is kidnapped. Uncharacteristically brutal fight scene with Vernon Wells (The Toecutter
from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior). I have enjoyed Arnold Schwarzenegger's roles
throughout his career.
A good (unpublicized) c2000 action film that addresses the social implications of genetic engineering
and losing yourself. Think: We were supposed to have lots of pretty girlfriends after the move.
Dr. Strangelove did not discuss this! The Pentagon's 2016 decision to start freezing soldiers' eggs
and sperm IMO revitalizes this c2000 film's plot.
Director Bob Rafelson's classic 1970 film (Best Picture Oscar nominee) about filial guilt and
cultural disenchantment; I have enjoyed Jack Nicholson's roles throughout his career. IMO
superior in all respects to director/actor Danny DeVito's comedic 1987 film Throw Momma
from the Train also starring Billy Crystal and Anne Ramsey (1988 Best Supporting Actress
Oscar nominee). Producer/director Robert Redford's 1992 film A River Runs Through It
starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt tells a related but different story: a man
returns home looking for himself and learns that he no longer is there.
Idealistic law school graduate and his wife seek employment; instead they find
all-consuming obsession. I have enjoyed Tom Cruise's roles throughout his career.
(The Firm workout video numerous titles make director Sydney Pollack's c1993 film
difficult to locate within online catalogs.)
A wonderful film for men who dream of Getting away from it all -- it finds you.
I have enjoyed Sean Connery's roles throughout his career.
I visited the Eiffel Tower and I saw the gargoyle tableaux at Notre Dame de Paris, but
this 1997 film makes me wonder if I sleepwalked through Paris. Tied with Underworld
(a vampire / werewolf film) for the best werewolf film I know.
I do not give feminist issues a high ranking; but in the end, power and water are the only issues.
I have sought long for an affordable copy of Lori Petty playing Tank Girl. Visual dynamite!
I have a lifelong fascination with the Bundys. While a college student, on initial viewing
the Bundys merely were obnoxiously funny. While watching reruns (after leaving college)
I noticed that the Bundys got smarter with repetition. Now I'm retired, yet the Bundys
still are uproariously funny.
Dean Adams' encyclopedic Married With Children Program Guide (linked through
www.faqs.org) allows me to wallow in Bundy trivia. And video recording technology
has improved: the packaging is somewhat fragile, but I purchased the eleven season
Married With Children complete set on thirty-two DVDs for less than fifty dollars,
IMO a wonderful entertainment bargain. In February 2014 it appears this DVD set
is out of print: available sets fetch a higher price. But like pretty boy Jefferson D'Arcy
I smile as I shrug my shoulders, thinking I got mine.
I admire Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged (discussed earlier); its writing style and technology descriptions
are dated but the self-motivational message rings true. When I learned that the novel had inspired
a three-film series (films released in 2011, 2012 and 2015 respectively), I had to watch the films.
The films somewhat update the novel: Terrorism has disrupted global energy supplies, weakening
infrastructure until rail transport is the only reliable transport. But government interference and
decayed infrastructure hinder railroad operations even as reliance upon the railroads increases.
Simultaneously, society's industrial giants (e.g., major corporation CEOs) are vanishing, often
leaving behind a cryptic message: Who is John Galt? The first film takes the viewer through the
disappearance of a Colorado energy magnate, a man whose business was supposed to finance
railroad continued operations. The second film takes the viewer to John Galt's threshold.
Ayn Rand's original novel is written darkly, signifying industrial society's collapse. The updated
film series depicts societal unrest and poverty instead of darkness, and the films highlight
western beautiful vistas, signifying the independent spirit of the western United States. Ayn Rand's
original novel is a testament to freeing capitalists from government interference [socialism
(redistribution of wealth following excessive taxation) and communism (government seizure
of real and intellectual private property)]; the film series continues this theme. I somewhat discount
the pro-capitalism theme: both capitalists and government are guilty of excesses. I view the novel
and this film series as celebrating engineers and problem-solvers' societal contributions while depicting
the envy and the interference that successful engineers and problem-solvers routinely encounter. And
in the end we each create our own Atlantis.
Apparently there were some financial challenges making the film series: character actors
sometimes change between films. But the screenplay updates Ayn Rand's original premise,
the films' events and characters are well-presented, and the cinematography is impressive.
The film series' updated depiction IMO is thoroughly enjoyable; my only regret is that the
film series omits an Ayn Rand memorable quotation: There are sins of commission, and
there are sins of omission. I highly recommend the Atlas Shrugged film series to engineers
and to other problem-solvers.
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